Derek Sivers

Reading the Bible start to finish


I like going to the source. Like finding musicians’ influences, and getting to know that music too. Same with film, art, philosophy, and technology.

I also like doing what people I admire recommend. And a few people I really admire suggest we read the entire Bible.

So to go to the source of western culture, and do what the wise people say, last year I read the Bible, start to finish. Every sentence very thoroughly. It took months. It was frustrating, fascinating, and very enlightening. (I took a ton of book notes while reading, to help me remember everything, but I won’t be publishing them.)

If you’re thinking of reading it all, I have two bits of advice:

Sample many different translations.

I started with one called “The Bible: Designed to be Read as Living Literature, the Old and the New Testaments in the King James Version”. I assumed I needed to read the legendary King James version, since that’s the one that influenced so much English literature. But it was so tough to get through. Almost every sentence took extra work to understand, even after two hundred pages. Some people love it, but just I didn’t. So huge thanks to Kevin Kelly, who recommended I try other translations.

I bought four different versions, and spent a couple hours reading the same passages in each one.

I chose the New Living Translation, and started from the beginning again. Some day I’ll read a very different version for a different experience.

Watch the BibleProject videos.

I didn’t discover these videos until after I was 500 pages in, often confused, and searched the web for explanations. I wish I would have watched them first because they were so helpful! So well done. So interesting, clearly explained, and visually captivating.

I highly recommend you:

  1. Watch an hour or two of their introduction videos at
  2. Pick a translation and begin reading.
  3. Before or after each chapter (actually book), go back and watch their overview video for that book to help understand it better.

I ended up watching almost every video on their site, at least ten hours’ worth, and found it almost as enlightening as the reading itself. A friend who has never read the Bible (and doesn’t want to) watched a few hours with me, and found them fascinating too.

I’m really glad I did this huge project, and I’m curious to learn more.

stack of bible versions