Here’s a disclaimer before we go forward: this list will not include titles that everyone already knows they should read, including the scriptures, Jesus the Christ, by James E. Talmage, The Infinite Atonement, by Tad R. Callister, or any institute or church manuals. Those books hold a lot of worth and I genuinely do encourage each and every person to read all of the above.
This list is meant for those who are looking for further reading on subjects that are pertinent and relevant to Mormons. I could make the case for at least 25 books but I’ve pared it down to these 10, which was no easy task. I also hope you’ll know that these suggestions are for everyone, not just those who commit themselves to serious scriptural study three hours a day or for those who have spent their life studying church history.
Books are judged based not only on content, although that is largely the criteria, but also by quality of writing, and how relevant the ideas discussed are today.
After you’ve read through my list I heartily encourage discussion on a suggested “further reading” list.
1. Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling by Richard Bushman
2. Joseph Smith The Prophet by Truman G. Madsen
This is an excellent addition to Bushman’s tome on Joseph Smith. This book is a collection of Madsen’s eight-part lecture series in written format. It’s easier to digest than Bushman’s and speaks mostly to those who already believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet. It doesn’t really address the culture at the time, the how and why and when of all the questions we might have about what happened in church history.
What it does address and does so exceedingly well, is all the facets of Joseph Smiths personality. Madsen’s goal was to move “others to look not simply at Joseph Smith but through him to the Master – and, with those efforts, to take a searching look at themselves”. If you read this book or listen to the lecture series you will most definitely find yourself reflecting on both the Saviour and yourselves.
3. Women of Covenant: The Story of Relief Society by Jill Mulvay Derr, Janath Russell Cannon and Maureen Ursenbach Beecher.
For many this book may come across as a little dry and “textbookish.” Sure, there are lots of facts and not as many feel-good stories to help you along the way. This might not sound like a ringing endorsement, but I’m hear to tell you differently.
I will defend this book fervently forever. If you give this book a chance there is no way that your life won’t be touched by the struggles and hardships of the women in our church who have consistently tried to build up the Relief Society to the standard that Joseph Smith imagined for it. It’s comprehensive in its scope but also shows the amazing things women accomplished as they created the foundations for welfare programs, church magazines, and even family home evening.
4. The God Who Weeps: How Mormonism Makes Sense of Life by Terryl and Fiona Givens
If you’re looking for a book that encapsulates a lot of what we believe in the Church in a palatable format, this book is for you. It’s beautifully written and reaches out to a broad audience. It’s especially great for those who want to believe in the principles of the Church but don’t find belief such a simple task. But don’t dismiss this book as a disposable, “easy” read – one that is filled with nice, but essentially fluffy quotations that make you feel good but then gets set aside promptly. Despite its simplicity, Terryl and Fiona Givens challenge you with their thoughtfulness, their refusal to succumb to prejudices, and their humour.
5. The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
OK, this is a bit of a cheat. Although not a Mormon book per se, it’s a book every Mormon should read. I went with this one over Mere Christianity because of the impact this book has had on my life. I was given the CD version of this book (with John Cleese acting it out-brilliant!) and when listening to it couldn’t believe how quickly I could relate it to my own life. It’s written from the perspective of a senior demon writing to his nephew about the importance of temptation in keeping subject matters away from their religion. It’s incredibly clever and nuanced and will have anyone questioning the justifications he or she falls back on.