2013 Christmas gift book guide

I’m a little late in getting this posted. I blame the 4:17 pm sunset time. And look, I wait for three years to have the Doctrine and Covenants as the topic of study, and now we are back to the Hebrew Bible. I guess this is how the rest of you felt last year. Also check out Ben’s fine recap of this year’s crop of Mormon Studies publications.

Jehovah and the World of the Old Testament (Deseret Book, 2009), $45
The Harper Collins Study Bible (HarperOne, 2006), $32
The Ten Lost Tribes: A World History (Oxford UP, 2009), $22

The Hebrew Bible is perhaps the least favorite quartile of our Gospel Doctrine regimen. I am certainly not alone in my general ignorance. Deseret Book has a strong offering for those interested in gaining some context in Jehovah and the World of the Old Testament. Kevin and Ben’s reviews highlight the benefits many will find in its pages. However, getting a high quality non-KJV study Bible is essential. I’m told that Harper Collins’ is the best around. Don’t worry about it being a different translation; it will certainly help you (and the Relief Society used a similar contemporary volume for study from 1942-1944). So kick it old-school. Lastly if you want something fun, in the bibliophilistic idiosyncratic understanding of that word, perhaps Benite’s world history of the Lost Ten Tribes. Mormon Israelism is peculiar, to be sure, but this fine study is a nice introduction to the broader context of the history and myth of the exiles (SPOILER: they are not at the North Pole). Here is my review from a couple of years ago.

Barlow, Mormons and the Bible: The Place of the Latter-day Saints in American Religion (Oxford UP, 2013) $22.50.
Holland, Sacred Borders: Continuing Revelation and Canonical Restraint in Early America (Oxford UP, 2011) $57.

Barlow’s book has been an out-of-print classic for years and cost prohibitive on the used market. Oxford released a paperback second edition for reasonable. This really is the best history of how Mormons’ interact with the great book. Probably essential reading. Also from Oxford is Holland’s history of the cannon in American culture. This is Elder Holland’s son who just got the gig at Harvard Divinity School. And the book is really solid, though a bit expensive. Check out Sam’s review.

Belnap, By Our Rites of Worship (Deseret/RSC, 2013), $27.
Peterson, Dead Wood and Rushing Water: Essays on Mormon Faith, Culture, and Family (Kofford, 2013), $21.

Remember when Deseret Book and BYU co-published a volume with chapters written by three of BCC’s regular contributors? Belnap has done a nice job curating a disparate group of essays on ritual spanning the Hebrew Bible to the most recent events in the church. Ronan, Aaron, and I have chapters on feasting, ordination, and healing evolution respectively. I must confess to not always jibing with some of the BYU ancient scripture professors’ heuristics, but as a whole, it is a great volume. The intros on ritual will be eye-opening, the conclusion not so much. Peterson’s collection of essays is our devotional work for the year. I like Boyd; and this book comes recommended by people I trust.

Compton, A Frontier Life: Jacob Hamblin, Explorer and Indian Missionary (UU Press, 2013), $34.
Haws, The Mormon Image in the American Mind: Fifty Years of Public Perception (Oxford UP, 2013), $25.

For our Biography we have Compton’s award winning book on Jacob Hamblin. Hamblin is about as famous as a nineteenth-century Mormon can be without having been a general authority. Compton’s book also focuses importantly on the Native American perspective of Hamblin and broader Mormonism. Compton is a gifted researcher and great writer. Now, remember when a Mormon was running for president? Remember when that guy’s dad was running for president? Seems like a lifetime ago, in both cases. Haws looks at how Mormonism has been perceived in and by America and this book is freshly minted from his dissertation. Also, that is the Osmonds on the cover. Check out his interview over at the JI (Part I and Part II).

BYU Studies, 1 year for $30
Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon thought, 1 year for $50
Journal of Mormon History, 1 year for $60

Why yes, I do recommend these subscriptions every year. 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. Also consider the digital subscriptions which are cheaper, sometimes by more than half.

Documents, Vol. 1: July 1828-June (CH Press, 2013), $50.
Documents, Vol. 2: July 1831-January 1833 (CH Press, 2013), $55.

The annual JSPP cohort. This time it is documents. This stuff makes for actually some pretty cool reading for the non-specialist. I think that these along with the journals are going to have the broadest appeal. Sorry, just got the review copy, so no review yet.


The Gentile Pick has almost become synonymous with the collected works of Christopher Kimball. Verily, his works are mighty and strong. Seek ye learning out of the best books (this is a best book).

The America’s Test Kitchen Cooking School Cookbook: Everything You Need to Know to Become a Great Cook (America’s Test Kitchen, 2013), $27.


  1. Dialogue is actually $50.00 per year, although $35.00 for students and seniors (or senior students) :) Although we just began our Christmas Cheer Promotion that takes off 15% off any subscription when you input the code CHEER15 at the site.

    Lovely roundup, I pretty much want to read every single offering here, I’ve even had my eye on the Gentile pick.

  2. J. Stapley says:

    I’ll fix it in the post. Thanks!

  3. Very good stuff, J. Feel free to get me whatever you want off this list!

  4. So many books, so little time…

    Dan Belnap is solid. He was a year ahead of me at Chicago, but crammed all his coursework into three years instead of four, an unheard-of feat.

    “I wait for three years to have the Doctrine and Covenants as the topic of study, and now we are back to the Hebrew Bible.” Woohoo! This is MY town!

  5. I like Belnap’s essay, particular his NT contextualization. Good stuff. And I hope you enjoy this year while it lasts.

  6. Great choices, J. The Barlow and Holland books are some of the most important for Mormons. And of course, the JSPP volumes. 2015 will be the banner year though. Better get going people. Time is running out for Christmas gifting. I think Santa is bringing that lost tribes thing and the Belnap book. Ho ho ho.

  7. Good list, J. I will endorse your recommendation of the Harper Collins Study Bible as a big help in understanding the bible, plus for LDS readers, the NRSV is close enough to the KJV for comfort, and retains much of the poetic and literary feel of the KJV passages we all are familiar with. I’ve got an older version, and have found it invaluable.

  8. No Bokovoy Authoring the Old Testament for the OT list?!

  9. J. Stapley says:

    jpv, is that available anywhere?

  10. Where can I found more information about By Our Rites of Worship? Is it just a collection of previously published articles?

  11. J. Stapley says:

    Niklas, I do think that it is odd that the publisher hasn’t posted the table of contents anywhere. If you go to the amazon page you can “look inside” and see the table of content (without author list) there. These are previously unpublished essays. For example, my chapter is on the development of the modern Mormon healing ritual.

  12. Thanks Stapley, I didn’t realize that I could use Amazon’s ‘look inside’. It is odd indeed, that there isn’t more detailed description anywhere.
    Are they all really unpublished? Some of them sound a lot like the articles in last year’s IJMS (Dusting the feet and Embodiment).
    I might still consider buying it, it’s quite cheap as ebook in Deseret book right now.

  13. J. Stapley says:

    Well, shows what I know! Belnap’s and Reeve’s articles looks very similar. I don’t know if they were edited or revised for the book.

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