Contest for Free Books: Short list of books we could not do without — what would you add?

by | Contests, Education, How Would You Answer This? | 95 comments

UPDATE: Here are our winners. All five winners have been contacted by email.
Dan T
Julia Anderson

What books are important to have in your own personal library? I’m not referring to curriculum, but to reference books — books you will need no matter which curriculum you use.

Here is a short list of books we could not do without:

1. The Nelson Study Bible NKJV
2. Noah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary
3. Another larger dictionary to look up those unusual words
4. A smaller dictionary for quick reference — we use A Dictionary for Boys and Girls (published by G. and C. Merriam Company, unknown date). I like this dictionary because it was the one Harvey used when he was in grade school, and I like to read all his doodles.
5. Bob Jones English Handbook for Christian Schools
6. Greek/English interlinear
7. Greek lexicon — Harvey likes A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature
8. Reader’s Digest North American Wildlife
9. Masterplots, 15-Volume combined edition, Fifteen Hundred and Ten Plot-Stories and Essay-Reviews from the World’s Fine Literature, edited by Frank N. Magill, story editor Dayton Kohler, Salem Press, Inc., New York, 1964. Other editions would be just fine also.
10. A concordance to the Bible
11.Reader’s Digest Family Word Finder: A New Thesaurus of Synonyms and Antonyms in Dictionary Form, The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., Pleasantville, NY, 1986. Any thesaurus would be fine.
12. Gray’s Anatomy by Henry Gray. There are many editions of this book.
13. Black’s Law Dictionary containing definitions of the terms and phrases of American and English jurisprudence, ancient and modern and including the principal terms of international, constitutional, ecclesiastical and commercial law, and medical jurisprudence, with a collection of legal maxims, numerous select titles from the Roman, modern civil, Scotch, French, Spanish, and Mexican law, and other foreign systems, and a table of abbreviations, by Henry Campbell Black, first published in 1891. Several editions available.
14. A set of encyclopedias — we have Britannica, but others are just as good.
15. Chicago Manual of Style
16. Subscriptions to one or more homeschooling magazines
17. A good Bible dictionary. We have Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary: An authoritative one-volume reference work on the Bible, with full-color illustrations, Herbert Lockyer, Sr., general editor, Thomas Nelson Publishers. There are numerous good Bible dictionaries.
18. The Wall Chart of World History, from earliest times to the present with maps of the world’s great empires and a complete geological diagram of the earth drawn by Professor Edward Hull
19. The Timetables of History: A Horizontal Linkage of People and Events, the world-famous reference that tells who did what when from 4500 BC to the present day–now updated for the 1990′s by Bernard Grun, based upon Werner Stein’s Kulturfahrplan
20. Liberty Defined by Ron Paul

The Wall Chart of World History

Here’s the contest — we’re giving away 5 copies of The Fallacy Detective:

In the comments, list one or more books (besides the ones mentioned above) you consider essential for your library. In a few days we’ll pick 5 winners. Be sure to leave your name and email address with your comment.


  1. Lisa

    The Well-Trained Mind & The 5 Love Languages.

    lisarup1 at aol dot com

  2. Marcelo Sánchez

    An English-spanish dictionary
    Tales to Dewey, by Gordon Clark
    Calvin´s Institutes

  3. Heidi

    One of my favorites is my Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance – I received it as a graduation gift from my church family many years ago. We use it often!

  4. Jenni Earleywine

    Pilgrim’s Progress for sure! Oh, and Of Plymouth Plantation, too!

  5. Rebecca K

    hmm… that’s hard.. most of my must-have library items are curriculum or literature.

    I’m going to say
    -“a child’s history of the world”
    -the “Story of the world” series
    -all the Karen Andreola books

  6. Leah Milton

    Dorling Kindersley DK Eyewitness Books on Presidents, History Detectives (Rome, Greek, Egyptian, Aztecs), Abraham Lincoln’s World, The Church in History, Streams of Civilization Vol 1, and 2, Little Women, Total Truth, C.S. Lewis Chronicles of Narnia, Jane Austen’s Books.

  7. Elaine Lambert

    I don’t know if this counts, but one book I could not live without is The Hand That Rocks the Cradle. I use that book all the time and have two bookshelves so far dedicated to books listed in that book.

    For a non-fiction reference book, I’d have to include a good atlas in your list.

  8. Lori

    Chronicles of Narnia

  9. Ali

    Rose Book of Bible Charts and Timelines
    Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance

  10. Stephen J. Padilla

    I would add the Harvard Classics Library (aka 5-foot bookshelf).

  11. Judy Steidl

    Without a doubt, The Peacemaker by Ken Sande.

  12. Ruth Pell

    Pilgrim’s Progress – John Bunyan
    Willmington’s Bible Handbook – Harold L. Willmington
    Ancient Hebrew Lexicon – Jeff Benner
    Teaching the Trivium – Harvey and Laurie Bluedorn
    Stone Edition Chumas – Nosson Scherman
    Unlocking the Mysteries of Creation – Dennis Petersen
    In the Beginning – Walt Brown
    Signs and Seasons – Jay Ryan
    Biblical Holidays – Robin Sampson
    Complete Human Body – Alice Roberts (DK)

  13. Canaan Herkamp

    a wonderful full size volume of Audubon’s Birds of America

  14. Judy Ludlum

    I would add…
    Teaching The Trivium Christian Homeschooling in a Classical Style by Harvey and Laurie Bluedorn- This book is a great resource that I revisit often.

    The David C. Cook Journey through the Bible by V. Gilbert Beers- This book enriches our bible studdies

  15. Kelly

    We have two that I use most often.. The NIV84 Bible, used every day of the year, school or not, and “What the Bible is All About”.

  16. Susan

    A thesaurus
    Plato’s Republic
    Wall maps

  17. Cheryl

    “One Thousand Gifts” by Ann Voskamp

  18. Alathea

    1. A bible (this is so obvious, I’m not sure it counts, but I thought I’d make sure!)

    2. Sketches from Church History – great overview and reference

    3. A good group of general reference materials (an atlas, a dictionary, maybe a thesarus, etc.)

    4. A Bible Concordance

  19. RaShell S

    Great list! I need to check into some of those.

    I would like to add: Biographies or autobiographies of Christian missionaries and workers (i.e. YWAM’s Christian Heroes: Then and Now series), Thompson Chain Reference Bible KJV, parenting books from a Biblical perspective (Teri Maxwell’s Homeschooling with a Meek and Quiet Heart and others), lots and lots of children’s books in baskets at eye level for free access.

    Thank you!

  20. Lisa

    This is fun! I love books! 🙂

    William Strunk Jr and E.B. Whites The Elements of Style.

    Trial and Triumph by Richard M. Hannula

    Foxes book of martyrs.

    Genevieve Fosters History books

    Dr Raymond Moores better late than early! That one is for me or parent specifically.

    Operation World by Patrick Johnstone and Jason Mandryk. Great for studying cultures, religions etc.

    I look forward to what others post too!!

  21. Andrea Farrier

    I must admit, I really love “The Daring Book for Girls” (Andrea J. Buchanan, Miriam Peskowitz) and “The Dangerous Book for Boys” (Conn and Hal Iggulden. They are a reference book for good, wholesome mischief, I guess you might say.

    Also – just my opinion – I prefer Strunk and White’s “Elements of Style” to “The Chicago Manual of Style”. I believe it is the more commonly-used book among professional writers.

  22. Vanessa

    I also love The Chronicles of Narnia, as well as The Managers of Their Homes. It was a big help when I was starting out to see where time wasters were in my schedule so that I could spend time on what was important.

  23. Andrea Farrier

    Drat – missed the end parenthesis (after Iggulden)in the same comment where I recommended “The Elements of Style”. Oops… Strunk and White would be appalled! 🙂

  24. Renee

    The Well Trained Mind, Susan Wise Bauer

  25. Elizabeth DeBarros

    Must-have book in our library:

    Harvey’s Elementary Grammar & Composition (Mott Media)

    This little book is a gold mine.

  26. Kairi

    Oh! So many! But definitely the Bible, the well trained mind, story of the world books, usborne and kingfisher encyclopedias, and all the apologia science books!

  27. Cindi Topper

    well, someone beat me to it, but I was going to say “Strunk & White’s Elements of Style.” It is a concise, and very readable writing and editing handbook.

  28. Charlotte S Thompson

    Explore the Book by J. Sidlow Baxter
    Roget’s Thesaurus
    Knowing God by J I Packer

  29. Lisa B.

    1. Bible
    2. The Well-trained Mind
    3. The Well-educated Mind
    4. Communist Manifesto
    5. The Core
    6. Teaching the Trivium
    7. How to Read a Book
    8. The Lost Tools of Learning
    9. Pilgrim’s Progress
    10. The U.S. Constitution: A Reader (Hillsdale College)

  30. linda

    Audubon Field Guides-various
    Children’s Bible by Golden Press

  31. debbra hunt

    The Age of Opportunity..(TrIPP)
    A Dictionary (oh I so need that one)

  32. Mimosa Pranza

    Must-have books in our library especially this school year:
    Thoughts for Young Men by J.C. Ryle
    Advanced Thorndike Barnhart Dictionary
    Pilgrim’s Progress
    The Hiding Place
    Silas Marner
    The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
    U.P. Diksiyonaryong Filipino
    El Filibusterismo by Jose Rizal
    The KJV Bible
    The ESV Study Bible

  33. Eszter

    Our favorite is Carlo Collodi: Pinocchio. I also made a lapbook and we chose some Bible verses that go nicely along with the quotes from the book.

  34. Susan Brackley

    For Me (the teacher)-
    “Shepherding A Child’s Heart” (Tedd Tripp)
    “Instructing A Child’s Heart” (Tedd Tripp)
    “Age of Opportunity” (Paul David Tripp)
    “Teaching the Trivium” (Bluedorns)

    For all of us (teacher & students)-
    “Typing Instructor” DVD
    “Total Money Makeover” Book & Workbook (Dave Ramsey)
    * “MacArthur New Testament Commentaries” (John MacArthur)Excellent & accurate references to any NT scripture questions that comes up.
    * All books by Jerry Bridges (He teaches a lot on how to live a life trusting Jesus intimately).
    “The Pilgrims Progress” (John Bunyan)

    *** The Bible (God’s Word) We own them but do we use them in our home schooling? It is my top reference to successful schooling.

  35. Andrew Johnson

    “The Answers Book” series by Ken Ham

  36. Karen D.

    Annals of the World by James Ussher

    All Through the Ages by Christine Miller

    What Should We then Read by Jan Bloom

  37. Melissa Craig

    The Mystery of History series by Linda Hobar
    One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

  38. Pamela Steele

    Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance
    A Child’s History of the World
    Hinds Feet in High Places

  39. ana

    Exploring creation books, any of them.

  40. Dawn Grossmann

    I would add:
    Timeline book – to add to each year
    A good Atlas & Wall Map
    A good poetry anthology book (we use “The Top 500 Poems” by Columbia University Press) and any children’s poetry and Mother Goose books (prefer those illustrated by Gyo Fujikawa)
    Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations
    Peterson First Guide (Field Guides for Nature Study)
    Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Comstock
    and a variety of art books (for kids the “Getting to know the World’s Greatest Artists” series by Mike Venezia are great)

  41. Cindi Taylor

    Constitution of the United States and Declaration of Independence.

  42. Jill

    I would say a good world atlas. There are also some excellent computer versions from Bright Ideas Press (Wonder Maps) and Knowledge Quest.

  43. Suzanne

    All Through the Ages by Christine Miller – a must-have guide for moms who want to link living books with history.

  44. P

    The Syntopicon by Mortimer Adler,
    and a systematic theology or catechism

  45. Joy

    Field guides

  46. Rhonda

    Everyday Graces: A Child’s Book of Manners
    Bennett’s The Book of Virtues and Children’s Book of Virtues
    Leading Little Ones to God

  47. Missional Mama

    Thanks for your list, I enjoyed reading it and will be adding some to my wish list.

    The books I would add are:
    Handbook of Nature Study by Comstock
    Understanding the Times by Noebel
    Usborne Encyclopedias for younger kids


  48. Rebekah

    Window on the World by Daphne Spraggett with Jill Johnstone. It is the prayer guide for children (off of Operation World by Patrick Johnstone).

  49. Holly Gardner

    I have two:
    The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason available free on Kindle. It will teach children to the principles behind saving and investing in a story that any elementary child can learn. it works for adults too.

    What Ever Happened to Penny Candy by Richard Maybury.
    His series are extremely timely and all kids need to know how the economy works.

  50. Lisa B

    Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock
    Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt
    The Student Bible Atlas by Tim Dowley
    Then and Now Bible Maps by Rose Publishing

  51. Martha

    Southwestern Publishing Student Handbooks (we bought ours at a library book sale)

  52. Leslie

    “The Book Tree”
    ESV Study Bible
    Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words

  53. Nancy

    Honey for a Child’s Heart
    National Audubon Society Field Guides are without a doubt the most consulted reference books in our home!

  54. eaglenestmomma

    All Through the Ages by Christine Miller
    CRC – a math book
    Usborn World History Dates
    Kingfisher’s Encyclopedia of the World

  55. Bethany

    Although the Chronicles of Narnia and the Lord of the Rings are continually referred to in our house, the Books I have listed below are always near our table. Apparently, we can’t even eat our daily bread without them. My short list:
    The Bible
    The Harp and the Laurel Wreath
    The Story of Painting by Sister Wendy Beckett
    The Red Trinity Hymnal
    The Book of Psalms for Singing
    Baking illustrated
    The Green Pharmacy

  56. Vicki B.

    Keys for Kids for a quick devotional. Handbook of Nature Study by Comstock. Oxford Book of Poetry and Children’s Poetry.

  57. Julia Anderson

    The New Way Things Work, by David Macaulay

    The Kingfisher Geography Encyclopedia

    A Field Guide to Wildflowers, by Peterson & McKenny

  58. Kim

    I see several of my favorites already listed, but as we have very young children, I would add:

    The Complete Tales of Beatrix Potter

  59. Kim

    Since we have very young children:

    Peterson Field Guide Coloring Books
    Dover Coloring Books

  60. rachel v.

    The Lost Tools of learning
    Honey for a Child’s Heart
    The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh

  61. Linda

    — Then & Now Bible Maps from Rose Publishing
    — Celebrating Biblical Feast by Martha Zimmerman

  62. Silvina Leonetti

    I love any “Eyewitness” history series.

  63. Dan T

    “A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs” by David Bercot

  64. Sherry

    I love this list and will be adding some books to my wishlist. I use many of the above, but one we use everyday that isn’t listed is William Bennett’s The American Patriot’s Almanac. A fun way to get history, citizenship and cultural literacy each day.

  65. DeAnn

    Home Learning Year by Year by Rebecca Rupp

  66. Michael

    A Study of History by Arnold J. Toynbee
    Gulliver’s Travels by Johnathan Swift
    Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
    Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

  67. Omo A.

    Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance
    The Core – Leigh Bortins
    The 5 love languages of children

  68. Jaime

    You don’t have The Fallacy Detective listed in your top 20! ( My husband helped teach an apologetics class that used it as part of the curricullum. ) I really enjoyed reading other’s entries, and I concur that
    Pilgrim’s Progress, and
    a good Bible atlas are needed, though that may be included in the Illustrated Bible Dictionary you mentioned. I would also recommend adding
    A blank book for journaling
    Fox’s Book of Martyrs,
    A Treasury of Early Christianity,
    Shakespeare’s complete works,
    The Knowledge of the Holy by Tozer, and his
    Pursuit of God
    and depending on how exhaustive the list is,
    Great Expectations,Chronicles of Narnia,because they are my favorites as well as
    What Really Happened to the Dinosaurs
    Winnie the Pooh and the series
    Hero Tales, because I can’t imagine not reading them to my 5 year old 🙂

  69. Jaynessa

    For me the McGuffey Readers and the Little House books are a must!

    Also A Child’s Garden of Verse

  70. Belinda Kozieracki

    The Beatrix Potter series

  71. Audrey

    In addition to the Bible, a dictionary, and an atlas, the most commonly referenced book around our house is a cookbook!

  72. Tom C.

    Some of the things that my wife and I use in are:

    1. The Holy Bible (KJV), I’m partial to our Scolfield Study Bible.
    2. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance.
    3. Our collection of McGuffey Readers from it’s Primer to it’s sixth volume.

  73. Gail W.

    The New Testament in Modern English by J.B.Phillips in in my reference books.

  74. Stephanie

    Most certainly #1: the Bible.
    Narnia, any d’Aulaire, Classical Conversations Foundations guide, Spell to Write and Read, biographies and lots of fun books.

  75. Giselle

    1. Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Word by W.E Vine, Merrill F Unger, William White, Jr
    2. Pilgrams Progress
    3. C.S. Lewis books especially, Mere Christianity & The Screwtape Letters
    4. My Utmost For His Highest by Oswald Chambers
    5. New Cook Book by Better Homes and Gardens

  76. Sheryl

    Reformation Study Bible ESV
    Saved from What R C Sproul
    The Holiness of God R C Sproul

  77. Jean

    Our other go-to reference materials are:
    The ABC’s and All Their Tricks
    Handbook of Nature Study
    Teaching the Trivium

  78. Shelly

    Handbook of Nature Study Anna Botsford Comstock
    You Can Teach Your Child Successfully Ruth Beechick

  79. Kathy E.

    Common Sense Christian Living, Schaeffer
    Bible Atlas
    Story of the World sets
    All About Spelling readers

  80. Lynda Coats

    A modern world atlas
    An extensive U. S. atlas
    Atlas of Bible times (There are several good ones)
    I also vote for Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, but I saw you listed a generic one

  81. Cynthia Coletti

    Best-loved Poems
    biographies of Christians
    The Girls’ Guide to AD/HD
    selected history books

  82. Danika Nelles

    ooooh so fun! I have very young children (my oldest only entering “grade 2”) and several so I would have to say Rose’s Bible Charts and Timelines. It’s full colour and reproduceable! As for me I could not plan school without Teaching the Trivium and The Well Trained Mind. I would say we use a good atlas often as well. Oh and the Poetry for Young People series and the Childcraft series that I inherited from my mom and grew up on. I could go on and on….

  83. Danika Nelles

    oh and ADD-friendly ways to Organize Your Life. It’s everything God has guided me to do in my life to function well – in a book. Great resource.

  84. Dawn

    An Atlas
    Little Britches series
    The Core
    The Well Trained Mind
    The Well educated Mind
    The Hiding Place
    anything by Frederick Douglass

  85. Kevin Jackson

    Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible
    Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion
    Various volumes on the tabernacle

  86. Kristi Kerr

    The Core
    The Well Trained Mind
    Story of the World Series
    Usborne’s Encyclopedia of the Ancient World
    Young Christian Reader’s Library Series
    Usborne’s Encyclopedia of World Religions

  87. April C.


    Student Handbook by The Southwestern Company ( Five volumes)

    Family Time Fitness found online

  88. Rain

    Resources that help me pick our read alouds.
    My favorites:
    Honey For A Child’s Heart
    History Through The Ages
    Books Children Love
    Well Trained Mind
    Teaching The Trivium 🙂
    Sonlight & Veritas catalogs

  89. Sandra Easterling

    I would/could never do with out my Bible, That’s number one. Books I keep coming back to are Heart of Wisdom, The Mission of Motherhood, Educating the WholeHearted Child, All Through the Ages.

  90. Lisa

    Biblical Holidays- Robin Sampson
    Meek and Quiet Spirit – Terri Maxwell
    The Way they Learn – C Tobias
    Gaining Confidence to Teach- D Strayer

  91. Sharon

    The Well Trained Mind
    Shepherding a Child’s heart
    And my favorite novel, Redeemed

  92. Sara

    Swiss Family Robinson
    Proverbs With the Millers

  93. Sara

    ESV Bible
    almost anything by C.S. Lewis
    Jesus Calling devotional (has been helpful to me lately)
    Stepping Heavenward by Elizabeth Prentiss (I re-read this every few years)

  94. Sara

    I left the above comment but forgot my email. It is saramcole at yahoo dot com

  95. Pamela Faye

    I keep coming back to…
    Q: why do I homeschool?
    A: To raise children that Lord willing will glorify God and enjoy him forever.
    With that in mind everything I teach must be filtered with a Biblical worldview.

    Encyclopedia of Bible Truths for School Subjects [Hardcover]
    by Dr. Ruth C. Haycock is an essential resource.

    We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.
    – 2 Cor 10:5


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