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The Heart and the Fist: The Education of a Humanitarian, the Making of a Navy SEAL

4.16  ·  Rating Details ·  6,424 Ratings  ·  693 Reviews
THE HEART AND THE FIST shares one man’s story of extraordinary leadership and service as both a humanitarian and a warrior. In a life lived at the raw edges of the human experience, Greitens has seen what can be accomplished when compassion and courage come together in meaningful service.

As a Rhodes Scholar and Navy SEAL, Greitens worked alongside volunteers who taught art
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published April 11th 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published January 1st 2011)
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Aug 23, 2011 Sue rated it really liked it
I have little understanding of the glories of war, and I admit to not understanding those who choose to join the military. Furthermore, warriors are rarely among the people I admire most. So when I heard about this book, I hoped I’d get some insight into what draws people to those choices. Eric Greitens had a first-rate education and several high-powered career options, and he chose to become a Navy Seal.

The first half of this memoir showed us a youth devoted to learning and serving, and it was
Dec 17, 2011 Bruce rated it really liked it
Although the book was rather uneven (at times), the message shone through very clearly. I was just so taken by the author's humanitarian inclinations. Yet, so that he could not easily be categorized, he is also a warrior (Navy Seal), articulate, well educated and well-read. He is truly the prototypical renaissance man, one whom I admired greatly as I made my way through the book. Given his educational background, he could have very easily chosen to make large sums of money in the corporate world ...more
May 16, 2011 Mary rated it it was amazing
I was awestruck by the amount of "phronesis" (practical wisdom), that Dr. Greitens has gained through his rich experiences in his life. Wow! I believe some people are born with great gifts and Mr. Greitens would fall into that category. In my mind, it has always been a difficult tension between the need for humanitarians and those that carry the sword to protect our freedoms. Truth be told, I've learned you can be both. I love the following two quotes from the book:

First, "I'd learned that all o
Daniel Namie
May 18, 2011 Daniel Namie rated it liked it
"The Heart and the Fist" is interesting thus far. A different read from other book about Navy SEALs. Eric Greiten was Rhodes Scholar turned Navy SEAL--that's like a nun turning "tricks' for a living.
Michael Cogdill
Jun 25, 2012 Michael Cogdill rated it it was amazing
Eric Greitens, I pray the narrative of your life shadows and inspires mine until my final day.

Readers, harvest the wisdom of this book. Feast on it. Eric Greitens transcends the jingoism and railing identity politics that tend to invade our national discourse. Instead, he proves that an unimpeachable heart for humanity and the stoutest mettle of a serviceman are not merely compatible, they are essential to one another.

This is the writing of a Rhodes Scholar and a great American warrior and a h
Feb 14, 2012 Owen rated it liked it
I read Eric Greitens book, The Heart and The Fist. He is cooler than anyone you know. He has lived a better life than most people you know. Worse for me, my path now seems like a poor imitation of his- he got his PhD from Oxford, on a Rhodes Scholarship after years of going to terrible places and doing wonderful things. Then he joined the Navy SEALS and did some hella-cool stuff (though as a Marine, you would expect me to like the SEAL stuff more than the humanitarian aid. Or just as a boy). To ...more
Jan 08, 2013 Camille rated it really liked it
{July 2016 book club selection} I was really impressed with Eric Greitens and his attitude and accomplishments. It was interesting to read about his varied experiences in humanitarian work, in Navy SEAL training (I can't believe people voluntarily put themselves through that!), and in his active-duty deployments. He obviously has a really good heart and seems to have great leadership capabilities. I was especially touched by his focus on service and action--the way he always sought to get to kno ...more
Jan 14, 2011 Jacqueline rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Zosia
A very worthwhile read. This is not a gungho description of military action but is the story of a man's personal experience as a humanitarian and a US Navy SEAL. The gist of his story was not so much an autobiography but a story of a journey to understanding. The author as a young man travels the world doing humanitarian work and begins to understand that helping after the fact is not the answer but that the horrible acts of man that lead to the necessity of humanitarian aid need to be stopped b ...more
Dec 09, 2013 Winnie rated it it was amazing
Eric Greitens’ The Heart and the Fist in an autobiography of his humanitarian work around the world, life-changing events that shaped him into the man he is today. Beginning with his freshman year at Duke University, the book is set in a number of places in chronological time periods when he discovered his passion for helping people in need. Initially wanting to make a difference in the world through various volunteer works, Greitens traveled to places like Bosnia, Rwanda, and Bolivia, where he ...more
Tony Taylor
Jun 21, 2012 Tony Taylor rated it it was amazing
What a great book! I love it when I can go from one great book to another, and so it happens again as I read Eric Greitens' "The Heart and the Fist: The Education of a Humanitarian, the making of a Navy SEAL." This guy is the best of the best in many ways... he knows how to live a great life and he does it... he has been doing it since he was a kid.

Here is a guy who pretty much knew what he wanted to do since college. As a young man he was already traveling the world ready to give something of h
Jul 15, 2012 Maureen rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, memoirs
3.5 stars. This book started off a little slow - talking about the author's early years and introduction to/ awareness of the the scale of global problems. While the writing felt a little clunky at times, overall this was a fascinating look into the world of Eric Greitens. I think his background as a humanitarian aid worker and academic before becoming a Navy SEAL brought a deeper level of philosophical exploration than one would expect in a military memoir. I think the arguments he makes for st ...more
Dec 29, 2014 Andrew rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book isn't and doesn't attempt to be a great work of literature, but it's far more about content than form. It resonated very strongly with me personally and has a lot to say about questions I've grappled with on war, peace, justice, aid, violence, and the impact one person can make through their choices.

The author is a pretty incredible guy - boxer, Duke grad, Rhodes Scholar, aid worker all over the world, Navy SEAL, founder of a nonprofit that asks wounded veterans to continue serving th
Jun 14, 2011 Whassan rated it really liked it
The Navy SEAL raid that killed Osama bin Laden also left the American public captivated by the unknown men who did the deed and the elite fighting force to which they belong.

With the participants in the raid shielded from the media and unable to tell their own stories, one possible beneficiary is a book about the SEALs that hit the market just ahead of the May 1 action in Pakistan.

Debuting in April, Eric Greitens' "The Heart and the Fist" tells the story of a Rhodes Scholar with a PhD in politic
Apr 11, 2013 Jeff rated it it was ok
Shelves: 311-312
Let us assume about The Heart and the Fist's author, Eric Greitens, what he would have us assume: That he is a courageous and worthy warrior for American values abroad, just the sort of person we want to be "the tip" of the American "spear" in the world. The question, obviously, is whether we want our "tip" pointed in the world's direction, and here we're reminded that, fashioning himself a classicist, the Rhodes Scholar Greitens invokes the value of phronesis to the effect it "allows soldiers t ...more
Connie Faull
Aug 28, 2011 Connie Faull rated it really liked it
The Heart & the Fist is a book written by Eric Greitens. The author went to Duke University and then as a Rhodes Scholar spent three years at Oxford. During his humanitarian travels he realized that sometimes you have to use force in order to stop violence from happening. Because of that he chose to join the Navy and become a Navy SEAL. It was very nice to read a book like this by someone in the military who has many thoughtful and thought provoking ideas. Not just a Hooyah, I love the SEALS ...more
I read this book a little begrudgingly (not really the best word choice, but too lazy to search my brain or heart or wherever my emotion resides--some cultures think it's in the liver, which I think is as likely as a place as anywhere else from which feelings to emit (or is it, emote?) for a better word.

But wow! what a book, or perhaps better said, what a guy, this author is. And if his resume/bio weren't something that packs a punch--(put in fancy word here for award of superhuman Duke scholar)
Michael Flanagan
Mar 28, 2013 Michael Flanagan rated it really liked it
Shelves: iraq, biography
It's not very often that I call a book inspiring but this one deserves the accolade. This book delivers a story I was not expecting. It is a story of one man’s journey through volunteer work in war ravaged countries to serving his nation as a Navy seal. All through this book its message is clear, to truly serve one has to give something to those he serves. Here is a man that could have had taken the easy road as a Rhodes Scholar and lived the easy life. Instead he chooses to challenge himself an ...more
Jan 07, 2013 Lisa rated it really liked it
I very much enjoyed reading of Greitens experiences and was intrigued that his humanitarian experience preceded his military experience. I have always been interested in humanitarian aid, much of it necessitated by war, but also in need of war, because it seems that some aid cannot come without using force to remove horrible dictators or the lack thereof. Greitens seems to highlight, that with both issues there is a need for focusing on the one and that thought he, or any of us, might not be abl ...more
Tony Bertauski
May 13, 2011 Tony Bertauski rated it it was amazing
Too often a real man is defined by the baser elements of machismo. By his ability to annihilate his enemy. By the number of notches on his bedpost.

Eric Greitens clarifies the litmus test of a real man.

His story starts out in a liberal attempt to help humankind, detailing humanitarian trips to third-world countries when he was 19 years old to aid the abandoned, the hungry, the homeless. While we were spending summer on the beach, he was helping the people in this world with a tattered past and
Kyle Peets
Feb 26, 2013 Kyle Peets rated it it was amazing
This book was one of the best books I've ever read. I'm not interested in going into the military but this book almost made me want to join. All of the things this guy, Erik Greitens, went through was amazing. He is almost my hero. I want my personality and character to be just like this guy. During the toughest week for BUD/S, Hell Week, he is cracking jokes. And if it's too easy for him, he tries to make himself better by making it harder for himself. For me, when I walk into baseball try outs ...more
Jul 20, 2011 Christina rated it really liked it
This book really got me thinking.

I think the book can best be summed up by the following quote:

"I expect to pass through this world but once. If, therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do any fellow human being let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I will not pass this way again."

This is an excellent book about our call to service and how we choose to answer the call. I'm so impressed with the journey this author decided to take. The book is his stor
May 04, 2014 Steve rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Young idealists who want to save the world
OK, Eric Greitens convinced me he's a smart and good guy with unique ambitions. It sure seems that he impresses those he comes into contact with. In his telling he comes across so uniformly awesome that at times I wished to read accounts from some of his critics, just to get an alternate and more nuanced view. Speaking of nuance, I was surprised to find so little of it in this book from so smart a man with so many diverse experiences. It all just seemed too smooth and shiny. The book has a stori ...more
Dec 12, 2011 Jeff rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2012-book-list
If Eric Greitens ever runs for President, he has my vote! This guy's a stud.

Some take-aways:

1. Without action, thought never ripens into truth. - Emerson.
2. "I have come to realize that it's not enough to fight for a better world; we have to live lives worth fighting for."
3. "The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions
Don Shelby
True story of Greiten's life. He is a midwest kid who became an aid worker in humanitarian causes, was a boxing champion, a Rhodes scholar, PhD from Oxford. He worked on humanitarian projects in Rwanda, Cambodia, Albania, Croatia and more. In his humanitarian work he concluded that humanity was worth fighting for, particularly in protecting the defenseless and began to see the value in fighting for humanity. He resigned his humanitarian posts and joined the military, becoming a Navy Seal officer ...more
Jul 07, 2011 Denise rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I saw the author on the Colbert Report, and originally thought this would be a good book for the boys. I'm still hoping they will pick it up, but I have enjoyed it myself. The author, Eric Greitens, first describes volunteer trips to many different places including the Congo, Bosnia, and Bolivia. He does what he can to help people there, but comes to the realization that much human suffering is preventable. For example, earlier international intervention in Rwanda, a country he also visited, cou ...more
Jenny Stringham
Dec 15, 2015 Jenny Stringham rated it it was amazing
Loved it-so interesting! I listened through audible at 1.25% (perfect speed). The author read it and so it was like listening to a cool navy seal talk about his life up to joining the military, his training, and missions and what he learned along the way. Found myself hitting the rewind 30 second button so I could here a life inspiring phrase again and laughing out loud in other parts. Very enjoyable.
Mar 30, 2014 Lisa rated it really liked it
Like 3 Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson, The Heart and the Fist tells the story of a man trying to help his fellow man. For whatever reason, 3 Cups never rang true to me, but this story is different. I never felt like author Eric Greitens was tooting his own horn. He did tell some funny stories, and he did a great job of reading the audiobook.
Aug 15, 2014 Rage rated it really liked it
Shelves: military
this was a really interesting read. Eric Greitens describes his youthful excursions on humanitarian aid trips - each time realizing that he had a comfortable life to return to, whereas the children and refugees he was photographing and building relationships with had no where else to go. his descriptions of his experiences are clear and thoughtful: this person taught me this; I had this reaction to an event; this is disappointing and/or flawed, but we could try x instead. humanitarian work provi ...more
Jul 18, 2012 Rhianna rated it liked it
I was really looking forward to this book, but when I started to read it was somewhat underwhelmed. I honestly don't know what I was expecting from it, but the mixing of some of my favorite things to read about (random acts of kindness and military stuffs) put it at the top of my list. It took me about a week to get through a book in a genre that I usually fly through. Unfortunately, that doesn't bode well for the four other books I took out from the library that are now due back in a few days.

Nic Ayson
Feb 15, 2017 Nic Ayson rated it really liked it
The first two thirds of the book resonated with me stronger than the later third. Nevertheless, the messages and heart of a truely selfless man shone through and left an impact. Aspects of Eric's seal training were inspirational and his insights into fear and how crippling it can be will stay with me for a long time.

"The men who quit then - I believe - were trapped in a cage of fear in their own could not have been the physical pain which made them quit. No. They lost focus on what
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the heart and the fist 1 5 Nov 01, 2016 09:46AM  
Favorite Quotes 1 19 Nov 15, 2012 01:17PM  
How do you know you can do "it"? 2 31 Jul 07, 2011 08:08PM  
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Eric Greitens was an Angier B. Duke Scholar, Truman Scholar, Rhodes Scholar, Navy SEAL, White House Fellow, champion boxer and sub-3 hour marathon runner. He is currently the founder/Chairman of the Center for Citizen Leadership in St. Louis, MO.

Eric's book of award-winning photographs and essays, Strength and Compassion , grew from his humanitarian work. His doctoral thesis, Children First, inve
More about Eric Greitens...

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“There were a number of definitions of courage, but now I was seeing it in its simplest form: you do what has to be done day after day, and you never quit.” 43 likes
“'s not enough to fight for a better world; we also have to live lives worth fighting for.” 24 likes
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