98 of 110 people found the following review helpful
on April 13, 2013
Eric Metaxas is most-known for his biography, Bonhoeffer. It was labeled as a biography of uncommon power and received the award for Book of the Year.
Metaxas is currently the voice of BreakPoint, a radio commentary ([...]) that is broadcast on 1,400 radio outlets with an audience of eight million.
Metaxas' newest title 7Men & their secret of greatness is a compilation of brief biographies of men who made a difference and left a mark on the world that is worth mentioning. The 7 men listed are:
Pope John Paul II
Charles W. Colson
Each of these men achieved a level of greatness because of circumstances that each faced.
Washington refused to relinquish power on two occasions.
Wilberforce fought the slave trade based on his strong, holy convictions.
Lidell was known for his passion for running yet glorifying God and doing HIs will as a missionary.
Bonhoeffer was a pastor & theologian who strived in the Holacaust for the sake of the Jews.
Robinson broke the color-barrier in Major League Baseball and opened a door of change that exists today.
Pope John Paul II is helped draw attention to Parkinson's disease & the unborn children. He did this through the utmost humility.
Chuck Colson is widely known for his many faults & mistakes in his early service to President Nixon. But he is also known for his great service to the King of Kings in the later years of his life. He is a story of true redemption to the one farthest from God.
Metaxas writes about men who were God's men at a time when men were most needed.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
43 of 46 people found the following review helpful
on June 9, 2013
I first saw Eric Metaxas when I attended a Socrates in the City event in Manhattan, and I became a big fan. From the first time I heard him speak, I knew he had a kind of style that someone who grew up in the New York area--a style that was sometimes poignant, sometimes deep, sometimes inspiring, sometimes sarcastic, sometimes downright silly. but always authentic and genuine.
I read his book on William Wilberforce cover-to-cover. I've heard amazing things about his book on Dietrich Bonhoeffer, but unfortunately I haven't gotten a chance to finish it yet, as it's the kind of book you really need to read without much interruption, and that kind of time is kind of hard to find in my life these days. And admittedly, my attention span is more of the Twitter variety than the War and Peace variety, so I really need to get myself in the mood to read a 600 page book, no matter how well-written it might be.
Enter Seven Men and the Secret of Their Greatness. This was the perfect book for me. Instead of being one long book, it's like getting seven mini-books in one; I could finish one of the "mini-books" in just a few sessions of my morning commute (and admittedly, at times the content was so compelling I snuck in some pages after I got to the office).
The book is broken into seven sections, each focusing on a mini-biography of a different man. The men are George Washington, William Wilberforce, Eric Liddell, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jackie Robinson, Pope John Paul II, and Chuck Colson.
I admit that I've gotten awful tired of reading contemporary biographies. Today's historians have gotten as secular and politically correct as the rest of the world, and it's painfully clear that, intentionally or not, they inject their biases into their work. In one of the supposed "great" recent biographies of George Washington, for example, extensive numbers of pages felt like they were taken out of today's tabloids: how many women did Washington have affairs with? What drove his ambitions? What did he do to achieve greatness? It might as well have been a biography about Denzel Washington.
In so many contemporary biographies of men of greatness, there's one thing clearly missing: God. I won't attribute this to some grand conspiracy; but it is just a sign of the times where the mere mention of religion can set off all kinds of political correctness bells and can instantly discredit a historian who wishes to be respected in academia.
What I love about this book is that not only does it *not* leave out descriptions of each of these men's faith in God nor relegate it to a few lines; it provides a clear and objective case that faith played an active role in these men's lives, not only in helping them achieve great things, but also in helping them maintain perspective and humility after they achieved it. And it does this without proselytizing or being "preachy". It just tells the men's stories, objectively and honesty and, for once, completely.
What I love about what Metaxas did here was that these aren't mere "Cliff's Notes" versions of each man's biography. Instead, Metaxas focuses on moments in each man's life that tell you about his character, moments that a lot of history books tend to gloss over as a footnote. Most of us know, for example, that George Washington declined to serve a third term. But did you know that he went out of his way to end what might have been a rebellion from the Army of the nascent United States after being mistreated by politicians in the early Congress? Most of us know the story of Eric Liddell that was told in the movie "Chariots of Fire", but did you know about what happened afterwards, and how he gave his life to be a missionary to China?
In a lot of ways, I see this book almost as a "sequel" to Hebrews chapter 11. Yes, we can admire these men for the great things they achieved from a historical perspective. But this book gives us insight into the faith and the principles that helped them achieve them. And in a world where young people more or more see their "heroes" as those celebrities who make the most money, or business leaders who make the most money, or reality TV stars who make the most money, or sports figures who make the most money--this book should be required reading for everyone.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com® book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
65 of 73 people found the following review helpful
on April 19, 2013
Do we really need one more book about manhood? Author Eric Metaxas seems to think so because manhood is the theme of his latest book, Seven Men: And the secret of their greatness. In this encouraging and well written book, he seeks to answer two questions: What is a man? and What makes a man great?
What sets this book apart is that the author doesn't talk about manhood. Instead, he shows what manhood looks like in the lives of great men. As he explains, "Seeing and studying the actual lives of people is simply the best way to communicate ideas about how to behave and how not to behave."
Metaxas believes that one of the primary characteristics of authentic manhood is someone who sacrifices himself for those he loves. As the author says, "That's a picture of real fatherhood and real manhood." The author picked seven men who he believes exemplifies these characteristics. After reading the book, I concur with his assessment.
George Washington could have become the first king of America. Instead, he gave up real power for the sake of his new nation. William Wilberforce gave up the chance to become prime minister of England. Instead, he spent his life working to repeal slavery. Eric Liddell gave up the opportunity to win an Olympic gold medal in the one event in which he was most likely to win it. Yet he is better known for his sacrifice than for winning a race. Dietrich Bonhoeffer courageously defied the Nazis and surrendered his freedom and safety time and time again. In giving up his life, he inspired countless people to do the right thing in thousands of situations. Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in professional baseball. But he had to surrender something very few men would have the strength to surrender--the right to fight back against injustice. Karol Wojtyla, Pope John Paul II, surrendered his whole life to God and served as a priest. Chuck Colson pled guilty to a crime when he didn't have to--and went to prison as a result. Yet it was there he discovered he was truly free.
The brief biographies of these men are well written and inspiring. They whet one's appetite for a longer book on each person. The book would be a great gift for a high school or college graduate and would hopefully inspire a young man to pursue greatness through sacrifice and service. I hope this becomes a series and we see another volume soon.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com [...] book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on June 7, 2013
Love Metaxas! 40 year old husband loved the book, 75 year old father loved the book, 13 year old son loved the book.
We recommend Bonhoeffer, great book also!
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on June 1, 2013
When I was in elementary school I checked out and read a short biography of Don Shula, repeatedly. I'm not really sure why. I had never heard of Don Shula. Football to me meant the University of Alabama. I had adopted the Chicago Bears as the NFL team to receive my love, but I never watched their games and probably couldn't have named anyone on the team besides the Fridge (every little boy knew there was a football player named after a refrigerator). I think it was the first biography I had ever read; I liked the format, and I just kept coming back.
Eric Metaxas' 7 Men reminds of that book. It's the kind of biography that I got hooked on when I was eight. It is not the kind I get excited about reading now.
I'm not saying I dislike it because 7 Men is hagiography and I prefer sordid exposé. It's not and I don't.
The book hits pretty much where Metaxas aims. In the forward he admits wanting to publish something in the vein of Foxe's Book of Martyrs or Plutarch's Lives--biographical sketches the reader can consult to find role models. I think he succeeds in his plan.
Metaxas got a lot of attention and praise for his books on Wilberforce and Bonhoeffer. This collection of essays is a different beast. Short life summaries of Bonhoeffer and Wilberforce are presented alongside stories about George Washington, Eric Liddell, Jackie Robinson, John Paul II and Chuck Colson. The men aren't presented as perfect. Metaxas doesn't hide their documented failures or wrong-mindedness, but neither does he speculate on private terribleness that history can't support. I like what he says in the forward about our relatively recent obsession with questioning authority:
"But this didn't just mean we should question whether authority is legitimate, which would be a good idea. No , it seemed to me to go beyond that . It seemed to say that we should question the very idea of authority itself. So you could say that we've gone all the way from foolishly accepting all authority to foolishly rejecting all authority. We've gone from the extreme of being naive to the other extreme of being cynical."
Like the Don Shula I met long ago these men are sculpted into an empty gallery rather than painted into a landscape. Their families, friends, influences and trials are listed but not illuminated. There isn't time and there isn't room.
I think Metaxas did what he set out to and yet, probably disappointed fans of his last two biographies (not me; I haven't read them). I would recommend 7 Men to young readers, especially young men, or as good church study / sermon illustration material.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publishers for review. Thanksbooksneeze.com!
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on April 21, 2013
Eric Metaxas takes on the questions of "What is a man?" and "What makes a man great?" in his latest book. He profiles seven Christian men, explaining Biblical values concerning manhood, something that is increasingly being lost in our society today. The men he chose to use for reflection on these questions are George Washington, William Wilberforce, Eric Liddell, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jackie Robinson, Pope John Paul II, and Charles W. Colson.
The author is the current voice of BreakPoint radio commentaries. He knew and worked for Chuck Colson, which makes the final chapter of this book more emotionally engaging for the reader. While all the biographies in the book are good, it is different when the author is personally acquainted with the subject. This comes through when Metaxas speaks about Colson.
While the subjects in this book are from the 18th century to the present day, the truths about manhood can be used to explore anyone of faith at any point in history. Reflecting on real manhood, personal sacrifice, hard work ethic, faithful attitude, and the extraordinary events in the lives of those he profiles, the author hammers home how each of these men set an example of values that society can benefit from.
Whether it is encouraging individual freedom, opposing racism, honoring the Lord, or serving others through action, Metaxas finds a way to convey the positive attributes of each man he uses as an example, while staying positive and upbeat about how faith can be applied in a society that may not be accommodating.
This book is a solid work, and merits four stars out of five.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on April 17, 2013
My favorite book of 2010 was Eric Metaxas's Bonhoeffer, so I was eager to read his newest collection of mini-biographies, 7 Men and the Secret of Their Greatness.
In his introduction, Metaxas says that boys today have a shortage of good role models. But, good or bad, they will look up to someone. Therefore, we need to introduce them to worthy men who are good and strong examples: "If we can't point to anyone in history or in our culture whom they [young men] should emulate, then they will emulate whomever."
The seven men Metaxas examines in this book are George Washington, William Wilberforce, Eric Liddell, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jackie Robinson, Pope John Paul II, and Charles W. Colson. In each of these short biographies, Metaxas gives an overview of the subject's life with emphasis on those traits that made them great. These are not, however, the same traits that you would find in most books for men aspiring to greatness. Here we find self-control, self-sacrifice, humility, and reliance on God the things to be imitated.
Most of these men have been written on extensively, while some not as much. I particularly enjoyed reading about Jackie Robinson and the strength that it took for him to endure both physical and verbal abuse while breaking baseball's "color barrier." It was that, rather than his athletic ability, that made him a great man worthy of imitation.
In considering Metaxas's selections, I had to wonder about the inclusion of Wilberforce and Bonhoeffer. Fans of the author have already read his extensive biographies of these two men. Perhaps Metaxas hopes that these introductions will lead new readers to the more complete biographies, and I join him in that, as these two subjects are definitely worth knowing and imitating.
Metaxas is a biographer who can link the struggles of the past to contemporary issues. He is a Christian who promotes self-sacrifice and love rather than self-righteousness and hypocrisy. And he is a writer who can make his subjects come alive in an inspiring way. For these reasons, 7 Men is a book worth reading.
Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on July 21, 2013
Metaxas takes us on a short journey through the lives of 7 men who he feels has changed the world. Each man's story is told succinctly and with very little color. The approach is informational and not inspirational. I closed the book not knowing the answer to his tagline, 'And the secret of their greatness'. Due to the format of the book, each man's life has to be told in an overly brief way which leaves the reader wanting to know more but not inspired enough to go learn more, at least in my reading. There are glimmers of pulling the reader into each man's life and story, but a basic listing of facts and having the author's voice rather than the voice of the story comes through occurs all too often.
For an overview on the lives of 7 men, it is a good read. For an inspiring look at how they changed the world, it leaves you wanting more.
23 of 32 people found the following review helpful
on May 11, 2013
7 Men and the Secret of Their Greatness is a 2013 book by Eric Metaxas. Here, Metaxas presents mini-biographies of George Washington, William Wilberforce, Eric Liddell, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jackie Robinson, Pope John Paul II, and Charles Colson.
Metaxas states in his introduction that he wants to answer the questions of what a man is and what makes a man great. The titular secret is that these men lived by faith, that they were surrendered to a higher purpose. Beyond the introduction, though, Metaxas never really bothers to tie things together, and as such, 7 Men is too underdeveloped in this area to serve as a thematic study.
Metaxas's biographies are, by necessity, oversimplified snapshots (each is about twenty-five pages). As such, Metaxas gets to pick and choose what he includes, and he does a fair amount of handholding to make the points he wants to make to the reader, who may well feel written down to at times.
Metaxas's accounts are heavy with editorial - and not without inconsistency. Jackie Robinson, for example, is lauded for turning the other cheek and blessing those who cursed (John Paul II is also praised here for his peacemongering ways); his chapter immediately follows the one on Bonhoeffer, who Metaxas praises for many things, one of which, specifically, is his attempts to murder Hitler (in fairness, this aspect of Bonhoeffer is an issue that many people either struggle with or punt entirely). Regardless of one's position on Bonhoeffer's actions, though, given Metaxas's theme, it's a jarring incongruity unaddressed.
Historical buffs will be dismayed to note that Metaxas primarily uses secondary sources and, in several cases, Wikipedia (the Washington-was-a-deist crowd will really have a field day). In the end, 7 Men may have the most merit as an introduction to these men, and in that respect, it is worthwhile, but from whatever angle you come at it, 7 Men virtually demands further reading from other sources.
In short, while these seven lives are extremely impressive, Metaxas's accounts are somewhat less so.
* * * * *
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 4, 2015
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by BookLook/Thomas Nelson Publishers in exchange for an honest review.]
In this excellent book, Eric Metaxas continues his recent move towards biographical history in examining the moral lessons about courage that we can learn from seven great men. He smartly draws from his own body of work, examining seven men of varying degrees of familiarity: George Washington, Wiliam Wilberforce, Eric Liddell (most famous for his part in the story that was dramatized in Chariots of Fire), Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jackie Robinson, Pope John Paul II, and Charles Colson. The stories are told with a humane touch, the wit is sharp, and Metaxas spends a lot of time examining the importance of faith to these people and to those they interacted with. In particular, his examination of the athletes Liddell and Robinson shows far more attention to the role of their Christian faith in inspiring their greatness than is commonly understood. In contrast, he balances out the discussion of Pope John Paul II by providing a lot of excellent biographical material about his early life, including his playwriting that I am familiar with. Smartly, he forestalls accusations of sexism in this volume by including a tease for an upcoming work “7 Women” by including a chapter on Corrie Ten Boom that shows his evenhandedness in dealing with the greatness of women as well. It goes without saying that I would like to read that book when it is finished as well.
In terms of its contents, there is nothing particularly revolutionary about the approach of the author. Metaxas gives credit to those who helped him with his research and makes smart use of his own existing research for his previous bestselling biographies about Wilberforce and Bonhoeffer. He also uses definitive biographies of others, and autobiographical material where it is available. He does not hide from examining the moral complexity of those whose greatness he praises. There are no plaster saints here: Bonhoeffer’s involvement in conspiracy and his relationship with a teenage girl are admitted openly, as is George Washington’s quandary as a slaveowner in the 18th century American South, Wilberforce’s youthful indiscretions, and Jackie Robinson’s immense problem with his temper. Although the accounts are not exhaustive, they are honest, which makes the author’s praise all the more to be appreciated and treasured. Nor are these characters portrayed as impractical in their sainthood. Instead, all of them participated in the hustle and bustle of a principled involvement with the wider world around them, being involved in the larger moral and political issues of their time, wrestling with the means of how to achieve their moral aims and help further the interests of righteousness and justice.
Where the book particularly shines, though, is in demonstrating the immense courage of these seven men, and the faith that allowed them to withstand the difficulties of their lives, and the apparent frustration of earthly ambitions. This is a theme that repeats over and over again. Washington refuses to participate in a coup against the ineffective Congress of the Articles of Confederation that failed to pay its troops, and then steps down after two terms rather than having a lifetime presidency. These actions help create a culture of restraint that has preserved our Republic from the coups and dictatorships that have been endemic in much of the world. Liddell’s refusal to run on what he viewed (incorrectly) as the Sabbath sets an example of abnegation that serves him well later in life as a missionary in a Japanese internment camp in China during World War II. Wilberforce’s principled stand against slavery, alcoholism, and rampant prostitution (among other evils) made him a great man even if they prevented him from ever becoming Prime Minister. Jackie Robinson’s heroic struggle to control his temper against the bigotry and hatred he faced even as he won accolades as a baseball player and blazed a trail for others to follow. John Paul II rose through the ranks of the Roman Catholic Church without being seen as particularly political, being in the right place at the right time to become the first non-Italian pope since the 1500’s. In all of these cases, the frustration of life’s original plans and ambitions led to even greater achievement than was thought possible. There is a lesson in that which can be appreciated by many.