I'm a bit of a Bible translation geek. Somewhere between seeing Baby Got Book for the first time and starting to work at a Christian bookstore, I decided I was going to try and buy every translation of the Bible I could get my hands on. My count so far is 17, and they range from the KJV to the Word on the Street. Some of them are great. I love the poetry of the NKJV, and I confess to having a soft spot for the Message. I would never use it all by itself, but it's good at making me see Bible verses in a new light. My personal favorite is the NLT. I love that it is totally readable while still being a translation rather than a paraphrase, and it distinguishes between the Greek words aner and anthropos to boot :).
But some translations left a slightly less favorable impression on me. Take the New Life Bible, or NLB. According to the description on the back, it uses "a unique and academically proven 850-word vocabulary." That's right. The whole Bible, using only 850 different words. It kind of makes me think of Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss, which was written as a result of a dare to write a book using 50 words or less. The whole thing is really stilted and awkward. The authors are apparently big fans of hyphens. The word parable is rendered picture-story. Mercy, grace, and a variety of other such nuanced words are replaced with loving-kindness. And, my personal favorite moment as far as awkwardness is concerned, the word homosexual is rendered people-who-do-sex-sins-with-their-own-sex. I get, and even in a lot of ways support, what the translators of the NLB are trying to do. They want to put out a Bible that the average unchurched person in our culture, who isn't terribly familiar with words like propitiation, justification, and atonement. But I think they took it a bit far. The tone wasn't just readable, it was patronizing. Moreover, it's important to realize that the original Greek of the NT, for instance, is a whole lot more nuanced than English. Even in more mainstream translations like the NIV one English word could be used in place of several Greek ones, so we often put a different slant on English verses than was put on the original Greek. For someone who is new to Christianity and looking for a very readable Bible, I'd suggest the NIrV, the ICB (the International Children's Bible, but I have a 20-year-old friend who uses it and loves it), or reading a translation like the NLT, the NIV, or the ESV (watch me get attacked for lumping the three together :P) in conjunction with a paraphrase like the Message. It's a lot easier than sloughing through a tedious collection of monosyllabic words peppered with awkward hyphens.