Skip to main content

Book: Seven Men and the Secret of Their Greatness

Note: A few years ago, I did a review of Eric Metaxas’ biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer (find it here). He has not put out a major book since then, though he has been busy essaying and speaking and preparing for his next book. That next book is today’s review book, provided by Booksneeze, Thomas Nelson Publishing’s Book Review Blog Program.

Biographies. The idea of reading them often intimidates me. After all, while there is much to learn in the lives of others, do I really want to wade through the minutiae of an individual life? There is a gap between the usefulness of reading biographies and the challenge of wading through them.

There are a couple of solutions to the dilemma of wanting to read biographies but not wanting long ones. The first is simple in this house: we’ve got kid-level biographies stacked to the ceiling. (Literally, on organize the bookshelves day.) Those, though, often miss the deeper ideas that challenge the mind and heart.

The second solution is a book like Eric Metaxas’ 7 Men and the Secret of Their Greatness. This is, essentially, a bundle of seven abridged biographies. Metaxas highlights specific character traits from the lives of these seven men:

  • George Washington
  • William Wilberforce
  • Eric Liddell
  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  • Jackie Robinson
  • Pope John Paul II
  • Chuck Colson

The focus is more on a specific evidence of that one trait than on exploring the whole life of each individual.

By nature, each chapter has to be short, and so the biographies leave many events out. Further, critical analysis of the whole life of the treated individual. That is the nature of these types of biographical works. You may see it as a shortfall or a benefit—it’s like ordering the sampler at a new restaurant. You get to try a lot and decide what you’ll want more of later.

Even with the necessary brevity, 7 Men does not fall completely into hagiography. Metaxas points out, for example, the contradiction in Washington’s battle for liberty and his continued ownership of slaves. The men detailed were not perfect, and Metaxas does not attempt to portray them as such.

The other criticism I have is mixed. The book is, after all, 7 Men. Therefore, the presence of only men is expected, but I hope to see a volume on 7 women sometime soon. Further, I think that, while including Jackie Robinson keeps the book from being a whitewash, there are continents besides Europe and North America that have produced great men (and women).

In all, since the goal here was to highlight only seven men, Metaxas has hit it well. It is not, certainly, an exhaustive list of great people, but a good intro biography for each of the seven named above. It should whet your appetite to learn more about some of them, and help the reader grow.

Free book from Booksneeze in exchange for the review.


Popular posts from this blog

Book Review: The Heart Mender by @andyandrews (Andy Andrews)

The Heart Mender: A Story of Second ChancesEver read a book that you just kind of wish is true?  That's my take on The Heart Mender by Andy Andrews.  It's a charming story of love and forgiveness, and it's woven into the historical setting of World War II America.  For the narrative alone, the book is worth the read, but the message it contains is well worth absorbing as well.However, let's drop back a minute.  This book was originally published under the title Island of Saints.  I read Island of Saints and enjoyed it greatly.  Now, Andrews has released it under a new title, with a few minor changes.  All of this is explained in the Author's Note at the beginning, but should be noted for purchaser's sake.  If you read Island of Saints, you're rereading when you read The Heart Mender.  Now, go ahead and reread it.  It will not hurt you one bit.Overall, the story is well-paced.  There are points where I'd like more detail, both in the history and the geog…

Abraham Lincoln Quoted by Jesus! Mark 3

Mark records a curious event in his third chapter (link). If you look at Mark 3:25, you'll see that Jesus quotes the sixteenth President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. After all, one of the highlights of the Lincoln years is his famous speech regarding slavery in the United States where he used the phrase that "a house divided against itself cannot stand." This speech was given in 1858 when he accepted the nomination to run against Stephen A. Douglas for Senate, but is still remembered as the defining speech regarding slaveholding in the United States. I recall being taught in school how brilliant and groundbreaking the speech was, how Lincoln had used such wise words to convey his thought. Yet the idea was not original to Lincoln. Rather, it was embedded in Lincoln from his time reading the Bible. Now, I have read varying reports about Lincoln's personal religious beliefs: some place him as a nearly completely committed Christian while others have him somewh…

Book: Vindicating the Vixens

Well, if Vindicating the Vixens doesn’t catch your attention as a book title, I’m not sure what would. This volume, edited by Sandra L. Glahn (PhD), provides a look at some of the women of the Bible who are “Sexualized, Vilified, and Marginalized.” As is frequently the case, I was sent a copy of this book in exchange for my review.Let’s take this a stage at a time. First stage: book setup. This is primarily an academic Biblical Studies book. Be prepared to see discussions of Greek and Hebrew words, as appropriate. You’ll also need a handle on the general flow of Biblical narrative, a willingness to look around at history, and the other tools of someone who is truly studying the text. This is no one-day read. It’s a serious study of women in the Bible, specifically those who either faced sexual violence or who have been considered sexually ‘wrong’ across years of study.A quick note: this book is timely, not opportunistic. The length of time to plan, assign, develop, and publish a multi…