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.