Our success as a species is built on sociability, so shyness in humans should be an anomaly. But it's actually remarkably common - we all know what it's like to cringe in embarrassment, stand tongue-tied at the fringe of an unfamiliar group, or flush with humiliation if we suddenly become the unwelcome centre of attention.
In Shrinking Violets, Joe Moran explores the hidden world of shyness, providing insights on everything from timidity in lemon sharks to the role of texting in Finnish love affairs. As he seeks answers to the questions that shyness poses - Why are we shy? Can we overcome it? Does it define us? - he uncovers the fascinating stories of the men and women who were 'of the violet persuasion', from Charles Darwin to Agatha Christie, and from Tove Jansson to Nick Drake.
In their stories - often both heart-breaking and inspiring - and through the myriad ways scientists and thinkers have tried to explain and cure shyness, Moran finds a hopeful conclusion. To be shy, he decides, is not simply a burden - it is also a gift, a different way of seeing the world that can be both enriching and inspiring.
Joe Moran is Professor of English and Cultural History at Liverpool John Moores University. He contributes regularly to the Guardian and other newspapers. His book On Roads was longlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize and, together with his previous book, Queuing for Beginners, received unanimous critical acclaim.