“I am attracted to lengthy biographies. The longest one I’ve read is three volumes of Robert Caro’s four-volume, ‘The Years of Lyndon Johnson.’ I’ve also read a bit of Joseph Frank’s five-volume ‘Dostoevsky.’ But by page 200 I had learned enough of early 1800s Russian to put Dostoevsky back on the shelf. Otherwise I’ve persevered, finishing such long reads as ‘Jesse James: Last Rebel of the Civil War,’ ‘Truman,’ ‘The Kid,’ ‘Savage Beauty,’ ‘American Ulysses’ and more. At my bedside now is Eric Metaxas’ lengthy and compelling biography, ‘Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy,’ which measures 600 pages. I’ve mellowed.

“Dietrich Bonhoeffer was born in Breslau, Germany in 1906. He studied at Germany’s University of Berlin and at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. He preached in England and Germany. Online encyclopedia Wikipedia presents Bonhoeffer as a theologian, a Lutheran pastor and an anti-Nazi dissident. Author Eric Metaxas describes him as a humble man of incredible faith who faces up to the greatest evil of the 20th century. Bottom line: Bonhoeffer is a history book that moves the soul.

“The crux of the book is set in Adolph Hitler’s Germany. Hitler comes to power in 1933. German Christians resist his attempts to suppress German Christianity into a single Reichskirche under the Fuhrer. Pastoral standoff occurs. In time, German Christians do reaffirm the Bible, and the result is a single Confessing Church, the true German church, Bonhoeffer its leading spokesman.

“As Hitler’s war rages, anti-Nazi dissident Bonhoeffer seemingly becomes a Nazi sympathizer, a spy. He also falls in love, of all things. On July 1, 1937, however, the Confessing Church is banned by Hitler. Later, Bonhoeffer is arrested by the Nazis and implicated in the 1944 plot to assassinate Hitler. He dies at the hands of the Nazis in a German concentration camp in April 1945.

“In ‘Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy,’  Metaxas has crafted a compelling study of a little known man of exceptional conviction.”— JOHN HODGKINS, Yarmouth


Mainers, please email to tell us about the book on your bedside table right now. In a paragraph or two, describe the book and be sure to tell us what drew you to it. As the pandemic lingers, we want to hear what you are reading in these unsettled times and why. Send your selection to [email protected], and we may use it as a future Bedside Table.


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