This is part 3 of a 4 part series. Parts 1 and 2 are here and here. This was composed in response to a request from a young man hoping some day to be a pastor.
The rest of the library grows, for me, in something of a haphazard way. When I was young, the core of my library was formed by books I had purchased for seminary classes. This should give you a good foundation of good, useful, classic books.
As one studies, one realizes that there are certain works that one must have simply to be literate as a pastor. Most of these one will have picked up for classes but not all.
In building a library, I must remind myself of a couple of things: 1) I am a pastor, not an academic. My library will be restrained by that fact. And 2) my worth to the kingdom is not defined by the numbers of books lining my walls. I love books, but I am not in a competition to own the most. I just want them to be useful.
Within this framework, I want to have in reach books that either have been helpful in my pastoral work or show promise of being helpful. My books are my tools, and having tools that never serve any purpose and never will just does not make much sense. So occasionally, I go through my library and prune it of books that a) I’ll never read and b) show no promise in contributing anything to my future study or preparation.
Recommendations for new purchases come from a myriad of sources, not the least of which are my own peculiar interests. I read book reviews in magazines and journals and ask myself the question, “Is this book interesting enough to me or important enough that I will want to read it or will need to make reference to it sometime in the future?”
If the answer is yes, and I have the money, I’ll buy it. But I have learned that restraint is a good thing. I will often put books of interest on a wish list at Amazon, and there it will sit, not forgotten, but not purchased. Three months after determining that it is a ‘must have book’ I’m likely to see that no, it wasn’t that important after all!
Besides reviews in magazines, I take seriously what others I respect read and recommend – specifically other pastors and those whom I know are reading the kinds of things of interest to me.