I have had a few chats now with folks here as to whether it is wise to send your own books to England for use during your doctoral studies. I offer my own thoughts here.
When I was still at Gordon-Conwell, I asked a Gordon College prof who studied at Aberdeen if I should ship my books. He said that he went with only a handful of books (4-5? mostly monographs) and did not feel like he ever regretted that. I was told similar things by other profs who studied in England. Shipping is expensive, and in England PhD students can check books out for about 6 months at a time, and you can (at Durham) have 30 books at once. Nevertheless, because we shipped a large freight unit of goods (partly because of our baby stuff), it was reasonable to add book boxes at a much better rate than air shipping. So, I sent about 200 books, about 1/2 my library. I sent a few monographs, a few introductory books, and loads of commentaries and reference books (like bible dictionaries). I don’t regret it at all, because I have used my books quite a bit. Since I like to offer bullet points and lists, here are some organized thoughts. Consider these factors:
1. Library – does the institution you are studying at have a decent collection in your subject area. Find the library catalog online and do some searching. See if they have the books you might want to ship. If they don’t, all the more reason.
2. Kinds of Books: Chances are, in a doctoral thesis, introductory books and short commentaries are not going to be referenced frequently. If you are studying Romans, take Romans commentaries, but leave the James commentaries at home (sorry James).
3. Electronic/Online – many resources are on Logos (which I recommend) and also you can utilize Amazon.com and Google – especially for commentaries. I may never buy a commentary again (don’t tell Amazon!). Ok, lets not be hasty. But, don’t overlook these options. Also, searchable resources are extremely handy.
4. Space- Will you have room in your flat for books? Warning -Bookcases are very expensive.
5. Best Books: The best books to send are ones you know you will use frequently (duh!). I recommend IVP’s black dictionaries, SBL Handbook, Language textbooks (Greek, Hebrew, German, Latin, French), a good German dictionary, etc…
6. Planning for US Visits – we plan on going to the US about 1-2 times per year. I pick up some books from home when I go to the US. Also, I take some books I have in the UK back to the US that I don’t think I’ll need anymore.
7. Notes: If you like to write in your books, as I do, you may need to bring those books that will be most tempting. Never, under any circumstances, write in a library book. Shame on you people who do that! Writing in libraries for scholars is like someone spitting in your food at a restaurant!
8. Influences – in a way, the books on hand in your study will probably be used often by you and in some way will shape your thesis. Keep that in mind. I have chosen books that represent those people who have most influenced me – Jimmy Dunn, John Barclay, IH Marshall, Ben Witherington, Tom Wright, Richard Hays, etc…
9. Distance – How far do you/will you live from the library. I am about a 30 minute walk. That means I only venture to the library about once a week. So, I am more motivated to have good books on hand.
10. Study Environment – Some people like to study in libraries – really. As for me, I like to study at home. So, that makes some difference.
The decision to ship books in different for everyone. Many people simply do not have books advanced enough for serious use in doctoral studies. I was lucky to have worked for Hendrickson and CBD where I could get my hands on monographs and more expensive resources for cheap. That is partly why I sent so many books. If you have mostly commentaries, unless they are hot off the press, the library will probably have it. I have found that the four or five published dissertation monographs I have in my library have been of great use for the purposes of a model to follow. Also, the dictionaries and reference books have helped. My introductory books on the Pseudepigrapha and Apocrypha are often turned to. My copy of the Dead Sea Scrolls is handy as are my Charlesworth OTP volumes (Hopefully NA27 and BHS go without saying).
Hope this helps.
As a final note – be careful not to assume what books you will need and which you will not. When I arrived, after about 5-6 weeks my topic started to change and the books I thought were going to crucial are now just peripheral. I don’t regret shipping them, but it is something to keep in mind.