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Beautiful Souls: Saying No, Breaking Ranks, and Heeding the Voice of Conscience in Dark Times
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Beautiful Souls: Saying No, Breaking Ranks, and Heeding the Voice of Conscience in Dark Times

3.74 of 5 stars 3.74  ·  rating details  ·  501 ratings  ·  117 reviews
Un capitano della polizia svizzera che, nel 1938, si rifiuta di applicare una legge che impedisce l'ingresso nel suo paese ai profughi ebrei in fuga dai nazisti. Un soldato serbo che, nel 1991, inganna i suoi superiori riuscendo a salvare la vita di molti croati. Un militare dei corpi speciali israeliani che, al culmine della seconda Intifada, informa i suoi superiori che ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published February 5th 2013 by Picador (first published February 14th 2012)
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What motivates someone to object to the status quo because their conscience informs them that those around them are wrong? When we hear stories of soldiers who disobey orders they believe to be illegal, of police officers reporting the corruption of their colleagues, of corporate insiders exposing the illegal activities of their companies, what is our reaction? Sometimes, these people are hailed as heroes, people who resisted the pressures to conform with evil and stood up for what was right. Bu ...more
While I was interested in the profiles featured and moral questions raised in this book, I ultimately found it difficult to enjoy because it was so poorly written. There were sentences so convoluted and poorly phrased that I needed to re-read them several times to try to figure out what the author was trying to say. I believe I encountered my first run-on sentence fragment.

It's really a shame, because I wanted to like this book. I'm always interested in voices of dissent, especially lone voices
This is a beautiful thought-provoking book which describes the stories of four unrelated people of different nationalities, in different situations who act on their own beliefs to go against the grain of society to make hard choices to do the right thing. I kept asking myself: would I have the courage to do what he/she did? What sets these people apart is that they were not a part of an organized group fighting for justice. I can easily put myself in the position of someone joining a group to fi ...more
The brevity of the book (183 pages of text consisting of an introductory prologue, four case studies, and a brief epilogue + notes) belies the expansiveness of the material and how much reflection the book deserved. (In my case I needed a respite after each chapter to let things sink in.)

I pulled out a quote that, although not Eyal Press's own prose, illustrates a major conclusion: "Conformists are often though to be protective of social interests, keeping quiet for the group. [...] By contrast,
Interesting that yafeh nefesh which literally means "beautiful soul" is used disparagingly in Israel to describe "those whose cast judgment at an extremely safe remove from the place where hard choices have to be made." This book looks at four beautiful souls in hard-choice lands ( a border agent illegally letting jews through the Swis border in 1938, a Serb saving Croats Serbia in 1992, an elite unit IDF soldier refusing to serve in Israeli occupied territories in 2003, and an Enron whistleblo ...more
Edward Sullivan
A fascinating, provocative book that seeks to explain the behavior of "righteous" individuals--those who, when all those around them do evil or are silently complicit in it, are not--people who break ranks, act alone, and risk everything including their lives in order to do the moral thing.
A must-read for anyone interested in moral courage.
Mikey B.
There are four very different beautiful individuals portrayed in this book. Certainly the most commendable is the Serbian, Jevtic, who rescued Croatian prisoners by pretending they were Serbians; he thus saved their lives from horrendous beatings and quite possibly death. If Jevtics’ rouse would have come to light, he almost certainly would have been in mortal danger.

Sometimes I found the writer, Eyal Press, taking his own preconceived ideas to the interview. For example in the case of Jevtic he

This is a thought provoking book, a deeply reflective one that seeks an explanation for the behavior of the 'righteous' - those individuals who, when all those around them are 'doing evil' or are silently complicit in it, are not - those who do 'the good thing', the moral heroes who act alone, defy the group norms, break ranks, risk their positions in society, their livelihoods, their lives, simply to be 'good'. In the author's search for an explanation of this behavior, Press considers some bas
Thoughtful examination of individuals who chose to stand on principle and stand apart from the group. Press analyzes literature and interviews resisters and their families to examine what makes these people different from the rest of us. He opens with an example from WW II, when a German police squad in Poland, when offered a choice to participate or not in the execution of Jewish women, children and elderly, most conformed and complied with their orders. Some police, however, when offered a way ...more
Very interesting non-fiction book about 4 people who "did the right thing".
Each person gets their own section of the book, so the reader does not have to read it in order
nor all at one time. Although I hope I would be as "good" and "brave" as the first 3 people.
After reading this book, I would never do what this brave 4th person did. Even though what she
did was right...the author makes doing what she did sound like a hopeless endeavor without any
kind of recompense. In fact it makes such a perso
I enjoyed this book because it focuses on those who have stood up for the greater good and made an impact on the world in their own way. I am struck by how many whistleblowers have been tried to be locked away or completely mistreated to the point of being paupers. I think Eyal Press also wrote this in the hopes that more people will learn from these upstanders. I also like the questions that are raised in the book and whether or not there are cultural, biological, or life experiences that lend ...more
A series of well written stories of men and women who went against
rules they knew to be morally wrong. The men and women could see
no other action to take; Although the consequences were initially harsh,
they have been later regarded by many as heroes.
The last story was of Lyla Wydler, the financial advisor who was fired for questioning
the practices of Stanford Financial that led to their downfall. She didn't realize how
corrupt her industry had become,
from the paid off politicians, the regulator
I read 1 and a half of the stories.
The book bored me too much to keep going. I'd pick it up and think *sigh*, which is a lousy spot to be in, especially when a friend recommended it and the premise is good.

I see lots of people loved/really like it, so I read a couple of 1 and 2 star ratings. These other Goodread reviewers felt the book wasn't well written, they disliked the long, convoluted sentences, there were too many repeats. The author kept asking, what distinguished these people? without s
When Eyal Press' book, Beautiful Souls was released, he was interviewed on multiple TV talk shows, which piqued my interest. He presents himself in a thoughtful, serious, and earnest manner. Mr. Press has written a short, easy to read non-fiction about "Saying no, breaking ranks, and heeding the voice of conscience in dark times". You will meet a varied group of people who had the personal inner reserve to stand by their own conscience. Don't we each wonder if we would have that fortitude?
Margaret Sankey
A spare and realistic case study of three whistleblowers--with the hard lesson that the things that make people willing to act against the conformity of the majority (already being outsiders, defying authority, having a different vision of the organization than their peers) is often something that makes them easier to attack and discount, and which tends to make their subsequent lives difficult and a painful discouragement to others who might break ranks.
Jan 03, 2015 Kate rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2014
Sometimes a book calls to me from the shelf of the used book section. This was one of them. The title caught my eye, and the subtitle intrigued me. I was ready to read about some uplifting situations and the heroes who stood up for what they believed was right. I was in for a surprise, though. This was not a fluffy book just written to make me feel good--it was a meticulously crafted, well-researched text. I took my time with it because it was so dense, but also because I wanted to think about t ...more
Apr 13, 2012 Anna rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Bridget; Julia
Shelves: favorites
This book is incredible. Looks at what makes people say no to the norm and yes to what is right by all objective thought. Looks deeply into the situations of a Swiss guard, Serbian captive, Israeli soldier, and financial whistle-blower. Touches on psychological experiments and if the "objectors" are really the rebels most folks think they are. A great read.
I'd give it 2.5 stars if that were was a bit more than okay but I didn't quite like it, although, it's probably not meant to be liked. The subject matter is compelling but I found the execution lacking. Why do some people dissent while others go along with the group no matter how disturbing the situation? Trying to discuss that topic in under 200 pages doesn't seem possible and, if this book is any indication, it is not, in fact, possible.

Four examples of dissent are used to illus
The book made me think, and I always enjoy that. My first thought in each situation was what would I have done - would I have made a stand, taken the risks, done what seemed to be the right thing despite the danger to myself? I always wonder about this.

But I also enjoyed the focus on the personalities of the people discussed - they were by no means saintly types, acting for the good of humankind. I often got the impression that they were doing what they did almost accidentally - the situation pr
May 21, 2013 Lorrie rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Patsy, Mary
Recommended to Lorrie by: Judith
Shelves: non-fiction
This is a wonderful book to read that verifies and legitimizes the need to say "NO" or tell the truth even when you personally have nothing to gain (but perhaps a lot to lose) except for the maintenance/substantiation of your own integrity.
Arjun Narayen
A good read, an enlightening book about how to stick with your conscience. It would be a 5-star book for me but the writing was sometimes a bit verbose for my taste at times.
Very interesting read. It ties different historical events together through psychology and sociology. Really makes you ask "what would I have done in that situation?"
Very interesting, thought provoking analysis of why some people chose to do the right thing even when it comes at high risk.
Feb 10, 2012 Tom marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Sounds like an interesting complement to William Ian Miller's book The Mystery of Courage.
A great, surprisingly scholarly book that doesn't shy away from hard questions.
The central question of the book: what impels ordinary people to defy the sway of authority and convention? The stories of 4 'resisters' are told in a compelling and thought provoking style that leads the reader to question his/her own identification with 'the group', what moral foundations are undeniably embedded in our person, and under what circumstance we would be willing to pay an outrageous personal price to act or 'voice' dissent in opposition to our society, institutions, culture, family ...more
Maria Paiz
Doing the right thing is not always easy. In fact, in extreme situations, making the morally correct choice may in fact be damaging to our own wellbeing. In this book, Eyal Press presents four cases of people who, against all odds, rebelled against the system and chose to respect and heed their principles despite of what was demanded of them.

At some point or another, we've all faced moments where our beliefs and morals are challenged against what others expect from us. The pressure from our peer
Eyal Press's Beautiful Souls has been selected as the inaugural Penn State Reads common text. It's a personal, probing look into the lives of a few people who have had the misfortune of encountering situations and times in which they have felt compelled to make moral decisions that place them in opposition to the voices of authority. Press recounts stories most of us have never heard before, such as that of Paul Grüninger, a Swiss police commander whose life was changed forever--for the worse--w ...more
Paul Secor
An emotion and thought provoking book, one that should be read by everyone, although it probably will only be read by a small minority and won't be read by people who might benefit most by it.

For the first half of the book, I found it uplifting to read about individuals who acted according to their consciences, without concern for what would be best for them. Then, a pattern of retribution for their actions developed - from authorities and from society - society meaning other people. Jobs were l
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