"Read the sermons of the latter-day Presidents of the Church." That is the advice that Elder Hartman Rector, Jr. gave me in 1968 when I was taking an Institute class from him at the University of Utah. I did, and it has changed my life.
I asked him, "After the Standard Works and the works of Talmage, what are the ‘best books’ that we are commanded to study in the Doctrine and Covenants?" (D&C 88:118) This is what he told me. These are those fifteen books, and ten others that I consider the "best books" after the Standard Works.
When I originally compiled this list, most of the titles were in print and available from Deseret Bookstore. For some reason, most of them have been allowed to go out of print, and so I am no longer linking to them. But they are very important titles. You may find it worthwhile to hunt them down on the World Wide Web. You can often find "like new" or "very good" copies. So check Deseret Book and BYU Bookstore first. And if they do not have them, check Amazon.com. Finally, if you are still interested in looking further, check Bibliofind, Alibris, AddAll, BookFinder, and ABEbooks. A little searching will locate almost all of these titles at one of the above places.
The Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith
Surely the most eye opening book I have ever read after the Standard Works. The King Follett Discourse is here. It is the original source for the teaching made famous President Lorenzo Snow. He said, "As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become." These are the sermons of the Prophet Joseph which add to our understanding of scripture.
The Discourses of Brigham Young
Our Melchizedek Priesthood and Relief Society lesson manual for 1998-99 was taken from this book. It is the standard compilation of Brigham Young's sermons. It was edited by John A Widtsoe, a member of the Twelve. Did you know that Adam and Eve were born of woman, or that all life was transplanted here from another planet? President Young teaches these things here. Without a doubt, it is one of the "best books."
Gospel Kingdom by John Taylor
This is the standard compilation of sermons by the third President of the Church, the man who was badly wounded when the Prophet Joseph was killed at Carthage jail. Long out of print, it available at Deseret Book.
The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff
This is the standard compilation of the sermons of Wilford Woodruff, the fourth President of the Church.
The Teachings of Lorenzo Snow
These are the sermons of the fifth President of the Church, Lorenzo Snow.
Gospel Doctrine by Joseph F. Smith
Joseph F. Smith was the son of Hyrum Smith, the Prophet Joseph's brother. He was the sixth President of the Church and the father of Joseph Fielding Smith, the tenth President of the Church. This is the standard compilation of his sermons. Most of our current Relief Society and Melchizedek Priesthood manual was taken from this book. Highly recommended.
Gospel Standards by Heber J. Grant
Although this is out-of-print, a fine copy may usually be found through Bibliofind. Heber J. Grant was our seventh President of the Church, and these are his sermons.
The Teachings of George Albert Smith
These are the sermons of George Albert Smith, the eighth President of the Church.
Gospel Ideals by David O. McKay
President McKay was the ident McKay was the ninth President of the Church. This is the standard collection of his sermons, definitely a "best book."
Doctrines of Salvation by Joseph Fielding Smith
This is the best source of doctrine after The Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, in my opinion. There are three volumes of sermons in this set. It was compiled by Bruce R. McConkie, his son-in-law.
The Teachings of Harold B. Lee
These are President Harold B. Lee's sermons. They are a wonderful addition to the testimonies of these other great prophets.
The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball
This is the standard compilation of President Kimball's sermons.
The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson
In addition to his gospel doctrine, this compilation from the sermons of Ezra Taft Benson includes many of his political teachings. Because he served as a member of the President Eisenhower's cabinet for eight years while also a member of the Twelve he knew more about politics than any other Church President. As the "father" of my personal political philosophy, I would have put this book on the list even if he had not been a President of the Church.
The Teachings of Howard W. Hunter
This is the standard compilation of the sermons of the fourteenth President of the Church, Howard Hunter. Serving only nine months, the shortest administration of any President, his sermons are filled with the love of Christ and his moving testimony.
The Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley
What could be more surely a "best book" than the compiled sermons of the living Prophet? What evidence is there in his sermons that he studied those of his predecessors in the office of President? What topics of concern does he share with them? What special interests does he reveal? Surely one of the best ways we can get to know the inspired mind of the current President of the Church is to read what he has preached.
The Words of Joseph Smith by Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook
No longer in print, rare, and hard-to-find, this book is a respected, scholarly editing of Joseph Smith's sermons during the Nauvoo period as recorded in the diaries, journals and letters of those who were actually present. It is fascinating to learn that some of what Joseph Smith taught has not survived, that is, it is no longer emphasized by the current leadership. For instance, Joseph Smith had some interesting things to say about the restoration of animal sacrifice in this dispensation. He also taught that there was a Patriarchal Priesthood between the Aaronic Priesthood and the Melchizedek Priesthood. If you can find a nice copy of this book, originally published by BYU, it will probably cost over a hundred dollars inasmuch as it has collector's value. Occasionally copies become available at Bibliofind and at Eborn Books.
Jesus the Christ by James E. Talmage
Written by an apostle in the Quorum of the Twelve, commissioned by the First Presidency, and written entirely in the Salt Lake City temple, this is undoubtedly the best and most important book ever written on the life of Jesus Christ excepting only the New Testament and the Book of Mormon.
The Articles of Faith by James E. Talmage
Another title by Elder Talmage, this is one of the "best books" on Mormon doctrine and belief. It is a systematic study of the Thirteen Articles of Faith rather than a compilation of sermons.
The Miracle of Forgiveness by Spencer W. Kimball
This is my nomination for the book most likely to be included in the scriptural canon in some future dispensation. While other works concentrate on the doctrines, this one focuses on the hard core practices required for living our faith. It is the ultimate explanation of the repentance process.
A Witness and a Warning by Ezra Taft Benson
President Benson is remembered for his emphasis on the Book of Mormon. This book, which is devoted entirely to that subject, is different from most others in that it focuses not only on the "testifying" aspects of the book, but also the "warning" aspects. The Book of Mormon testifies of Christ, but it also warns against the enemies of Christ. Most books on the Book of Mormon focus primarily on the former while largely neglecting the latter mission of the book.
Mormon Doctrine by Bruce R. McConkie
A controversial book because of the unpopular "personal opinions" included, it belongs right up near the top of the rankings. Some of it is not "official" Church doctrine but "personal opinion," which are nearly all true regardless. Highly recommended.
This is the standard introduction to the Church for our new members. It is currently used in the Gospel Essentials class. This is "official" doctrine as the Church itself teaches it.
A Marvelous Work and a Wonder by LeGrand Richards
Covering much of the same ground as The Articles of Faith by James Talmage, this is easier to read. For many years it was used in the Gospel Essentials class. It is on the short list of approved titles for missionaries. Definitely one of the "best books."
The Story of the Latter-day Saints by James B. Allen and Glen M. Leonard
Some years ago I took an informal survey of LDS scholars who are online. I wanted to learn which of all the one volume histories of the Church was most highly respected by scholars. I learned that this title was highly regarded not only by the so-called "intellectuals" who are critical of the Brethren. It is also highly regarded by those who are loyal and devoted to the Brethren, the Iron Rods.
Approaching Zion by Hugh Nibley
Great numbers of well read and educated Mormons admire the writings of Hugh Nibley, a man who is at once erudite and completely faithful. Of those who have widely read Nibley, many and perhaps most of them consider this his best book. It is certainly one of the most thought provoking.