So it is that another year is come and gone. And as with other years we are happy to offer the guide to simplify Christmas giving with books that are actually worth reading. Take a pass on Yard-o-Beef and shelf-stable Cheese; give the gift of knowledge, wisdom…and POWER.
Joseph Smith Papers: Journals, Volume 1, 1832-1839 (Church Historians Press, 2008). $50
As many know, this is the first of more than thirty volumes to be part of the Joseph Smith Papers Project. Years in the making, Journals 1 reproduces verbatim all of Joseph’s journalizing in the first decade of the Church. This material isn’t particularly new to scholars, but this is a new critical edition of the text and is one of the most beautifully bound books I have seen in years. Unfortunately the first run sold out in days and it is uncertain if the second printing will be ready in time for Christmas. It may be worth it to take a gamble. You could also pull a Star Wars “empty box” routine if it doesn’t come…and you will likely still be a hero [Update: Deseret Book has provided the "empty box"]. Also, much, much cheaper at Amazon than anywhere else.
Making Sense of the Doctrine & Covenants: A Guided Tour Through Modern Revelations, by Stephen Harper (Deseret Book, 2008). $35
This is one of the best treatments of the Doctrine and Covenants in years. If you have a Gospel Doctrine teacher to buy for or someone that actually prepares for Sunday School lessons, here is the slam dunk. See my recent review.
Massacre at Mountain Meadows, by Walker, Turley and Leonard (Oxford University Press, 2008). $20
OK. This isn’t a warm fuzzy, full-of-joy book. It is depressing (see review here). Still, this is one book that is important enough that most Mormons interested in a more than cursory telling of history will want it. For those that make a habit (secret vocation) of Mormon history, it is required reading. Perhaps in the spirit of Christmas and in light of the atonement of the Messiah, it will be easier to heal.
BYU Studies, 1 year for $25.
Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon thought, 1 year for $37.
Journal of Mormon History, 1 year for $45.
So I poached this from last year. People don’t like to buy subscriptions, but I have found that they love to receive them. Like those fruit of the month things. Both BYU Studies and Dialogue are general Mormon Studies publications. You’ll find a little bit of everything (though Dialogue also has regular fiction). The JMH is not a subscription, per se. It is actually a membership to the Mormon History Association which comes with a year’s worth of journal and a regular newsletter. It is strait up Mormon History, as the name implies. They are all quarterly. You can also purchase single issues from the respective websites. I understand that the Fall 2008 issue of JMH [and the Winter 2008 issue of Dialogue]
is are particularly amazing.
House of the Lord: The Story of the Kirtland Temple, by Walden and Mackay (John Whitmer Books, 2008). $13
The Kirtland Temple is the site of much Mormon history and figures prominently in the coming year’s study of the Doctrine and Covenants. This 50 page full cover 8.5″x11″ volume (preview here) is a beautiful and accessible review of the structure and its importance to the Saints. It is fresh off the press, so orders have to be mailed in and paid via check (use this form). If you do it this week, you should have it back for Christmas. Also a great bargain.
The Temple: Where Heaven Meets Earth, by Truman G. Madsen (Deseret Book, 2008). $22
Who doesn’t have found memories of listening to the smooth Kirkian refrains of Brother Madsen describing the Prophet Joseph? Mostly I think the devotional literature we produce as a people is schlock; however, I understand that this volume is meaty, insightful and enjoyable. The devotional is an important part of our culture and for those for whom you buy such, this is worth considering. Also look for a review by Brad in the near(?) future.
An Uncommon Common Pioneer: The Journals of James Henry Martineau 1828-1918, by Godfrey and Martineau-McCarty (BYU Religious Studies Center, 2008). $40
Mormonism’s Last Colonizer: The Life and Times of William H. Smart, by Smart (Utah State University Press, 2008). $34
Now, if you are buying for someone who likes to take their Mormon history strait up, try either of these volumes. The Martineau diaries (reviewed here) are both massive and significant. The Smart bio (reviewed here) includes a CD with thousands of pages of his typescript diaries in a searchable format. It is like crack to those who are addicted. Also, for the Book of Mormon studies fanatic, Royal Skousen has published volume 5 in his critical text of the Book of Mormon series.
The America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book (Boston Common Press, 2008). $23
Last year’s Gentile pick was for the ATK Family Cook Book, which I still believe is the finest all around cookbook, ever. So what could be better? More. These are my food science peeps. And they deliver. Every Time.