Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Book Review: Isaac Newton by Mitch Stokes (part of the Christian Encounters series)

Its been a long time since I weighed in with a book review from Thomas Nelson. Partly this is because I was overwhelmed with course work last year and so reading non-fiction was much more difficult than reading fiction (ala the Bethany House books I reviewed a couple months ago). The other reason was that I was underwhelmed with the book that I was reading.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

"Christian Encounters" is a series of biographies of notable individuals from throughout history. Ostensibly, these books are written not just to biography the lives and histories of some of the world's great Christians, but also provide some insight into how their faith impacted their work. There are a number of books in the series, covering individuals such as: Jane Austen, Johan Sebastian Bach, Winston Churchhill and Isaac Newton, among others.

I had the option of choosing Jane, but decided to stretch myself and choose Isaac Newton, since in the summer I knew I would be traveling to Cambridge University where Isaac Newton was a pupil and scholar.

From a biographical perspective, "Isaac Newton" is well-written. It documents interesting parts of Newton's history and includes facts from a variety of sources.I definitely finished the book knowing more about Newton than I did when I started. From a "Christian" perspective, I felt like the hype was overblown. Though apparently Newton wrote more about Theology than Science in his life, I did not feel like I finished the book knowing any more about his Christianity nor my own. I did not feel inspired or encouraged that his Christianity was an integral part of his life. In fact, I left feeling that while Newton was a genius and was blessed to come up with some really great scientific insights and inventions, he was also sort of a big baby and cranky and prideful.

I think in hindsight, I would have rather read about Jane. I don't know that my dislike of this book is enough to cancel any affection I may have had for the "Christian Encounters" series - especially as they are all written by different authors and so the style may differ from book to book, but I certainly will not be seeking out these books to read again very often if at all. In all, 2 mathematical bridges out of 5.

As a side note, I was provided this book free of charge by Thomas Nelson Publishers, as a part of their "Book Sneeze" program. In being provided with the book, I am asked to simply read and review it - without any pressure to either praise or pan the reading. My opinion, therefore is my own and free from coercion. Nonetheless, I'm super glad to have access to free books. If you think you'd like to be a part of this program, see the link in the sidebar!