Bible Babel: Making Sense of the Most Talked About Book of All Time by Kristen Swenson is worth knowing about and reading from your local library. (I'm not a big promoter of Harper Collins). Michael Dirda reviews it in the Washington Post on Thursday.
There are numerous guides to the Bible -- I recommend Robert Alter's books on the Old Testament's literary artistry, as well as the exhilarating "Who Wrote the Bible?" by Richard Elliott Friedman -- but many of them are narrowly focused, sectarian or off-puttingly scholarly. By contrast, Kristin Swenson's "Bible Babel" is wide-ranging, objectively factual and written for the common reader. In its pages Swenson, a professor of religious studies at Virginia Commonwealth University's School of World Studies, aims to present "big-picture information about the Bible -- what it is, what's in it, and how to understand 'Bible speak.' "
Not sure about the breezy tone, however. It will be interesting to see how it is received.