On July 8, to be precise, my husband and I drove through crazy rush hour traffic to a little bookstore in Washington DC called Politics and Prose. When we entered we were immediately greeted by copies of If You Can Keep It! (Metaxas also wrote Bonhoeffer and many other books.)
Seating for the book talk was in back of the store. My husband strategically chose a seat
As we waited I looked around to see who all were gathering. Lots of bookworms without a doubt. My husband, who is not a reader, said he felt quite out of his league and uncomfortable. lol Indeed, nearly everyone had their nose not so much in an electronic device, but a book, magazine or newspaper. I've never seen anything like it. Also, truth be told, I had a feeling this might be a tough crowd.
Finally, I saw him! Eric Metaxas! He looks exactly like all of his pictures! (of course) He was introduced as a speaker and writer of varied talents, including 32 children's books (do I hear the Veggie Tales theme song?)
Metaxas is just as witty and funny in person as he is on his radio show, facebook posts, and tweets. I've heard him speak many times about his newest book, If You Can Keep It. He always seems to follow a pattern in all the talks I've seen and heard on-line. That night he reversed the order of things, I'm guessing for the bookish and possibly tough audience. This time he opened by talking about how one writes books, since many in the audience might be authors themselves. This was actually quite interesting and I learned a lot more about the book because of it! Metaxas talked about how he comes from a highly creative bent, although he is known for biographies. Writing biographies, he said, was simple due to the nature of the plot line automatically being laid out: birth, life, death. However, If You Can Keep It was a more difficult book to write. He said that writing with an argumentative thesis is not his favorite thing to do, even though he writes lots of essays for Breakpoint (which are very well done.) I think the creative writing is his favorite. Nevertheless, between his passion for America and his publishers vision for reaching a wide audience, I think that If You Can Keep It overall proclaims a much needed message for today.
Metaxas had about 30 minutes to share about his book. In previous talks I've heard him start with Ben Franklin who inspired the title of the book, then hitting various concepts and stories rather sequentially through the book. This time he began with the stories found in the back of the book, which I thought was quite clever given this particular audience. Metaxas began by relating the story of the paper Paul Revere House he assembled with his daughter, of the passion of meaning of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's "The Midnight Right of Paul Revere," then linking that to a memory of his father teaching him a Greek poem to recite which led to his infamous Flag Day story. Then he hit high points of notable people within the midst of his book: William Wilberforce, Abraham Lincoln, and George Whitefield as he talked about the Golden Triangle of Freedom. Finally he ended with the title/clincher of Ben Franklin's challenge to a resident of Philadelphia after the Constitutional Convention..."A republic madame, If You Can Keep It!" And thus Metaxas charged us all with the importance of actively "keeping" our republic. Bravo! I was definitely fired up, as was my husband, the non-book lover! He whispered to me, "Don't put that book away. Leave it out where I can find it. I want to read it!"
This very brief review (one paragraph) of his 30 minute talk of his 272 page book must be leaving some questions in your minds, as it did the audience. During the Q&A several people gathered near the microphones and challenged him on almost every point. Many (not all) contested (respectfully) that America was never great and that the education system is wonderful in teaching young people today. Oh dear. This is precisely why this book is written! Metaxas repeated many of his previous words and expanded here and there (again, respectfully).
One question raised was that economy had never been addressed. I thought to myself, "Oh that's in the book!" And of course Metaxas replied the same and went into a bit of detail. (again, respectfully)
Of course, the best thing to do is buy the book and read it! I can't tell you how often throughout social media I've read testimonies from readers who have declared that they learned new things about America through If You Can Keep It.
One man obviously understood the book. He asked Metaxas thoughts on our need for a George Whitefield today. That probably went over a few heads, but Metaxas has an expanded biography and entire chapter devoted to Whitefield in If You Can Keep It which is paramount in understanding our Founding Fathers who established our republic. So those who had already read the book definitely understood the question.
A video of the Eric Metaxas book talk about If You Can Keep It at the Politics and Prose bookstore is here. I haven't yet watched it in its entirety. (By the way I have seen the beginning and I can be seen in the audience, though that is irrelevant, except proof that I was indeed there! lol) The entire evening was wonderful. Despite the differences in opinion, all were highly respectful! =)
No matter how well read any of us are, there are surely new things to be learned from If You Can Keep It. Many books of our country's history are sadly full of revisionist history. Schools sadly teach more revisionist history than truth. Thus I applaud those in disagreement who came to the event to listen and consider. =) Even though I was familiar with many of the stories and ideas in the book, with many thanks to various truthful books popular in the homeschool market, I learned even more from If You Can Keep It. This book is definitely for everybody. It's an easy read and it's meant to be that way. It can easily be read while on vacation, on a plane, while waiting at the doctor's office, etc. It can easily be read in a weekend. The benefit is beyond imagination.
Afterwards we got to have our books autographed. The line quickly grew for the opportunity! The bookstore was understandably expedient and efficient, so little time was allowed for chatter. Surprisingly I was number 2 in line at the insistence of the gal organizing the book signing. Despite the furiousness of the pace of the efficient employee moving the books in a most organized manner to Metaxas, (because the bookstore was understandably closing in a hour and her goal was for the each and everyone of the prodigious crowd to have a moment with Eric) I managed to tell him that I was on his book launch team and thank him for his work while he graciously signed my copy and said a few kind words to me! (eek!)
Then it was time to fly away on a great memory! My husband and I strolled down the nearby beautifully tree-lined neighborhood street to our car, chatting about the points Eric shared from the book. My husband was really fired up. As much as I had shared with him while I read the book, it meant all the more for him to hear it all from Metaxas, himself!
When we got home my daughter, who couldn't attend because she was at work, asked for every detail. My son, who couldn't attend because he had college studies, came downstairs to join us when he heard us talking. They asked for every detail. I referenced all my notes from the booktalk that I had jotted down in my copy which has been heavily annotated. The book launch team manager had highly encouraged us to annotate our book as we read, and now I had new annotations from the evening.
If You Can Keep It is available for purchase at your favorite bookstore, including through Amazon. By the way, I receive no commissions. I did, however, receive a free copy to review before the launch date which was June 14th. I blog because I'm passionate about this topic and I've been sharing bits and pieces of this information over the years on my blog. Because many of my readers have asked me questions about resources for this topic before, I want to make If You Can Keep It known. It's highly relevant for today, for adults as well as students. You can read more about it at Metaxas' website.