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4.2 out of 5 stars32
4.2 out of 5 stars
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The title drew me to this book - I had reservations about the appearance of the cover (it reminded me of those 'The Big Book for Girls/Boys' ones that seem to be designed for xmas rather than for reading), but the idea of breaking down the processes that cause us to feel shyness or stress was something that I wanted to find out more about. But this isn't a self-help book - it's a series of examples of people being brave.

Instead, we have the central theme of the 'Society of Timid Souls' - a group of stage-fright stricken actors and public speakers which was created to overcome their fears. Around this, we get to hear many different stories of individual bravery as the author expands into the subject, providing different examples and interviews - some are more impressive than others, but after a while the sheer number of 'being brave' stories started to make me get quite flippant about it all - the writing is really good, and I can only commend the author for this.

One of the stories tells of the bravery of matadors - something I really did find fascinating, as the world of bullfighting is almost a bygone one; certain friends found this a dreadful thing to include in a book about bravery, but I found it one of the more illuminating examples.

It feels like a book that was thought up by the publishers rather than the author; a magazine series in a hardcover. I haven't learnt much, frustratingly; the only conclusion that the book seems to come to is that you can't predict how you're going to act should you find yourself in a situation like one of the ones described.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The author has adopted a wide ranging scope for this book. Polly Morland's wonderfully engaging approach pervades every page of the book turning what could have been a superficial survey into a wonderfully entertaining read. What is particularly striking is the elusiveness of the concept of courage. It's one of those qualities which the modern sporting world use with a frequency that robs the concept of its original meaning. This book goes someway toward rectifying this situation by locating the concept of courage in those contexts where it is much more apposite. A riveting and accomplished read. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The author came across information about The Society of Timid Souls which started meeting in New York in 1942. It was primarily a group of musicians who had extreme forms of stage fright and wanted to overcome them. The Society was founded by Bernard Gabriel - a pianist.

The Society's members overcame their fears by playing in front of the other members of the group and being heckled and told they were rubbish or interrupted with loud noises until they felt they could cope with anything the public could throw at them. This small group of Timid Souls struck a chord with the author and she decided to write a book about being brave.

This is an intriguing book which examines the nature of courage - not just physical courage but the moral courage of people such as conscientious objectors in war time. I found this book inspiring and poignant reading and it reduced me to tears as well as amusing me at times. Many of the examples from the armed forces were of people who had died in the course of their courageous exploits usually helping to save their comrades.

While the armed forces in war are obvious examples of courage in action the book shows that courage can be displayed in many different situations. Examples are used from mountain climbing, crime, confrontations with dangerous animals and public performance in many different situations. While most of the book deals with physical courage there are sections where moral courage is also discussed.

This book reminds us that courage is a morally neutral virtue and that criminals as well as their victims can display courage even though this may seem an unacceptable use of the word courage to many people. Can you learn to be brave? This is the question the book asks. Can training overcome the natural human instinct to fear certain situations? The result seems to be that you can learn to be brave if you are by nature a timid soul.

I enjoyed the book and liked the style in which it was written. I found it thought-provoking and intriguing partly because it covered so many different examples of courage from all walks of life and all parts of the globe. There is no index - which might be seen as a disadvantage to some readers but it does have notes on each chapter and a list of further reading.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 16 June 2014
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This book is named for an original society of timid souls which was a group set up for musicians and artists wishing to overcome "stage fright", this is an interesting topic by itself, but the book deals with the latest incarnation of such a society by the author, investigating what it means to be brave in the age of anxiety.

If I were to make comparisons to other books I would perhaps mention Yes Man! Although that book was not as good as the movie it inspired and this book makes me think of the Yes Man! movie. It lacks an index, which is a shame, and the contents are not that revealing as to the chapters contents but there are acknowledgements, quote acknowledgements and further reading notes for the introduction and chapters provide good recommended reads.

The chapters are broken up well, although not with subheadings or dialogue boxes but simple spacing and there are shorter concluding paragraphs towards the ends of chapters. The narrative itself is sort of a reflective personal narrative, providing detail about people and events then linking this with reading, thoughts and citations. Recommended.
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on 15 January 2014
The backbone of this books is a series of stories of courage, told in person to the author by the people who've shown the courage or in some cases by their surviving family. Successive chapters look at courage in war, courage in fighting animals (whether rescuing a child from a pit bull or fighting bulls in an arena), courage in facing illness and childbirth, courage in surfing and withstanding the elements, courage in performers (who suffer from stage fright and many of whom take beta blockers to contain that), climbing without ropes/tightrope walking and BASE jumping, courage in police officers and criminals, and courage in political protest and 'resisting tyranny'.

It would be hard to read this book without thinking that your understanding of courage and of human nature had been deepened, and without an admiration for the author, whose own courage seems to have been most tested in interviewing intellectuals, as she is brave enough to admit. She hasn't shirked philosophical or scientific literature either, but her accounts of these fields are not where the real value of the book lies.

What is perhaps disappointing is that no overarching theory of courage emerges, but that each and every interviewee just about has a life story that really matters to them (I wanted to be like Zorros; I wanted to really live; I wanted the thrill that comes with danger; I really enjoy being focussed as you are when it is life and death when dangling from a rope repairing a buildings - and so on). Some interviewees are comparatively inarticulate (e.g. the one who has lost a foot clearing mines and minefields but has being doing this work for years, to the great good of mankind) but no less brave for that. The author remarks that often the story about the courage may 'crystallise after the event' in many cases. Also that of course a lot of the activity for which people are called courages is something they train to do time and time and again so that the courageous behaviour becomes natural and automatic when it is called for.

And having recently read the books of Jonathan Haidt on the conscious (rider) and less conscious (elephant) parts of us all, I did wonder if this was part of the key. We do what we do fairly unconsciously for the most part - we train our less conscious selves to do what we consciously want - then we rely on those unconscious selves for instant action when the time comes. And we have a life narrative for ourselves that makes sense of all this. This kind of theorising however, is far from the text of this book - which I would, however, strongly recommend for anyone with an interest in this subject.
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on 1 June 2013
"Thought-provoking" is perhaps an over-bandied phrase in book reviews but "The Society of Timid Souls" by Polly Morland provoked more thought and questions for me than any book has done for years. The very human and gripping personal tales are balanced perfectly by academic research and philosophical musings. Polly Morland explores the enormous gamut of bravery, courage and fear in all their manifestations, and makes the reader feel included along for the journey all the way to a hopeful and uplifting conclusion. I found myself looking at daily experiences and interactions with fresh eyes, questioning my own, as well as those around me, capacities and tendancies to tackle fear and display courage - even on a quotidien and domestic level. I found the bystander effect and collective cowardice theory particularly fascinating, and now that I have thought about it - I see that we can recognise it in many aspects of modern life. I am looking forward to Polly Morland's next book.
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Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The book uses a collection of real-life stories to examine facets of courage: is it possible to be bad and brave, is it in-born, can it be developed, are courage and bravery the same thing, are daredevils courageous, etc.

The title comes from a group set up in the 40s to help musicians with stage fright. From there, stories of bravery from people from various walks are explored: a bomb-disposal expert, an off-duty firefighter who challenged a potential suicide bomber, a woman who performed her own Caesarian section, another woman who put herself between a baby and a Rottweiler that was attacking it, a man who climbs sky-scrapers for fun, etc.

A really interesting collection of stories that gets you thinking about what people are capable of, and the conditions under which those qualities might emerge.
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Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a great read of real life bravery where our author, Morland, goes to great length to interview a wide range of characters.

Along the journey we meet the human spiderman, hear the heroic deeds of soldiers killed in combat, listen to a bank robber's life of violent crime, and many more interesting stories.

This is not just a book of brave deeds but an in depth review of really looking at what society views as brave and worthy of medals plus what is individual bravery. Are our actions automated responses or conscious acts in the face of mortal fear? What is the bystander effect? Are only good deeds brave?

A very interesting book that you would be surprised at how interesting and wide ranging the topic is. Great book.
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on 8 November 2013
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is an intriguing book that looks at bravery and how it develops within the human psyche. Bravery and fear are of course different sides of the same coin- they both strongly interact with each other and the greatest bravery can emerge from the most innate fear. I think one of the most interesting aspects to emerge from this analysis though, is that 'fright' is not the same as fear and is more of an essential, instinctual aspect of our make-up. Fear however can be harnessed and if correctly used, bravery can result.

A good, accessible book that tackles a rarely looked at aspect of our human mind and society [dare I say in our materialist world, a rather untrendy one too] and well worth a read.
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Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I admit very much to being generally cynical about the general attitude and demeanour of people, a seeming surfeit of selfishness, and a general lack of courtesy and basic respect . A grumpy old man, who has to listen to the Saturday morning Radio 4 programme “Saturday Live” to re-kindle my faith in humanity.

For me this book breathes back hope in the state of the human condition, and yes I do have hope. She has such a broad brush in her book which is quite breathtaking, embracing the notion of courage in a grossly interesting way, which leaves the reader to discover what these virtues really mean for the individual.

A fascinating and delightful book with much to recommend it.
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