In a couple of decades, connoisseurs will gather around the shelves of their bibliophilistic conceit and all concur: 2011 was a very good year. The categories are: History, Fiction, Devotional, Book of Mormon, Documents, Subscriptions, and Edited Volumes.
Givens and Grow, Parley P. Pratt: The Apostle Paul of Mormonism (New York: Oxford UP, 2011), $26.00.
Samuel Brown,In Heaven as It Is on Earth: Joseph Smith and the Early Mormon Conquest of Death (New York: Oxford UP, 2011), $26.00.
In the Mormon History category, we have two very strong entries that all interested readers will want under their trees. Both are from Oxford UP, and are at a discount at Amazon. Parley P. Pratt is a legend of Mormonism, but this excellent biography isn’t just a window into a person, but also into the theology and history of a much bigger world. For more info, see Neal Kramer’s excellent review. Sam Brown is a smart dude. And he is a friend, but my endorsement of his volume is solely based on its merits. It is one of the finest readings of early Mormonism, without qualification. We haven’t reviewed it BCC yet (here is some recent chatter), though we will soon. My only regret is Oxford’s book binding; but I am a snob that way. Also consider Craig Harline’s Conversions, which has created an interesting stir and Mason’s The Mormon Menace has received good reviews.
Steven L. Peck, The Scholar of Moab (Torrey House Press, 2011). $8.00.
Wm Morris and Theric Jepson, eds., Monsters & Mormons (B10 Mediaworx, 2011). E-book: $5. Trade paper, pre-order: $24.
Blair wrote that Steve Peck “convincingly merges the genres of magical realism and American West fiction” into the “most engaging Mormon novel I’ve read since Levi Peterson’s The Backslider[.]” Seriously, people. If you read the fiction, you should probably read The Scholar of Moab. But don’t forget Monsters & Mormons, and not those sparkle-in-sun ones. A quick glance at the table of contents reveals some heavyweights. A solid compilation of short fiction that is getting some nice traction. We will hopefully have a review up soon.
Jana Reiss, Flunking Sainthood: A Year of Breaking the Sabbath, Forgetting to Pray, and Still Loving My Neighbor (Paraclete Press, 2011), $12.
It might appear by now that I am populating this book list with the work of people who I adore. So be it. They rule. Still, it is a rare thing when we have a devotional work that is named one of Publishers Weekly’s best religion books of the year. Actually we have never had any work hit any list by Publishers Weekly besides this. Jana is as smart, funny, and insightful as they come. Plus she is the author of What Would Buffy Do?, among many other cool books. Another volume to consider that came out late last year is George Handley’s Home Waters.
Grant Hardy, ed., The Book of Mormon: A Reader’s Edition (UI Press, 2005), $17.
Royal Skousen, ed., The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text (Yale UP, 2009), $20.
Terryl Givens, By the Hand of Mormon: The American Scripture that Launched a World Religion (Oxford UP, 2002), $20.
Really, I’m just stoked that Doctrine and Covenants is only one year away. In a couple months, though, we return to our quadrennial approach to the scripture that catalyzed the Restoration. It really does make a difference to try and read a different edition than the one you have dozens of times over. Hardy’s Reader’s Edition is my favorite. Besides the nice intro, it is formatted in a way that facilitates connecting to the text. You’ll be surprised. I even think it is worth the extra $30 to upgrade to the cloth-bound edition. But you shouldn’t underestimate Skousen’s volume. It is the bargain of the year: close to 900 clothe bound pages for $20. In this volume Skousen condenses his decades-long scrutinization of the Book of Mormon manuscripts to yield a one volume synthesis that gets us closest to hiding in the corner and listening to Joseph Smith read the words shining from the darkness. See Blair’s review for more details. We then have Givens’ By the Hand of Mormon, which reigns, with Massacre at Mountain Meadows as one of Oxfords Greatest Hits™. It is a nice overview of the book for those interested in a more detailed history of the book and its reception. Another couple volumes of possible interest may be Gardner’s Gift and Power and Turley and Slaughter’s How We Got the Book of Mormon. [Edit: Having been rebuked in the comments and by email, I formally submit Grant Hardy's Understanding the Book of Mormon; T&S did a thing, but I can't find a summary link, so here is Julie's review.]
Jensen, Turley, and Lorimer, eds., Revelations and Translations, Volume 2: Published Revelations (Church Historian’s Press, 2011), $70.
Smith, Hedges, and Anderson, eds., Journals, Volume 2: 1841-1843 (Church Historian’s Press, 2011), $50.
If you are buying for the hardcore Mormon nerd, then this is where the action is (if they don’t have them already). R2 (review here) includes the published revelations, but as well, some intriguing additional material. Volume editor Robin Jensen had a great Q&A with us about some of those aspects of the volume. J2 was only recently released, and consequently we don’t have a review quite yet. Nevertheless, this is a volume that literally fulfills decades of anticipation. It is already sparked some interesting thoughts (see here and here). Really, this is essential for citations and necessary for every scholar’s library.
BYU Studies, 1 year for $24.
Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, 1 year for $37.
Journal of Mormon History, 1 year for $55.
As ever, subscriptions are nice. People like to get them. 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, but BYU Studies is typically significantly less pages than the other two. You can also purchase single issues from the respective websites.
Reeve, and Van Wagonen, eds., Between Pulpit and Pew: The Supernatural World in Mormon History and Folklore (USU Press, 2011), $19.
Stephen C. Taysom, ed., Dimensions of Faith: A Mormon Studies Reader (Signature, 2011), $21.
Why yes, those are flying saucers and pioneers on the cover. Between Pulpit and Pew is collection of essays treating some of the fun aspects of Mormon life: Bowman’s perennially popular treatment of Bigfoot/Cain; Alan Morrell on the Bear Lake Monster; UFOs. Taysom’s volume is intended as an initiation into Mormon Studies. He has chosen what he perceives to be some of the highest quality article-length scholarship in the genre and packaged it for broader consumption. Disclosure: I have a co-authored piece in there. You can tell the cover designer is of a certain generation, though. No HD digital 3D glass here.
Feel free to add your own suggestions for giving or receiving.