Praise for The Society Of Timid Souls or, How to be Brave

Praise for The Society Of Timid Souls or, How to be Brave

Winner of a Royal Society of Literature/Jerwood Award, 2011

Long-listed for the Guardian First Book Award, 2013: “the perfect companion for our age of anxiety”

UK Reviews

Morland approaches her subject with energy, tenacious curiosity and, however much she may protest that she is lily-livered, courage … She skips lightly where angels fear to tread. Her book has astonishing range … she proves the liveliest company: sane, merry and undeceived … a bracing, moving and uncommon book.


Morland’s philosophical, extremely well-written book suggests that while some people are obviously wired to relish dangerous lives, the timid rest of us may be braver than we think.

Daily Mail

A fascinating study … compelling … an appealing and original account of one of the greatest human virtues, full of powerful stories. It leaves you hopeful.

Sunday Times

A series of beautifully written vignettes that function as a meditation on bravery’s lovely shimmer.


It’s all about voice, as Polly Morland demonstrates in her eccentric, hugely likable debut…. solid case studies backed up by insightful, sensitively conducted interviews.


What makes the book so interesting is that Morland is not remotely mawkish. Her tone is bracing while her book is part self-help guide, part moral philosophy … even the most timid of us, she shows, can be helped to overcome our fears.

Mail on Sunday

Well worth reading. Morland…wonders what courage is, without being absolutely determined to come up with a definition.


Unexpectedly moving and delightful treatise about different forms of courage…

Stylist Magazine

Fascinating rumination on the nature of courage and cowardice…., revealing the conflicting emotions behind human behaviour in a way that’s spontaneous and direct. It is clear how her years as a documentary-maker fed into this.


International Reviews

The book’s greatest strength is the author’s brisk, witty voice, which conveys the seriousness of her subject in an agreeably light, humanistic tone… her journey is in turns thought-provoking, amusing and heart-breaking.

Kirkus Reviews (USA)

an expansive philosophical enquiry…thought-provoking…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.

Publishers Weekly (USA)

Lively prose…Morland has written a wise and often moving account of a diverse group of extraordinary people who exemplify the bravery that inspires.

Richmond Times Dispatch (USA)

Morland’s stories are well told and thought-provoking, and she has provided a wonderfully readable narrative.”

Roanoke Times (USA)

Editor’s Pick for ‘Books That Will Make You More Confident, Happy and Spontaneous’ (USA)

Morland investigates the origins of our greatest fears and meets people who have behaved with courage… The results are thought-provoking, insightful and fascinating.

Irish Times

[an] ambitious, arresting study…richly drawn encounters… Morland proves an empathetic observer who elicits penetrating, often poetic, insights.

Sunday Business Post (Ireland)

Polly Morland is not afraid to talk to people and she is damn good at it. I want to put this on a billboard. I am not easily excitable. It’s just that full blown come-what-may conversations with strangers—what Helen Garner calls ‘the heart of the non-fiction enterprise’—are slowly disappearing from contemporary works of questioning and reflection.

Sydney Morning Herald (Australia)

A famous Spanish matador told Morland he felt no fear in the ring but dreaded worse fates outside it, ‘‘like sleeping alone’’. A brave thing to say, I thought, to an obviously fiercely intelligent woman as it was one hell of a sleazy line.

Newcastle Herald (Australia)

Wide-ranging, plainly written and entertaining, The Society of Timid Souls puts lead in your pencil.

New Zealand Herald (NZ)

Advance Praise

We all have a private definition of courage, which (I’ve concluded) we take to be universal; but as Polly Morland shows, there are all kinds of courage, and no necessary agreement on what it means. It’s one of those books which encourages a reader to think again: always a good thing, in my view.

Hilary Mantel

Polly Morland has written a beautiful and extremely moving book about the quintessentially human trait of bravery. A widely recognized concept that almost no one really understands, bravery has long needed a serious exploration like The Society of Timid Souls. It is gorgeously written, deeply felt, and sharply researched. This is one of the few books I know that leaves me literally grateful to the writer for doing the work they do. I loved it.

Sebastian Junger

Polly Morland’s voice is warm yet very smart, and she’s collected some cracking good stories.

Lionel Shriver

Using her documentarian’s eye, Polly Morland has written a moving and deeply personal book; an examination of courage brimming with humanity.

Amanda Foreman

With The Society of Timid Souls, Polly Morland expertly weaves scores of riveting stories, fascinating interviews, and exotic experiences into a ceaselessly engaging investigation of our most elevated virtue…. For journeying into her own self-doubt, for reminding us of our glorious potential, and for assembling a cast of courageous souls to inspire us to reach it, Polly Morland herself deserves a medal.

Aron Ralston

Humans – from the Bronze Age onwards, when we first start to set down ideas about ourselves – have long asked, ‘What is it to be brave?’ With originality, wit, and no little gumption, Polly Morland pursues this same question. Thanks to hundreds of sensitive, face-to-face interviews, her paean to timidity – as well as to bravery – is salutatory and moving.

Bettany Hughes

A dazzling synthesis of reportage, moral philosophy and memoir, Polly Morland’s anatomy of courage moves effortlessly from the bullring and the battlefield to the concert hall and the maternity ward. Searching, startling and richly humane, this is the kind of book that reads you as you read it. A great achievement.

Matthew Sweet