I grew up in a house that was full of books. My mother was―and is―a compulsive buyer and reader of every kind of volume and these books were literally part of the fabric of our family life. There were shelves of them in every room, and doors were propped open with tomes, an uneven table leg here or there steadied with some paperback or other. As a small child, I used to create fantastical cities out of books. I began to read them too, discovering that very particular sort of sanctuary that can only be found in a book. And so perhaps it was inevitable that I began to think of writing a book of my own.
Not that I did anything about it for many years. I ended up in television, producing and directing documentaries for the BBC, Channel 4 (UK), and the Discovery Channel. And there emerged a thread in my professional life that began increasingly to preoccupy me. Through my work, I frequently met and interviewed people who were apparently brave, or at least daring. I also periodically wound up in hairy situations with guns, criminals, or warring factions. Which perhaps should have shown me some mettle of my own, but actually achieved quite the reverse. Whether I was skimming the Colombian jungle in a Black Hawk or sitting in an inner-city diner after-hours with a crack-smoking gangster, I was more aware than ever of my own shortcomings in the courage department. I started to see bravery everywhere I looked. On all sides, people are touted as heroes, from soldiers to sportspeople, dissidents to TV talent show stars, their courage idiomatic and yet, it seems to me, far from understood. Here we are, I thought, living in a society racked by collective anxiety about everything from global terrorism to economic meltdown, and yet this is also an age more cosseted, more risk-averse than ever before. It is not only hard, I realized, to work out how to be brave these days, but also what bravery even means.
And then one day, I happened upon an old news story about an eccentric, and radical, group for stage-frightened musicians in wartime Manhattan. At once (and at last), I knew exactly what book it was that I wanted to write. The group had been called the Society of Timid Souls and together, in their own small way, they had learned to be brave. So, inspired by the Timid Souls, I did for me a rather bold thing. I quit my job. I packed a notebook and a voice recorder and I set out to discover what it really means to be brave in an age of anxiety. Are brave people somehow different from the rest of us? Or is courage something that you or I could learn?
Over the next two years, I encountered some truly amazing people: soldiers, conscientious objectors, bullfighters, firefighters, freedom fighters, terminal cancer patients, laboring mothers, big-wave surfers, free solo climbers, a tightrope walker, a bank robber, an opera singer, the guy who confronted a suicide bomber on the London tube, the woman who carried out a cesarean section on herself.
My journey and their incredible stories turned into the book I had long wanted to write. It is called The Society of Timid Souls, or How to Be Brave. I am immensely proud of the timid souls and brave ones who afforded me such intimate access to the human spirit in extremis. It has been a humbling experience, more personal than I could ever have imagined. And I hope that the book will not only prop open someone’s bedroom door or level their kitchen table, but also, upon reading, perhaps even make them a little braver themselves.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I liked the premise of a book about how to be brave. As an introvert, it can be hard to feel confident and brave in social situations but there... Read morePublished 13 months ago by book_worm1882
This is a very wide ranging, meandering book, veering from bullfighting to soldiers to childbirth and on and on, focusing really on bravery and not timidity. Read morePublished 14 months ago by J-J-J-Jinx
Interesting but hard to read look at what defines courage and how people can try to become braver. Many examples of current types of bravery, but something left me cold.Published 14 months ago by Alexandra Henshel
What is courage? That's not a simple question and the answer isn't going to be easy either. From a Kosovo Albanian hiding among the dead bodies, playing dead, to civil rights... Read morePublished 14 months ago by Michael A. Duvernois
This book was very well written. Beautiful, at points, even. But I'm rather mercenary about my goals, and I wasn't reading this book as an exercise in aesthetics. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Aretae
I have very mixed thoughts about this book. I work a lot with folks who have anxiety, stress, worry and fears and I don't feel the book would offer much for them, yet the title... Read morePublished 14 months ago by K. Salinger, MSN, FNP, RN AHN-BC
In Society of Timid Souls, Polly Morland, a filmmaker, interviews individuals that she considers brave, and others who have needed to summon up the courage to overcome their fears. Read morePublished 14 months ago by silhouette_of_enchantment
I loved the book's introduction in which the author gives us a glimpse into the real Society of Timid Souls, a group of stage fright ridden musicians who met during WWII. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Julie H. Rose
Lately, I have been thinking a lot about bravery. I have thought about it a lot and read about it a little. I loved the idea of the Society of Timid Souls. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Half Fast Farmer