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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tales of the brave and bold
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...
Published 6 months ago by Lark

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as useful as I had hoped, but an enjoyable read
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...
Published 13 months ago by Straightforward


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tales of the brave and bold, 16 Jun 2014
By 
Lark (North Coast of Ireland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Society of Timid Souls: Or, How to be Brave (Hardcover)
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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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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A highly entertaining read, 4 Nov 2013
By 
D. P. Mankin (Ceredigion, Wales) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Society of Timid Souls: Or, How to be Brave (Hardcover)
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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
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as useful as I had hoped, but an enjoyable read, 6 Nov 2013
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This review is from: The Society of Timid Souls: Or, How to be Brave (Hardcover)
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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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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fight or Flight?, 2 May 2013
By 
ACB(swansea) - See all my reviews
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Polly Morland admits her interest in fears and how bravery may conquer them motivated this book. How can a timid soul become a brave one? This conundrum starts with the 'Society of Timid Souls', whose inaugural meeting in 1942 attracted 4 people set up by pianist Bernard Gabriel. Clearly a man who understood stage-fright, his success spread until his membership grew and similar self-help groups sprung-up. Gabriel's approach involved subjecting his clients to a deliberate barrage of abuse and vociferous criticism 'to conquer the bogey of stage fright'. Polly Morland kicks off from this point of interest. Is courage the same as bravery or foolhardiness dressed in a similar guise? Is it learned, innate or simmering within an individual awaiting the stimululus to produce a response?

Polly Morland addresses these ponderings with a review of pertinent events, interview-based where possible. Her revelations are intriguing. Courage is often borne from fear. Andra Dworkn gave a seminal speech to New York students in 1975 on 'The Sexual Politics of Fear and Courage' emphasing the interaction of both emotions. Mastering and resisting fear can produce bravery and heroism. It does not abolish fright. Many timid souls claimed to have been 'cured' by Gabriel's methods with his dose of 'anti-toxin'. Pianist Flora Cantwell confessed 'I could play it in a boiler now' after Gabriel's often comical assaults. Charles Cooke from the 'New Yorker' claimed the term, 'Timid Souls', originated from a speech from Theodore Roosevelt in 1910 although it seems it was not compatible with Gabriel's thoughts.

Nothing timid about Ramirez, a mother of 8 children, stuck in the wilds with a drunken husband, performing a Caesarian section on herself out of necessity with a slug of domestic alcohol and a sharp knife, then sewn up by a coarse needle and thread by her husband. Mother and baby survived.

Slender Sally-Ann Sutton, without thinking, threw herself between a friend's mother and her baby when confronted by a huge rottweiler, only to be ripped into herself. No compunction. She said, 'You either run away or you react and so you do whatever your brain tells you to do. It's either in you or it's not'. Supreme tenor, Sidney Lawson, petrified by performing after trauma, was reborn after the society intervened. Opera star Renee Fleming was crippled by stagefright in the 1990's after a vicious assault on her performance by the hyper-critical 'loggionisti' at Milan's La Scala, where even Pavarotti was booed. Overcoming this was 'a very difficult time'. Caruso, Olivier, Robbie Williams, Tommy Cooper, Lady Gaga confess to 'nerves'. They still performed. This seems natural compared to the severity of others predicaments. Perhaps their rewards overcame them! The physically disabled and cancer sufferers are in the mix of adversity.

How does this courage compare with the hobby life-stylists who climb mountains and rock faces, disappear down pot-holes, leap off skyscrapers with a parachute, traverse oceans or tread tight-ropes? Their motivation seems a mix of excitement and the 'can I do it effect'. The professional risk-takers, miners, fire fighters, servicemen and women, fishermen have made decisions with more than a personal cause. Death is an acknowledged and potential outcome but not off-putting enough to curtail their occupations made through choice. Hats off to their bravery.

This is a subject the author examines in detail producing a thoroughly thoughtful and enjoyable book. Reading about it is one thing, but how we would react to a provoking incident is something we hopefully will never know. An absorbing read on the strengths and frailties of human grit and guts. One day we may be capable of facing danger, the next we are scared out of our wits by something comparatively trivial. Recommended and not to be shirked!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An exploration of courage, 12 Oct 2013
By 
Fiona Millar "cookiemum" (Edinburgh) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Society of Timid Souls: Or, How to be Brave (Hardcover)
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Written in an informal and accessible style, this book explores differing concepts of bravery and courage, sparked by the author's interest in the original 'Society of Timid Souls' set up in the 1940s to bolster the confidence of musicians and performers. Over the course of the book, Morland asks whether we can learn bravery by interviewing a wide variety of people connected with brave acts.

These stories are often gripping, touching and enlightening, although I didn't get any sense that their experiences were actively teaching anything about how to emulate their actions and outlook. The book reads more like a philosophical look at the many forms bravery takes, and how one man's idea of courage (such as bank robber Razor) is another man's selfish moral cowardice.

The section on bullfighters, I found most unpleasant and unnecessary to the issue - in this day and age, it seems morally reprehensible to suggest that people who forcibly torture and kill an animal for sport are displaying courage. The underlying sarcastic tone displayed in the interviews exploring acts of bravery shown by animals also strongly suggests that Morland certainly isn't an animal lover.

There is in fact a clear difference in writing style when Morland is interviewing someone she deems properly courageous (such as war heroes or activists against discrimination) and those whose bravery is small (the members of a local community group who practice confident public speaking) or self-serving (the BASE jumpers or tightrope walkers). Those in the latter groups seem subtly mocked, in a manner which made me actively dislike the author at times. The entire premise of the book, which purports to be that we can all, in our own humble way, be more courageous, is undermined by the lack of respect shown by Morland in some of these interviews, and more than once I could easily imagine the interviewee reading their section of this book upon publication and feeling somewhat belittled and betrayed. A shame, as most of the stories are interesting and thought-provoking.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Parts are more than the sum, 26 Jun 2014
By 
Epigone (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Society of Timid Souls: Or, How to be Brave (Hardcover)
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This is an interesting read though perhaps less coherent than it attempts to be. The book presents what feels like some interesting, insightful and sometimes quite affecting journalism on the general topic of bravery, but the central conceit around which it is organised is a bit flimsy and doesn't really serve as much of an umbrella for the rest of the work. That shouldn't detract from the quality of the content though: stripped of the gimmick, there is some really interesting stuff in here.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable but dragged at times, 13 April 2014
By 
Sarah Durston (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Society of Timid Souls: Or, How to be Brave (Hardcover)
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The Society of Timid Souls was an entertaining and thought provoking study of courage and bravery and whether they are qualities which are innate. The author interviewed a number of people who are perceived by society at large of being brave and condensed her observations into this book.

This was an interesting and thought provoking read and I would recommend it; I did find that it dragged in a few places but think I would have felt differently if I’d read it in a couple of sittings!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Much food for thought, 8 April 2014
By 
Sandford "Sandy" (Kent, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Society of Timid Souls: Or, How to be Brave (Hardcover)
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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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3.0 out of 5 stars An interesting read, 13 Mar 2014
By 
Laura Smith (Manchester, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Society of Timid Souls: Or, How to be Brave (Hardcover)
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I wasn't entirely sure what to expect with this book, and, haivng read it, I am still unsure! On one hand, it is a quite academic book, full of facts and figures, and psychological research. Hopwever, this isn't a dry tome by any standards. It's written interestingly and discusses the authors' thoughts and views on the subject of bravery and courage, and thoughts about her interview subjects, all of whom were quite fascinating in their own ways. I did really enjoy reading the stories and the author's notes regarding them. This book was enjoyable and i felt like I had learnt something.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but not weighty..., 16 Jan 2014
This review is from: The Society of Timid Souls: Or, How to be Brave (Hardcover)
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This book has some interesting history, specifically the Timid Souls, and this is the best part of the book. The book is generally light in tone, this is not a scientific analysis, more of a sharing of experiences of those who suffer from shyness or phobia. It is easy to read and decently written, and I found several of the themes personally relevant. The author does personalise quite a bit, but I don't think that's a fault, unless you are looking for a purely objective analysis, which this clearly isn't.

A pleasant, sometimes funny, and quite stimulating read.
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The Society of Timid Souls: Or, How to be Brave
The Society of Timid Souls: Or, How to be Brave by Polly Morland (Hardcover - 25 April 2013)
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