Books, Libraries and My Story

A few words about myself and my reading life:

Since it is still a time when many folks are away on holiday or just wanting to relax, I guess I can slip in a few lighter posts to offset the much heavier ones I have done of late. While the subject matter is close to my heart, I realise it is not for everyone, so readers here might be fewer than normal. Nonetheless….

A library is simply defined as a collection of books. So I qualify, with over 8000 of them in my home. Here are a few thoughts on my early reading habits, my current situation, and what the future might hold. Yes, this is all very autobiographical and personal, but some folks might enjoy it, or relate to it.


I have always been a reader. I suppose like many people my age, some of my earliest reading was at breakfast time, as I ate my cereal and read the back of the cereal box. Perhaps because of my older brother, I soon moved on to going through issues of Mad magazine. I just looked it up, and it first came out a year before I was born: 1952.

I do recall a standard way of reading the humour magazine at the time: I had it on the floor while I laid on my bed on my stomach, often with a can of soda with a straw and a bag of pretzels. I am not sure if I could pull off that sort of reading posture today.

For a while there I was reading a bunch of the Hardy Boys books – stories of amateur sleuths seeking to solve cases. My twin sis might have been reading another popular series at the time: the Nancy Drew mystery books. Some works of fiction I then started reading, such as those by Jules Verne and H. G. Wells.

But as I discuss in my testimonial, by my mid-teens I was reading a lot of books on leftist politics, eastern religions and other topics not usually consumed by teenagers. You can see a listing of some of these volumes here:

In that four-part article I discuss how my first brush with Christianity was with a pretty bizarre cult in New Mexico when I was 18. In one trip that I took back to Wisconsin while still with this group, I went to my parents’ home with a few others and I gathered up my 300 or so books and my 300 or so albums.

We went to the town’s garbage incinerator thingee, and cast everything in there. I recall the vinyl records were not easy to break – they usually just sort of folded! Anyway, my entire library was destroyed that day. I had figured I needed to make a pretty strong and radical break with my pagan past, so such actions seemed essential at the time.

Although this piece is about books, not records, I can mention a few more things. I am not sure if I ever re-purchased any of the books I got rid of (although later in my apologetics ministry some of them might have come in handy), but I did buy again at least a few albums: those which had some Christian gospel songs on them.

One was Motel Shot by Delaney and Bonnie and Friends (1971), which had songs like “Rock of Ages”. Some of the “friends” were Joe Cocker, Leon Russell, and Duane Allman. Another album was David’s Album, by Joan Baez (1969) – it had songs like “Just a Closer Walk with Thee”. Both albums featured “Will the Circle Be Unbroken”. A Marxist friend had first turned me on to that later album.


But when I got out of the cult, I soon discovered books again. I first started getting books in Tacoma, Washington, as I also recount in my testimony:

Upon returning to Wisconsin in 1972, I first mainly read books from the church library, especially missionary biographies, etc. But I kept buying books as well. I would build myself some rickety bookcases to hold them all. Early on a friend introduced me to C. S. Lewis and Francis Schaeffer. I tried to get a hold of everything they had written.

Theology and biblical studies were my earliest reads – they still are. And biblical commentaries have also been a big part of my book-buying budget. Around 11 per cent of my current library is comprised of commentaries, taking up an entire wall in my house.

But more apologetics volumes were procured, and in due course plenty of volumes on ethics as well. My political interests – which I had lain dormant since becoming a Christian – were eventually revived, and by the mid-80s I was doing plenty of reading again in politics, current events, international relations, and so on – but this time from a much more conservative slant.

The future

Add to all that history, political economy, and so much more, and that explains why I currently have over 8000 books! However, what I am about to say now might shock some of you. For the first time in many decades, I am actually slowing down in my book buying! There would be a number of reasons for this:

-I am of course getting old. That became even more apparent to me with the passing of my wife.

-I no longer lecture at theological colleges, and it is getting harder to justify getting all the important new theology works that keep appearing.

-The truth is, I already have an excellent theological library. And many of those volumes have not been fully perused as yet.

-Unless I have a plan for what happens to them one day, it will be a real headache for my kids to have to deal with.

And even though I no longer have a wife around to remind me that we cannot afford any more books, and we have no more room to store them in, I am seeing that there is an end in sight to all this. Yes, I still buy books, but far fewer than I used to.

I do have to figure out what will become of my library. The sons are not interested. I used to tell my wife it would be no probs to sell the books: theology lovers would kill to get at my books – even if going for, say, half price. She was doubtful.

I am now starting to agree with her. Increasingly, Christians are not reading – or are at least not reading solid theology and the books that matter. And if they do, it is more and more on kindle and the like. So selling even some of these books might be a problem indeed.

Yes, some struggling Bible college in Africa or somewhere might love to have them. But do you know how hard it is to pack up 8000 books? Yikes, I don’t even want to think about it! Which is also why I cannot even start thinking about moving house.

And I am aware of some evil book lusterers out there – especially on the social media – who speak of sneaking in and raiding my library. But even if they do, they would need a VERY large truck to carry away the purloined goods! Plus many of them are interstate anyway.

Oh well, all this is a first world problem I suppose. But I am aware of folks like J. I. Packer whose failing eyesight in his final years was a real problem. That could happen to me as well, in many ways spelling the end of my reading and writing-based ministry.

Anyway, enough about me and my books. Back to more serious stuff in my next article!


BTW, nearly four years ago I did a video recording of my library – a guided tour of my collection at the time. Of course back then it was just around 7000 volumes, and arranged a bit differently than it is now. But for those who are interested, you can see what the library looked like in those days:

And of interest, while I am a bit of a nobody, that video has had over 11,000 views so far!

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13 Replies to “Books, Libraries and My Story”

  1. Thanks so much for sharing Bill…It’s always inspiring to read of your life and walk with Christ and the years before that when you were seeking. Good on you for being so honest too. (I recall giving away or ‘binning’ all my ‘pagan’ records and eastern religion books too when I came to the Lord.) I was a bit worried they may draw me back into darkness or sway me in some way so it was a radical move to cut ties with the world, sin and Satan. Sometimes I was nostalgic, but I had found the pearl of great price so let go the past.

    Re the love of books. In Darwin over 14 years ago I met a WW2 Dutch resistance ‘fighter’ who worked for the Lord through WW2 and for those in need (like the Jewish children and families being persecuted). He was a great Bible teacher and reader and would always recommend books to me about discipleship and the scriptures on the End times as well as the cost of following Christ in persecuted countries. Originally, he lent his books out but as time went on and approached 75yr old or so he felt led to give them away instead, to various people and so many benefitted from his generosity. I was inspired by his kind actions and caliber of books so decided before the Lord I would in the future give away many of my books to those whom I felt He was leading me to- to inspire and teach. As a result, I find people (some are new to me and some known) who would like those books and are a great match. I feel in this way I am helping extend His kingdom and blessing others, and to sow seeds, just like the dear Dutch brother blessed me with his books.
    I have also looked out for any churches who have an active lending library and I donate books to different church libraries when I find these saints hungry for books that will teach on prayer, scripture, missionary service, living under persecution and also books describing trends in the West (decline often). Sometimes I talk some to the hospital Red Cross book section or the chaplaincy office and sometimes leave a few with a pastor who I think might want them or his team. Overall I see it as part of God’s mission and that view has helped me willingly give them to others and not want them back as they will go on to learn more and grow in Him.

  2. Hi bill, book lusterer here… so what I’m taking from this article is that your books are now on the table…. so when should we catch up? Also, are you going on holidays any time soon, and where is the spare key for the house kept?

  3. Thanks for sharing, Bill. I always enjoy reading about your library and reading habits.

    I haven’t been around your blog for a few years, (taking a break from media since covid) but was aware of your heavy loss this year and was thinking of you over Christmas, so checked in.

    The concern of the ageing Christian bibliophile is a conundrum. We have been on the receiving end of deceased church members libraries before, and distribution is hard. So many treasures, but so few willing homes.

    My library lies on my heart sometimes. The treasures that are there- who will love them when I am gone? My collection has been so carefully built, culled and collated over the years.

    It is nice to look back at one’s reading habits over the years though. I laugh now to think of my husband moving my belongings into our first home together after we married. He exclaimed ‘12 boxes of books!!’. Dear me. In his view, it has gotten worse by now, but then, he made a vow about that.

  4. Ah bookworms… A real bookworm’s paradise is a used book store, where treasures are to be found for cheap.

    And a note of (tested) wisdom for the true bookworm, tacos and book reading do not go (well together)…

  5. Second hand theology books are as popular as second hand sermon notes. The Lutheran Bookshop used to have second hand books for sale. It was a hard sell, but a great place to get cheap books. The Evangelical library here in Adelaide offered books on loan – they had a huge variety – but stopped several years ago due to lack of support.
    But here’s a question – what to do with old Bibles? They’re often useless, but it’s hard just to bin them. Can they be de-commissioned, like old churches, in good conscience?

  6. Perhaps donate them to an evangelical theological college library? Or a worthy parachurch organisation? It’s a shame that there isn’t a museum of evangelical heritage that takes old bibles in Australia. Or is there? I’m going to donate my pro-life books to Voice for Life and Right to Life New Zealand over here when I eventually pass away. Several fellow nurse friends will take my old nursing textbooks and professional literature. The Catholic theological volumes are going to the local diocesan library.

  7. Hi Bill, it’s always great to get a little more insight into your private life.
    Now we understand the problem that book hoarders suffer. Some one should do a series on the subject.
    The point I wish to makes is that you have to leave the past behind and move into the electronic age of reading E Books.
    Wilhelmus Heggers

  8. Downloading them isn’t a bad idea, particularly with those of us prone to arthritis in our October years. Just make sure to shield them when it comes to solar flare activity and have hard copies available.

  9. An interesting read. Thank you for sharing the background of your reading books.
    Do you have the book “The Book of Virtues”, by Bill Bennet, any edition or up to the 30th edition?
    An older sibling is reading it and a preacher mentioned in his message today.
    The book encourages people to recognise a need to ‘update’ virtues and values in life.

  10. Thanks Judith. Yes I do have Bennett’s book – the original 1993 edition. I have found it and pulled it from my shelves, and may use it in future articles thanks. BTW, there is a 30th Anniversary Edition of the book available, but there are not 30 editions!

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