The following post is an expanded version of of my Amazon review of the book Encounters with Jesus: Forty Days In The Life Of Jesus Through The Eyes of Those He Touched by Benjamin Nelson.
I’ve been acquainted with Benjamin online for a while now. He’s always been an encourager and champion of my books and podcast, so when he contacted me asking if I’d be willing to look at his book, I couldn’t resist, as I felt it was the least I could do to show some appreciation for him.
You may think this is a flagrant contradiction to my previous post on doing review swaps with other authors, except there was no review swapping involved.
I was genuinely interested in reading Ben’s book. Plus, I have never read a blog post on his site Another Red Letter Day that I didn’t find enjoyable. So I knew this would be a good read.
And I wasn’t wrong.
I contacted him privately with a few concerns I had as I read what he told me was a later draft of the book, and I believe these have been taken care so they don’t affect my review. In fact, it’s difficult to think of any faults with this book, and that’s a good thing for me!
First off, this book is different in a very good way. I’m so used to being sent theological books or memoirs so this was a breath of fresh air to read. He admits at the outset that he has taken some literary and creative liberty in some of the details of the lives of those who share their short stories, and I didn’t find any of the liberties he took to be contradictory to Scripture in anyway, as we hardly know the backstory of many of the characters in these Gospel accounts. Nit picky theologians might have a problem with that, but understanding the purpose of the book, that kind of thing is unimportant to me as I read.
Ben’s attempts to make each of these individuals more relatable than just the few sentences or paragraphs that mention them in the original Gospel accounts is highly welcomed. In fact, I admit to sometimes feeling very familiar with certain stories and parables, and having something like Ben’s book to give us a completely different — or at least another — perspective helps fill in some spaces and rejuvenate my perspective on these original accounts.
Second, the writing style is not over anybody’s head. This is not academic book but a series of short stories. Nobody will have a difficult time reading this. You are brought into the character’s inner monologues and personal thoughts quite often.
You feel like you’re in their shoes as you read.
Third, in relation to the writing style, none of the stories/chapters are very long. You can read each one in short bursts. This made it very easy to read many of them at a time and read the book rather speedily, as I also was engaged with the characters and seeing how Jesus touched each of them in some way. When I would finish one chapter, I’d think “well, I have a few more minutes, I guess I can read another”. I love books that do that for me.
I highly encourage you to grab a copy of this book, and follow Ben’s blog (his Song of Solomon posts are my favourite).
If you find my review on Amazon helpful, please hit “yes”. This will help both Benjamin and myself.
Note: my link to the book does contain my affiliate link code, and if you buy it I’ll receive a tiny commission.