Whether you ascribe to the Christian tradition or not, the Bible is, undoubtedly, one of the most influential texts of the Common Era and arguably the bestselling book of all time. As such, there are so many editions in print it can be overwhelming to select the best one for a particular purpose. Here is an overview of some the best Bibles for various types of readers and collectors.
For Pleasure Reading
If you’re reading a good story the last thing you want is a bunch of pesky superscript numbers and notations cluttering the page. Such distractions make it very difficult to get lost in a story. The best Bibles for pleasure reading will have a clean interior design, text large enough to see without strain, and will be light enough to easily hold in one hand.
Biblica publishes a couple of excellent resources for people who want to read the Bible without all the usual distractions. The first option is to buy the Bible in four slim paperback volumes: Covenant History (Genesis through Kings), The Prophets (Jonah, Amos, Hosea, Micah, Isaiah, Zephaniah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Jeremiah, Obadiah, Ezekiel, Haggai, Zechariah, Joel, and Malachi), The Writings (Psalms, Lamentations, Song of Songs, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Job, Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Daniel), and The New Testament. The second option is to buy the whole Bible in one volume. Both are translated in the New International Version (NIV) and do not contain any chapter and verse numbers, section headings, study notes, footnotes, cross references, or red letters. The text is arranged in a single column format and utilizes natural structure breaks to make the text flow well without overwhelming the reader with huge blocks of unbroken text.
Bibliotheca’s paperback set is also an excellent choice (see “For the Casual Collector” below).
For Literary Study
Penguin Classics publishes a standard paperback of the King James Version. It was edited by David Norton. This is a good edition for the casual student.
W.W. Norton & Co. offers a critical edition of the King James Version in two volumes–the Old Testament and the New Testament and Apocrypha. This edition contains introductions to each book, detailed annotations, and other supporting materials that will help readers understand the literary, historical, and cultural context of the Bible.
For Christian Bible Study
There are thousands of excellent study Bibles out there for people of all denominations, theological persuasions, and lifestyles–far too many to list here. I am simply highlighting two from the major schools of Christianity–Protestantism and Catholicism.
The ESV Study Bible is a personal favorite of mine. It contains 20,000 notes, over 50 articles on various theological topics, over 200 charts, over 200 full-color maps, 80,000 cross-references, 40 illustrations, and an introduction to each book. It is available in a variety of formats, including hardcover, paperback, TruTone faux leather, genuine leather, and cowhide. There are also a number of large print editions. Furthermore, each edition comes with free access to the full ESV Online Study Bible, which allows users to digitally bookmark, highlight, and make notes on the text. It also includes an online audio version.
The Catholic Study Bible is translated in the New American Bible Revised Edition and includes study notes, essays, sidebars, references and background information, a fifteen-page glossary of special terms, lectionary readings for liturgical years of the Church, and 32 full-color Oxford Bible maps.
For Quick Reference & On-the-Go Convenience
The Bible App by YouVersion is terrific because it takes up no physical space at all, is searchable, and allows instant access to forty-two translations–and those are just the ones in English. They have translations in so many languages I didn’t even try to count them. They even have audio options for certain translations. And best of all, the app is free!
ESV Thinline Bibles come in a number of attractive designs and are bound in TruTone imitation leather, which is pleasantly soft to the touch. They are larger than pocket-sized Bibles, but thin and light enough to easily carry to church or store in your glove compartment without compromising text size or reference materials.
For the Casual Collector
I’m calling these “casual” collector editions because they have no historical value, but offer a sense of luxury and a high level of quality.
Bibliotheca began as a small Kickstarter project to create a Bible that combines the best of quality construction with readability. This edition is designed to eliminate reading distractions and contains no chapter and verse numbers. The translation is a modernized form of the American Standard Version.
Bibliotheca is a limited edition, but at the time of this writing it is still available for preorder. It is estimated that delivery will take place sometime this fall. There are a number of ordering options. You can buy a hardcover or paperback set, the New Testament (one volume), Hebrew Bible (three volumes), full Bible (four volumes) or the Bible with the Apocrypha (five volumes), and you have the option of buying a specially crafted walnut slipcase for the four or five volume set. Prices range from thirty to eighty-five dollars and the walnut slipcase is sold separately for eighty-five dollars. Adding the Apocrypha is free!
The Folio Society offers a gorgeous limited edition King James Bible bound in goatskin and outfitted with a buckram-covered wooden slipcase lined with moiré silk. This edition includes the Apocrypha and is printed on gilded Abbey Wove paper. Nine hundred forty sets were printed and at the time of this writing there are still copies available for purchase. A set costs eight hundred ninety-five dollars.
For the Budget Collector
Barnes and Noble offers an aesthetically pleasing King James Version in their Collectible Editions collection for just eighteen dollars.
For the Rare Books Collector
Bauman Rare Books offers an exceptional collection of rare and antique Bibles.
For Children & Graphic Novel Lovers
The Action Bible is the longest graphic novel I have ever read and by far the coolest and most colorful version of the Bible out there. It’s seven hundred fifty-two pages of gorgeous illustrations by Sergio Cariello, an incredibly talented Brazilian artist who has done work for both Marvel and DC Comics.