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Nerve: Poise Under Pressure, Serenity Under Stress, and the Brave New Science of Fear and Cool Hardcover – March 6, 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1 edition (March 6, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316042897
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316042895
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.1 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #758,183 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Why, in a world where we have created secure buffers against our worst fears, are so many of us so anxious? And why do some people exhibit nerves of steel under stressful and fearful conditions while others wilt? Clark (Starbucked) explores these questions by briefly examining the neuroscience of fear, and then collecting numerous stories of individuals who have remained calm against all odds in fearful life-and-death situations. For example, in 1991, principal Daniel Stockwell faced down a rifle barrel as he negotiated with a high school student holding him hostage. Although he was later praised for his calm, Stockwell admitted that he worked with his fear, rather than banishing it, in order to face the situation. Clark draws out of these tales a dozen quick tips for retaining your nerve in the face of stress, such as learning to accept uncertainty, breathing, and opening up to fear unconditionally. Unfortunately his meandering and simplistic approach offers neither new insights into the nature of anxiety nor any new perspectives on handling it. (Mar.)

From Booklist

Clark, author of Starbucked (2007), maintains his light, frequently humorous tone in this (mostly) serious look at the psychology of stress. Drawing on various forms of research, and numerous real-life stories, the author explores the reasons why we feel stress, our responses to it, and what we can do to deal with it constructively. Clark takes us through the history of stress research, from early breakthroughs (Walter Cannon�s 1915 elucidation of the fight-or-flight response) to experimental research (�most of what we know about the science of fear comes from tormenting rats,� Clark wryly observes) to today�s cutting-edge explorations of the workings of the human brain. The subjects of his real-life stories of dealing with stress under intense pressure range from Russian sub commanders to game-show contestants to tsunami survivors to pro athletes to musicians. The author makes some shrewd observations (for example, that Cannon�s fight-or-flight response leaves out a third F: freeze), and, unlike many authors of popular-science books, he really knows how to write, too: the book is informative, engaging, and, in quite a few places, funny. --David Pitt

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Customer Reviews

For this author it seems that women don't exist.
Judy K. Underwood
Non-trembling hands down, Taylor's book _Nerve_ is one of the best ones I've encountered on dealing with the "nervous trinity" of fear, anxiety, and stress.
Deb
Overall, I thought this book was very well researched.
Alla S.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Heidi Andrew on March 14, 2011
Format: Hardcover
How does a school principal stare down the barrel of a rifle with no fear, or Laurence Olivier deliver a soliloquy without stage fright? The answer is, they don't. A scientific subject is discussed with storytelling skills in the book, Nerve, subtitled, Poise Under Pressure, Serenity Under Stress, and the Brave New Science of Fear and Cool.

Taylor Clark is entertaining and humorous as he writes about fear, anxiety, and stress, and how the seemingly fearless actually handle fear with heroism. Clark's thesis, embracing fear and working with it to discover cool under pressure, is a theme we have heard before. But Nerve is very readable, full of case studies that brim with the personalities of the subjects and of Clark himself. His humorous footnote at the bottom of one page, "Incidentally, most of what we know about the science of fear comes from tormenting rats," is indicative of his writing style.

As someone who is hit with a fair amount of anxiety, I have read numerous books on the subject, many dry, and few helpful. Clark's Nerve is not a bombshell cure for fear and anxiety, but rather an engaging look at the science, stories, and mechanisms behind fear and cool. His suggested reading list at the end probably holds more answers for dealing with one's own fear and anxiety, but Nerve is a good, easy read that stimulated the pleasure center of my brain.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By GLS on March 15, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Taylor Clark's NERVE is a wonderfully written investigation of stress, fear and anxiety and how our fears can either paralyze or liberate us. That our fears can be a good thing is surprising to read--at first. But Clark shows how the folks who stay cool under the most extreme circumstances do so precisely because they are afraid, not because they are placid. Think of a raft on a river: without a current, you're not getting anywhere. Fear can be that current, but that doesn't mean you don't have to navigate. NERVE gives us the perspective and tools necessary to hit the rapids. And it is lots of fun to read! Highly recommended.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Disciple on March 8, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It is a joy to read a book that brings sophisticated science into precise layperson's language and applies it to our everyday lives with humor and wit. The book is a serious stress reliever. Again and again we hear that we modern people deal with higher levels of stress than previous generations, and Taylor Clark provides us with some insights that help us to see ourselves with clearer eyes and enjoy doing it.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Gea on June 19, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I was thrilled to receive this book in a Firstreads giveaway and enjoy reading literature on resiliency and survival. Nerve is an entertaining, well-written exploration of fear, phobias, anxiety and just plain nerves. Taylor Clark delves into the physiological and mental aspects of fear's manifestations and what we can do to overcome its hold on us. Most importantly we must accept our fears and face them bravely. Avoidance is one of the worst things we can possibly do.

One of the most interesting chapters to me came at the end when Clark analyzes the disastrous yet ultimately successful mission of astronaut Gordon Cooper and how he managed to make it back to Earth under incredibly dangerous circumstances. However, I do think Clark has a tendency to be dramatic and that he may exaggerate Cooper's fear. The interesting thing is that whether or not you are trying to overcome a fear of speaking in public or attempting to land a disintegrating rocket, the skill set is the same.

Clark ends his book with a prescription of very useful skills for overcoming one's anxiety regardless if it's a fear of heights or facing down a loaded gun. My favorite part came at the very end when he suggests that courage is a path we walk throughout our life. I love that idea, courage as a path of life.

I would have given Nerve four stars if I hadn't read much of his bibliography already. He does rehash a lot of what I've already read. However, after finishing Nerve, I did feel like I had learned something new. I definitely recommend this book.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Deb on August 30, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Fear! Anxiety! Stress! If reading those words just about pushed you over the edge, then Read! This! Book! (Now!).

Non-trembling hands down, Taylor's book _Nerve_ is one of the best ones I've encountered on dealing with the "nervous trinity" of fear, anxiety, and stress. The author is actually the perfect person to deliver the message that fear is not the enemy we assume it to be. In the beginning of the book he admits that:
"I am hardly the cool-headed master of fear. I'm not a psychologist, and I'm not a guru with a seven-step plan to help you End Worry Today! Or Unleash Your Fearless Warrior Spirit...I am in fact, a fairly neurotic guy with more than my fair share of irrational, deep-seated worries and anxieties." (p. 13)

And, it is through his own research-inspired, actually-lived (and trembled-through) experiences of confronting his own demons that Taylor is able to offer a new way to relate to fear. His approach centers on the wisdom that "Fear is not our enemy. We don't need to get rid of fear or push it away. We need to learn how to be afraid." (p. 16)

With his wit, humor, savvy writing style, and down-to-earth guidance, Taylor shows that being afraid really is not so scary after all. As he points out: "Our problem is almost never 'fear itself' but the way we relate to that fear--by avoiding, withdrawing, seeking control, worrying, or falling victim to the mistaken belief that things will be okay only after we've annihilated all anxiety. Fear can be a good thing: it helps us survive, gives us meaning to our achievements, facilitates our performance, and makes us feel alive. Yes, fear can be uncomfortable and bewildering, and it can even thwart our most dearly held goals--but it doesn't have to be so...
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