2014 Christmas gift book guide

I’m starting to really believe that the older you get, the brain really does process time differently, the perception of it being accelerated. Welcome to another year of the BCC annual Christmas gift book guide. 2014 was a pretty fine year.

Brown, First Principles and Ordinances: The Fourth Article of Faith in Light of the Temple (Maxwell Inst.), $15
McBaine, Women at Church: Magnifying LDS Women’s Local Impact (Kofford), $20
Givens & Givens, The Crucible of Doubt: Reflections On the Quest for Faith (Deseret), $17

Let’s start with this year’s abnormally strong offering of devotional material. Sam Brown’s First Principles looks at Faith, Repentance, and Baptism through the chimeric lens of Joseph Smith’s cosmology and modern lived Mormonism. Speaking of lived Mormonism, McBaine—admin of the Mormon Women Project—offers some compelling thoughts about how to make the church a better place for women, without rupturing our traditional priesthood ecclesiology. I know of one stake who has required all its leaders to read it and think of ways of doing better. Lastly Terryl and Fiona Givens continue on their quest for a kinder faith to agency and doubt (all while publishing with Deseret).

The HarperCollins Study Bible (Harper Collins), $33
Huntsman, The Miracles of Jesus Hardcover (Deseret) $22
Brown, An Introduction to the New Testament (Yale UP) $47
Martin, New Testament History and Literature (Yale UP) $14

Despite rumors of a new curriculum, we are apparently still slated to study the New Testament in adult Sunday School next year. The HarperCollins Study Bible is our perennial recommendation here at BCC, but some permas tried to stage a revolt and supplant it with The Jewish Annotated New Testament. Same translation, different study aids. For an excellent Mormon supplement check out Hunstman’s volume, reviewed emphatically by Michael Austin here. Raymond Brown is a regular (see the guide from 4 years ago), and this is the Anchor Yale Bible Reference Library introduction. Martin’s volume is low cost, and a bit dry, but it is meant to be read as part of the Open Yale Course Introduction to the NT, which is apparently pure gold. We may do a regular audit of the course here at BCC next year.

Austin, Re-Reading Job: Understanding the Ancient World’s Greatest Poem (Kofford Books), $19
Wilcox and Young, Standing Apart: Mormon Historical Consciousness and the Concept of Apostasy (Oxford UP), $36

Interested in reevaluating facile narratives? Austin’s volume on Job has gotten a tremendous amount of love for really digging into the challenging text and pushing readers towards new and poignant religious vistas. Check out Jason’s review. Julie Smith said if you were going to read one Mormonish book this year, it should be Austin’s. However if you are in the mood something else with superlative endorsements, Blair called Standing Apart “the most important Mormon studies book since Bushman’s Rough Stone Rolling.” This volume is the product of an academic conference focused on what the Great Apostasy is and how it has been envisioned though time. I’m more of a history nerd, so I might quibble with both Blair and Julie, but still.

Reeve, Religion of a Different Color: Race and the Mormon Struggle for Whiteness (Oxford UP), $27
Givens, Wrestling the Angel: The Foundations of Mormon Thought: Cosmos, God, Humanity (Oxford UP) $28

If I were to crown a book the must read of the year, I’d probably go with Paul Reeve’s. He was kind enough to share some manuscript chapters with me and I don’t hesitate to recommend it. It is the finest treatment of Mormonism and race to have been written. The problem is that it isn’t guaranteed to be shipped before Christmas. It technically has a January 2, 2015 publication date, but may arrive early. And Givensesque. It is a thing. Sweeping romantic syntheses of the ancient, the historically Christian, and the developmentally Mormon. This might be a good book for someone who is interested in Mormonism’s “deep doctrine” (theosis, Adam-God, whatever) and is ready for something more responsible than those photocopies picked up on the mission.

Harline, The Polygamous Wives Writing Club: From the Diaries of Mormon Pioneer Women (Oxford UP), $27
Turley & Chapman, Women of Faith in the Latter Days: Volume 3: 1846-1870 (Deseret), $27

Polygamy has been in the news a bit. These two books are an opportunity to view its lived practice through the pens of its lived practitioners. Harline’s is entirely focused on polygamy and is organized with it in mind. I wish she would have consistently used manuscript sources, but it is still a very useful volume. Women of Faith is certainly more devotional, but it has some good stuff. See, e.g., the chapter on Mattie Cannon, physician, professional, first female State Senator in the US, and polygamous wife of the SLC Stake President.


Krishna, et al., Girls Who Choose God: Stories of Courageous Women from the Bible (Deseret) $16
Here is a great book for kids. Ardis’s review is really great. Despite the marketing push, this is a solid choice for both boys and girls.

Dirkmaat, et al., JSPP, Documents, Vol. 3: February 1833-March 1834 (Church Historian’s Press), $55
Cannon, et al., The Journals of George Q. Cannon: Hawaiian Mission, 1850-1854 (Deseret) $35

So yeah, this is the third volume of the JSPP documents series. Check out Steve’s “Dilettante’s Guide” of D1 and D2, and my review of D1 for a taste of what is going on here. Definitely nerdcore. The GQC Hawaiian Mission journals are enormous, and the editors pack in a bunch of supplemental information. I tend to think that you will know if this is something your loved-one will want.

Mormon Studies Review $25 ($10 digital)
Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought $50 ($25 digital)
Journal of Mormon History $60 ($25 digital)
BYU Studies Quarterly $30 ($16 digital)

The annual subscriptions, plus a new one. The Mormon Studies Review is the new and quite excellent publication of Maxwell Institute (formerly FARMS). It provides reviews and essays by top scholars of Mormon Studies. This is to keep on top of the field. One issue a year. As before, 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. These three are all quarterly, but BYU Studies is typically significantly less pages than the other two.


I was struggling for the quintessential gentile pick of 2014 with little to show. I asked the council of permas and received the following in order of response:

Tolkein’s Beowulf, $17
Mitchel’s, The Bone Clocks: A Novel, $18
Ottolenghi’s Plenty: Vibrant Vegetable Recipes from London’s Ottolenghi, $21

There was also a comic with a Pizza dog, track-suited eastern-Europeans, and a lot of “bro.” That seemed too odd to me.


  1. Just to clarify, the Polygamous Wives book is based on writings by 29 obscure polygamous women, and half of those writings are in manuscript.

  2. Also, I wasn’t voting to supplant HarperCollins with the JANT as much as to supplement. (Cue Derrida…) Both use the same translation (NRSV), but the notes in the latter add a useful Jewish perspective.

  3. J. Stapley says:

    Thanks Craig, I updated the list to clarify that. And Jason, I wasn’t going to name names.

  4. Dangit, Stapley!

  5. J: I’m okay with people knowing I’m obnoxiously contrarian.

  6. great work, J.

  7. liz johnson says:

    Also a subscription to Exponent II!

  8. This is a wonderful list, J. I have several of the books already so don’t find it at all hard to imagine that the others are chosen with the same care. And thanks for the shout-out to my review. _Girls Who Choose_ is a remarkable book. I hope they do a whole series of the same quality.

    I’m especially looking forward to Paul Reeve’s _Religion of a Different Color_ (the link is to a Facebook page where “likers” can get previews through small daily clips and pictures). I wish it were going to be ready for Christmas — if it isn’t, it should be ready by the time the other Christmas books have been read!

  9. Kevin Barney says:

    Amazon has the release date for Paul’s book as February 2.

  10. Kev, the amazon date is technically one month later than Th official release date. As I understand it there is a good possibility that it will ship in late December. Note that I bungled the amazon link to that book. I’ll fix it as soon as I am able.

  11. Great list, J. I might add, for the more serious among us, Mike Homer’s study of Mormonism and Masonry (University of Utah) and Elizabeth Anderson’s edition of the diaries of Anthony W. Ivins (Signature).

  12. J. Stapley says:

    Gary, absolutely. I haven’t read Mike’s volume, though I heartily enjoyed the Ivins edition. I thought the Ivins volume came out last year and that I included it in last year’s list. Double checking I was right about the release date, but mistaken on my inclusion, which was certainly an oversight last year. It would certainly be a highly desirable gift.

  13. This list includes no Hawkeye. It is therefore invalid.

  14. Kevin Barney says:

    That’s good to know, J. I was thinking of not including it on my wish list for that reason, but if it will be out closer to Christmas, even if a little after, I think I’ll add it. (The alternative being to just buy it myself when it comes out.)

  15. Thanks for the book list, J. These have been very useful over the last few years.

    (Although I am thinking long thoughts about how to process the statement, “the older you get, the brain really does process time differently, the perception of it being accelerated,” in conjunction with the reported release date of Religion of a Different Color.)

  16. Miranda Wilcox says:

    Thanks for the list. Just a clarification about Standing Apart: the book is not a conference proceedings. The conference was organized as a public venue to develop and share our arguments as we prepared the book manuscript.

  17. Great list! I have a few of these already, and a few on order. If I were making such a list, it would more-or-less be the same as my recommended NT reading lists .

  18. It seems like it’s been a bumper-crop year for LDS books. So much good stuff out there.

  19. Quick note: Julie Smith’s revised commentary on the Gospels and Russell Stevenson’s global history of Mormons and blacks will both release before Christmas.


  20. I have read Martin’s “New Testament History and Literature” and it is excellent. One of Professor Martin’s colleagues, Professor Hayes, has authored a related tome for the Open Course Yale Series called “Introduction to the Bible” (the word “Bible” in this context means the Old Testament). It is equally good.

    If you want some lighter fair along the same lines, try “The Bible Tells Me So…” by Peter Enns. He makes a compelling case against scriptural literalism, though his frequent attempts at humor are a bit tiresome and often fall flat.

  21. It must just be presumed that by now everyone owns a copy of Adam Miller’s “Letters to a Young Mormon,” yeah? I know it’s a year old by now, but I don’t think it was on previous lists, and I certainly think it falls in with the “abnormally strong offering of devotional material” category of readings.

  22. Thanks for the correction re. the Ivins diaries, J. I wish I could blame someone other than me…:-)

  23. Yes, Miller’s “Letters to a Young Mormon” is a must.

  24. Great list, thanks for sharing. However, I noticed one worthy book that was not included: “The Life of Orson F. Whitney: Historian, Poet, Apostle.”

  25. Ted Hilliard says:

    I just read Closing the Book on Santa Claus by Ron Chandler. It is a fictionalized narrative of why a Merry Christmas law is needed for our local schools. The story is about a father who tries to save his daughter’s holiday celebration after it is cancelled at the local school. He organizes a rally at city hall, but unexpected calamity prevails. Mr. Chandler shows why character education is as important to children as the memorization of facts and figures. I would recommend this book to other readers, both adults and children. It also includes four additional stories that will brighten everyone’s holiday season. I have decided to endorse this emerging writer because he reflects the conservative values that we need in our society today.

  26. Sounds like a winner, Ted.

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