big library or small library?

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thistle93

Puritan Board Freshman
Awhile back I read a great quote from a theologian of the past (I wish I could remember his name and book it was in) that spoke of the benefit of having a small library and immersing self in those works rather than having a vast library where they are merely flipped through. In university I became very good at skim reading and could pick up the main point of book or article. Also when I first got out of seminary I would buy any book that peaked my interested. Needless to say I have accumulated a lot of unneeded books and am now downsizing my library. I have found that finding those books that you really connect with and reading them deeply is much more beneficial than just casually reading every "good" book you can get hands on. I think especially us in the reformed camp can be guilty of wanting to have every volume from every reformed author. I know both small and big libraries have their advantages and disadvantages and that each person will be different in this regard. What are your personal thoughts, agree or disagree?

p.s. I still love going to a seminary library and basking in the many volumes of divinity.

For His Glory-
Matthew
 

johnny

Puritan Board Sophomore
I don't buy many hard copy books anymore, I switched to ebooks and Logos.
I can't even imagine having to cart around all the books I own if they were hard copy.
I think its close to four thousand resources, its incredible, hard to imagine really.

My wife is currently in Japan on holidays, I was texting her about the book I was reading.
It was the first chapter of the Jerusalem and Athens lectures by Van Til.
She has access to this on her ipad, its in our library, it could even be on google.

I think that the ship has pretty much "left the dock" on small libraries.
Now it's about discipling our reading skills, I can't read theology fast anyway.
I read it at poetry speed or I lose comprehension. :)
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
The only point in buying more books than you will read or give away is to fund authors and publishers, or as an idiosyncratically expensive decorating choice.

Francis Bacon's classic advice still seems very commendable:

To spend too much time in studies is sloth; to use them too much for ornament is affectation; to make judgment wholly by their rules is the humour of a scholar. They perfect nature and are perfected by experience; for natural abilities are like natural plants, that need proyning by study; and studies themselves do give forth directions too much at large, except they be bounded in by experience. Crafty men contemn studies; simple men admire them; and wise men use them; for they teach not their own use; but that is a wisdom without them and above them, won by observation. Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider. Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in part; others to be read, but not curiously; and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention. Some books also may be read by deputy, and extracts made of them by others; but that would be only in the less important arguments, and the meaner sort of books; else distilled books are like common distilled waters, flashy things. Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man. And therefore, if a man write little, he had need have a great memory; if he confer little, he had need have a present wit; and if he read little, he had need have much cunning, to seem to know that he doth not. Histories make men wise; poets witty; the mathematics subtle; natural philosophy deep; moral grave; logic and rhetoric able to contend.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
I think especially us in the reformed camp can be guilty of wanting to have every volume from every reformed author.

I used to have an ambition to own every book that Banner of Truth ever published; I subsequently abandoned this idea as vanity. With such an approach there is a danger of either reading too broadly (by reading a lot of stuff that you do not really need to read at that particular time) or reading too narrowly (only reading BoT-approved authors). One of the main problems with the libraries of many Reformed people nowadays is that they contain virtually nothing by Patristic or Medieval authors. There is also a need to complement more high-brow academic sources with material you can read while lying in bed.

Of course, the Internet Archive and Google-books and other such sources mean that we all have access to literally thousands of great theological books. Hence, it is wise to learn to read books online.
 

DMcFadden

Puritanboard Commissioner
When a young man, I thought it important to know something about just about everything. My motives appear to me now as vain and more than a little tinged by an anxious insecurity about not wanting to be caught ignorant. At the time of moving from the pastorate to institutional work, it was sensible to disgorge myself of thousands of books. That was nearly two decades ago and the world has still not come to an end.

Today, I prefer to know fewer authors better and more exhaustively. With Logos, Google Books, miscellaneous PDF, Kindle, and other ebook formats, you can easily "have" tens of thousands of books in your "library." This does not make you a learned person, however.
 

yeutter

Puritan Board Senior
I shipped almost every Dogmatics/Systematics I have to a Seminarian in India. I kept only Mueller, Hodge, Calvin, and a'Breckel and the curious one written by John Owen. I am now really reading a'Breckel not just consulting it. I am glad I down sized.
 

ValleyofVision

Puritan Board Freshman
For the most part, I enjoy going to the Library and finding books there, coming home to read and decide if I would want to purchase the book for my own library. If I am thinking about buying it right then, I like going online and reading reviews, sample pages, etc. When I felt like my own home Library was getting a little bit too big, I decided to share some books with those around me.
 

puritanpilgrim

Puritan Board Junior
I buy books that I need when I need them. And I buy books that I will likely need when they are at a great discount. I have logos, but I buy whichever one is cheaper. It's odd that for the most part books are significantly cheaper in hard copy rather than in electronic unless they are in a bundle. Hard copies are nice because they can be purchased used and resold.

I wouldn't have an either or, I'm a both and. I want a large library for reference and I want certain book that I can study in-depth.


Give yourself unto reading. The man who never reads will never be read; he who never quotes will never be quoted. He who will not use the thoughts of other men’s brains, proves that he has no brains of his own. You need to read. -Spurgeon
 

reaganmarsh

Puritan Board Senior
the curious one written by John Owen.

Which one is this? His book on Covenant Theology?

Sorry to sidetrack the thread.

To the OP: I have a modest but sufficient theological library. It's heavy on ST, HT, and biblical studies materials. I want whatever I have to serve well the tasks of exposition, evangelism, counselling, and research. Like our brother above, I gave away a lot of books that were unhelpful. Right now I have what will work best for my needs. That being said, if I think I need a book, I save up for it.
 

yeutter

Puritan Board Senior
the curious one written by John Owen.

Which one is this? His book on Covenant Theology?

Sorry to sidetrack the thread.

To the OP: I have a modest but sufficient theological library. It's heavy on ST, HT, and biblical studies materials. I want whatever I have to serve well the tasks of exposition, evangelism, counselling, and research. Like our brother above, I gave away a lot of books that were unhelpful. Right now I have what will work best for my needs. That being said, if I think I need a book, I save up for it.

John Owen's Biblical Theology: The History of Theology from Adam to Christ published by Soli Deo Gloria translated by Stepen Westcott
 

JOwen

Puritan Board Junior
Having inherited a large portion of my late pastor's library some 16 years ago, many of my books have special meaning. However, in the past 2 years I have decided to scale my library to the books that I cherish most. I'm moving to an almost all Puritan library, or lover of the puritans. Over half my library is either going or gone. If I want to read some living author, or a book I no longer have, I buy it as an eBook. I can't seem to get into any recent book with much of my Puritan library still unread. I want to immerse myself in the tried authors of the past. I'm sure, one day even they will go. Smaller and smaller, until, at the end, I'm left holding my Bible. I remember my dear pastor, before the end, only wanting it as his last possession.
 

TylerRay

Puritan Board Graduate
I suppose my view of things is a little bit different than some others on here (although I don't disagree with them in substance). My funds for books are quite low. Most of my books have come from two instances in which large reformed libraries were being given away. I took anything I thought I might use one day. If it didn't look like I had use for it, I left it. I use the same approach when shopping at a used bookstore. If I will need a book one day, I don't want to have to pay full price then, when I could have gotten it inexpensively beforehand.

This approach will be highly individualized. I hope to be a pastor one day, and I will probably do seminary through distance education (meaning, I won't have access to a seminary library), so I tend to go for almost any reformed academic work I can find, as well as classic devotional books (Burroughs, etc), commentaries, and sets.
 

Gesetveemet

Puritan Board Sophomore
Books, books and more books to me it just doesn't seem as if the Holy Spirit is accompanying them any more like in the days of old. At least in my heart I seem to be edifying myself but not really getting to know the Lord.
 

puritanpilgrim

Puritan Board Junior
. Books, books and more books to me it just doesn't seem as if the Holy Spirit is accompanying them any more like in the days of old. At least in my heart I seem to be edifying myself but not really getting to know the Lord.

i don't understand your point. Are your saying God is more glorified when we have less books? Or is there a negative corolation between the work of the Holy Spirit and the size of your library?
 

Fogetaboutit

Puritan Board Freshman
I look at my library as one of the greatest earthly inheritance I can leave to my children, therefore I might keep books that were not as appealing to me but are sound theologically since it might be useful to them. Books that are not as sound I usually get rid of. I usually grow my library by suggestion given in books that I read or from from pastors/elders or from people on this board.

So my criteria for keeping books is if they can be useful to my family (present or future).
 

Gesetveemet

Puritan Board Sophomore
. Books, books and more books to me it just doesn't seem as if the Holy Spirit is accompanying them any more like in the days of old. At least in my heart I seem to be edifying myself but not really getting to know the Lord.

i don't understand your point. Are your saying God is more glorified when we have less books? Or is there a negative corolation between the work of the Holy Spirit and the size of your library?

I have a wonderful library and no I am not saying that we should have less books but I do see books being produced in masses yet the church seems to have lost it's way. I am sorry I posted this many apologies.
 

Toasty

Puritan Board Sophomore
I have between 100 and 150 hard copies of books in my personal library. My books consist of the Bible, theological works, philosophical works, books in the Christian living category, non-Christian literature, atlases, a concordance, Bible commentaries, Hebrew and Greek lexicons, various kinds of dictionaries, and technical books I need for my occupation. I have read most of them from cover to cover.

If you want a hard copy of a book, try to look for it in a public or college library before buying it.

You can look for free eBooks online.

The Christian Classics Ethereal Library is a terrific resource. Here is the link:
http://www.ccel.org/
 

RPEphesian

Puritan Board Junior
I prefer to read carefully selected books and digest them thoroughly, and so I only buy books (e-books included) if I am positive that I will not only read them, but read them closely. When you buy too many books you deceive yourself into thinking you're growing in knowledge faster than you really are. It's not possible for most people to read broadly, and then retain, comprehend and effectively apply what they have read. In my opinion it's better to master a few of the best books than to read more than you are able to apply, even if the books you read are all good.
 
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