Starting Your Library: For Those Who Are Interested!

Hey, Sweet Things! I pray this Holy Week finds you full of wonder and meditation over the days of Christ leading up to His death and glorious resurrection. Melissa prayed in staff prayer time yesterday that this week would not just be like every other week. I so deeply Amen that. I don’t say that only to you. I want it to be true of me. We’ll have some posts up later in the week that are oriented to this season of Passion. Until then, something else occurred to me. So much happened last weekend in Little Rock on a heart level that it will have to wait until I can devote substantial time to a post. Several people have contacted the ministry over one of the points I made so, in preparing a resource list for them, I thought it might be helpful to some of you here on the blog, too. I made a challenge to new students of Scripture to start building their personal Bible study library. No matter what our gifts and callings may be, we know from 2 Timothy 3:15-17 that we can’t be equipped for our designated works without a working knowledge of Scripture.

So, where do we even begin? That’s what this post is for. Here are a few staples to start your library and then, Sister, the sky is the limit.


1. A Complete Concordance (like Strong’s).  Find one that corresponds with your translation (Strong’s for KJV, The NIV Exhaustive Concordance, etc.)


2. A good Systematic Theology Book. Here are two great choices:

*Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem

*Christian Theology by Millard J. Erickson


3.  A good Bible Dictionary – Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary is terrific. There are also many others.


4.   For beginners: Several two (or few) volume sets of Bible Commentaries (My mentor started me on The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Old Testament and New Testament Volumes, but there are plenty out there. Your pastor may be able to recommend a set that is most reflective of your church’s approach.)

*You can access many commentaries free of charge online:,, etc.


5.   The 1st multi-volume set of commentaries I’d recommend is The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (12 Volume Set). They are consistently well written, thought provoking and really practical for teachers. You also don’t have to know basics about the original languages to understand them (They give good insights into the original languages and frequent definitions but the authors are not assuming you have a working knowledge of Hebrew or Greek). If you really love that set and want to keep going, the next step I’d take would be the full volume sets of NIVAC (NIV Application Commentary) and NAC (New American Commentary). Want to keep going?? The next step after that (where you’ll more often need some basic knowledge of original languages) is the Word Biblical Commentary series and New International Commentary of the OT/NT series. And it goes on and on, Sweet Thing! And it’s a head spinner and a blast.


6.  A Comparative Study Bible with multiple translations listed side-by-side.

And, then, start saving your money for Bible Software.   Melissa and I have personally used the following programs and would happily recommend them to you:

  • Logos (Beth)
  • Wordsearch (Beth)
  • BibleWorks (Melissa)
  • Accordance (Melissa)


Last thing:

A few of my favorite foundational books about the Bible are:

Baxter’s Explore the Book

Fee and Stuart’s How to Read the Bible For All It’s Worth

Fee and Stuart’s How to Read the Bible Book by Book


Last Last thing (this is Melissa now):

In terms of selecting commentaries, I highly recommend purchasing and consulting John Glynn’s book Commentary & Reference Survey. Glynn’s book will help you make the most of your money when you purchase commentaries and reference works.   The book is basically one massive biblical studies bibliography and he updates it often.  I think it is already in its tenth edition or something.  When it comes to commentaries, not all volumes in a series are written equally.  In other words, some are better than others and so you may not want to purchase an entire series.  Sometimes you can grab an entire series for a great price but other times it isn’t economical or necessary. Instead, you may want to pick and choose individual volumes within a series and Glynn will help you do just that. Also check out for a similar idea online.  It is an amazing website.  My favorite feature is the “forthcoming commentaries” tab where you can browse through the commentaries that are due to be published over the next few years.  Also, it goes without saying that commentaries, just like every written work, should be read carefully and critically.  If they are read in such a manner, they can be invaluable to one’s study of the Bible.


A very basic beginner’s biblical/theological library might look a little bit like this:

Are we having fun yet??


We sure love you.





296 Responses to “Starting Your Library: For Those Who Are Interested!”

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  1. 1
    Shari says:

    GREAT list!! Thank you so much for sharing this with us!! I have a few of these, but would LOVE the rest!! I need to check my hubby’s library, too, to see if he has any of these I’m interested in!!

    Thank you!!


  2. 2
    Jennifer B. says:

    Wow! Thank you gals SO much for giving us this awesome list to look forward to acquiring and reading eagerly. I love that you’ve complied some “must reads” for us! I have really needed some direction b/c when I walk into the Christian bookstore, I’m overwhelmed! And this is IT!

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    Jennifer B.
    Houston, TX

  3. 3
    Patti says:

    Thanks, Beth and Melissa. I’m looking forward to the coming Passion posts. Thanks to KMac for helping me with my blog question yesterday. You girls at LPM ROCK!
    Blessings to all,

  4. 4
    kendal says:

    saving this link….my husband recently started working for wycliffe as a short-term missions recruiter/planner (of course there’s a real term, but i can’t think of it right now) and our 15-year-old son has felt god’s call to ministy!!!!!!!!!!! this list is great for birthday/christmas ideas for them. thanks, ladies!

  5. 5

    Beth or Melissa … hi! I have a question. My mother-in-law left us a Bible commentary when she passed away. I wanted to get your opinion, if you feel free to give it. It is The Wycliffe Bible Commentary published by Moody Press, 1962 copyright date. Any opinions? I just have no idea if it is a commentary to be trusted or not. I do plan to get a more updated one.

    Love you both dearly! And I love those red walls!

    • 5.1
      Melissa says:

      Hey Shelli,

      Great to hear from you, girl! I really do not know anything about that particular work so I am reluctant to say anything about it. Sounds like it is special just to have around since your mother-in-law left it to you guys. Hope all is well with you and your family, Shelli.

      Love ya,

    • 5.2
      Ruth says:

      Hi Shelli,
      This is a great Commentary that can certainly be “trusted.” It’s older, but, heavens! One of the all-time favorite commentaries is Matthew Henry’s, and that’s plenty old! Certainly you can rely on both Wycliffe and Moody for integrity. Crack it open and see what you think! 🙂

      • Leah says:


        Thanks for your reply to Shelli.

        Our church library has a one-volume Matthew Henry that I love to read! I’m glad to know that it is “one of the all-time favorite” commentaries.

        really want to buy a copy of my own! I want to see them in person, though, because there are so many options: abridged (not interested), with Bible text, without the Biblical text, multiple volume, one volume and so on.

        Anyway, thanks for the comment!

  6. 6

    Great list (and picture)! I will have to look into the ones I don’t have. May I say, I would also be interested in a Siesta must-have list of Christian classics.


    • 6.1
      Sheila says:

      I agree with Anne! A list of your favorite Christian classics would be wonderful.

    • 6.2
      Sylvia says:

      I second Anne’s request for must-have list of Christian classics. I have read Richard Foster’s Spiritual Classics which gave you a taste of some writings.

    • 6.3
      Michele says:

      One of mine would definitely be Athanasius’ “The Incarnation of The Word Of God.” Love that book.

  7. 7
    Rebekah says:

    Eek!! I emailed just a couple days ago about this! I
    was trying to scribble down as quickly as I could, and am THRILLED you posted this …
    I’m thinking up possible splurge justifications now … Is 25 too old for an Easter Basket? Because now I think I have a reason for one! 🙂

    Thank you!!!
    Rebekah Boone, Bryant AR

  8. 8
    Becky Bell says:

    Dear Siestas,
    Thanks so much for the list – I’m printing it off for future reference (sorry about the pun!).
    Awhile back, I think I remember Beth taught a class on how to study the Bible. Will that material ever be published?
    Such valuable helps in treasure seeking!
    Love you guys,

    • 8.1
      Melissa says:

      Becky, Mom and I co-taught that class several years ago for a group of about 250. It won’t be published but we had a blast doing it. It would be very difficult to publish that kind of course because reference works, etc., are dated fairly quickly.

  9. 9
    Kristy says:

    Thank you, I have a lot of these, but noticed a couple holes in my library when I looked through your list! So now I can fill up those holes and keep going!

    My almost 6 year old is currently loving “The Illustrated Life of Jesus” Yes, I understand she is not quite old enough for that yet, but nobody told her and she loves GOd and His Word, so I am all for it! Are there other books like this?

  10. 10
    Courtney says:

    Another great resource that I use frequently when studying the Word is from, which is free Bible software that you can download. Once you download the main piece, you can supplement with various commentaries, translations, dictionaries, books, ancient geographical maps, etc. It is a wonderful set of tools and so handy as you can also make your own notes, highlight Scripture, link specific notes to Scripture, search specific words, and so on – and all for free!

  11. 11
    Sister Lynn says:

    Dear Beth and Melissa,

    The book nerd and wanna-be Scripture scholar in me loves this post! Thanks for the great guidance in this area.

    Many many blessings to you all as we celebrate this most holy of days.

    love to you – Lynn

  12. 12
    Amy Beth says:

    I love this because several of the books you all mentioned were my required texts for my MA degree in religion. 🙂

  13. 13
    Marie Gregg says:

    This post makes this librarian and writer excessively happy!

    Fee and Stuart’s books are absolutely fabulous, in my opinion. I also really like Vanhoozer’s “Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible” and the “Evangelical Dictionary of Theology.” Hill and Walton’s “Survey of the Old Testament” and Gundry’s “Survey of the New Testament” are books I look to frequently.

    Oh, and I want the new “Beacon Bible Commentary” set. I’m with Rebekah on the Easter basket!

    P.S. – ladies, use your public libraries. Those of us who work there are almost always able to secure obscure titles for you, which may be too expensive to purchase, through inter-library loan.

    • 13.1
      Melissa says:

      Yes, Vanhoozer’s “Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible” is quickly becoming a classic. I didn’t add that one because the list could keep going and going and going. But I love it.

      John Walton was a dear professor of mine at Wheaton so his survey of the OT sits close to my desk.

      And, good word on the use of public libraries! You’re lucky to be a librarian.


  14. 14
    April says:

    Thanks Beth and Melissa for the suggestions! I actually just purchased my first Commentary and absolutley love it!! The more I fall in love with my Abba Father, the more I want to study. 🙂

  15. 15

    Thanks for the list. I married into a pretty good library so now I can see what we’re still missing. Thanks!

  16. 16
    Kay Martin says:

    Great list! I have a number of them but will be checking out some of the others. Thanks!

  17. 17
    Laura says:

    Yes! We are having fun!
    What a wonderful post. Thanks for sharing some ideas with us. My husband would be surprised to learn I dont already own every single book………….(he’s just sure I do!).

  18. 18
    Lindsee says:

    This takes me back to LIT. Can we do that again?! Maybe in the next two months before I turn 26 and am out of that 25 and younger age limit?!

    Kidding, but these are wonderful resources and I see a few in that pile that are on my bookshelf at work now, thanks to your recommendation. Slowly building as I’ve realized money doesn’t grow off trees.

    Love this. Love y’all.

    BTW, if I’ve never said thank you for LIT, thank you. I still look at my notes OFTEN!

    • 18.1
      Melissa says:

      I wish we could do a “Part Two” of LIT! Would be a blast since we would be beyond the basics and could get into some of the advanced issues. Maybe at another time or another place. And perhaps we could raise the age limit to 30? Ha ha ha 🙂 Love ya girl. You’re the best.


  19. 19
    Shannon Roe says:

    LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this post!! Great resources. I have the logos software and like it. Melissa, what are the basic differences between logos and the software you use?

  20. 20
    Margie by the Sea says:

    Love it!
    Thank you both so much!
    Makes the question, “What do you want for your birthday?” very easy for me to answer now.

  21. 21
    Sarah Marion says:

    What a wonderful shopping list for a bibliomaniac! I appreciate the guidance for filling in our home library.

  22. 22
    Amy Storms says:

    This made me clap my hands! Thanks so much, ladies!!

  23. 23
    Elizabeth Mattson says:

    I have loaded some of these books and others like them on the Kindle. It is nice to have a compact light weight load I can toss in my purse. I am finding it appropriate and acceptable to whip it out more often then I would have imagined.

    Thank you for practical encouragement!

  24. 24
    Nee Nee says:


    I’ve created a wish list on Amazon just of Bible Study Resource books. I’ll have to get a few at a time, but this lights a fire under me!

    I want to go home and spend time in the WORD now! But the alternative isn’t too bad either – I get to go teach a bible study to high school girls. :o)

    Thank you again! For ALL that y’all do!

  25. 25
    Rebecca says:

    I so appreciate this and happy to say I have collected most of these ove the past 10 years. I have a room set up for just this. I only wish I could find the time. What an excuse.

    Can we see a listing of favorite study bibles??

  26. 26
    Shannon says:

    I just love that y’all are Bible nerds!

  27. 27
    Kathy B says:

    Bless you both! During Bible study, I often hear questions not only about What books to use to study God’s Word, but also How to use them. That may at first sound like semantics, but I believe this little point is worth sharing. And I don’t doubt for a second that this is the method employed by both Beth and Melissa.

    It’s just this: that while searching out God’s Word, we should initially let Scripture teach Scripture. In other words, from the point in Scripture we’re studying, we should first find every supporting passage and cross-refrence we can possibly find in the Bible itself. At this point, word studies in original languages can prove very fruitful. And it is not until after doing these things that I seek out commentaries–and I’m blessed to have several sets of the ones Beth and Melissa recommend. Point being that this gives the Holy Spirit “first dibs” if you will at being out Teacher. We allow Him to speak and reveal before we take in other’s (albeit very godly and theologically sound) opinions. Make sense?

    I realize that for the most part, I’m preachin’ to the choir here and we’ve just hit on a gold mine of treasure in hearing Beth and Melissa’s study tools recommendations. And I don’t mean for a moment to be correcting them. I simply don’t have the shoes for it. I have just found, in my very limited experience, that once someone had a commentary, it was helpful to know where it fit into their study “schedule”.

    Perhaps we’ll be lucky enough to find a Grudem’s tucked between our peeps and our Reese’s eggs. I can dream.

    • 27.1
      Leah says:

      This is very helpful! Thank you.

    • 27.2
      Michele says:

      I totally agree, Kathy! We need to make sure we always keep a solid study Bible(s) as our foundation and use other resources to supplement, instead of the other way around.

      And original language word studies? Amazing. I easily get lost in the treasures there. Praise God for such an amazing Living Word.

      • Kathy B says:

        How wonderful hearing from you. I was praying for you on Cindy’s BD. Yes, I totally believe she’s having her best day ever. I wonder how you say, “cupcake” in Hebrew.

  28. 28
    Andrea says:

    I LOVE THIS POST!! I have been wondering what all to add to my library – my husband already has gotten me started with a few of these selections, but I really, really appreciate the suggestions for commentaries. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! I have to say that you have played such a huge role in my absolute love and joy of studying God’s Word. I get so excited when things click together! Just yesterday I was watching the session 4 video for Stepping Up, and you, Beth, had said something about wasn’t it exciting to see how consistent and interwoven the Word is and I had to practically restrain myself from yelling out “YES!” because it was 6 am and my kids and hubby were still sleeping. 😉 Thank you for being my online study mentor. I appreciate you all so much and pray for you often. Also, without sounding stalkerish, I love you. ♥

  29. 29
    julie says:

    wow! you all are so awesome! thank you so much for the info!
    my birthday is in may. very timely!! =)
    blessings and love to you both,

  30. 30
    suzie Lind says:

    This is definitely getting clipped to evernote! Thanks!

  31. 31
    Margie says:

    A fundamental “must-have”, especially for new believers, is Kay Arthur’s How To Study the Bible!!! Life-long practical tools!!

  32. 32

    Awesome, awesome!! I love this post!! 🙂 🙂 What a great era we live in when it comes to having great resources to study God’s Word!! I love the online resources; saves space in the house and you can have multiple resources open at once and the dining room table can be saved for meals!! LOL!! Lovingly, Karen Twombly

  33. 33
    Ericka says:

    Yay! I’ve been praying to start my library, just didn’t know where to begin. The Lord always listens and steers you to what you need to see. I’ll just be purchasing these books little by little.

  34. 34
    Gayla says:

    Oh Mrs. Beth and Melissa! Thank you, thank you, thank you! My man and I had lunch yesterday over this very discussion! How blessed am I, for many reasons, to be married to a scholar! I just have to sneak them out of his office!I bought the Philippians edition of the NIV Application Commentary because I so dearly love the Esther edition of that series by Dr. Jobes! Now I own two of my very own…something I’d never have imagined would happen or excite me all those years I was paying for my man to go to seminary! I’m salivating for some Bible software, maybe for Christmas! And again, I just want you to know how much I needed the LR event and how much I prayed for you (Mrs. Beth) to be overwhelmed with God’s redemptive love for you!! I’ve always been so sorry that Arkansas held ugly memories for you, so to watch that many Arkansas women worship our God was redemptive and restorative for me. I certainly never experienced abuse growing up there, but the demoninational division and church hurt from our earliest years in ministry (even in your hometown) scarred me for many years! Praise God for His redemptive love!

  35. 35

    That’s still a lot. And, unfortunately, I can’t even pull that much off and still have even a little bit of a life, financially. Next January will be my first ever trip out of the Northwest since my 12 year old was born! In the meantime I still haven’t been able to buy any commentaries. I do have a Systematic Theology book that my husband was given years ago. I was given the Fee and Stuart book, “How To Read The Bible For All It’s Worth.” I also have a Strong’s Concordance that I was given as well, but it’s not very useful to me, since I generally don’t use the King James bible. I really need to get the NIV one. I do, also have a comparitive study bible. That was given to me as well 🙂 Pretty much everything I have was given to me. That’s the only way I get anything! I will have to take a look at that Systematic Theology book on our bookshelf collecting dust. I know my husband never does 🙂

  36. 36
    Joyce Watson says:

    Well, I’ve heard of justified, sanciftified, and now I can become a “bonafided humble, Bible scholar (student)!
    Love it! Thanks alot for all the books, some books I am familiar with and some I am not so familiar. Will have to go on a scavenger hunt, even though my bookshelf is full of books__(reckon my husband will say anything? He will just have to study along with me.)

  37. 37
    Yanna Westmoreland says:

    Glory to God the Most High! This blog (and LPM) always brings tears. Tears of joy, happiness, and praise this time. I am just so in awe of God that He would lead you to share with us all of the resources to study His Word and open our eyes and understand. Thank you. I have listened to other tips from a pro like how to pray God’s Word, how to study God’s Word, how to live God’s Word and I could go on and on. One thought I have it is not all about you but all about Him. Thank you. I’ve made a copy of the suggestions and will pray about which one to put on top of my next wish list…Mother’s Day is just around the corner…. 🙂

  38. 38
    Bridget (Strong Butterfly) says:

    What a great post, and all the followup comments are fun too. Looking at that pile of books makes me greatful for Olive Tree software for my ipad/iphone. The base software is free, then you can buy the books you want, and ‘carry’ that whole stack of books where-ever you go! I do have printed versions that get laid all over the table too, but Olive Tree (and App) allow me to hop back and forth between resources, and link back to the actual scripture, take notes, highlight and have tons of fun!
    Blessings to y’all

  39. 39
    Kristi Walker says:

    THANK YOU!!!! 🙂

  40. 40
    Warm in Alaska says:

    Oh! I so loved this post!!! This confirmed some of what I already have – and has officially launched my 2011 Christmas Shopping List (and it’s never too early for that list to start!)

    Thanks. So appreciate this post ~

    Have a blessed Maundy Thursday, tomorrow, all ~ (I just love saying “Maundy Thursday!”)

  41. 41
    mercy4Drew says:

    I always consult my live-in commentary—my husband. He is a walking commentary! “Ask David” does not come in print form though.

  42. 42
    Samantha says:

    Does anyone here have the Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible. I do and love it!

  43. 43
    Becky Roode says:

    Thank you Mama Beth and Melissa! This is a great list of where to start for those who want to dig even deeper into the word of God. I am picking up some really good resources just by being in seminary, but my library always has room for more study aids. 🙂 Know that you are assisting women and their families in such a fantastic way. God is so awesome in providing this place for us to share and learn together!
    Love y’all!

  44. 44
    Leanne from Canada says:

    I would also pray that this week and all of the others would not be like every other week. My wrestle lately has been that all of my weeks should reflect the glory of Easter….I want to be moved by His gift to me every single day of the year. May it be so….

  45. 45

    🙂 Love this!

    I have some books I don’t really understand how to study yet,
    like ” The Vines”…I have a Matthew Henry Commentary I got for my birthday, and I HAD a Strongs Concordance, but thanks to the car roof flood I had in Savannah…that book is no more:( I LOVE my Disciple’s Bible though…:)
    It seriously rocks…the binding is SO gone…but I’ll never part with it!

    I’m excited though to look deeper 🙂

    And I have to confess this, because it is typical me:)

    I know a lot of Bible verses, but I forget to apply them to my life…I move, before I let HIM…
    I have a lovely person I work with who when I get a little flustered starts mentioning how the bible talks about this or that, and without a breath…I TELL HER THE VERSE…
    she just smiles at me, and I reply ” Yea, I know.”

    So that’s something I’m going to get better at doing…
    stop JUST memorizing and REMEMBER instead…:)

    love y’all to pieces!

    • 45.1

      P.S- Let me just add how come I have the ” vines”- While in Savannah, when NO ONE knew who Beth Moore or anyone was for miles, I walked into the Lifeway bookstore and almost burst into tears when I saw a woman holding ” Breaking Free” in her hand. We got to talking and she mentioned how her husband uses the Vines…and so I bought it. 🙂

  46. 46
    Jill_in_AL says:

    Great post and, yes, always having fun! I have #1 on the list so I don’t feel completely out of the loop!

  47. 47
    Michdele says:

    I love this!! I also love it that I have many of the same references as Beth & Melissa!

    I have Logos which I love because you can get so much information so quickly and my library has a lot of original language tools.

    I also have many hard copy references that I got as required texts for seminary, including commentaries and Fee and Stuart’s How to Read the Bible For All It’s Worth – which is a great book.

    I have a few other suggestions:
    Historical books – I have Justo Gonzalez’ “The Story of Christianity” and Alister McGrath’s “Historical Theology,” both of which were very enlightening when studying the foundation and evolution of the church. Before seminary I was not the slightest bit interested in learning about the “church,” which I saw as broken legalism, but studying the biblical foundations of church doctrine really opened my eyes and made me question what I believe and why.

    Spiritual Formation books – Mulholland’s “Shaped By The Word” taught me how to approach God’s Word not for what I could learn from it, but to let God work in me through it. Reading not for information, but for formation.

    One of my seminary professors used to recommend books to us all the time (as if we didn’t already have enough to read, haha). We use to note how many minutes into the class we’d get before he’d recommend the first book. Anyhow – he always told us about You can find many books, especially if they’ve been out for a while, at very low prices. I’ve used them a number of times. One book Beth recommended listed at $25; I got it at abebooks for $1 with $3 shipping & received it in 3 days.

    Happy shopping all! 😀

    p.s. – Today my sweet Cindy dog would have turned 17. I still miss her so much. This afternoon I read “Heaven Is For Real.” Hoping that Cindy is running around heaven playing with the other dogs and maybe even eating birthday cake! ♥

  48. 48
    Karla says:

    Thank you for the post. I started my library about 2 years ago and my father gave me the PC Bible Study software about a year and a half ago. This post has helped me look at what I have and discover several additions I would love to add to my current collection.



  49. 49
    Laura says:

    Thank you so much for this! My husband and I were recently talking about those ‘must have’ books for our library so we’re going to check these out! Couldn’t have come at a better time 🙂

  50. 50
    cindy says:

    wow! i have been waiting for this info. so glad u posted it!!
    you guys are great!

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