2008 BCC Christmas gift book guide

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.

December_2008_jspJoseph 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.

December_2008_mmmMassacre 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.

December_2008_kirtlandHouse 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.

December_2008_madsenThe 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.

December_2008_martDecember_2008_smartAn 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.


December_2008_atkGENTILE PICK
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.


  1. Thank you for posting my wish list, Santa — do I need to report my mailing address again?

  2. J. Stapley, I don’t often visit the world of Mormon blogs, but I do enjoy your reviews when I make the rounds. I’m thrilled to see W.B. Smart’s Mormonism’s Last Colonizer made your list — a book I fear will mostly slip under the radar. The CD was a major undertaking and is a contribution to Mormon studies. But don’t overlook the bio. I read the entire manuscript (I’m a William B. grandson) and found it to be readable and brutally honest. Okay, maybe critically honest best describes it, but it may be that my great great grandfather is rolling in his grave.

  3. Kevin Barney says:

    Yes, Fall 2008 JMH was particularly amazing for some reason, which I can’t quite put my finger on…

  4. Just doing my part, Ardis (grin).

    Jed, thanks for the kind words. I agree that the bio is also quite significant on its own. I’m about a third of the way through and have been quite impressed.

    Kev, I failed to mention that I understand the Fall Winter 2008 Dialogue to be equally outstanding.

  5. Researcher says:

    Thanks for the list. I had already decided on using that Doctrine and Covenants book for a gift for someone (shhh; don’t tell) after reading your review. I guess I need to order it. Thanks for the reminder. Here goes…

  6. Love these sorts of posts. Thanks J.

    Also, for those eyeing the D&C book, it is now cheaper at Amazon and comes with free shipping.


  7. It’s intesting that, in a church where we are forever making the “strait and narrow path” straight, you’ve taken the opposite tack (or should I say “tact” just to drive Kristine up the wall) and made all of your straights strait.

    Anybody need my address? :-)

  8. Kev, I failed to mention that I understand the Fall 2008 Dialogue to be equally outstanding.

    The Winter issue is even better.

  9. Just for good measure add Brant Gardner’s Second Witness (at least volume 1!)

  10. Justin, how could I have dropped the ball! [going back to fix comment]

  11. Kevin Barney says:

    The Winter issue with the amazing article in it is actually the one J. has pictured in the OP, in case anyone needs a visual clue for which issue to begin their subscription with.

  12. I would love it if you would do a post outlining your take on building a LDS book library. What are the essentials? What are your personal favorites? I’m new to reading anything beyond the scrips and could use some guidance.

  13. Kevin, I’m still chuckling over my comment FAIL.

    Ryan, great question. Check this post out and the comments. I think you will likely find what you are looking for.

  14. I can attest to the general quality of the Madsen book on the temple. Note, though, that most of the chapters have appeared in various places before.

  15. Why BYUS, Dialogue, and JMH, but not Sunstone?

  16. J:

    With respect to the JS Papers, Journals, Vol. 1, you’ll be happy to know that Deseret Book has now taken the all hard work out of pulling “the Star Wars empty box” routine.

  17. Cris, that is soooooooo awesome.

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