Title: The Society of Timid Souls: or, How to Be Brave
Author: Polly Morland
Source: from publisher for review
Review Summary: I feel like the subtitle and description of this book overhyped the amount of advice given on how to be brave, leaving me disappointed with the focus on storytelling without analysis.
The Society of Timid Souls was inspired by a society of the same name which existed during World War II and helped members overcome stage fright. Inspired by this society and her own desire to be brave, the author interviews a variety of people who have been brave in an equal variety of ways. She also asks a lot of interesting questions about the nature of bravery and whether people can learn to be brave.
I had heard good things about this book, loved the cover, and really wanted to love the book as well. I was hoping for that holy trinity of self-help books: advice, solid science, and relatable anecdotes. In reality, the book was almost exclusively filled with interviews and stories without any research presented or conclusions drawn. The stories were incredibly interesting and often moving – sometimes to the point where they were difficult to read. They just weren’t what I was looking for when I started the book.
The author does pose some interesting question about the nature of bravery. In particular she asks can there bravery in the absence of real danger (facing down stage fright, for example)? And can bravery be learned? While I liked that she made me think about these questions, I felt like they were referred to in a repetitive way without the author ever getting close to an answer. Basically, this book wasn’t what I expected and so I enjoyed it, but ended up disappointed. If you go into it expecting more of a modern micro-history focusing on bravery, I think you’d potentially enjoy it a lot more.