Tuesday, May 24, 2011

BookTuesday: MacArthur

This week for BookTuesday, I read MacArthur, one of the biographies in Thomas Nelson Publishers’ The Generals series. You should know that BookSneeze sent me a free copy of this book in exchange for the review, but they don’t tell me what to say. Check it out if you’re interested in free books for blogging.

The overall goal of the series is to examine the lives of some of the famous generals of American history. Other volumes have highlighted Generals Lee and Washington, and this volume looks at General Douglas MacArthur.

Reading biographies is one of the better ways to gain wisdom: the reader is able to learn from the good and the bad of history and see it applied in the life of individuals. The challenge, which series editor Stephen Mansfield highlights in his introduction, is to balance criticism with hagiography, making sure to show that the subjects are real people that were both heroic and, well, not so heroic as well.

General of the Army Douglas MacArthur was definitely both types of man. He was heroic in battle, though rough and sometimes too independent. He was not always socially correct and neither was he quite politically astute at all times. Yet he helped build post-war Japan into the economic force it remains to this day.

Now, since I’m supposed to be reviewing the book and not the man, how well does Mitchell Yockelson present the life of General MacArthur?

First, this biography is a short one. For comparison, Eric Metaxas’ recent Bonhoeffer spent over 600 pages to delve into Bonhoeffer’s 39 years of life. Yockelson spends just over 200 pages to address General MacArthur’s 84. This is not a shortcoming, as the goal here is to provide an introduction, not an intimacy. By nature, one gets to the end of this book and realizes that there is much more to the life of MacArthur.

Second, this work, coming from a religious publisher, could have overplayed views on MacArthur’s faith and beliefs. However, Yockelson has shown restraint here. The speeches and sayings of MacArthur that reference his religious opinions are present, but there is no effort to portray General MacArthur as an ideal Christian. Rather, he is presented as a man with faith and foibles. This is a good thing.

Third, while some discussion of military matters is present, this book does not bog the reader down with too many details of military strategy and logistics. While some will find the dearth of exact detail frustrating, this book does, generally, help a person with a lack of military knowledge understand the life of a career military officer. There are points that could have used a little more explanation: there are times that phrases like “military protocol” that leave one wondering, in all, though, it’s not a major problem.

Finally, presentation: the book is hardcover, contains a few pictures, and seems like the binding will hold up well over time.

In all, I recommend this book, as well as the entire series.

MacArthur: America's General (The Generals)


As always: free book for the review.

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