I was asked recently for some suggestions on how to get into reading the Bible from someone without a church background (or a personal faith that I know of). I quickly became aware that most internet resources are huge, not suitable for beginners and generally assume a rather conservative faith stance, not conducive to curious agnostic Bible readers. So I wrote a shortish email with a few points. Obviously I could have said more but I tried to keep it simple. My intention is to provoke curiosity rather than to achieve indoctrination. This was my response, let me know what you think.
The Bible can be confusing because it is not really a normal book. Some basic points help when you are trying to get into it.
1. It is not one book but 66 different books (by about 40 different authors)
2. These books have been arranged (roughly) to tell one big story, from the creation of the world (Genesis), to the saviour of the world, Jesus (gospels), to the end of the world as we know it and the ultimate salvation of the world (Revelation) with a whole bunch of stuff in between.
3. There is lots of double ups. 2 different stories of creation (Genesis 1 and Genesis 2-3). 2 different accounts of Israel's kings (1 Samuel - 2 Kings and 1 & 2 Chronicles). 4 accounts of Jesus (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John).
4. There are many different genres. E.g. poetry, history, biography, prophecy, songs, letters, myths, genealogy, law, etc. And often books seem to have more than one type of genre in them.
5. Not many people succeed in reading the whole thing straight through (at least not on their first attempt) because after Genesis and the first part of Exodus, we start to get bogged down in lots of laws and this goes on for 4 books!
6. I would normally suggest to people to dip into a few different sections first before trying to read the whole thing through. And if you do read the whole thing through don't worry about skipping some of the more tedious bits, you can always go back and read them later. Some ideas to start with,
Mark: the shortest gospel of Jesus, probably only 30 mins to read.
Genesis: The introduction to the whole Bible, Adam and Eve, Noah, Abraham, Joseph.
Psalms: a collection of songs expressing a wide range of emotion, not all of it positive. Psalm 23 is the most famous. 51, 121, 113, are good ones too.
Jonah: More than just a guy who got swallowed by a whale.
Judges: R18 level violence
Ruth: The love story that gives hope to the story of Judges
Acts: This is the sequel to gospel of Luke and tells the story of the Early Church and introduces Paul who wrote many of the letter in the OT.
Esther: The girl who saves a nation.
Philippians: A letter from prison
Song of songs: Ancient erotic poetry (I kid you not)
7. As you read through you'll realise that lots of the books reference each other, it is a very interconnected set of books and even by dipping in and out you'll start to get a sense of the whole thing.
8. I've read it through several times, but it usually takes me more than a year. If you read three chapters a day you get through it in a year, I think. Good luck!
Feel free to throw any further questions my way. I am a Bible geek so always happy to do my best to answer.