Stapley’s 2015 Christmas gift book guide

Another year, another Christmas gift book guide.

Hardy, The Book of Mormon: A Reader’s Edition (UI Press), $21-$59
Faulconer, The Book of Mormon Made Harder (MI) $20
Mackay and Dirkmaat, From Darkness Unto Light: Joseph Smith’s Translation and Publication of the Book of Mormon (RSD/Deseret) $25
Givens, By the Hand of Mormon (Oxford UP) $14 [see comments for discount]

We are back to the Book of Mormon. Topical Gospel Doctrine is yet forestalled another year (thankfully). Hardy’s reader’s edition is based on the 1921 text, but it is organized like a study bible and really changes how you approach the text. It is really great. Faulcner’s series is a play on the “made easier” shtick that seems popular in some areas. It is basically a series of questions (not answers) and is designed for fresher, deeper readings. Here is a review of his D&C volume. From Darkness Unto Light was written by a couple of JSPP alums and revisits the translation and publication of the Book of Mormon. They include some really interesting new material and treat things like seer stones very clearly. They also hired an artist to create new pieces depicting the translation (with hat, etc.)—pretty cool for a volume with a church-owned publishing house. Last is Givens’ perennial history of the Book of Mormon. Remember: “dialogic revelation.” The kids might like the iPlates series, and if you have the wallet for it, the JSPP’s full color publication of the printer’s manuscript (vol. 1 and vol. 2) will delight the nerdcore at $90 a pop.

Jensen & McKay-Lamb, A Book of Mormons: Latter-day Saints on a Modern-Day Zion (White Cloud), $15 [see comments for discount]
Peck, Evolving Faith: Wandering of a Mormon Biologist (MI) $20
Miller, Grace is Not God’s Backup Plan (Independent) $10

Emily Jensen and Tracy McKay-Lamb are frequent contributors here, so you may know of their awesomeness. With A Book of Mormons they gathered dozens of smart, faithful, and diverse Mormons to write about Zion in the context of now. We should have a review soon. Steve Peck also writes around here enough to be familiar: BYU Prof, evolutionary biologist, award winning fiction author (more on this later). The Maxwell Institute has published this blend of previous and new writings, which probes evolution, God, time, and the universe. Check out Evans’ review and Jana Reiss’ interview. I wish the cover art was made by Elder Packer, though. Adam Miller is also associated with the Maxwell Institute, and Blair interviewed him about this book on the MI podcast. Jason K. reviewed it here, and he provided an excerpt here. This is a paraphrase of Paul’s letter to the Romans (tldr: provocative).

Hall, A Faded Legacy: Amy Brown Lyman and Mormon Women’s Activism, 1872-1959 (UU Press) $35
Hedges, et al., JSP, Journals, Vol. 3: May 1843-June 1844 (Church Historian’s Press) $57
Reeve, Religion of a Different Color (Oxford UP) $33 [see comments for discount]

David Hall has been working on this biography of Amy Lyman for a long time and it was just released. There are no reviews yet, but you can get a taste for Hall’s work in his award-winning article on women’s activism and the Relief Society. I think this is the most important book on Mormonism and Women to be published this year, and perhaps in a long time. The final installment of Joseph Smith’s journals was just published as well (like this week). This volume tackles a lot of really important information and covers events leading to his death (temple, polygamy, theocracy, etc.). And lastly we have Paul Reeve’s volume on race and Mormonism. I had a brief review, as did Kevin. Ardis gave an excellent summary of the arguments in the volume as a comment. This one is clearly on the short list of required reading in Mormon history, I think.


Peck, Wandering Realities: Mormonish Short Fiction (Zarahemla) $15
As mentioned above, Steve is gifted in many fields. He has been called the greatest contemporary Mormon author of fiction. Evans reviewed this new collection of short fiction here. Not much more we can say, really.

Mormon Studies Review $25 ($10 digital)
Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought $50 ($25 digital) [see comments for discount]
Journal of Mormon History $70 ($30 digital)
BYU Studies Quarterly (currently offline – call only)

The annual subscriptions. The Mormon Studies Review is one of three journals by the 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, but you get digital access to all the journals with either paper or digital only subscription. 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.


  1. J. Stapley says:

    If you enter HOLIDAYSALE15 at checkout, with Oxford, you can get many of their titles at 50% off:

    That includes Religion of a Different Color, and By the Hand of Mormon

  2. Kevin Barney says:

    OK, now I’m totally confused about something. Boty Amazon and the JSP site has the JSP Printer’s manuscript in only two volumes, as you recite in the post. But at JWHA I held the physical books in my hands (because I was flirting with buying them), and there were definitely three volumes, not two (which is why I didn’t pull the trigger, as I couldn’t justify $270 when I already have the typescript volume and the JSP volumes will eventually be online). So what’s the deal? Are these in two volumes or three? And if in two, was I hallucinating when I saw them printed and bound in three separate volumes?

  3. J. Stapley says:

    Huh. Volume 2 goes through Moroni, Kev. Looks like it is just two.

  4. Kevin Barney says:

    Yeah, I saw that on the Amazon Table of Contents. Someone at JWHA actually explained to me that they had to divide it into three volumes because with all the pictures of the manuscript it would have been too heavy to bind in fewer volumes. If anyone affiliated with the JSPP sees this, I would like to know if you really redid the printed publication to fit into two volumes.

  5. Matt Godfrey says:

    There are only two volumes of the Printer’s Manuscript, not three. Sorry for the confusion!

  6. J., I think a major book missing from your list is Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings. It’s a great compilation (and it’s also via Oxford and 50% off today). Steenblik, Wheelwright and Brooks have put together a thought-provoking volume that contains many classics from the last 40 years. I recommend it.

  7. Hear, hear! Mormon Feminism!

  8. Kevin Barney says:

    Thanks for confirming, Matt, I appreciate it. That might change my buying decision…

  9. You can get an electronic subscription to Dialogue for $10 today using the code CYBER.

    Also, our A Book of Mormons is half off at White Cloud Press through December.

    Also I’m bummed I missed the 30% off one book at amazon that ended yesterday as there are many good books out this year!

  10. J. Stapley says:

    Awesome. Thanks, EmJen.

  11. Thanks J. (and Steve) for the heads up. Just picked up a couple from Oxford.

  12. Olde Skool says:

    No poetry? Philistines.

  13. No art or music? Philistines.

    But seriously, this is helpful, J., especially if I can manage to order things today. Thanks!

  14. Kent Larsen says:

    Only one work of fiction?? Philistines.

  15. What Steve said. Mormon Feminism is a glaring omission.

  16. I have been looking forward to this for weeks. Thanks!

  17. Oh! I was wrong. The HOLIDAY30 promo taking off 30% off any one book in amazon still works! Go forth and buy one of the above or Mormon Feminism. Or Calvin and Hobbes. Or America’s Test Kitchen.

  18. No Mormon Feminism? Stapley, what gives?!

    It was also having a half off Cyber Monday sale today….

  19. Brad Kramer says:

    That’s a pretty conspicuous and inexplicable omission. I mean, a lot of good work on this list, but geez…

  20. Love and appreciate the list. I’ll be teaching the Book of Mormon this year and will definitely be digging into those picks.

    The aside about topical gospel doctrine being forestalled did catch my eye though — is that actually supposed to be happening sometime?

  21. J. Stapley says:

    Katie M., my understanding is that the SS Presidency and curriculum dept. have working on topical adult Sunday School lessons.

  22. J. Stapley, that will be another sad step in the “Oprahization” of the Gospel Doctrine curriculum. Perhaps I’m just a dinosaur who believes in continuing to focus on the scriptures (which can be done effectively with the current curriculum if the instructors actually use and focus on the scriptures themselves rather than simply troll for rote responses from the class)

    As for another book, I have found Brant Gardner’s six volume Second Witness to be fascinating (even though I find I skip quite a bit of the “geography” type comments.) It is pricey but well worth the effort and there’s a lot of valuable information that get’s the reading thinking.

    I would also add Brad Kramer’s Beholding the Tree of Life from Kofford Books which is a fascinating look at a unique approach to the Book of Mormon. James Faulconer’s Book of Mormon made harder is also a good stocking stuffer.

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