In March Mormonism: A Very Short Introduction will be published as a part of Oxford’s A Very Short Introduction series. For those unfamiliar with the series, Oxford has put out over 300 titles written by “experts” in particular fields (the volume on Kant by Roger Scruton from the University of London, for instance is a fantastically accessible introduction). They are brief (around 100 pages 4×6 inches), and meant for the non-specialist.
Richard Bushman is the author of the volume on Mormonism. While it certainly won’t find the same use as the introductions by Shipps , Eliason , or Davies , one cannot but wonder what attention it will draw and where it will have its impact. I think the market for it is more akin to the Dummies series in which Riess has done the piece on Mormonism, which means it might not find its way into college classrooms, but may make it into the hands of those looking to know more about Mormonism than simply reading what they can find online (although Oxford’s introduction series tends to be written by some of the larger figures in the field).
What are your thoughts about Bushman’s Introduction? Which introductions have you been recommending? And would you consider recommending Bushman’s introduction instead, given its genre and the situations you find yourself recommending books on Mormonism.
10 Replies to “Mormonism: A Very Short Introduction”
Very cool – I will definitely pick this up (especially since these little books are so cheap!).
Actually, I have seen the “Very Short Introduction” series used quite a bit in graduate level coursework. I would not at all be surprised to see it being used in college classrooms.
This is exciting and I can’t think of anyone better to write this. Terryl Givens is currently writing A Very Short Introduction to the Book of Mormon. I don’t know if these little books are common in grad seminars; I found them brousing the bookstore. But they really are good little tools if you want a quick intro.
Wups, screwed up the code. If any FPR adminstrators want to fix it, great. Otherwise, oh well.
The forthcoming volumes sound great. I read the Oxford intro volume on history and liked it a lot. It looks like these books are used commonly in classes.
the missing words in that last sentence are supposed to be “looks like.”
I quite enjoyed Klaus J. Hansen’s _Mormonism and the American Experience_, with a foreward by Martin E. Marty. Chicago History of American Religion series, ed. Marty (Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1981).
Then there is the overview by the Bushmans (Richard and Claudia together) and the Givens overview with Greenwood, Arrington and Bitton, Allen and Leonard, and the Church’s own _Our Heritage_ (that’s where I start most ordinary Mormons).
I have been recommending (and have given away several copies) Mormonism for Dummies ever since it came out. Really fantastic intro that deals with the tough stuff (homosexuality, Priesthood ban, polygamy, etc.) in a reasonable manner that doesn’t seem like a dodge, but also I think really shows somebody the meat of what our faith is about. It’s not a missionary tract and doesn’t come across as one, so I feel very safe recommending it to people who I know aren’t looking to be converted. But at the same time it really does let even that sort of person walk away going “Ok, I see why this would be an attractive faith to someone” and really can serve as an inoffensive seed to someone who might want to learn more without being pushy. 5 stars. I hope Bushman can provide more for the same genre!
Thanks for the heads up. I saw that a Mormon volume was forthcoming, but I didn’t know Bushman was writing it—cool. I’ve heard only very good things about this series, and can personally vouch for the Kant and Continental Philosophy volumes.
Dave wrote a good post on the Bushmans’ Building the Kingdom here, where other intros were also discussed.
Thanks for the reference David.