The bi-annual Together for the Gospel conference is fast approaching, which means two things: 1) there are going to be tons of opportunities to get a hold of valuable Christian books, and 2) anyone in downtown Louisville is going to have a hard time finding a place to park or eat (so park for free at SBTS, Southern Seminary Parking Map). The range of opportunities to find good books makes it an ideal time to begin thinking about enhancing your personal library.
The Used-Book Sale: An Inexpensive Way to Stock Your Personal Library
This year Southern is giving T4G attendees and our community the ability to purchase quality used-books at amazing prices. This is intended to provide an inexpensive way to find quality books to stock their personal bookshelves with.
1) How Can You Benefit? The hospitality department at Southern has managed to get to get a hold of over 7,000 quality books of the following genres: Reference, Ministry, Theology, Preaching, and Church History. These will be available for purchase on Campus from Monday, April 11th to Friday, April 15th. Come along to the Main Gym in the Honeycutt building and get your hands on some great books!
2) How Can You Help? In seeking to serve the pastors and students attending T4G there will be an opportunity to donate books through the Campus Lifeway store from April 1st. Look through your library for books that you think will be of service to the theology students and pastors. Bring them along and drop them off and fill the library of those who serve the church.
Why Invest in a Good Home Library?
1) Wisdom is important. One of the thoughts that reverberates, like an echo in a cave, through the mind of the author of proverbs is Wisdom. In proverbs wisdom is key. Wisdom is something that the Christian cannot do without. The proverbs admonish us, “How much better to get wisdom than gold! To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver” (Proverbs 16:16).
2) Physical books are special. The technological advances of the last decade (the blogosphere, audiobooks, eBooks, and personal tablets) have brought new elements to the table and refreshed what was once a stagnant game. However, the goal—the transfer of wisdom—remains the same. Physical books continue to offer some great benefits for the lover of wisdom. Unlike a kindle book, when you purchase a paper book you have complete ownership of it. It can be shared with others with ease and a personal touch. Further, it can age with you as you read and re-read it. And ultimately, you can sell it or gift it to others when you are done with it.
3) A home library advertises itself to friends and family. A virtual library is compact, portable, and invisible. In contrast, one of the biggest benefits of a living room home library is its potential as a conversation starter. A hard-copy home library is valuable because it is a collection of wisdom that you can share with your friends and family. And wisdom is inherently a relationship activity, passed from one friend to another.
How to Organize a Home Library
In order to maximize the usefulness of your home library organize it by topic. A library sorted by topic allows you to quickly find a book when you need to learn about a certain issue. Organization enables you to find books on different issues without difficulty when you have an opportunity to counsel a friend.
For added convenience, organize your library by topic according to the constraints provided by the bookshelves you have. There are two spatial dimensions to consider when organizing your library into bookshelves. The first is the width of different shelves. Organize similar topics to fit together on one shelf so that it provides convenience later on—place all your books on marriage, relationships, and decision making on a single shelf so that in conversations with friends you can access books involving one or more of these issues without turning an advice session into a treasure hunt.
The second element to consider when choosing a how to arrange your books is height. Arrange reference books (systematic theologies, bible dictionaries, and commentary series) to fill the bottom and top sections of your bookshelves. This way they can be accessed when needed, but don’t dominate the most visible and accessible shelves. Arrange books that you want to be able to promote and recommend to fill the shelves at eye level. You might even consider setting a few books that have had a particular impact on your life on a display stand—a good way to recommend a book, but in addition it adds aesthetic depth to the presentation of your home library.
How to Identify Good Books
It is likely that those who are looking to start or grow their home library are now asking, “How do know which books are worth investing in?”
For those attending T4G, it is likely that the plenary speakers will recommend quality books—these are books that you will want. However, in order to have a comprehensive personal library it is useful to personally be able to distinguish between books that are mediocre and those that transcend mediocrity. Fill your lounge with good books.
A good author is the primary factor to consider when looking for a good book. Although the content of a book may rise above its external appearance; the content of a book will not go beyond the ability of its author. This plays to your advantage when choosing a book on a particular subject. Choose books that are written by quality authors.
However, when looking at old books, or looking for a book in a field that you are not familiar with it can be hard to know whether an author is quality. Looking at an author’s credentials (usually found on the bottom half of the back-cover) may give you an idea.
But even more than the credentials of an author, a book’s publisher will give you an insight into the likely-hood that a book you pick up is a bargain. Well-known publishers only publish books that are written to a high standard. This can help when you are looking for a book on an unfamiliar topic.
Another great starting point, when looking for a book on a certain topic, would be to check for any books put out by Southern Seminary faculty. Find books that you know people in your life need to hear: one such book is the manageably sized book by Don Whitney, Praying the Bible.
T4G and the Revival of Reading
Recently Christians have begun recognizing the value of books again. There are likely a variety of influences on this recovery of the priority of wisdom in Christian circles. However, one influence that is undeniable has been the efforts of those who organize the Together for the Gospel. In the personal ministries of Mohler, Mahaney, Ducan, Piper, and Deyoung the premium placed on Christian literature is evident, however, when they collaborate at T4G it is pronounced.
During the conference they give attendees a vast number of resources; usually the retail price of the books they give away is beyond the price for admission for the conference! During the plenary sessions speakers give recommendations for those who want to learn more. And during the breaks the conference hosts an extensive bookstore filled with new books. This year, in addition to the regular efforts to encourage readers, Southern Seminary will be hosting a used book sale on campus to further your ability to grow a personal library.
As Martin Luther said, "One Book is enough, but a thousand are not too many."