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Nerve: Adventures in the Science of Fear (Hardcover)
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“In a plague year where our worst fears are real but unseen, possible but indefinable, this book could not be timelier.”—Rolling Stone
Frozen in terror during a mountain descent, award-winning journalist Eva Holland reaches her breaking point. Since childhood, she’s been gripped by two debilitating phobias: fear of losing her mother, and fear of heights. The worst has already happened: Eva’s mother died suddenly and unexpectedly in 2015. But now—after an arduous, embarrassing, and tearful finale to her ice-climbing expedition—Eva decides, enough. Fear may define her past, but she won’t let it dictate her future.
Thus begins Holland's quest to renegotiate her inhibiting relationship with fear. In stirring, raw prose, she reveals what it's like to live in the clutches of paralyzing dread. And with remarkable courage, she tests the limits of what one can do to live less fearfully—from engaging in daring adventure to cutting-edge research: She confronts her acrophobia by jumping out of an airplane, explores the lives of rare individuals who feel little or no fear, and meets with scientists working to eliminate phobias with a single pill.
Of course, one doesn’t have to go out of the way to face fear; by horrible coincidence, a series of freak accidents leaves Holland deeply shaken. Determined to stay the course, she seeks out a surprisingly effective treatment involving eye movement—to reckon with lingering trauma and anxiety to rid herself of intrusive memories and panics while driving.
Ultimately, Holland’s odyssey sheds light on universal questions: How do we feel fear, and why? Is fear necessary? Is it rooted in the body or the mind? And it brings her ever closer to knowing: Is there a better way to feel afraid? Finding the nerve to face down her fears, Holland not only shows us how to grapple with our own, but invites us to embrace them as a way to live happier and feel more alive.
About the Author
Eva Holland is a correspondent for Outside magazine, and a former editor at Up Here, the magazine of Canada’s far north. Her work has also appeared in Esquire, Wired, Bloomberg, Pacific Standard, AFAR, Smithsonian, Grantland, Seattle Met, National Geographic News, and many other outlets. Her work has been nominated for a Canadian National Magazine Award, anthologized in The Best American Science and Nature Writing, The Best Women’s Travel Writing, and Best Canadian Sports Writing, and listed among the notable selections in multiple editions of The Best American Essays, The Best American Sports Writing, and The Best American Travel Writing. She lives in Canada’s Yukon Territory.
A TIME Top 100 Must-Read Book of 2020
An International Bestseller
“An intimate and wide-ranging look at fears and how we overcome them.”—The New York Times
“Eva Holland survived her worst fear. Since childhood, she worried about losing her mother. But after her mother died and she endured the grief that followed, she also found new strength and hope—and decided to write a book about why fear takes such a hold of just about everyone.”—A TIME Top 100 Must-Read Book of 2020
“The publication of Nerve could be one of the most germane and significant books to help people navigate through our current dark and unfamiliar emotional and physical territory. With acuity of purpose, author Holland demonstrates to her audience that armed with a baseline of knowledge, fear is an emotion that can be experienced, examined, and conquered, thereby strengthening the human psyche and its ability to deal with future catastrophes.”—New York Journal of Books
“Brave and emboldening. Nerve exposes fear for what it really is: a flush of chemicals, an evolutionary instinct, a mirror to the self.”—Kate Harris, author of Lands of Lost Borders
"Eva Holland is afraid of many things [and] counter-intuitively, makes a living doing things that would scare the bejesus out of most people. . . A few years ago, Eva decided to find out what was at the root of all these fears."—Noel King, NPR's Morning Edition
“Nerve is brave and tender, and an example of why journalists treating themselves as guinea pigs should never completely go out of style.”—WIRED
“[Holland’s] comprehensive look at fear, sometimes as a test subject and other times as a critical observer, reframes the conversation of how we approach these often-paralyzing reactions that seem ingrained in our personalities.”—Discover Magazine
“Science and psychology inform the engaging memoir of an author on a self-help mission. . . . Her goal is not to eliminate fear, but to put it into perspective.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Combining anecdotes that document her personal vulnerabilities with tales of outdoor adventure and just enough scientific research, Holland crafts an engaging and unique memoir. Fans of the self-help genre and popular science in the style of Mary Roach will enjoy this debut title.”—Library Journal
“A readable overview of what happens when human beings lose their nerve, author Holland employs relatable life experiences to explore multiple facets of fear. . . . Readers share in the journey as Holland confronts her fears and comes to successfully manage them. . . . This might encourage readers to identify, examine, and tackle fears of their own.”—Booklist
“A fascinating book . . . Much of the enjoyment of Nerve involves rooting for Holland as she attempts to wrestle her own fears to the ground, and to report on the outcome of that effort would spoil that pleasure. It’s enough to say that by the end of this account, her relationship to fear has changed, something that may well happen to the readers of her engaging book.”—Shelf Awareness
“[A] courageous chronicle of many fraught years facing down two debilitating phobias. . . Poignant and humorous, Holland’s demon-chasing journey is an inspiration.”—Foreword Reviews
“Holland delves into gene theory, evolutionary biology, and psychoanalysis looking for answers to why we fear the way we do, but ultimately, scientific knowledge can only take her so far; gradually, she comes to accept herself and her complicated relationship to fear. A little bit of fear, it turns out, is natural and healthy. Learning what is and is not an irrational phobia and how to asses real danger enables Holland to manage her feelings and take risks in spite of them.”—Sierra Club Magazine
“An enlightening intellectual road trip . . . Holland is an ideal companion—warm and intelligent, open-hearted and clear-eyed. . . . [She] has felt, and conquered—and then captured and made sense of—fears so intense that they made me wince just reading about them.”—Rob Moor, author of On Trails
“I really enjoyed Nerve—Holland perfectly balances her personal story with actual science, and I appreciated the clarity with which she describes her experiences. It gave me a lot to think about.”—Alex Honnold, rock climber and author of Alone on the Wall
“Nerve is a gorgeous journey . . . a love letter to life itself: to the instincts and relationships that sustain us, to all the ways we find to push through.”—Blair Braverman, Iditarod racer and author of Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube
“A white-knuckle journey into extreme states of terror and grief. It’s a gift for all of us who are fated to live with fear and sorrow—that is, for human beings.”—Brian Phillips, author of Impossible Owls
“Brave, surprising, and gorgeous. . . . by using science to understand and confront her worst fears, [Holland] shows us how to find peace with our own.”—Jason Fagone, author of The Woman Who Smashed Codes
“A moving, groundbreaking look at how we can live in a world filled with dangers, both real and perceived, by one of the most talented writers working today.”—Frank Bures, author of The Geography of Madness
“A raw, intimate account. . . scarily good and profoundly brave.”—Luke Dittrich, author of Patient HM