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The Society of Timid Souls

or, How To Be Brave

This book is available for download with iBooks on your Mac or iOS device, and with iTunes on your computer. Books can be read with iBooks on your Mac or iOS device.


A journey into the modern life of an ancient virtue ­– bravery – and a quest to understand who might possess it and how
With The Society of Timid Souls, or How To Be Brave, documentary filmmaker Polly Morland sets out to investigate bravery, a quality that she has always felt she lacked.  The book takes inspiration from a vividly eccentric, and radical, self-help group for stage-frightened performers in 1940s Manhattan, which coincided with the terrifying height of World War II and was called The Society of Timid Souls.  Seventy years later, as anxiety about everything from terrorism to economic meltdown continues, Morland argues that courage has become a virtue in crisis.  We are, she says, all Timid Souls now.

   Despite a career in which she has filmed in rebel-held Colombian jungles and at the edge of Balkan mass graves, interviewing convicted murderers, drug-traffickers, and terrorists, Morland herself has never felt brave.  Often, the very reverse.  So she sets out to discover how and why courage is achieved in an age of anxiety and whether it might even be learned.  Drawing on her interviews and encounters with soldiers and civilians, bullfighters and big-wave surfers, dissidents fighting for freedom and cancer patients fighting for their lives, Morland examines bravery across the spectrum: from the first childhood act of defiance by Bernard Lafayette, a leader of the civil rights movement who later faced down the KKK in Alabama, or the reflexive will-to-survive of  Vjollca Berisha, a Kosovo Albanian who endured a massacre by playing dead among the bodies of her own family, to the small acts of everyday bravery that quietly punctuate our lives, in schoolyards, labor wards, and hospices the world over.

   Along the way, Morland draws attention to some of the myths of bravery that have been conjured and perpetuated over time and argues that, often, courage exists as much in the telling as in the doing.  At once an exploration of what bravery means and a chronicle of the author's personal journey among those who embody it, The Society of Timid Souls is a profound, approachable meditation on this most valued and mysterious of human qualities.  In setting off on the trail of the lionhearted, Polly Morland finds out a great deal about what makes some of us extraordinary, and what of the extraordinary we all share.

Publishers Weekly Review

Jul 01, 2013 – British documentary filmmaker Morland takes readers on an expansive philosophical inquiry into the nuanced qualities of timidity and courage. With a mix of cheerful camaraderie and robust curiosity, she reports on individuals in widely diverging circumstances that try their courage or cowardice. Her choices range from veterans of the war in Afghanistan and big-wave surfers to a computer scientist with ALS and an opera singer heckled at La Scala. As she wades through thorny moral and ethical issues, Morland also delves into etymology, making frequent use of major writers and thinkers who have pondered the value of courage. Another tricky notion Morland tackles is whether selfless acts trump self-serving, high-risk adventures like high-wire walking and scaling skyscrapers. Occasionally, it seems as if she is comparing apples and oranges, but generally Morland steers deftly through touchy areas like the role of non-violent yet courageous actions. Her well-chosen examples are thought-provoking, and her refusal to offer a pat answer opens dialogue that will continue long after the book ends, making it a great choice for book clubs and classrooms.
The Society of Timid Souls
View In iTunes
  • $13.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Psychology
  • Published: Jul 09, 2013
  • Publisher: Crown/Archetype
  • Seller: Random House, LLC
  • Print Length: 320 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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