McKay Coppins: Mormon Twentysomething: What should thoughtful Mormon readers be reading?

Published: Friday, Aug. 20 2010 5:01 a.m. MDT

I wrote a column in July 2009 titled, "A Summer Reading List for the Thoughtful Mormon Reader" where I argued that intellectualism and Mormonism could peacefully — and productively — co-exist.

I wrote:

"If, as we've been taught, the gospel really does contain all the truth in the universe (not just religious truth), then we should not only tolerate intellectualism but embrace it.

"'Seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom,' the Lord tells us in Doctrine and Covenants.

"So, what are the 'best books?'

"As Hugh Nibley once said, there doesn't seem to be a prescribed reading list. Instead, we are expected to search and share our findings with each other. The result of our studies, both academic and spiritual, should be a stronger testimony of God and his creative powers."

I ended the article by suggesting four books I thought would interest a cerebral LDS readership. They included: "Atlas Shrugged" by Ayn Rand, "The Innovator's Dilemma" by Clayton M. Christensen, "The Alchemist" by Paulo Coelho and "To Draw Closer to God" by President Henry B. Eyring.

This year my summer has been much busier than last, and I haven't spent nearly as much time as I would like reading books. But things are settling down for us here in New York and I've developed a routine that includes a daily 45-minute train ride. And since my iPod playlist has gotten awfully boring, I'm looking for suggested reading material.

More specifically, I'm looking for books. Newspapers and magazines are great — I write for a couple, after all — and I think the best ones do an effective job of making sense of the world. But books have a rare ability to zero in on a single issue, character or idea and change its readers' lives, if only slightly.

And so I'm looking for additions to my "Thoughtful Mormon Reading List." I'll sort through your comments and e-mails, do a little research on the books that sound most interesting and then post a follow-up to this column with your best suggestions.

In general, I'm pretty open-minded when it comes to literature suggestions. But since I plan on posting the best ones in this Mormon Times column, we'll have to narrow the field a bit. Some guidelines for your suggestions:

The book should provide a degree of intellectual stimulation. Harry Potter and similar books can be entertaining, and even teach valuable moral lessons, but they don't tend to really challenge our minds.

That said, wonky academic texts probably aren't a good fit here either. The books should be written for a well-educated, intelligent reader — but not necessarily a bunch of professors.

Nothing R-rated. Of course, the rating system for films doesn't directly apply to literature because some things are much more disturbing to watch than to read about, but use common sense. If there is gratuitous violence or sex, no need to submit it.

It should appeal to, well, thoughtful Mormon readers. This guideline is most open to your own interpretation. You'll note that, of the four books I recommended last year, only one is written expressly for an LDS audience. All of them, however, provide interesting ideas and theses that can be applied to the gospel.

No need to include the scriptures. It's a given that those should receive top priority.

As Mark Twain once said (you knew I'd have to work a Mark Twain quote into a column about books), "The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them."

In that spirit, I ask for your help in finding these good books.

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