This is, I think, the best thing to come out of Deseret Book in a long while. I somewhat wish these books had existed when I was much, much younger, but the expertise (and, frankly, spiritual maturity of many members) likely didn’t really exist in the right forms until recently.
What follows is my totally idiosyncratic, personal ranking of the series. Every book is excellent (how often can you say that about a book series like this?), so this is not “best to worst” but more “what Ivan enjoyed or found most useful” This may or may not help you.
Also, some volumes have either not been released or I haven’t read them, so they are absent from the list:
1. Polygamy: Very well presented. Strongest point is the liberal quotation and use of diaries, letters, journals, and first person accounts from those actually involved in polygamy,
2. Race and Priesthood: Does an admirable job of just presenting the history while threading the needle between respect for prophetic authority and acknowledgement of human fallibility. Likely the most uncomfortable to read of the series, but all the more important because of it.
3. The Law of Consecration: Maybe the second most uncomfortable to read in this series, but a good wake-up call. Exposes faulty reasoning (such as “tithing replaced consecration” – no, it didn’t, and it really didn’t if you’ve been endowed). At times might come across as rhetorically hostile, but overall even-tempered.
4. The Book of Abraham: I would have organized the book differently, but I’m also not the expert here. Does an excellent job explaining all sides; the author clearly does not accept the “Catalyst” theory for the papyri, but explains that theory better than many of its proponents, which is a hallmark of a good writer and serious thinker.
5. The Translation of the Book of Mormon: Seer stones and all that. Doesn’t cover some issues (like, say, View of the Hebrews) as much as I would like, but gives a nice detailed timeline with lots of documentation.
6. Faith and Intellect: Might rank higher if I hadn’t already read pretty much everything Terryl L. Givens has written so far. Thus, this came across as “Terryl L. Givens for Dummies” to me, but it might be a good starting point for those unfamiliar with his work.
7. Religion and Mental Health: Very good coverage of dealing with mental health in a Gospel context. I wished he had been harsher on one husband that left his depressed wife, but he comes across as a very charitable, caring practitioner. Definitely recommended for those struggling with mental health issues or who minister to those who do, or are just interested in preparing themselves for doing so in the future (which is quite likely).
8. Temples and Ritual: Having taken many classes on, read lots of books about, and had direct experience with lots of different religions and their rituals, this might have been higher, but it felt a little like a review of things I already knew. However, it does a great job of presenting our rituals within a larger religious context without losing the forest or the trees.
However, just go read them all. They aren’t perfect, but they’re better than anything I could write on the subjects, and better than most other things written on these topics (on a general, popular level; there are academic works that are more detailed or nuanced or whatever, but they have a somewhat limited audience).