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ESV Reader's Bible (TruTone, Brown/Walnut, Portfolio Design) by ESV Bibles by Crossway (2014) Imitation Leather Imitation Leather – 1656
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I have owned and read a number of different Bibles over the years (a whole shelf of my bookcase is dedicated to Bibles), many of them study Bibles, and I am very thankful for their value as study tools (my favorite so far has been the ESV Study Bible). The ability to have commentary at your fingertips can be really useful and clarifying.
However, all of that commentary can also be distracting. I often find myself chasing so many rabbit trails in the footnotes that I lose the big picture of the actual *story* that I'm reading. That's where the ESV Reader's Bible comes in.
It is obviously designed to read like a novel instead of an encyclopedia, and it succeeds. When my copy arrived in the mail, even though I knew it was coming I didn't recognize the box at first because it is smaller than any other Bible I've bought (except for those crazy small pocket Bibles). The size is on par with classic hardback novels, and about as thick. The Bible comes in a nice box sleeve (reminds me of a Lord of the Rings box set my parents owned) and looks really nice (I have the "cloth over board" hardcover version).
Inside, the Bible is super readable - again, similar to a novel. Front matter is kept to a minimum, and there are no references at the back except for 4 maps (2 pages front and back) printed in tastefully subdued colors. Everything else is just the text of scripture, with no annotations or footnotes except for very discrete chapter numbers alongside the text, plus a "chapter and verse range" printed at the top of each page, and a page number at the bottom of each page. These reference numbers are all printed in a muted red font to let the black font of scripture be the reader's main focus.
I have had the Bible for less than a week, yet already I've found myself feeling more engaged in the stories and picking up on nuances that I must have missed before. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the ESV translation feels more "natural" to read in this format (I have always struggled with the ESV feeling more cumbersome than the old NIV that I grew up on). Now it is easier for me to get lost in a story and forget about which chapter I am in.
The quality of construction is also excellent and I get the impression that this book will last me a long time. It is not gaudy (no gold leafing on the edges of the pages), just very well made.
Bottom line: This well-produced Bible is now my go-to choice for devotional reading, and would also be an excellent choice for giving to friends, whether mature, new, or not-yet-believers. I highly recommend it.
I noticed I misspelled the word "discrete" in my original review, and figured while I was coming back to fix that, I should give an update. :)
The Bible has held up well after 1.5 years of use, and I still enjoy it thoroughly. The gold lettering on the spine has started to rub off a little (understandable), and a few threads that run vertically on the seam of the cover (where the brown fabric stops and gray begins) came loose and dangled until I snipped them with some scissors or yanked them off. However, all in all, it is proving to be a well-made Bible and I'm very thankful for my purchase. I'm just now wrapping up a yearly Bible reading plan (missed the New Year's target date... oh well), so I can say that after inspecting 95% of the pages, I haven't seen any defects. :) I would buy/request this Bible again in a heartbeat. (At the $15 current price, it's an excellent value! I think it was $25 when I received mine as a gift.)
Verses and chapters were added hundreds of years after the Bible was written, to allow consistent reference, and memorization. But it breaks up the flow and even messes up the context sometimes. Take the verses out and it fixes this. AND I find myself reading more - I'm not thinking "oh I read two chapters, time to quit and do something else".
The Epistles were meant to be read as a single letter to the church. Job and Hosea come alive with literary imagery in this format, in my opinion. In the Gospels suddenly Jesus reads like he is having a whole conversation, not just quotable soundbites.
You are less likely to take verses out of context.
I cannot say enough good things about this!!
The one drawback is the paper thickness. There is noticeable show-through from adjacent pages. This is mitigated somewhat by very good line-matching, but that cannot solve the whole problem. Of course the trade-off is that you get a handy sized book that, while not a thinline, is also not overly thick.
All in all, this Bible is a smashing success. Truly worth owning, especially at around $20.
This is a review of the cloth-bound edition. I should note that both the brown and the gray are cloth. I had thought that perhaps the gray would be some sort of paper, as is often the case on a 3/4 bound book like this. I was pleasantly surprised however. It has the feel of one of the 'Everyman's Library' volumes.