2011 Christmas gift book guide

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.


  1. Too many choices! :-)

  2. Don’t forget Rick Turley and Brittany Chapman’s Women of Faith, vol. 1, which will be out any day now, just in time for ordering for Christmas, and which may engage an audience very different from most of the books on this wonderful, wonderful list. If anybody needs to know which half of J.’s list I don’t have yet, feel free to contact me …

  3. One of my favorite posts every year, J.; thanks for doing it again.

    I agree that 2011 has been a phenomenal year for Mormon books. I had a similar problem in narrowing them down for my year-in-review post (which will go up on JI tomorrow morning).

  4. Good call, Ardis. Though I understand that the ebook version will be vastly superior (grin).

    Can’t wait for the post, Ben. Looking forward to your picks for awards as well.

  5. Thanks, J, for the kind words. This has been a great year for Mormon history. And I will further plug Jana’s book, which is great devotional reading, and we’ve already given probably 3 copies as gifts. I would have read J2 by now, but my wife says it may be my Christmas present so I’m not allowed to buy it. Looking forward to it.

  6. Thanks for this J. Hardy’s Understanding the Book of Mormon is one of the best books on the Book of Mormon ever published. I’d also recommend it among the 3 you have listed here in preparation for next year’s BoM study.

  7. Man. I think I own 13 out of 15 of those featured titles listed above. And just yesterday I finished reading both The Scholar of Moab, and In Heaven As It Is On Earth. I want to add my voice to the high recommendation of both of those absolutely fantastic books.

    Nobody gets me brand new books for Christmas anymore because I’m generally too dang impatient and pre-order them, or pick them up before anyone gets a chance. Although I do have a pretty nice backlog wishlist at amazon.

  8. Don’t forget, “The Nauvoo City and High Council Minutes” ed by John Dinger and due out anytime now from Signature books, It’s on my Christmas List! As is “Playing With Shadows” ed. by Polly Aird, it should be out in time for Christmas Morning.

  9. Jacob, a couple people I know have really played up Hardy’s volume. I haven’t read it and it is probably an oversight on my part for not including it in the list, so I’ve updated the post.

  10. Great picks, J. I’ll have the annual list of forthcoming books in Mormon history posted at the JI this week.

  11. Can’t wait for that, Jared.

  12. Like, like, like. I asked for the Scholar of Moab for Christmas.

  13. Love the post, J. I am just frustrated that there is some much on here to read and I do not have enough friends to buy me them all.

  14. Wow, that was incoherent. Let me try again: I am just frustrated that there is so much on here to read and that I do not have enough friends to buy me them all.

  15. Nice list, J. I always look forward to your Christmas gift book guide, and have now, as in years’ past, forwarded this to relevant parties (wife, parents, siblings, parents-in-law).

  16. Everyone should go over and check out Ben’s year in review over at the JI, I caught stuff that I would have otherwise missed.

  17. I always look forward to these Christmas gift guide posts at BCC: – I ended up getting the Parley P. Pratt book as a gift for someone in my family.

  18. I’d give a shout out regarding Brant Gardner’s intriguing The Gift and the Power: Translating the Book of Mormon, (Greg Kofford Books). I found it to be very interesting both to his view of how the Book of Mormon text came to be, but also a general look at how revelation may work for different individuals. Bhodges review is here.

  19. kevinf, you need to read the fine print! But I’m all for additional calls for reading.

  20. Stapley,

    Yikes, there it is in the first paragraph! Great list overall, and a lot here I still need to read. Thanks for the list!

  21. .

    I’m glad you added Understanding the Book of Mormon which I love dealy.

    (Also, if *I* were getting a subscription for someone, I would probably go for Irreantum)

    I would also suggest Fire in the Pasture (ed Tyler Chadwick, Peculiar Pages, 2011), the first serious collection of Mormon poets in decades, and a brilliant book that’s been doing surprisingly well on Amazon (I haven’t checked the numbers for a few days, but it broke the top 50 for contemporary poetry and was there for quite a while—through at least last Wednesday). To get a taste of the poems and the reviews, check out Tyler’s Tumblr feed.

  22. Hardy’s Understanding the Book of Mormon is a tremendously fun read (though from a year back, still relevant as per upcoming SS as Stapley notes), and I throw in my nomination for Mormon book of the year here:


    Great post, J. Stap. A seriously strong year for Mormon bookery.