How to Survive a Christian Bookstore: #2 FINDING YOUR HAPPY PLACE

So, you still want to buy a Bible from a Christian bookstore but don’t want to drown in a sea of mozzarella? I get it. Welcome to Part 2 of my series “How to Survive a Christian Bookstore”. 

You have read How to Survive a Christian Bookstore: #1 EMBRACING THE FEAR and so you already know what to expect at the front door and what grotesque ecclesiastic marketing monsters await you inside. You now have enough ammo to fearlessly step into the store without breaking into a sweat.

So far so good.

But there is a snag! The Bible you want to buy is located all the way at the back of the store and you will have to fend off attacks from a host of formidable foes before you conquer the store and claim your prize. Not to worry. We are going to get through this one together. You need a strategy that works. Stick with me now.

Your strategy is to . . . 

Find Your Happy Place!

Use your entry into the store to immediately locate possible happy places, ie, safe points along the way and so that you can reach the Bible section in stages. Here are some possible Happy Places. Pick the one that works for you.

Happy Place 1: Music Department
No matter how cheesy the book covers are, the music department is surprisingly cheddar-free and you might even find yourself browsing through the CD’s. Dont feel ashamed about that. Its normal.

Happy Place 2: Second Hand Books
This area is actually my favorite part of the store. Here you will find classic old books for a good price and you will NOT experience the symptoms that accompany the viewing of more recent books. Not sure why that is.

Happy Place 3: Icons 
If it’s a Catholic or Orthodox bookstore, your first Happy Place will be the icon department. Its where you see tiny statues of saints and posters of sad Jesus, which can be surprisingly funky, in a retro-50’s-kitchy way, and much more palatable than the 80’s-profoundly-inspirational-scenic-waterfall-with-relevant-but-forced-Bible-verse poster that your mother got for Christmas last year from Aunt Mavis who works at the Methodist bookstore.

Happy Place 4: Coffee Shop
Many of the larger Christian bookstores have a coffee shop area where you can sit down, calm down, wipe the perspiration from your brow, congratulate yourself for actually entering the store, and formulate a plan to get the rest of the way to the Bibles.

When you finally and successfully land in your Happy Place, remind yourself by saying out loud, “I’m in a Happy Place!” Repeat if necessary.

Once you have arrived in your Happy Place, you should be able to locate the Bible section, plan your route, and estimate how many steps. From there, its just a simple manner of holding your breath and walking directly over to the Bibles.

Don’t get distracted! Don’t respond to the nice lady smiling at you. She actually is not smiling at you  – its a permanent facial contortion that the faces of religious people aspire to and not, in fact, an invitation to chat. So just be rude, ignore her, and walk straight towards your target area.


And that should land you right at the Bible section. From there, you can choose from a myriad of Bibles –  study Bibles, youth Bibles, Bibles with celebrity-pastor’s names on them [avoid them], white Bibles [that means you are in a Catholic store], black Bibles [Presbyterian], burgundy Bibles [evangelical-suburban], Bibles in mean-spiky-metal covers [evangelical-urban], New Testament-only Bibles [Charismatic – nahhhhh – inside joke], Bibles with the words of Jesus in red [Baptist] or the words of Paul in read [Reformed . . . no not really], and Bibles of all shapes and sizes and bindings and price tags. Plenty to choose from.

What Bible do I like? I use The Net Bible which contains really good notes on why the translators [including my Cuz] translated it the way they did but you might want to start with a simple no-nonsense Bible that’s easy to read. I think “paraphrased” Bibles are for morons so I try to avoid them. For a good translation, ask your respected Christian friend what they use. If they use a paraphrase, then don’t tell them what I said.

So, grab the Bible you want, exhale, let your pulse return to normal and pat yourself on the back for making it so far. Now you have to make your way to the counter to purchase it and that’s another journey that we probably need to talk about. I will tackle it soon in Part III but you don’t have to wait for me if you want to buy a Bible. Just do it!


Andrew Jones launched his first internet space in 1997 and has been teaching on related issues for the past 20 years. He travels all the time but lives between Wellington, San Francisco and a hobbit home in Prague.


  • becky says:

    Andrew – another option is to go into a secular bookstore and purchase a bible. Even many of the indy stores have “religion sections” though there you are faced with the fact that what they categorize as “religion” can be quite funny as well.

  • Christine says:

    Andrew I just had a flashback of my last visit to a Kristien bookstore… I found myself transfixed by the cross-shaped candies on the counter in scripture-inscribed tin boxes…. must.look.away.

  • Mike says:

    As a guy who spent over ten years employed in a Christian bookstore, THIS is some funny stuff! And all too true.

  • David says:

    I laughed so hard I almost cried… Great post Andrew… Hope you made it out ok… =)

  • The Bible color descriptions are too funny! I agree about the paraphrase Bibles.:)

  • John8com says:

    And let’s not forget about Amazon…

  • don’t forget the My Little Prayer ponies and the board games that use the same format as Monopoly and Trivial Pursuit..
    scary places. I buy from Amazon….

  • Acetate Monkey says:

    Aah yes the board games! My old pastor actually had the monopoly one- I think the hotel equivalent was building an altar! I always wondered if there would be a version of Risk (presumably about proselytising) and whether the armies would be religions or Catholic vs Protestant vs Charismatic vs Reformed etc.

  • * Browser crashed so I’m re-posting. Sorry if you get two of them.. *
    I just got a NET Bible for my birthday a few weeks back and it is pretty good. I love all the translator notes – however, I have ran into a few places where it reads a tad choppy (seeing how it leans towards the literal side of the spectrum). Over all I like it. =)

  • Phil Groom says:

    And don’t forget the Left Behind Bears. I have a Left Behind Bear sitting on top of a bookshelf gazing forlornly towards heaven… so sad, so very sad…

  • I am intrigued by this post, but not sure I quite get where you are coming from. I have spent most of my morning clicking around trying to figure it out. I am taking it that you see yourself a bit like Jesus in the temple clearing the money changers. Am I right?
    Do you see anything of value in the Christian Bookstore? I’m just sayin’ cause I am working myself crazy trying to keep ours open because I believe it is good for the community. I believe it is my calling, and a ministry. Do some people really feel like what you described when they come in here? Why?

  • Andrew says:

    Therasa I am coming from a background that was mostly nonchurched so I probably see Christian subculture a little differently than those native to it. But I think there are one or two who see precious moments and footprints the way I do so let’s help them move past the cheese and get them to the bible section.

  • kashif14763 says:

    Really very relevant artical with the topic it is good work.

  • tim says:

    There is one good Christian bookstore I know of, that avoids these many problems:

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