John Bunyan: Christian Encounters Series
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Christian Encounters, a series of biographies from Thomas Nelson Publishers, highlights important lives from all ages and areas of the Church. Some are familiar faces. Others are unexpected guests. But all, through their relationships, struggles, prayers, and desires, uniquely illuminate our shared experience.
The author of The Pilgrims Progress, one of the most influential books in English literature, had little formal education. Born the son of a tinker, John Bunyan was expected to follow in his fathers footsteps. He was allowed to go to school for a few years and purchase a few books, but his apprenticeship in the family business took precedence. Bunyan experienced his first sorrow in adolescence, when both his mother and sister died. It wasnt his last. Revolutions and wars were all around him, and he was jailed twice for preaching the Gospel. Yet amidst repeated imprisonments, civil war, and violent persecution, Bunyan crafted The Pilgrims Progress, a testament unlike any other to the triumph of the human spirit. His simple cadences transformed the language, and his memorable characters became familiar to millions. Bunyan became a public figure, a captivating speaker, and above all, a man known for his unrelenting trust in God.
Kevin Belmonte holds a BA in English Literature and two MA's in Church History and American and New England studies. He is the author of several books including William Wilberforce: A Hero for Humanity and winner of the prestigious John Pollock Award for Christian Biography
Bob HaytonSt. Paul, MNAge: 25-34Gender: male4 Stars Out Of 5Lively look at the man behind "Pilgrim's Progress"August 3, 2011Bob HaytonSt. Paul, MNAge: 25-34Gender: malePerhaps no other book besides the Bible itself, has had more of an impact on Western culture as a whole and Christianity in particular than John Bunyan's "Pilgrim's Progress". Bunyan was not a well-educated divine, nor a churchman of high caliber. He was not educated in Oxford or Cambridge. No, he was a simple tinker â€” yet he proved to be a master of English prose. His writing anticipated the novel, bringing together fantasy, adventure and suspense masterfully.
How could such a simple man create one of the world's true masterpieces of literary art? And just who was Bunyan anyway?
A new biography by Kevin Belmonte in the Christian Encounters series from Thomas Nelson publishers, aims to unravel Bunyan's tale and introduce us to the man behind "Pilgrim's Progress". Written in a simple, straightforward style, this little book is the perfect starting point for learning more about John Bunyan. The account of his life begins with a depiction of England's countryside in the time of Cromwell. Bunyan's years in the parliamentary army, and the commonly available adventure tales of the day are described in detail. Bunyan's trade and his family home, his first marriage with its sorrows. And finally the account of his conversion, all are traced in detail.
Then the ordeal of his imprisonment and the heroic role his second wife played in pleading for her husband's freedom in front of several high nobles, are recounted in surprising detail. Bunyan's masterpiece is summarized and described, as is his subsequent noteworthy career. Bunyan's death and his lasting impact are covered as the book ends with a timeline for situating the events of Bunyan's life with that of wider history.
At times the book's straightforward nature, and use of multiple sources gives it a start and stop, stilted feel. Perhaps this helps the average reader today, who may more easily absorb the material as it comes in smaller chapters that are easier to tackle. After getting used to the stylistic difference, the book warmed to me and I appreciated the level of detail that Belmonte was able to work into this short volume, of only 170 pages. The fact that numerous works on Bunyan are consulted and often quoted, ensures that the fullest picture of the man is painted. And I found the many quotes from notable figures, past and present, about their view of Pilgrim's Progress and Bunyan's impact, to be a welcome addition to the book.
If you're looking for an introduction to John Bunyan, a truly great man, this book is for you. The sources will also point you to fuller works to pursue after finishing this one. The lasting legacy of Bunyan is captured and presented to the modern reader well, in this little book. Reading this will help you appreciate "Pilgrim's Progress" more, and make you want to pick up that classic again. It will also cause you to thank God for heroes of the faith, like Bunyan, whose willingness to suffer for the Faith is a lesson for Christians of all ages.
Disclaimer: This book was provided by Thomas Nelson publishers. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.
Karen4 Stars Out Of 5April 13, 2010KarenJohn Bunyan is most well-known as the author of Pilgrims Progress, which I did not realize was written in the 1600s. I found it interesting that he was also a son, Tinker (occupation), soldier, husband, father, preacher, and a prisoner of conscience due to standing up for the right to preach. Mr. Bunyans background greatly influenced his writing and the lives of others even well after his death. The book also mentions other works by John Bunyan that I was not aware of, including Grace Abounding, an autobiography. The main point of the book is to answer how such a great work as Pilgrims Progress was written by a man of very modest beginnings.This biography covers a lot of period history which I found very interesting. The author quotes numerous sources from previously written biographies, which at times can be a little distracting. There are numerous resources listed in the back of the book. A timeline of Bunyans life and historical events in the Appendix is very informative. Biographies are not usually my first choice for reading material. However, I found this book to be an interesting look at a writer I was not very familiar with. This book also made me want to read some of Mr. Bunyan's other works.Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
Lisa Richards4 Stars Out Of 5April 1, 2010Lisa RichardsAs a book reviewer for Thomas Nelson Publishers I recently finished reading John Bunyan by Kevin Belmonte. I found this little 142 page book (not counting appendixes) hard to put down. Having read Pilgrim's Progress many years ago I was curious to know more about the life of its author. Mr. Belmonte did a fine job of taking me back to England in the years between Bunyan's birth in 1628 and his death in 1688. He paints a vivid picture of Bunyan's childhood influences, his growing up and his life as an adult who is jailed for many years as a dissenter. A lot of English history is compressed between the covers of this little book and it is not dry reading. It captures much of what shaped John Bunyan's character as he grew and as his life was transformed by his encounters with the Son of God who would become his Savior. The book is sprinkled generously throughout with quotes of famous men who were influenced by Bunyan's writings; men such as G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, Robert Louis Stevenson, John Brown and many others. Later authors whose writings held references to or seemed to be influenced by his writings would include George Eliot, Jane Austen, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Samuel Johnson, Benjamin Franklin, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mark Twain and Charles Dickens. With the insights provided by this biography I am inspired to re-read Pilgrim's Progress. I know I will see it with new eyes.
John Wallace3 Stars Out Of 5March 26, 2010John WallaceWhile I cannot give this little book a whole-hearted endorsement, it is nonetheless a decent book. I believe if one skips over the presuppositions and overzealous analysis of the author, there is much good information.Kevin Belmonte is a scholar and has obviously done copious amounts of research in his preparation to write this book. The endnotes and bibliography in this volume are worth the $12 cost of the book. Considering that this book is only 142 pages long, the volume of information it contains is commendable. This book reads like an anthology written by a single author rather than a biographical story. The book is good, and it is full of important and useful information, but it does not give us the story of Bunyans life, rather it essentially gives us twenty-one essays that are at times laborious and repetitive. Further, Belmontes biography of Bunyan does not engage the reader until around chapter twelve. Perhaps my biggest disappointments with this work are 1) a lack of spiritual/theological connection to Bunyans character and 2) several attempts by Belmonte to posthumously psychoanalyze Bunyans spiritual/emotional struggles. This book stands out for two primary uses: As an introduction to John Bunyan by a reader who is not ready to tackle one of the weightier biographical volumes. 2) As a resource for a high school or college level research paper on Bunyan or regarding the times in which he lived.
Barb4 Stars Out Of 5March 12, 2010BarbI must admit to having struggled through the first few chapters. The author quotes other sources extensively, both contemporaries of Bunyan and modern readers of Bunyan. In addition, as he sets the stage with almost an assumption that you've studied this period of history before. I began to be worried that this book was written for a more academic audience.However, once engrossed in the life of John Bunyan, I struggled to put the book down. Mr. Belmonte's portrayal of the struggles of Bunyan's life and his world are filled with such descriptive language that you can almost envision Bunyan struggling with nightmares, preaching to avid listeners, writing in his prison cell, or sitting around his hearth with his family. John Bunyan is more real to me, and I look forward eagerly to reading The Pilgrim's Progress with my high schooler next year as part of his Christian literature course. I will very likely put this book on his summer reading list to prepare for that course. (Thanks to Thomas Nelson for a free copy of this book to review.)
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