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What Happens When One of America’s Most Beloved Biographers Writes His Own Biography?

For Eric Metaxas, the answer is Fish Out of Water: A Search for the Meaning of Life—a poetic and sometimes hilarious memoir of his early years, in which the Queens-born son of Greek and German immigrants struggles to make sense of a world in which he never quite seems to fit.

Renowned for his biographies of William Wilberforce, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Martin Luther, Metaxas is the author of five New York Times bestsellers, the witty host of the acclaimed Socrates in the City podcast, and a nationally syndicated radio personality. But here he reveals a personal story few have heard, taking us from his mostly happy childhood—and riotous triumphs at Yale—to the nightmare of drifting toward a dark abyss of meaninglessness from which he barely escapes.

Along the way he introduces us to an unforgettable troupe of picaresque characters who join this quintessentially first-generation American boy in what is both bildungsroman and odyssey—and which underscores just how funny, serious, happy, sad, and ultimately meaningful life can be.

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Praise for Fish Out of Water

“In this portrait of the Metaxas as a young man, deeply serious matters exist most comfortably with great wit and maximum humor. As enjoyable as it is to follow him from birth through the fog of his twenties and into the sunlight at their end, you will see that you have also painlessly embraced a wonderful complexity. Even the title represents multiple meanings woven throughout the book and, as in the solution to a mystery, unified and made clear at its end. A delight. I read it in the sunshine, which was entirely appropriate.”
Mark Helprin, NY Times bestselling author of many books, including A Winter’s Tale and A Soldier of the Great War

“A profoundly moving memoir.”
— Booklist (Starred Review)

“…a narrative reminiscent of Saint Augustine’s Confessions, Metaxas delivers a warts-and-all exploration of his youth”

“Writing is an art form in its own right, every bit as admirable as painting, sculpture, theater and music, as Eric Metaxas … so ably demonstrates [in Fish Out of Water], a memoir of his life that meticulously details ordinary and extraordinary personal events with charismatic finesse… deep insight and laugh-out-loud humor. [A] thoroughly delightful read, a top candidate for anyone’s summer (or even spring) reading list.”
The Washington Times

“…Fish Out of Water masterfully mixes a coming-of-age story with deeply introspective questions.…This is what the world needs right now.”
Western Journal

“Eric Metaxas [is] one of our nation’s most brilliant and morally serious public intellectuals.”
Robert P. George, Princeton University

“Metaxas is a major writer. Not to be missed.”
Dick Cavett

“This memoir of one of our best writer’s coming of age is a beautiful thing: deeply intelligent, spiritually acute, and laugh-out-loud funny.”
Bret Lott, bestselling author of fourteen books including Jewel, an Oprah Book Club selection

“A wonderful story wonderfully told. Eric Metaxas knows how to tell complex things simply, and serious things with lively wit. He is that rare and delightful being: a terrific writer with something important to say.”
Andrew Klavan, international bestselling author, two-time Edgar Award winner

“The story rolls along and carries us with it, hilarious and heart-breaking by turns, vivid and contemplative, and regularly touched with poetry. Eric Metaxas is a brilliant communicator.”
Frederica Mathewes-Green, Orthodox Christian author and speaker

“According to Dostoevsky, when Russian boys meet, they talk about God. Reading the book by Eric Metaxas, I felt the author and myself as such Russian boys. His youth was spent in the USA, mine in the USSR – countries, to put it mildly, very different. Despite this, we are remarkably similar. This concerns our first literary impressions (special thanks to “Werther”!), our first own discoveries, and most importantly – what is commonly called universal values. Only good books create unity between author and reader – wherever each of them may live.  Fish Out of Water is such a book. It sparkles with wonderful humor. This only happens with the most serious books.”
Eugene Vodolazkin, author of Laurus

“Truth really is stranger than fiction—stranger, less predictable, often (though not always) funnier, and weirder. Reality is not fastidious, doesn’t pay any attention to opinion polls. Hence the appeal of this memoir by Eric Metaxas, an account of his formative years: a zany tale of literary aspirations…”
John Wilson, Books & Culture editor (1995 to 2016); contributing editor for the Englewood Review of Books; senior editor at the Marginalia Review of Books

“With his inimitable intelligence and wit, Eric Metaxas recounts his formative years as a first-generation immigrant, the crucial development of his ability to think for himself rather than following the herd, and the process of learning to follow his heart and mind wherever the truth leads…”
Jill Lamar, former editor-in-chief of Henry Holt and curator of new titles for Barnes & Noble

“A delight! Eric Metaxas has crafted for each discerning reader a personal gift: A richly detailed, lovingly remembered American story that faces squarely serious issues to which every one of us should attend. From the struggles of immigrant families to bullying in school, from the trauma that victims of war and totalitarianism carry to the hunger for meaning that postmodern students face in college, Eric uses his own experience to illumine enduring, important questions. He does so with humor [and] moral insight….”
John Zmirak, editor at

“How do brave men advance through adversity with courage and then summon courage from the rest of us?  Read Eric Metaxas’s artfully scrappy memoir to cultivate courage and meet the public intellectual behind the books that we love.  This memoir stands as a beacon to a world lost to us, and casts a tractor beam to a future which demands virtue, bravery, courage, and personal sacrifice…”
Rosaria Butterfield, author of The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert

“At once an absorbing confessional memoir, a work of faith, a comedy and a literary achievement, Fish Out of Water by Eric Metaxas is one of the best books I’ve read in 2021. Gorgeously written, fun and spiritually enriching, deeply literate and hugely entertaining…”
— Mark Judge,

What readers are saying…

“The autobiography is a wonder and a joy. I haven’t laughed this much in years. Incidentally, I’m reading it while on vacation and continue to cry with uncontrollable laughter. It’s a spectacle. My wife keeps looking at me with incredulity and then glances over her shoulder self-consciously, concerned what the other beach goers might be thinking of her wacko husband. Thanks again!”

“If Holden Caufield were to write his biography, this would be it! The first paragraph starting page 20 (I remember that Uncle Joe etc…) that sentence alone is worth the price of the book! This book puts me in a state of uncontrived/unfabricated naturalness, in other words a meditation with God. Thank you for this gift. It is like having a jewel in the palm of my hand!”

“I just finished your memoir. As a reader an English major I have a select pantheon of books that I consider to be great, influential, and iconic in the context of my life. I am happy to put your name in this same list as your book is one of the BEST works I have read in a while. You managed to make me laugh, cry, repent and think as I read your text. Sometimes simultaneously. While your golden fish story was simply transcendent, enough so that I had tears well up, several instances were simply laugh out loud funny in terms of their quality. My wife thought I was nuts, laughing the way that I was.”

“For years I’ve been grappling with how to write and communicate ideas especially about our search for God, meaning, redemption, truth, etc. and just couldn’t figure out a way of doing that without being cheesy or self conscious. Within minutes of reading Fish Out of Water, I knew that’s what you’ve achieved. I bought it and read it till 1:30am – hilarious, honoring, vivid, intense, sad, wonderful! I had to hold my mouth to stop guffawing with laughter so as not to wake up my husband. So really, I just wanted to say thank you!”

“Last night I went to bed with tears streaming out both sides of my eyes from laughing and crying reading your work.  The genius way you string your words into (bam!) heartfelt messages touch my soul.”

“My husband (92) is absolutely loving your new book on Audible.”

“After reading the first few pages of Fish Out of Water, I decided to read that all the way through first. It is beautifully written, especially the chapter on “Because he’s your father.” After finishing that chapter, I felt compelled to write to you. Considering all of the garbage that is currently taught in our schools, were your book to be required reading, things would be better in our society.”

Fish Out of Water is a truly delightful read, but – in an unprecedented twist – it has also given rise to new terminology in our household. A new phrase entered our family lexicon, and I am sure it will be with us ever after, when my wife recently exclaimed, ‘I have to hit the bathroom before I have a Bradlees!'”

“I’ve been listening to your book Fish Out of Water and am really enjoying it! Just finished the chapter about your dream of the golden fish. Wonderful! Love the symbolism.”

“I was just thinking how glad I was that my sermon prep was done for Sunday BECAUSE ERIC’S BOOK JUST ARRIVED and I’ve been devouring it these last 24 hours….and laughing out loud as was promised I would. Great stories so far and such wild characters from your childhood. Your Greek school teachers sounded amazing and somewhat horrifying. So fun!”

“I cannot even begin to explain or express my thrill over reading Fish Out of Water! Wow!”


Additional Books by Eric Metaxas

Letter to the American Church Salem Books (Sep 19, 2022)

Baker Books is offering a 30% discount right here. Signed copies will be available in October at New Life Christian Bookstore. Call Rich to place an order: (718) 739-0707 * * “Silence in the face of  evil is itself evil. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act. God will not […]

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Is Atheism Dead? Salem Books (Oct 19, 2021)

Is Atheism Dead? is an entertaining, impressively wide-ranging, and decidedly provocative answer to that famous 1966 TIME cover that itself provocatively asked “Is God Dead?”

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Seven More Men Zondervan (Apr 14, 2020)

In Seven More Men, the sequel to the enormously successful Seven Men , #1 New York Times bestselling author Eric Metaxas offers more captivating stories of some of the most inspiring men in history. A gallery of greatness comes to life as Metaxas reveals men who faced insurmountable struggles and challenges with victorious resolve.

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Martin Luther Viking (Oct 3, 2017)

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Eric Metaxas comes an inspiring biography of the most influential man in modern history, Martin Luther.

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If You Can Keep It Viking (Jun 14, 2016)

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author Eric Metaxas comes “If You Can Keep It,” a new book that is part history and part manifesto, steeped in a critical analysis of our founding fathers’ original intentions for America. Two hundred and forty years after the Declaration of Independence, it examines how we as a nation are living up to our founders’ lofty vision for liberty and justice.

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SEVEN WOMEN Thomas Nelson (Sep 8, 2015)

In his eagerly anticipated follow-up to the enormously successful Seven Men, New York Times #1 best-selling author Eric Metaxas gives us seven captivating portraits of some of history’s greatest women, each of whom changed the course of history by following God’s call upon their lives – as women.

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Miracles Penguin Group (USA) (Oct 28, 2014)

What are miracles, and why do so many people believe in them? What do they tell us about ourselves? And what do we do with experiences that we cannot explain?

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SEVEN MEN Thomas Nelson (Apr 30, 2013)

What is a man and what make a man great? Metaxas offers seven exquisitely crafted portraits of widely known–but not well understood–great men from history. You’ll be inspired by the lives these seven men lived, often in the face of overwhelming adversity, and always at heroic sacrifice to themselves for the sake of others.

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Yankee Doodle Mugsy Mugsy & Co. (Oct 12, 2012)

    After the double happy ending of Uncle Mugsy and the Terrible Twins of Christmas, we find Mugsy happily married to Margaret Dogmont and father figure to the Twins. The new family is celebrating the Fourth of July when who should arrive unannounced but Mugsy’s English mother-in-law, Lady Hortensia! She’s come to make proper Englishmen […]

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Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy Thomas Nelson (Aug 30, 2011)

As Adolf Hitler and the Nazis seduced a nation, bullied a continent, and attempted to exterminate the Jews of Europe, a small number of dissidents and saboteurs worked to dismantle the Third Reich from the inside. One of these was Dietrich Bonhoeffer—a pastor and author, known as much for such spiritual classics as The Cost of Discipleship and Life Together, as for his 1945 execution in a concentration camp for his part in the plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler.

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Everything You Always Wanted to Know About God – The Jesus Edition Baker Books, Reprint Edition (Oct 6, 2015)

We all have questions about Jesus, but very few of us get the answers we’re looking for — if the answers even exist! Do they? Where (in heaven’s name) do you go to find out? New York Times #1 bestselling author Eric Metaxas understands how hard it can be to get hard truths, and that’s why he has written this hilarious, entertaining guide to the most influential single Person to have ever lived on the face of the earth.

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It’s Time to Sleep, My Love Feiwel & Friends (Sep 30, 2011)

Mega-best-selling author/illustrator Nancy Tillman (On the Night You Were Born) has teamed up with Eric Metaxas to produce It’s Time to Sleep, My Love, a gorgeously illustrated lullaby picture book destined to become the bedtime children’s classic of a new generation.

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Amazing Grace: William Wilberforce and the Heroic Campaign to End Slavery HarperOne (Nov 13, 2007)

“Amazing Grace” tells the story of the remarkable life of the British abolitionist William Wilberforce (1759-1833). This accessible biography chronicles Wilberforce’s extraordinary role as a human rights activist, cultural reformer, and member of Parliament. At the center of this heroic life was a passionate twenty-year fight to abolish the British slave trade, a battle Wilberforce won in 1807, as well as efforts to abolish slavery itself in the British colonies, a victory achieved just three days before his death in 1833.

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Uncle Mugsy and the Terrible Twins of Christmas TR Books; 1st edition (Sep 28, 2007)

Uncle Mugsy is a confirmed bachelor — bachelor bulldog, that is — who lives in a very comfortable mansion without a care in the world. He’s a lovable curmudgeon who, like W.C. Fields, has a distinct disaffection for children. His only companion is his faithful butler, Peeves, who sees to Mugsy’s every worldly need. The […]

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Everything ELSE You Always Wanted to Know About God (but were afraid to ask) WaterBrook Press (May 15, 2010)

The long-awaited sequel to Everything You Always Wanted to Know About God (but were afraid to ask), Everything ELSE carries on the conversation to explore more questions that are commonly asked about the nature and existence of God.

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Everything You Always Wanted to Know About God (but were afraid to ask) WaterBrook Press (Oct 18, 2005)

We all have questions about God. But very few of us get the answers we’re looking for–if those answers even exist! Do they? Where (in heaven’s name) do you go to find out? Eric Metaxas understands. That’s why he’s written this refreshingly down-to-earth take on the big questions everyone asks (but not always out loud)…

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Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving Thomas Nelson (Aug 24, 1999)

This entertaining and historical story shows that the actual hero of the Thanksgiving was neither white nor Indian, but God. In 1608, English traders came to Massachusetts and captured a 12-year old Indian, Squanto, and sold him into slavery. He was raised by Christians and taught faith in God. Ten years later he was sent home to America. Upon arrival, he learned an epidemic had wiped out his entire village. But God had plans for Squanto. God delivered a Thanksgiving miracle: an English-speaking Indian living in the exact place where the Pilgrims land in a strange new world.

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Bible ABC Tommy Nelson (Apr 14, 1998)

S is for Samson, whose hair held his strength, provided it grew to a certain length. So it’s good to be clean-cut and handsome, but not to be clean-cut and Samson.

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Don’t You Believe It!: An Actual Parody St. Martin's Griffin (Jun 17, 1996)

Backward-flowing waterflows! Invisible monuments! Ferocious meat-eating deer! A chicken egg in the shape of the Taj Mahal! Eric Metaxas has combed the far corners of the known and the unknown world to assemble this book chock full of startling, uncanny, and often seriously frightening phenomena. Marc Dennis has converted them into mind-bending, eye-popping drawings. Are they possible? Don’t You Believe It!

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The Birthday ABC Simon & Schuster (Mar 28, 1995)

A combination alphabet and birthday book presents a humorous romp with a cast of amazing animals dressed in period costumes, including the tall Giraffe with his long throaty laugh and the grizzled Vulture, a vulgar chap with little culture. Booklist said it best: “With consistency in style and tone, this sprightly excursion through the alphabet […]

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