Friday, March 18, 2011

Nerve: Poise Under Pressure, Serenity Under Stress, and the Brave New Science of Fear and Cool Review

From Goodreads:  Nerves make us bomb job interviews, first dates, and SATs. With a presentation looming at work, fear robs us of sleep for days. It paralyzes seasoned concert musicians and freezes rookie cops in tight situations. And yet not everyone cracks. Soldiers keep their heads in combat; firemen rush into burning buildings; unflappable trauma doctors juggle patient after patient. It's not that these people feel no fear; often, in fact, they're riddled with it.

In Nerve, Taylor Clark draws upon cutting-edge science and painstaking reporting to explore the very heart of panic and poise. Using a wide range of case studies, Clark overturns the popular myths about anxiety and fear to explain why some people thrive under pressure, while others falter-and how we can go forward with steadier nerves and increased confidence.

My take:  How does a high 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.

4 out of 5 Stars


Anonymous said...

This book sounds pretty interesting. I've added it to my TO Read list. I deal with a lot of anxiety. I think it would be pretty cool to learn about what going on up in my brain.

- Jackie

The book girl said...

I've never read a book like this before. Hopefully they'll have it at my library!