AN INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER
FINALIST FOR THE 2021 HUBERT EVANS NON-FICTION PRIZE
A personal story about not only facing but conquering fears.
In 2015, Eva Holland was forced to confront her greatest fear when her mother had a stroke and suddenly passed away. After the shock and grief subsided, Holland began to examine the extent to which her many fears had limited her, and wondered whether or not it was possible to move past them.
This sent Holland on a deep dive into the science of fear, digging into an array of universal and personal questions: Why do we feel fear? Where do phobias come from and how are they related to anxiety disorders and trauma? Can you really smell fear? (Yes.) What would it be like to feel no fear? Is there a cure for fear? Or, put differently, is there a better way to feel afraid?
On her journey, Holland meets with scientists who are working to eliminate phobias with a single pill, she explores the lives of the few individuals who suffer from a rare disease that prevents them from ever feeling fear, and she immerses herself in her own fears including hurling herself out of a plane for her first skydive (and in the process, learns that there are right and wrong ways to face your fears).
Fear is a universal human experience, and Nerve answers these questions in a refreshingly accessible way, offering readers an often personal, sometimes funny, and always rigorously researched journey through the science of facing our fears.
“Eva Holland put herself on the line to probe what makes us cower, and the result is this brave and emboldening book. Weaving memoir with science research and reportage, Nerve exposes fear for what it really is: a flush of chemicals, an evolutionary instinct, a mirror to the self—sometimes a liability, but often a guide.”
—Kate Harris, author of Lands of Lost Borders
“Nerve is a white-knuckle journey into extreme states of terror and grief, but it does more than merely evoke those feelings. It also illuminates them. 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 the bestselling Impossible Owls
“I really enjoyed Nerve—it has a good balance of personal story and actual science. And I appreciated the clarity with which Holland describes her experiences. Nerve gave me a lot to think about.”
—Alex Honnold, professional rock climber, author of Alone on the Wall, and star of Free Solo
“An intimate and wide-ranging look at fears and how we overcome them.”
—The New York Times
“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
“Holland’s narration is friendly and easygoing, and she is wryly self-observant . . . laugh-out-loud moments. . . . What really makes the book is Holland’s cinematic scene setting. Her ability to vividly recall details illuminates every scrape with death, heart-wrenching episode of fear-induced panic, and instance of Holland avoiding danger by trusting her gut. The result makes for an enjoyable read. When, at the end of her journey, she finds herself able to zip line over large, deep gorges and drive in the winter without feeling like her chest is about to explode, we can’t help but cheer.”
—Quill and Quire
“A harmonious blend of memoir and science reporting . . . [Holland] makes her story both specific and universal.”
“[In Nerve,] Holland’s engaging, accessible writing brings the science to life, and her sure-footedness when writing about her inner life propels the narrative. She’s a likable protagonist, easy to root for as she tries to make sense of her various fears. . .”
“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.
“Holland presents us with a raw, intimate account of her deepest terrors, then invites us along as she fights to overcome them, embarking on a globe-trotting journey of self-discovery and scientific exploration. This book about fear is scarily good and profoundly brave.”
—Luke Dittrich, author of Patient HM
“An enlightening intellectual road trip across the vast and seldom-explored science of fear. On this journey, Holland is an ideal companion—warm and intelligent, open-hearted and clear-eyed. But more than anything, she is a person who 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
“Brave, surprising, and gorgeous, Nerve plunges into some dark territory—fear, loss, trauma—and shines a lovely light. Holland is a gifted storyteller, and by using science to understand and confront her own worst fears, she shows us how to find peace with our own.”
—Jason Fagone, author of the bestselling The Woman Who Smashed Codes: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America’s Enemies
“Nerve’s smooth interweaving of memoir and science—the human ability to smell fear is explored during Holland’s account of her skydiving experience—is what makes it so compelling.”
“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.”
“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
“Eva Holland’s brisk Nerve is proof of how fruitful it can be when a reporter takes her risks thoughtfully. . . . she writes with appealing vulnerability and wistfulness . . . Nerve is brave and tender, and an example of why journalists treating themselves as guinea pigs should never completely go out of style.”
“[Nerve weaves] together a deeply personal narrative with hard science, the rightful place of fear in our lives, and the meta-ness of how scary it is to write about fear—especially your own.”
—The Open Notebook
“In Nerve . . . the grieving writer takes a deeply personal and wide-ranging scientific look at how fear, in its infinite forms and layers, shapes our lives and even our brains. The result is a journey well worth sharing.”
—Chatelaine, “12 Books We Can't Wait To Read This Spring”
“Think of this deeply personal book as self-help for the pandemic era. Journey with Holland as she harnesses the latest science to face her fears.”
“Holland’s adventure is a white-knuckle ride, but she remains analytical and introspective, carefully collecting the knowledge she needs to come to terms with what haunts her.”
“A timely memoir. . . . Holland is an observant, entertaining, honest guide . . . "
“Holland writes about her fears and the shame they engender with vivid precision, and her account of her attempts to cure herself and the science informing those cures is no less informative. . . . Most instructive and most heartening is the way that Holland's definition of overcoming her fears changes over the course of the book.”
—The Winnipeg Free Press
“[W]ith accessible science writing, [Holland] eases us into centuries of research on fear. . . . [Nerve] is a salve for our scary, lonely times.”
“Nerve . . . is an accomplished debut full of strong images and clear-headed discussion.”
—The Saturday Paper
“[C]onfessional and analytic . . . It’s a weighty subject, but [Holland] has a light, sometimes ironic touch, that makes her exploration of the subject engaging, frank and instructive.”
—The Sydney Morning Herald
About the Author:
Eva Holland is a freelance writer based in Whitehorse, Yukon. She is currently a correspondent at the magazine Outside, and has had her work published in Wired, Bloomberg Businessweek, Pacific Standard, National Geographic News, The Walrus, Hazlitt, and many more.