Monday, August 17, 2009

Book Review: Great Peacemakers: True Stories from Around the World

“Peace is not a goal to be reached, but a way of life to be lived,” said Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu. The book Great Peacemakers: True Stories from Around the World is a concrete example of these words. Written by authors Ken Beller and Heather Chase, Great Peacemakers is a testament that peace can be actively lived and supported.

Beller and Chase have organized Great Peacemakers around “paths to peace,” naming the paths “choosing nonviolence, living peace, honoring diversity, valuing all life, and caring for the planet.” Winner of the 2007 International Peace Writing Award, Great Peacemakers follows the inspirational lives of twenty great representatives of humanity who dedicated (and are even now dedicating) their lives to the cause of peace.

The book lends itself to reading by both younger readers and also adults, being written in a straightforward style that is both substantive and accessible. The clear-cut organization of the sections of the book and the biographies themselves aid younger readers in gaining proficiency in non-fiction reading, and the compelling life stories of those peacemakers whose lives are described draw in readers of all ages.

An example of consciousness-based writing, Great Peacemakers inspires the reader to live peace, instructs through example, and exalts the supreme qualities of life embodied by these twenty great peacemakers. The authors also provide online study guides and other materials to aid teachers in using Great Peacemakers to teach peace.

Maharishi School of the Age of Enlightenment in Fairfield, Iowa, will be integrating Great Peacemakers into its curriculum this school year. Dr. Richard Beall, the head of Maharishi School, said the following: “I was very pleased to learn that a Maharishi School graduate and her husband had authored such an inspiring collection of short biographies of peacemakers. The format makes these lives accessible to middle and high school students, and should contribute to our School's commitment to service learning.”

Let us hope Ken Beller and Heather Chase publish more inspiring stories of the lives of great peacemakers. Each biography in Great Peacemakers ends with a page of quotations from that particular peacemaker. In Nobel Peace Prize recipient Dr. Wangari Maathai’s words: “What my experiences have taught me is that service to others has its own special rewards.” Great Peacemakers is not only a publishing success but also an example of consciousness-based literature. It inspires and instructs us how to live life in a fuller, more enlightened way, and chronicles the rewards of such a life of devotion and dedication. May we all be inspired to live our lives as exponents of peace.

Copyright 2009 by Thomas L. Kepler, all rights reserved


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