Fear; Our Ultimate Challenge – Book Review

23 Jan / James Eastham

The Blurb

Sir Ranulph Fiennes has climbed the Eiger and Mount Everest. He’s crossed both Poles on foot. He’s been a member of the SAS and fought a bloody guerrilla war in Oman. And yet he confesses that his fear of heights is so great that he’d rather send his wife up a ladder to clean the gutters than do it himself.

In Fear, the world’s greatest explorer delves into his own experiences and those of others to try and explain what fear is, and how we feel it. With an enthralling combination of story-telling, research and personal accounts of his own struggles to overcome fear, Sir Ranulph Fiennes sheds new light on one of humanity’s strongest emotions.

Taken from Amazon UK 

Key Quotes

“I had learned, at least in theory, the secret of dealing with fear in Dhofar: keep a ruthlessly tight clamp on your imagination. With fear, you must prevent, not cure. Fear must not be let in in the first place. Think of anything but the subject of your fear. Never look at the void you are about to jump into. If you are in a canoe, never listen to the roar of the rapids before you let go of the riverbank. Just do it! Keep your eyes closed and let go. If the fear then rushes at you, it will not be able to get a grip because your mind will be focused by then on the technical matter of survival.

“Entire books have been written about ways of fighting fear, but my five decades of breaking world records through taking risks have convinced me that, with due respect to devotees of yoga, breathing and powerful drugs, successful control of your own mind gives you the best chance of winning the even achieving the most enviable of states… being a happy human being.”

Want my quick 2 cents?

Ranulph Fiennes is regularly described as the world’s greatest living explorer. An ex SAS operative who has dedicated his life to frankly being absolutely bonkers. In Fear, he covers lots of different manifestations of fear. Whether that be fear in cities, fear of disease or the lasting trauma of fear.

Pulling examples from his own experiences and from others, he stitches together these different points giving an insight into how fear manifests itself.

Also, it provides the truest understanding I’ve read of ‘first world problems’. Comparing the problems we face today compared to other places in the world really makes you consider if you should feel stressed about sitting in traffic for 20 minutes.

Interested to read more…

Sir Ranulph Fiennes is my absolute idol! If there was one ‘famous’ person I would like to meet he’s top of the list every single time. He is the epitome of grit, hard work and just sheer perseverance to get through any obstacle we face. Reading the list things he has accomplished is just astonishing:

  • First person to completely circumnavigate the globe through both the North and South poles
  • He served in Oman after being discharged from the British SAS after blowing up a bridge. His reason for blowing up the bridge? It had been built for a film set and it spoiled the look of the village
  • He’s the only man to walk across the whole continent of Antartica completely unsupported
  • He attempted to walk through the north pole but had to give up due to frostbite in all the fingers in his left hand. On return to the UK, after doctors would not remove the tips of the fingers right away, he cut them off himself with a vice and a hack saw
  • Suffered a heart attack and was in a coma for 3 days. 4 months later he ran 7 marathons on 7 continents in 7 days.
  • After 2 un-successful Everest summit attempts, he eventually achieved it at the age of 65
  • At 71 years old he ran a 156km ultra-marathon in the Sahara desert. Yep, at 71..In the desert…For 156km.

Honestly, the list goes on and on. Aside from all these impressive feats, he has also raised millions of pounds for charity. It’s not all about the glory you know.

So after all of that, he is pretty well placed to talk about fear. He will have felt his fair share of it over the years.


The book itself is fantastically broken down into sections broadly based on the ‘type’ of fear. Things like fear of disease and the lasting effects of fear. In each chapter, he discusses his own personal experiences before heading out into the world and talking to real people. This included deep diving into the gangs of London, speaking to Holocaust survivors and tracking down Nazi’s. No stone was left unturned to find real-life examples of fear.

The Author

Sir Ranulph is also an excellent writer, he gets all his points across well and in an easy to understand manner. It is still an ‘easy’ read, even when hearing about him cutting his own fingers off.

In Summary

If you want a book to help you understand fear or to help you ground yourself in your own fears then this is the book for you. On completion, I can almost guarantee you’ll be off looking for his other books (I can highly recommend Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know).

Buy on Amazon

Cover of the book Fear; Our Ultimate Challenge

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