Saturday, July 16, 2011

Book Recommendations

I love to read nonfiction - especially nonfiction about religion, psychology, science, and history. I try to incorporate ideas from the books I read into my blog. But I know that I can't do the books, or the brilliant authors that write them, justice by blogging about them. Blogging is - well - it's inadequate: a sort of amateur online journal that others get to peak into.

But reading is one of my passions in life. When I finish one book, I already know what I'm going to read next. My problem is actually buying/reading too many books that I know I'll have a hard time finishing. Blogging is a sort of "speed bump" to slow my reading down, in hopes that I will have more time to process and digest what I read. But, to be honest, I think you (the very few readers I may have) will get more out of your reading if you skip my blogging "Cliff-Notes", and go straight to the source for some of my ideas: read these books. That is where the ideas are fleshed out, where the arguments are more convincing, and the arguments are more elegant and complete.

So, without further throat clearing, here are some of my favorite books (not a comprehensive list by any means). They deal mostly with the science of religion, the psychology of religious belief, and how the mind works. That is what is most exciting to me as I process my religious journey.  I hope these books will be exciting for you as well.

Happy reading!

Books About Philosophy:
How Are We To Live by Peter Singer
50 Voices of Disbelief: Why We Are Atheists by Russell Blackford and Udo Schuklenk
Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell
Why I Am Not A Christian by Richard Carrier

Books About Science:
The Third Chimpanzee by Jared Diamond
The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God by Carl Sagan
The Believing Brain by Michael Shermer
The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins
Origins by Neil DeGrass Tyson
The Science of Good and Evil by Michael Shermer
Why Darwin Matters by Michael Shermer
The Moral Animal by Robert Wright
How the Brain Works by Steven Pinker
On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right When You Are Not by Robert A. Burton

Books About Religion:
Who Wrote The Bible? by Richard Elliot Friedman
Jesus Interrupted by Bart Ehrman
The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins
50 Reasons People Give for Belief in a God by Guy Harrison
American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us by Robert Putnam and David Campbell
Eight Theories of Religion by Daniel Pals

Books About Mormonism:
Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling by Richard Bushman
No Man Knows My History by Fawn Brodie
The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power by Michael Quinn
The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power by Michael Quinn
Mormon Polygamy: A History by Richard Van Wagoner
In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith by Todd Compton
The Mysteries of Godliness: A History of Mormon Temple Worship by David John Beurger
David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism by Greg Prince and Robert Wright
An Insiders View of Mormon Origins by Grant Palmer


  1. Great List Josh. You should rank these by category... Which book would you recommend first in the books about Mormonism?

  2. I would start with either Rough Stone Rolling or No Man Knows My History and come to terms with Joseph Smith. Bushman comes at Joseph Smith from a faithful angle, Brodie from a skeptical view. I think Brodie's view is more accurate, and her book is still the definitive biography (and my favorite). Joseph Smith was the first burning issue with me: was he who he claims he was, or was he something different. Once you make sense of Joseph Smith, the rest of the picture falls into place more easily.

    Then I would read around whatever topic interests you the most. To me it made sense to start with polygamy (my biggest issue). Then I needed to have an understanding of how scripture and revelation was produced by Joseph Smith (and many others like him).

    After making sense of Mormonism, I turned to trying to understand religion in general, the origins of belief in God, and a historical/scholarly approach to the Bible, the history of religion, general and religious psychology/philosophy, and science (especially biology and astronomy and how they explain human origins in naturalistic ways).

    If there is a certain topic you are interested in, let me know, and I can recommend some good books. My list above is by no means comprehensive. Lots of other good books out there.