I am now a couple of semesters into my seminary career. I am loving every minute of it, and that includes the number of papers, a handful of exams, and some 25 completed books--officially 5,433 pages--not that I am keeping count or anything (well, actually I am, it's a requirement).
For the most part, all of these books have been really fascinating. I can honestly say that I have learned more about theological research, pastoral counseling models, spiritual disciplines and many other similar subjects, than I could have ever imagined. Ninety-five percent of these books have been page-turners. I promise.
That said, if you asked me which single work thus far has been the favorite, it is without doubt a book that I am currently using for New Testament Survey. The title is The New Testament in Antiquity, and it was written by Gary Burge, Lynn Cohick and Gene Green (470 pages). There are chapters on each of the NT books, plus dedicated chapters on Studying the NT, The Historical Setting of the NT, The World of Jesus, The Mediterranean World of the Apostle Paul, The Story of Jesus, The Teachings of Jesus, and Sources for the Story of Jesus.
What makes this book so interesting is that these are not simply commentaries on the books of the New Testament. Rather, they are in-depth looks at the historical context, the literary form and structure of the book, the authorship and date. Filled with hundreds of photographs, maps, and added details that make the New Testament come alive. It's almost as if I am reading it for the first time.
And yes, the story of salvation is still the same, but our understanding of context is so critical to our understanding in general. We, or at least I, speaking for myself, have missed so much of what Jesus meant when he said .... or why Paul would have written ... or even how cultural norms would have been impacted the idea of ... it's incredible.
So, once I'm done, you are free to take a look. Or if you happen to find this textbook at a good price (or even at the regular price of $49) out there, it is definitely worth the investment. Enjoy.