There are a variety of Bible translations available; some intended for both common worship and private prayer; some best for private study.
There is a spectrum, as Donald Kraus shows in “Choosing a Bible” (Seabury, 2006).
Literal, formal, word-for-word translations try to be as faithful as possible to the sentence structure of the original language (New American Standard Version).
Some versions most concern themselves with easy comprehensibility by the modern ear: these can be “dynamic equivalent” meaning-for-meaning translations (Good News Bible, Contemporary English Version) or paraphrases which go beyond the original text to enliven the reader’s understanding (J. B. Phillips, The Message).
Striking out for the middle way are the versions authorized for use in worship by the General Convention of The Episcopal Church. Most formal (and venerable) of these is the Authorized King James Version (KJV) of 1611. This year is its 400th anniversary. It has many descendants including most recently the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) – which we hear during services as our lectionary text.
The New International Version (NIV) is concerned with conveying a consistent theological message. [The 2011 revision has moved more toward gender-neutral language though it preserves traditional language in some favorite passages.]
The Revised English Bible (REB) is a new translation from the original; along with the New Jerusalem Bible (NJB) it has language both fresh and beautiful.
For private study I’d recommend hearing more than one version, and comparing notes and impressions with others.
And, beyond that, I’d recommend a Study Bible: the New Oxford Annotated Bible (NRSV), Oxford Study Bible (REB), HarperCollins Study Bible (NRSV), or New Interpreter’s Study Bible (NRSV). There are also study editions of the New Jerusalem Bible, the New International Version, and others.
It is important to have a Bible that includes the Apocrypha, which is used in the liturgical churches (Episcopal, Catholic, Orthodox, etc.).
And then there are many commentaries, Bible dictionaries, and other helpful study aids. The Diocesan Resource Center, and Episcopal booksellers, including Episcopal Bookstore and the Cathedral Shop at St Mark's, can steer you toward some of the best.
Learn more about the New Revised Standard Version at http://www.ncccusa.org/newbtu/btuhome.html
Learn more about the Lectionary at http://www.episcopalchurch.org/lectionary.htm
Learn more about the New International Version at http://www.biblica.com/niv/