Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Building A Home Reference Library

Even in this age when we glean so much of our information from the Internet and the media, it's helpful to have a solid home reference library. Each family will build a selection of tomes based on their own needs and preferences. Here are some suggestions that you might want to consider:

A. A few English translations of the Bible, assuming that English is your first language. You and your family will probably settle on one version that you use for reading. But, comparing passages in different translations will add richness and accuracy to your Bible study. I also have a French Bible, which I love! I want to learn Spanish and, Lord willing, will purchase a Spanish translation soon. Simultaneously reading an English version along with a foreign language translation is a rapid way to learn another language. Plus, I find that reading God's word in French keeps me in touch with God's amazing love for the whole world. It helps me remember that he wants us to make disciples of all nations. (See Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 10:34-35). It keeps me from being too centered on my own little sphere.

B. A Strong's Concordance. This huge tome enables you to look up any Bible word in the original Hebrew or Greek. If you select the original Strong's, you will find it easier to use if you use a KJV of the Bible as your starting point for looking up words. To be honest, I usually turn to an Internet source for Strong's, but I also use and value the print version in our home library.

C. Whatever Bible study tools, commentaries, and Biblically based spiritual books that you and your family find helpful. There are many books which can inspire us and instruct us in God's word. However, remember that these books are the words of men. Be sure to compare what you read against the Bible to make sure that it is true. (See Acts 17:11). If you are on a limited version, stick to the Bible. Note: A great online source for buying helpful spiritual books is Discipleship Publications International at

D. A fabulous dictionary. Make no mistake. I am the first to use But, as a wordsmith, I can't imagine a household without a solid, basic, and modern dictioanry. We use ours for all sorts of reasons: from making sure that we are communicating precisely, to learning words that are new to us, for children's homework, and to play word games, like Scrabble. :) A wonderful Thesaurus can be helpful as well. Note: Since the advent of spellcheckers, I have become lazy and have totally forgotten how to spell!

I personally am interested in acquring an older Webster's edition. I have read a few word definitions from older dictionaries, and I am struck by how complete they are. Also, there is a wholesome tone in the examples they use to illustrate words. But, if I could afford only one dictionary, I would buy a more recent edition. Words and their meaning change over time, and it's important to communicate in a way that your peers will understand you.

E. A stylebook and a book on grammer. These are essential if you or anyone in your household writes, either professionally or as part of a home-based or school-based education.

F. One really great how to cook book. I was given a number of lovely cookbooks when I got married, and I have acquired others through the years. I confess that I keep too many on hand, for I willnever use all of the recipes contained in them.

I could go on and on about interesting cookbooks, but all you really need is one thorough volume. This tome should not only supply recipes, but should explain the terminology and the whys and wherefores of cooking as well. It should provide photographic instructions of how to do things like truss a turkey, charts that tell you how to cook any kind of meet, menu suggestions, etc. My parents always used the Wise Encylopedia of Cooking (and the Wise Encyclopedia of Gardening), and in my book, you can't do any better. My parents knew of my love for this book and gave me my own copy when I started to cook on my own. This not only tells you more than you need to know about cooking, but it provides fascinating historical informationa about foods as well. It's probably not in print any more, but I'm sure you can snag one from a used book dealer. Other great old books are "The Joy of Cooking" and, if you are inclined to put on your French chef's hat, Julia Child's earliest works.

My father gave my daughter a Better Homes and Garden Wedding Edition Cookbook, which serves her well. I'm not sure that's the exact title, but it's very informative. I love the Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, which I received when I married in 1980. It's very practical.

G. If you are expecting it's worth it to invest in a book with suggestions to keep you and baby healty and happy. There are a number on the market. Choose your favorite one. Remember, if you are on a tight budget, you don't need twenty.

H. A book about children's health and how to keep your child healthy and happy through different ages and stages. Again, you have an overwhelming selection to choose from. Focus on one that is best for you and your family.

I. Some people find it helpful to have a medical guidbook on hand, so that they can look up symptoms and determine when to self treat and when to seek medical help. This book should also provide first aid information. Note: These books are dangerous in the hands of hypochondriacs like me. My medical books are stuck away in the darkness of my storage room, and, for me, that's probably a good thing.

J. Godly books about marriage and parenting. Make sure that these books are Biblically based. I have collected quite a few books on this topic, because it is an area that greatly interests me. I often lend some of these books to younger women. (If you do lend a book, be prepared for the possibility that you might not get it back).

Remember, however, that God's method for learning about marriage and child-rearing is through one on one relationships (See Titus 2:1-15 for an example). Books are great, but we need brothers and sisters in Christ that know us intimately and can help us apply the scriptures to our lives. I know that one way God helped my children become Christians is through all of the loving church relationships he has placed in our lives. If you don't have a lot of money to invest in books on parenting and marriage (or, even if you do), seek out families whose home life and children are godly examples and learn as much as you can from them.

Many men are not as motivated as we women are to read books about marriage and parenting. If your husband is not a reader, don't fret. God has provided for men to learn to be godly husbands and fathers in the context of relationships with other godly men.

My favorite book on rearing children (Well, it's actually second to the Bible, itself) is "Raising Awesome Kids in Troubled Times" by Geri and Sam Laing. Other books that greatly helped me when my children were younger were "Training Up a Child", by Gwendolyn Webb and "The Idea Book for Mothers: How to Make Your Home a Fun Place to Live" by Pat Hershey Owen. As with any book written by man, weigh the advice given against the Bible. Particularly with the latter two books, I would say that I learned a lot from them, but I would also recommend that you read them with discretion.

When it comes to gleaning advice from marriage and parenting books, I would first suggest that you study every verse in the Bible related to the role of men, the role of women, family life, the relationship between a husband and a wife, and about children.

K. Books about keeping a home, organzing a home, and maintaining a home. Again, I have collected a lot of these, because this is an interest of mine. If you can only buy a few, I would suggest, "The Hidden Art of Homemaking," by Francis Shaeffer (sp?). Home Comforts by Cheryl Mendelson, Decorating for Dummies, and Home Depot's Home Improvement 1-2-3. Note: Cheryl Mendelson provides a bountiful treasure of homemaking information. But, don't let her thick book overwhelm you. Use the sections that are useful to you in your current stage of life, and don't fret if you haven't yet mastered it all. Perhaps, you will; perhaps you never will. At any rate, you are sure to glean something that will help you manage your home.

I also reccommend a book on mending (unless you do have Home Comforts, which does cover that subject), a book on gardening or maintaining houseplants or landscaping a yard) and possibly a book which tells you how to maintain a vehicle.

L. A good book on financial matters. There are many helpful books on Biblical stewardship and on how to manage the money that God entrusts to you. Crown Financial Services (which carries on the work of the late Larry Burkett) and Dave Ramsey are two notable experts in money matters, and they draw their information from the Bible. Another helpful little book is "A Saving Faith" which is a collection edited by a man named Steve Johnson. Again, before purchasing any book on financial matters, I would suggest that you do a study of what the Bible has to say about money. You will be surprised how many verses there are!

M. Books pertaining to your husband's career and to your own professional or business pursuits.

N. Books pertaining to your families hobbies.

O. Books about caring for pets and farm animals, or, if you are interested in nature, books about local flora and fauna. If you have bird feeders, it's fun to have a book on hand that will help you identify your feathered visiters.

I love books, but I try to be disciplined with my book budget. I think it's best to "specialize" by buying books in a few areas that interest you most. You can usually find anything else you'd like to read in a library.

Remember, if the only book you ever own in your entire life is the Bible, you'll be doing well!

And, now, a question: What books do y'all keep in your home reference library.



MrsAngelena said...

Great post. I too love the book Home Comforts. Another one I like is Simple Secrets to a Beautiful Home by Emilie Barnes.

I have to add also that I loved your post on visiting fabric stores. I love to shop at fabric stores too!


Elizabeth said...

Thank you, MrsAngelena. I haven't read Simple Secrets to a Beautiful Home by Emilie Barnes, but I have several of her other ones. I'll have to take a look at that one.


Amy said...

I highly recommend the Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Sewing, Gardening and Needlework. I think all three might be out of print now, but can be found used from online booksellers. My parents just gave me the needlework book for my birthday, so now I own all three.

Elizabeth said...

Amy, Great suggestions! I found a copy of the guide to needlework in our local libary, and I have checked it out more than once. It's a geat guide!

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