WHY COURAGE MATTERS: The Way to a Braver Life

John McCain, Author, Marshall Salter, Author, Mark Salter, With . Random $16.95 (224p) ISBN 978-1-4000-6030-6

After two stirring memoirs, Senator McCain turns in a slim meditation on the nature of courage. Suggesting the definition of courage has been stretched thin in contemporary parlance, where it can be applied to acts as insignificant as cutting or not cutting one's hair, McCain seeks to return to the word's fundamental meaning not just of "the capacity for action despite our fears" but self-sacrifice for the benefit of others as well as for oneself. Although he addresses valorous conduct by American soldiers in the Korean and Vietnam Wars, he is, as always, modestly self-critical of his own experiences in Vietnam (although he and his fellow POWs turned to one another for moral support on a daily basis, he confesses, "I was not always a match for my enemies"). In an especially moving chapter, he recounts the participation of his congressional colleague John Lewis in the nonviolent wing of the Civil Rights movement. Other sections discuss the Navajo leaders Manuelito and Barboncito, Jewish freedom fighter Hannah Senesh and Burmese dissident (and Nobel Peace Prize recipient) Aung San Suu Kyi. These compelling life stories stand up against the best passages of McCain's previous works. Alas, his writing becomes more vague and less interesting when he shifts to a more abstract discussion of the need for courage in the post–September 11 era. One of McCain's greatest strengths as a writer has been that he doesn't sound like just another politician, and while the drop-off in quality here isn't significant, it is noticeable. (On sale Apr. 13)

Forecast: Strong sales are likely, aided by national media appearances, a radio drive-time tour and ads in the New York Times and USA Today. Random House will simultaneously publish large-print and audio editions.

Reviewed on: 02/09/2004
Release date: 04/01/2004
Mass Market Paperbound - 209 pages - 978-0-345-51334-2
Compact Disc - 1 pages - 978-1-4159-0025-3
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-7393-0661-1
Hardcover - 336 pages - 978-0-375-43234-7
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