If you’re planning to take A level Religious Studies, then you’ll benefit from doing a little background reading to understand some of the issues and questions you’ll be thinking about. So below is a short list of some books that I think A level RS students should try reading, and that should be easy to find in the library or on Amazon.
(Actually, if you were in my A level taster session last week, then it’s your summer work, so you don’t have much say in the matter – pick a book and dive in!)
Books on Religion and Philosophy
Gods, Demons and Others – R.K. Narayan
The God Delusion – Richard Dawkins
The Puzzle of God – Peter Vardy
The Pig That Wants to be Eaten – Julian Baggini
Religion and Philosophy in Fiction
The Guide – R.K. Narayan
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – Robert M. Pirsig
The Screwtape Letters – C.S. Lewis
Life of Pi – Yann Martel
The Unbearable Lightness of Being – Milan Kundera
Sophie’s World – Jostein Gaarder
Of these books, Sophie’s World might be the most obvious choice for a future A level student: the story revolves around a teenage girl (Sophie) and an unusual Philosophy course she studies, so it gives a good introduction to key philosophers and their ideas: I think it’s even used as an introductory text book in some US colleges. On the other hand, some people (myself included) have found it quite hard to get into, as the plot is a little confusing at times.
These books certainly aren’t the only books you could find that deal with philosophical questions. For me, most great literature explores themes and issues that philosophers have also been interested in investigating - touching on these deeper issues is part of what makes them great. Equally, good books on other subjects such as science, history or psychology could raise philosophical questions, so if you’re doing some background reading for another subject, you can still keep your philosophy hat on.
You’ll find a few more suggestions here and here. And, while we’re on the topic, next time you’re planning an evening that involves DVDs and popcorn, why not try a philosophical film?