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Why Courage Matters: The Way to a Braver Life 1st Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 50 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1400060306
ISBN-10: 1400060303
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

After two stirring memoirs, Senator McCain turns in a slim meditation on the nature of courage. Suggesting the definition of courage has been stretched thin in contemporary parlance, where it can be applied to acts as insignificant as cutting or not cutting one's hair, McCain seeks to return to the word's fundamental meaning not just of "the capacity for action despite our fears" but self-sacrifice for the benefit of others as well as for oneself. Although he addresses valorous conduct by American soldiers in the Korean and Vietnam Wars, he is, as always, modestly self-critical of his own experiences in Vietnam (although he and his fellow POWs turned to one another for moral support on a daily basis, he confesses, "I was not always a match for my enemies"). In an especially moving chapter, he recounts the participation of his congressional colleague John Lewis in the nonviolent wing of the Civil Rights movement. Other sections discuss the Navajo leaders Manuelito and Barboncito, Jewish freedom fighter Hannah Senesh and Burmese dissident (and Nobel Peace Prize recipient) Aung San Suu Kyi. These compelling life stories stand up against the best passages of McCain's previous works. Alas, his writing becomes more vague and less interesting when he shifts to a more abstract discussion of the need for courage in the post–September 11 era. One of McCain's greatest strengths as a writer has been that he doesn't sound like just another politician, and while the drop-off in quality here isn't significant, it is noticeable.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–Senator McCain approaches the investigation of courage from a position of unease at how diluted a commodity it has become in our society, and at how shallowly the label is applied. In offering anecdotes of individuals whose actions embody the rarity of true courage, his well-drawn examples range from Navajo leaders to Colorado River explorers to Jewish freedom fighter Hannah Seneshand Burmese dissident and Nobel Peace Prize-recipient Aung San Suu Kyi. He reflects on the wellsprings of courage, defining it as conscious self-sacrifice "for the sake of others or to uphold a virtue," encompassing actions that may be spurred by honor, outrage, a sense of duty, one's conscience, or moral obligation. He is self-critical and careful to avoid personal aggrandizement, but coaches readers to believe that one can use "fear [as] the opportunity for courage," and, by tackling modest daily challenges, increase the probability of summoning deeper reserves when needed. The book is not a primer but is, rather, a declaration of why striving for courage is fundamentally important as an attribute of character. The anecdotes are the most crisply written portions; the text becomes less taut and more hazy when addressing abstractions such as the qualities and types of courage, but focus and momentum are usually restored, often by a signature McCain sound bite.–Lynn Nutwell, Fairfax City Regional Library, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1 edition (April 13, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400060303
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400060306
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.8 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #346,543 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
John McCain courageouly fights for what he believes is right, regardless of criticism and scorn. This book depicts those with similar spirit -- people who move ahead in the face of fear and do what is right. This is a wonderful book that shows us that real courage is born from commitment to a cause greater than ourselves. I suggest two books to provide the "HOW TO!" The first book is Optimal Thinking: How To Be Your Best Self which is a solid resource to show us how to be our best and bring out the best in others regardless of the circumstances. The second book is Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway which shows you how to grit your teeth and push on. These books deserve 5 stars!
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Format: Hardcover
This man is better than Bush or Kerry in every aspect of human life.
Any American born citizen should read everything of his published works and stand behind this man. He is the last politican who truly believes in the American Dream.
Only review I ever gave 5 stars. Haven't even finished the book and will tell you this is priceless knowledge.
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Format: Hardcover
McCain makes me laugh, he makes me cry. In between McCain's explanations of what defines courage and what doesn't, he provides examples of people the world over who have demonstrated extraordinary acts of courage that will move you to tears. He made me laugh when he writes of how most parents usually try to teach their children to be brave as when they fall off a bicycle or horse. "We're teaching them physical skills. We're teaching them to be strong...We're building their confidence and giving them hope...These are elements of courage, but not the whole virtue...They might grow up and climb mountains or become risk-taking entrepreneurs. But is that all we think courage is? Without other instruction, they could turn out to be Enron executives.(!) They had daring, but they lacked ethics. They lacked a sense of honor, and they lacked courage."

I brought this book with me on a recent trip to bear country where I intended to read it in between hikes in the Sierras. I thought it would come in handy, for he writes, "Face the experience with quiet assurance or with a look that reflects stark terror", good advice when faced with a 300 pound bear! I spent my time reading mountaineering 101 books instead and this one got shelved for the time being (no bears in sight).

In the closing chapter, he offers advice to those who witnessed events in NYC who are still traumatized, suffering from anxieties. "Build your courage...We have something worth being brave for: liberty and justice. Feel yourself part of that grand enterprise, empowered by it, and dread the emptiness of a life that is unattached to noble purpose." "We're all afraid of something...Don't let the sensation of fear convince you that you're too weak to have courage. Fear is the opportunity for courage, not proof of cowardice."

Great practical advice, better stuff than that found in medicine bottles.
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Format: Hardcover
This extended essay on courage comes from a man who has displayed it in abundance, although not surprisingly, he seeks to deny or minimize that. Senator John McCain endured years of physical and psychological torture as a North Vietnamese prisoner of war and has gone on to display courage of a different, but no less real sort, in the political arena.
McCain introduces us to a variety of people who have displayed the dimensions of courage--Medal of Honor winner Sgt. Roy Benavidez, who rescued eight of his comrades in Cambodia despite suffering grievous wounds that would leave him hospitalized for months; Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, who has endured house arrest, separation from her family and other depravations in her battle to secure freedom for the peoples of Burma; civil rights leader John Lewis; a Baltimore mother who paid the ultimate price for fighting the drug dealers in her neighborhood; and others, both famous and obscure.
Courage is not easy to define, McCain suggests. For years he thought Hemingway's famous phrase ("grace under pressure") might be as good as any, but explains how decades of thinking and experience have led him to a deeper understanding, if not a more precise definition, of this significant human quality. Courage has many dimensions, he suggests; though physical bravery is often an element of it, it's not a necessity. What does seem to be an absolute, in McCain's view, is that for an action to be truly courageous it must be grounded in firm moral beliefs. Senator McCain has given us a worthwhile, empowering book.--William C. Hall
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Format: Hardcover
Senator McCain puts together a plethora of real-life stories from a diverse collection of courageous people to illustrate the application of courage and how you can learn to function with fear as a part of your life. While his examples are drawn from circumstances beyond the scope of most of our lives, (military war heroes, explorers, Civil Rights movement leaders, Native Americans, religious leaders, and Burmese dissidents), his intent is to teach the reader how to face the daily challenges of life bravely.
This book is a reflection of Senator McCain's life, which he admits has not always been up to the level of courageousness he would wish (referring to his Vietnam experiences). By telling the stories of how others handled difficult situations, McCain succeeds in teaching the reader how to face fear. His book extols the honor of self-sacrifice for the benefit of others, and defines courage as "the capacity for action despite our fears."
Regardless of your political beliefs or opinion of McCain, this book is worth reading and sharing with others.
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