Thinking Out Loud

April 25, 2013

Eric Metaxas: The Accidental Biographer

To hear him tell it, Eric Metaxas was as surprised as anyone at the success of his William Wilberforce biography, Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery and his epic-length Deitrict Bonhoeffer follow up with Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy, which clocked in at 608 pages.

7 Men And the Secret of Their Greatness - Eric MetaxasThis time around he offers a sampler of stories in Seven Men and the Secret of their Greatness. He draws on material from the earlier books for two of the sections, and the seventh is someone with whom he worked personally; which leaves us with this lineup:  George Washington, William Wilberforce, Eric Liddell, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jackie Robinson, John Paul II, and Charles Colson,  

While I’m not a sports guy, I’ve mentioned here a few weeks ago that the Jackie Robinson chapter was my favorite, and the timing vis-a-vis the 42 movie works out well.  It also typifies Metaxas’ desire to bring us new narrative elements, and new backstory. It as if he is anticipating the question, “Can you tell me something I haven’t heard before?’

Was the inclusion of Washington pandering to a U.S. audience? While I can see the eyes of Brits and Canadians rolling, the chapter allowed the book to reach back into another century. At the contemporary end of the timeline, that Metaxas worked with Charles Colson gave him access to details others would miss.

There is literally something for everyone here: Sports, politics, Catholic interest, U.S. History, etc., and with Father’s Day coming up, this is a title I can highly recommend. If the 608 pages (of the Bonhoeffer book) is too much reading some men, this one is only 256 pages, but is a book to be measured by its depth, not its length. Readers are encouraged to read the chapters in any sequence as I did.

The book releases next week from Thomas Nelson in hardcover in the U.S., elsewhere paperback.

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1 Comment »

  1. I am finishing up Ron Chernow’s 900-page biography of George Washington, and while Washington had his flaws (he flirted with the ladies, sometimes had a temper, and had a hard time seeing the wrong of slavery), he was truly a great man. I was struck by his self-discipline and self-control, perseverance, and his impeccable integrity. Washington knew how to listen to all viewpoints and build a consensus before making a decision, and then stick to his decision, which made him a great president. He was also very courageous. His faith was deeply private, but was also deep and real. George Washington was a product of his time and had a blind eye to the yearning for freedom of his slaves, yet to his credit, Washington was the only one of the founding fathers in America to free his slaves upon his death. Washington certainly warrants being in the list of seven men.

    Comment by Bob Rogers — April 25, 2013 @ 9:47 am


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