McKay Coppins: Mormon Twentysomething: 2010 'Thoughtful Mormon Reading List'

Published: Friday, Aug. 27 2010 4:00 a.m. MDT

When I compiled a similar Mormon reading list last year, I included Clayton Christensen's seminal business theory book, "The Innovator's Dilemma." This year, I'm adding a book he co-authored applying the "disruptive innovation" theory to education reform. Christensen, who served as an Area Seventy for the LDS Church, diagnoses several problems facing public education in America and explains how modern technologies might solve them. Mormons have long understood the value of learning, and I believe this book contains ideas that could markedly improve the quality of education being provided in the U.S.

"The Screwtape Letters," by C.S. Lewis

I hesitate to include a C.S. Lewis book here, only because it often seems that every Mormon in the world has already devoured his collected works. Rarely does a BYU religion class or sacrament meeting pass without one of Lewis's shrewd Christian observations being offered as a complement to scripture. And with good reason. In this endlessly clever collection of (fictional) letters between two "devils," Lewis reveals with astonishing insight how believers can unwittingly succumb to temptations and lose their faith.

"The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin," by Benjamin Franklin

I read this slim memoir in high school and have often thought of it since. Historians have since revealed that many of the details in Franklin's account of his own life were embellished — but that doesn't make them any less inspirational (or entertaining). I especially recommend the section about his effort to achieve "moral perfection": funny, insightful, and maybe even a little instructive.

"Man's Search for Meaning," by Viktor Frankl

This book was probably the most oft-recommended by readers. Frankl, a concentration camp survivor, sought with this work to answer a rather terrifying question: "How was everyday life in a concentration camp reflected in the minds of the average prisoner?" I have not read it, but according the numerous readers who have, his fight to maintain his will to live while in the camp is at once heartbreaking and inspirational. This may be the first book on the list that I read.

"The Physics of Christianity," by Frank Tipler

Praised by critics for his fiercely intellectual approach to science and Christianity, Tipler argues that religion is not disproved by physics — and that, in fact, it may be supported by it. Of course, relying on scientific "evidence" can be a fraught approach to faith, and so his ideas should probably be taken with a grain of salt. But I have often argued that science and doctrine are not mutually exclusive, and it seems like this book might be a good place to start examining the overlap.

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