My wife was talking to a friend not long ago who said she wouldn't read the Bible because there were too many translations. My wife replied that that shouldn't stop her as most of the translations say the same thing. And for the most part that is a good principle to follow. If you want to read the Bible just about any translation is a help.
The reason for most translations is to make the Bible easily understood. The translations vary mostly by target audience which has caused the translators to adjust the vocabulary to meet that of the target audience. Reading levels of the various translations vary from Elementary level to Senior High level. So if you aren't a member of a church or study group you only need to decide which reading level is best for you.
Whatever version you choose to read none of the difference between translations or versions will make a difference unless you do read the Bible, so go ahead, choose a translation and read it.
Most Popular Versions based on a review of Amazon.com
1. Holman Christian Standard Bible
2. King James Version
3. American Standard Bible
6. New International Version
7. The Message
8. New Living Translation
9. Douay Rheims Version
10. Ignatius Revised Standard Version
The Holman Christian Standard Bible is a new translation from the original texts published in 2004. It is intended to be optimized between word for word and thought for thought translation. It has a reading level suitable for early teens and seems to be a good translation.
The King James Version - KJV - is probably the best known of the translations. It was intended for the Church of England of King James I of England in 1611. It is the version most often quoted in literature and popular media. It was revised in 1769 without a new name being given to that revision, and that revision is the most readily available of the two. While this is the version that I use many people complain of its archaic language.
The American Standard Version was a response to the English Revised Version. American scholars realized that American English differed significantly from the English of England so they wanted a version of the Bible that reflected those difference and would make it easier for American readers to use. Published in 1901 I would think that many people today would still have issues with the language.
The English Standard Version is a word for word translation using modern English. Published in 2001 it has a reading level suitable for early teens.
The New American Standard Bible, originally published in 1971 with further revisions in 1995, was intended as an update for the American Standard Bible. It is a word for word translation with a reading level suitable for older teens.
The New International Version was intended to balance word for word and though for thought translation with a simple English vocabulary. Published in 1978 it has a reading level suitable for early teens. This is the version my wife uses in her Women of Faith Bible.
The Message is the Bible done in a novel format. It is a paraphrase rather than a translation. My wife was very impressed by it while I being a conservative have some issues with it. Nevertheless it is an easier read than some version and conveys basic truths. Published in 2002 it has a reading level suitable for early teens.
The New Living Translation was published in 1996 and revised in 2004. It has a reading level suitable for early teens. Our pastor recommends this as an alternate translation useful for devotions.
I'm not acquainted with the final two versions so I'll leave them alone. I did however find two versions on Amazon.ca (amazon.co.uk also has a slightly different order) which rated higher on the list.
The New King James Version - NKJV - was introduced in 1982. It updated the language of the KJV thereby reducing the reading level. It is considered to a Junior High English level. This is the version our church uses.
The New International Readers Version introduced in 1996 has simplest reading level of any of the versions, it is suitable for eight year olds.
Now that you've had a chance to learn a little about a few of the translations out there you'll perhaps be more comfortable knowing that many scholars are working hard to ensure that there is a translation or version that will be suitable for you to read. You can find these versions on-line, as e books, or comfortable paper editions. So go ahead, choose one, and enjoy reading a book God intends to bless you by.