Saturday, April 20, 2013

Book: John Newton

Today’s Book Review is brought to you by Cross-Focused Media.

Bitesize Biographies is a series from EP Books. The goal is to provide a quickly readable introduction to the life of an individual, sort of as an appetizer to digging in to deeper studies on the individual. I have previously looked at Renee of France in this series.

Today, we look at John Newton. Newton’s story is vaguely familiar to many of you, especially after the recent film Amazing Grace. Newton started life as a sailor, became a slave trader, and then became a committed Christian who wrote such songs as Amazing Grace. He further went on to play a supporting role to William Wilberforce who helped end the slave trade in the British Empire.

It light of that, there have been a good many biographies of Newton in recent years. The question ahead of us is, does John Crotts’ Bitesize Biography of John Newton stand out as worth grabbing? What makes this John Newton worth grabbing?

First, there is the length: John Newton weighs in at 137 pages. It’s a week’s worth of reading if you read a chapter a day, and that knocks out the introduction to Newton’s life. That is a benefit. Many times, a hefty biography is intimidating. This one, not intimidating.

Second, as far as I can tell by comparison, there is accuracy: this should be assumed, but Crotts appears to have the facts right. That is necessary.

Third, there is an innocence-friendly presentation here. By that, I mean this: it is clear that Newton was a sinner in need of a savior, but the horrors of the slave trade are not fully detailed here. This improves the usefulness of the text for introducing a younger audience, perhaps right around pre-teen, to Newton’s life. Eventually, one should read material that shows just how bad the slave trade was, but this allows one to learn about Newton without delving too deep into those horrors.

Fourth, there is a good weighting of the biography past the writing of Amazing Grace. True, that is one of the highlights of Newton’s life, but there is much more, and Crotts brings it to us in this book.

Fifth, there’s a decent “further study” bibliography. This helps alleviate the necessary weakness of a short biography—there is much more to say, but it cannot be said in this span. Recommendations are presented so that the curious reader can move on.

I enjoyed reading this John Newton and encourage others to take a look here.

Disclosure: Free book in exchange for the review.

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