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Yesterday’s post on book buying at SBL generated a bundle of questions, and I thought I’d just drop some quick answers right here. So, here goes…
First, I have a long paper I wrote on my reading habits called “Never Alone” and put it on the sidebar. Print it out and read at your leisure.
Here’s the assumption for what follows in my book purchasing: I’ve got a good library; I’ve got the basics — reference books, tools, grammars, commentaries, the basics in theology and church history. Concentrate there first was my policy. Then branch out; that’s what I’m doing.
Second, since biblical studies is presently in a stale period — and I’ve said this before — I find myself gravitating toward theology. And, if you wander through the most provocative and stimulating book tables at SBL you’ll observe that there is a massive shift toward theology books. My own view is that the Dead Sea Scrolls stimulated new waves of thought in Bible — and we are mopping up those waves now. But, those waves gave new ideas for theology, and theology is where it is at today. I don’t find one more critique of the new perspective remotely interesting.
Third, most importantly I buy what strikes me as interesting, stimulating, and suggestive. I don’t stick to one subject; I buy what is interesting to me and what I want to read. (Sometimes I buy what I think you readers would like to converse about.)
Fourth, I buy what I have to read for my writing and research projects: atonement, James, etc..
Fifth, I buy what I need for teaching.
Sixth, as to which books to choose: I go for mainline academic publishers (Eerdmans, WJKP, Baylor, Abingdon, Fortress, Brazos/Baker Academic) for academic books, and I keep my eyes on the more evangelical church-oriented publishers (IVP, Zondervan). I always read books on spirituality — so Paraclete is a favorite for me.
Seventh, I don’t use a highlighter. I use a fountain pen; I underline with a straight line without a ruler; I mark my books; I underline what I think I’ll need to refer to later; I sometimes outline in the margins. I always have a piece of paper in the book to jot down thoughts that come to my mind.
Eighth, frankly, I can afford to buy more books than I used to buy. I know this is even painful to some who’d like to have more funds for books; I remember the days well. Owning is convenience — some books can be checked out of the library. Owning is also possession — so I can mark the books.
Ninth, I do check www.abebooks.com for used books. My preference is for a “fine” or “new” book; I don’t like books marked by others. I prefer clothbound to paper.
Tenth, I love John Goldingay: I knew John in my Nottingham days and I think I’ve read most everything he’s published. Those 2 OT theology books are too fat and too long, but I need to consult him often. And I like what I see in him.
Eleventh, I’ve registered this before: I don’t read much fiction; I read essayists all the time. (This is all in “Never Alone.”)
Hand this last paragraph to your spouse and say it’s from me: Buy what you can afford and no more.

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