The Society of Timid Souls or, How to Be Brave

Polly Morland, Author
Polly Morland. Crown, $26 (302p) ISBN 978-0-307-88906-5
Reviewed on: 07/01/2013
Release date: 07/09/2013
Hardcover - 256 pages - 978-1-84668-513-2
Hardcover - 312 pages - 978-1-78125-190-4
Open Ebook - 184 pages - 978-0-307-88908-9
Open Ebook - 1 pages - 978-1-299-70061-1
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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. (July)
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