This book introduces ten types of human, such as the Aggressor, the Tribalist, the Nurturer, the Rescuer. They’re really types of personality, not human, since the idea is that human beings have all these traits to varying degrees. Each is illustrated by stories of people who have survived various extreme situations. Dias’s idea is that these people’s stories will illustrate the different types. I don’t think they all do, but they are mostly interesting nonetheless.
As a lawyer and judge, Dias was so affected by one of his cases (a death in custody in the UK) that he wanted to find out more about what makes people do such terrible things. He ended up travelling the world, meeting and getting to know some survivors of various terrible situations. By getting to know them (quite a long process in some cases) he reveals how they were able to cope with their abysmal circumstances. The resulting stories show the amazing resilience that people can have when confronted by horrific events, like being sold into slavery, suffering a disfiguring acid burn attack, or having locked-in syndrome.
These stories are interwoven with discussions of neuroscience, psychology and behavioural economics — all trendy topics — but the main thing is the stories. I feel he strains too hard for effect — there are far too many “arresting” opening sentences, too many transparent attempts to build tension. I found all the writerly tricks distracting and overdone — the book is interesting enough without needing all the trickery.
Despite the slightly overdone writing, the stories and characters shine through. I enjoyed reading and thinking about this book.