2017 Christmas Gift Book Guide

Well, despite Relief Society and Priesthood moving to GenCon talks for three out of four weeks, we can collectively appreciate that they have resisted the impulse towards entirely topic-based lessons for Sunday School. 2018 is time for the Hebrew Bible, or at least topical lessons at least tangentially related to the Hebrew Bible. Fortunately, there is a lot more to read than the Sunday School lesson manual.

The Harper Collins Study Bible (HarperOne, 2006), $25.60
Rereading Job (Kofford, 2014), $20.95
The Sun Has Burned My Skin (BCC Press, 2017), $7.95

The Hebrew Bible is perhaps the least favorite quartile of our Gospel Doctrine regimen. I am certainly not alone in my general ignorance. Getting a high quality non-KJV study Bible is essential. The folks around here like Harper Collins’. 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. Michael Austin is a regular here, and his volume on Job is not only helpful in expanding perspectives on that book, but the entire Hebrew Bible. Check out Jason’s review. And let’s be frank, the Song of Songs isn’t going to appear in the curriculum next year. But Adam has given us an insightful remake of the book, and you can read Angela’s recent review here.

A House Full of Females (Knopff, 2017), $23.59
At the Pulpit (Church Historian’s Press, 2017), $29.25
Feeding the Flock (Oxford UP, 2017), $31.58

Laurel’s House Full of Females is a remarkable volume, and perhaps this year’s must-read. The subtitle is misleading, and it took me a few chapters to figure out what was going on, but it is a truly an important contribution. She takes early Mormonism through the eyes and experiences of mostly women. Check out Blair’s brief excerpt and links, as well as the JI’s summer book club with write-ups on each chapter. I opened up my review for At the Pulpit with a proposition: “As women have composed the majority of church members, we cannot comprehend the church without accounting for the voices and experiences of women.” This volume contributes to this accounting by giving previously difficult to access sermon materials from the entirety of church history. Also, I think Givensesque is now an official thing. And Feeding the Flock is. And he is writing about things that are really interesting to me (practice, ecclesiology, etc.). Also for the extra nerdy, the annual Joseph Smith Papers volumes—for 2017, Documents, Volume 5 and Volume 6—are always a solid choice.

Mother’s Milk (BCC Press, 2017), $5.97
The Burning Point (BCC Press, 2017), $7.77
Science the Key to Theology (BCC Press, 2017), $7.77
That We May Be One (Deseret Book, 2017), $13.10

BCC Press is on a roll and offer this year’s devotional items and explorations. Mother’s Milk is Rachel’s poetry with Ashmae’s artwork all reflecting on motherhood and divinity. Read Adam’s review for a taste. Tracy’s Burning Point is a memoir. Love, children, conversion, opioid addiction, divorce, reconstruction, death, and resolution. Michael’s introduction is fair and true. I was fortunate enough to hear Tracy speak and I continue to reflect on the wisdom of her experiences. Steve’s volume on theology and science is fascinating, and fun. You can see his own intro here. If you are at all interested in taking the universe seriously, or even just not rejecting the fundamental science that makes the smart phone you are using actual work, then this is a great start (and it is just that) to a surprising exploration. Tom Christofferson’s book on being gay and Mormon is really quite important. Hat’s off to Deseret for publishing it. Honestly, check out Julie’s review and not be compelled and moved.

A World Ablaze (Oxford UP, 2017), $20.14
The Unintended Reformation (Harvard UP, 2017), $31.50/$17.45

I recently started having to drive a bit for work and then became converted to the idea of podcasts, though I’ve only been faithful to one (I don’t drive that much): The Maxwell Institute Podcast. It’s brilliant, and from it I heard interviews with both Craig Harline and Brad Gregory. It is the 500th anniversary of Reformation and BYU had a thing. Craig’s book is a biography of Luther which is as accessible as it is informative. Theses and doors are not what you think they are. Brad’s book is disconcerting in the best ways. We see how the Reformation and commerce interplay.


The Power of Godliness (Oxford UP, 2018) $25.14
Look, I’ve been doing this list for over a decade, and it is time to finally and shamefully promote my own book that is coming out too late for Christmas (February 2018). It is a pretty nifty work on priesthood, authority, and gender using liturgy as the exploratory mechanism. I’ll be doing some events along the Wasatch front during the week of February 19th in support of the release. I think that there will be more than a few surprises, even for those up on the related fields.


  1. Benjamin Park says:

    Since you are too modest, J, allow me to be more forthright:

    Stapley’s forthcoming book is a phenomenal work that everyone should buy. Your friends and family might be a little disappointed when they open up the present to find a preorder receipt, but they’ll get over it when they finally get the book and are blown away.

  2. J. Stapley says:

    Thanks Ben!

    I also forgot to add Tom Christofferson’s That We May Be One, and have updated it.

  3. Hey Jonathan do you know if your book is going Kindle/iBooks at all?

  4. I think those interested in the above will also want to pre-order this: Foundational Texts of Mormonism

  5. J. Stapley says:

    Clark, it should be on Kindle. I don’t know anything about iBooks, but that isn’t to say that it won’t.

    EmJen, I’m really looking forward to that one. I’ve looked over Bill Smith’s shoulder and his chapter alone is amazing. Can’t wait to read the entire thing.

  6. I always appreciate this list. Especially looking forward to your book. No shame! Congratulations!

  7. J. Stapley says:

    Also, everyone should note that the OUP volumes are on sale 50% off at the OUP website if you use the code HOLIDAY17. That text EmJen linked to all of the sudden becomes reasonable with that.

  8. J, I find out about the discount on your book after pre-ordering it’s full price. But from everything I know and hear about it, it is worth every penny I spent on it, and I won’t cancel and reorder for fear of losing my place in the queue.

  9. Dang it. Too much to read again.

  10. Nice! With the promo code [HOLIDAY17] I picked up Power of Godliness for $20.00 with shipping. At the same time I ordered Foundational Texts of Mormonism: $37.00. Richard Bushman’s piece on Mormon “plates” in that volume is not to be missed.

  11. I got Tom Christofferson’s book for $10.99 for my Kindle App on my iPad. It is a great read.

  12. I can recommend the 2d Edition of the Jewish Study Bible for this year in particular. Also my feelings about Michael Austin’s Job is unparalleled as I’ve said here. https://ldsmag.com/article-1-14739/

  13. PS. I’ll make sure you get some pub elsewhere on your book (which I’m looking forward to).

  14. J. Stapley says:

    Thanks Terry!

  15. I look for this every year and kicked myself when I was out and about yesterday without first having checked for this post. Thank you! We have a great shelf of books because of these recommendations over the years. Off to hunt for my husband’s annual LDS Christmas book now…

  16. Elaine Brighton says:

    The best translations of and commentaries on the Hebrew Bible are by Jewish scholars.
    I highly recommend: Abraham J Heschel’s magisterial 2 volume work The Prophets
    Robert Alter (Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Lit at UC Berkeley): The Five Books of
    Moses, The Wisdom Books, The David Story, The Book of Psalms, The Art of Biblical Narrative,
    and The Art of Biblical Poetry
    Anything by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks

  17. J. Stapley says:

    Excellent additions, Elaine.

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