I’ll admit it—sometimes I have a hard time reading the bible. The issue, in a nutshell, is that my brain suffers a constant barrage of inquiries that leap from the text, which sometimes makes it difficult to finish an entire section. Now, that’s not to say I don’t or can’t read the bible beyond a few sentences at a time, only that it takes a little longer than it might otherwise. Another component that hinders my reading, which I’ve mentioned in other reviews, is the layout/print design of a book. Nothing will deter me from a book faster than bad design—inside and out (cover art is important). Though I’ve never worked in the publishing industry per se, and speak strictly as a consumer of books, I was an editor for one my school’s main publications (in my previous position). I didn’t really have any input on the design side of production, but I worked with those who did, so I can appreciate the amount of time and energy that goes into producing a book that is visually appealing.
So, I said all of that to note that a book’s design is important to me. Bible publishers, I would assume, have a difficult task in preparing bibles for print. With the amount of text alone, preparing a bible proof must be a tedious endeavor, especially with so many publishers churning out study bibles the size of car batteries! While these are certainly helpful works (NIV Zondervan Study Bible and Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible), there are times when I just want a text that is unencumbered by cross references, marginal notes, photos, articles, etc. Thankfully, a number of bible publishers produced a number of excellent volumes designed around this very concept—the reader’s bible. As the title indicates, this review is for the CSB Reader’s Bible, published by Holman Bible Publishers, and let me say, this is a splendid work! When it comes to reading a text, the fewer distractions on the page the better, and this is the driving principle behind these reader’s bibles.
To begin, I want to mention the exterior, which is an important feature of a good reader’s bible (or book in general), particularly because the presumption is a reader’s bible will be used regularly, thus it needs a support structure that will withstand constant use. The version I received is gray cloth over boards, which is should be suitable for years of use before beginning to weaken noticeably. It also comes with a slipcover made from the same material, so any wear that comes from lying on a surface will be lessened. So, the outside is subtle and minimalist in its design—no complaints here. The binding is Symth-sewn, which adds to its durability, and as you might expect, the first and last pages needed little coaxing to stay flat when opened thanks to the boards and binding.
The inside, however, is the true appeal of this volume. This bible is as bare bones as it gets—no indexes, no concordance—just text. There are a few color maps at the very back and the requisite front matter (copyright, title page, contents), but otherwise there is only the text. As for the text, it’s printed on white paper, presumably to provide a suitable background for maximum contrast with the black font. Speaking of the font, it’s a traditional serif font—Bible Serif (produced by 2k/Denmark)—and is excellent for reading. While I do like sans serif fonts, I generally prefer traditional serifs for reading, and this one looks great. The 9.75-point type is also a suitable size. Holman opted for a single-column layout, which I think is the obvious way to go. It allows for larger type, which makes for easier reading. The text is formatted in traditional paragraph style with poetic and other non-prose sections set apart in a block-quote setup. Each new section is marked with a drop cap in a nice shade of blue (as are the book names in the footer and chapter titles) and the absence of versification—a defining feature of a reader’s bible—are a recipe for success. Though the absence of verses requires an adjustment for some, it’s one of the features I like best.
Though the only other reader’s bibles I own are the UBS reader and the Zondervan reader and can’t really compare these with English readers, I can say that the CSB Reader’s Bible is superb in every aspect. While perhaps not as glorious as the Bibliotheca reader that came out last year, it easily stands as a great work all its own.