Christmas gift buying can be a stressful experience. What to get somebody that already has everything? Books are always great. There are typically affordable titles and nobody I know has every book they would like to own. Additionally, Mormon books aren’t widely available through the library system (outside the corridor). So don’t fret over the tie pattern or night gown and peruse the bookshelf.
Anytime, Anywhere, by John H. Groberg. [Deseret Book] $15.96
The majority of the Saints aren’t interested in the esoteric or obscure. The devotional is a resolute tradition in Mormon publishing and John Groberg has a proven track record in the true-story genre. Author of The Other Side of Heaven (which made it to the big screen), Groberg inspires with his readable and faith filled stories. Sometimes we forget that God interacts with the faithful, this book is a great reminder that he does. Anytime, Anywhere takes us from President Kimball’s invitation of service and shows us the world.
Jesus Christ and the World of the New Testament: An LDS Perspective, by Richard Holzapfel, Eric Huntsman and Thomas A. Wayment. [Deseret Book] $33.96
Not only will we be ringing out wild bells as we enter the New Year, but we will also be shifting from the talking donkey and carnage of the Jewish Bible to our Lord’s New Testament ministry in Sunday School. Being committed to the King James Version and living far distant in time and place from the narrative, study aids open a vast world that is otherwise inaccessible. Holzapfel and Huntsman have delivered a beautiful and well reviewed volume that will be a blessing to anyone who is interested, Gospel Doctrine teacher and student alike.
The book is filled with amazing images and interesting historical asides. Most importantly, however, Jesus Christ and the World of the New Testament is filled with scholarship (really). This work is perhaps the glamorized distillation of the three volume The Life and Teachings of Jesus Christ series (~$25 a pop) which Jeff Needle describes as a “veritable avalanche of new information.” I’ve only cracked open the vol. 2, but it is excellent (these are also great gift ideas).
The Backslider, by Levi S. Peterson. [Signature Books] $5.95
20 years ago, Levi Peterson changed the world of Mormon letters. The Backslider remains to this day the most important and best work of fiction in Mormonism. I say this not just because Sister Stapley plays the organ at the Ruby Inn, but because Levi has told a story that resonates like none other has before or since. Frank Windham is a cowboy in Southern Utah and we watch as he struggles to find the true Christian miracle. My mom thinks it is hilarious and at six bucks it could be a stocking stuffer.
David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism, by Gregory A Prince and Wm Robert Wright. [University of Utah Press] $19.77
Lengthen Your Stride: The Presidency of Spencer W. Kimball, by Edward L. Kimball. [Deseret Book] $29.95
Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, by Richard Lyman Bushman. [Knopf] $23.10
2005 brought us the great biographical trifecta. While there are a few biographies lurking on the horizon (Joseph F. Smith and Heber J. Grant) I think it is safe to say that the bounty of 2005 will never be repeated. Since publication, all three have received tremendous amounts of attention, and for good reason. We do live in a different age of Mormon Scholarship, and this is the proof. Kimball gives Elder McConkie making the case that there is no Scriptural precedent for the Priesthood Ban. Prince shows us the struggle for influence in the First Presidency. Bushman gives us a Joseph in which we need not shame. Your head will spin, but it is a wonderful feeling. All three are must-reads.
The Emergence of Brigham Young and the Twelve: to Mormon Leadership, 1830-1841, by Ronald K. Esplin. [BYU Studies] $19.95
BYU Studies (and the Smith Institute before it) has made an effort to disseminate some of the more impactful theses in Mormon Studies (e.g., see here). Esplin’s thesis definitely qualifies. Sometimes (er, oft times) there is a gap between the casual or lay student of Mormonism and the insider-historian. Here, you will find lots of tasty morsels that you really can’t find anywhere else. Slowly chew your way into the inner sanctum. Remember: this is a thesis and does not read like a novel.
The Mormon History Association’s Tanner Lectures: The First Twenty Years, edited by Dean L. May and Reid L. Neilson. [University of Illinois Press] $30.00 or $70.00
Every year at the Mormon History Association meeting, a non-Mormon scholar is invited to present on their area of expertise that in some way relates to Mormonism. This volume presents 21 of these lectures in three sections (that have introductory essays by an all-star line up). Not all the lectures are spectacular, but they are all better than good. The topics are diverse, ranging from dancing to politics to scripture (see the table of contents). One of the essays in particular will also give the individual that is new to and unfamiliar with the dynamics within Mormon history over the decades a nice view. This volume isn’t one that you won’t be able to put down, but it is a solid compilation that is good for the beginner and veteran.
Merry Christmas shopping!