Friday, July 26, 2013

The Mark of a Giant: 7 People Who Changed the World by Ted Stewart

The Mark of a Giant: 7 People Who Changed the WorldThe Mark of a Giant: 7 People Who Changed the World by Ted Stewart
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Description: On the Shoulders of Giants examines the lives and contributions of seven men and women who changed the world: Abraham of Ur, Pericles, the Apostle Paul, Sir Isaac Newton, Marie Curie, Martin Luther King Jr., and Mother Teresa.

My thoughts: As a self-declared nerd, I will admit that I read history books for fun. That said, I do find myself yawning after so much time as the author of a history book gives way. Too. Much. Information. I realize it's to give the reader a well rounded education on any given topic and there are bibliographies to back it all up which is the responsible thing to do when you are a student in a history class. But sometimes I just want a good story in the history book. That is what I found with this book.

The author devotes one chapter per historical giant. The information on that particular person is immense and surprising. Everything is referenced at the end of the chapter but I forgot I was reading a book that was, essentially, a history book. It was fascinating and not necessarily well rounded although it was very well researched. The author clearly chose each giant with great care, studied their lives and accomplishments, and found at least one or two qualities to concentrate on and led the reader to this conclusion evidenced by their life. This is not to say that the author ignored other aspects of the giants' lives but merely brushed upon it and moved on.

An example would be the chapter on Martin Luther King Jr. The greatest achievement of Martin Luther King Jr. was the act of becoming a peaceful figurehead for the Civil Rights Movement. He was not a southern African American and did not know all the ins and outs of being completely and utterly oppressed. He grew up in a home where his parents taught him well, a son of a son of a Christian minister, he made the choice to follow the footsteps with the huge bonus of earning a Doctorate in Theology. He was an unlikely candidate to lead the Movement because of his Northern heritage, his education level, and his young age. He had also dabbled and publicly rejected communism and dabbled in an eye for an eye mentality only recently being moved by Ghandi's life and example of non-violence. This is the man, with the oratory gift, that made the argument then led the Black community to boycott the city buses for over a year which turned the tides of rights being recognized by the federal government.

Under great pressure from both sides, Martin Luther King Jr. did not budge from his stance. He received death threats, his house was bombed with explosives. The white community did not adhere to non-violence and there were still physical altercations at times yet he continued to preach peace and turn the other cheek. The author briefly touches on titles of other events in the Civil Rights Movement and admits there is too much to write into one chapter. He also admits that MLK, Jr. decided to jump on a different bandwagon the last couple of years of his life that may be distracting to his original greatness, yet he consistently preached and practiced non-violent means to conflict.

It was fascinating. I was disappointed that the chapter ended. This was how all of the chapters were for me. I was completely enveloped in the life of Marie Curie and her perseverance under horrific conditions while testing and isolating radium. Far too little was written on Mother Theresa but enough that the reader understood the depth and breadth of her love of God's children. 

It is a book to be read slowly and then digested a few days before continuing on. Very well written. Very well researched.

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