2021 Christmas gift book guide

Another Christmas season is upon us. Sorry for getting the list out a little late. My supply chain was constrained.

First: The Life and Faith of Emma Smith (Deseret Book, 2021), $23
Eugene England: A Mormon Liberal (UI Press, 2021) $15 [paper]
B. H. Roberts: A Life in the Public Arena (Signature, 2021), $35

We are leading out with biographies. Jenny Reader’s biography of Emma does a lot of good work. Check out our Q&A here to get a sense of the book. Kristine Haglund brings a sophisticated and empathetic reading to Eugene England, one of our greatest essayists. Ben’s review is here. And B.H. Roberts is a perennial favorite of thinky Saints. I understand Sillitoe does good work.
Zion Earth Zen Sky (Maxwell Inst, 2021), $20
Where the Soul Hungers: One Doctor’s Journey from Atheism to Faith (Maxwell Inst, 2021), $13
All Things New: Rethinking Sin, Salvation, and Everything in Between (Faith Matters, 2020) $23

Devotional volumes are regular favorites. Jared gives us a stirring review of Inouye’s recent volume. Sam Brown is a dear friend and prolific human. His thoughts are always interesting and profound. Lastly we have the Givenses’ latest. By now, I think you should have some sense of what to expect there.
Joseph Smith for President: The Prophet, the Assassins, and the Fight for American Religious Freedom (Oxford, 2021), $10
The Reed Smoot Hearings: The Investigation of a Mormon Senator and the Transformation of an American Religion (USU Press, 2021), $46

Spencer McBride is the host for the JSP Podcast. I wish I could listen to his smooth tones read this history of JS’s presidential run (and more). Paulos and Hansen’s treatment of the Smoot Hearings (you know that time a church president testified before congress that he hadn’t received any revelations) has been long anticipated.
Let’s Talk about Polygamy (Deseret Book, 2021), $12
Mormonism and the Movies (BCC Press, 2021), $15
Real vs. Rumor: How to Dispel Latter-day Myths (Deseret, 2021), $20

This section is a bit of a pick-a-mix. Brittany Chapman’s discussion of polygamy is frank and fair. Hats off to Deseret for publishing this volume. Though not Christmasy, after studying 132 this fall, I think that there are more than a few that could use it. The movies volume is an edited collection. Check out the intro and table of contents here. Lastly is a volume from Deseret that I wish they would have made Timothy Ballard read.
The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha (Oxford UP, 2021), $27
Introduction to the Hebrew Bible (Fortress, 2018), $51

It is the Hebrew Bible for Sunday School this year, and that means you need a good study bible. If you don’t have one, Oxford’s was recently updated (and is the one Elder Holland uses). The Harper Collins’ Study Bible is great as well. I picked up Alter’s translation for 80% off and am looking forward to using it. It is also nice to have a good overview and John Collins’ introduction is a great choice. Pro tip: the second edition is the exact same content (just laid out differently), and can be found used for cheap.
Book Of Mormon Brief Theological Introduction Box Set (Maxwell Inst, 2020), $80
The Anatomy of Book of Mormon Theology, Volume One (Kofford, 2021), $30 [paper]

On the Book of Mormon front, the Maxwell Institute is now selling a box set of their fabulous brief theological intros. And Joseph Spencer (another fount of prolificacy) has a two volume theological “anatomy” of the Book of Mormon out as well.

Future Day Saints: The Gnolaumite Crystal (Private, 2021), $30
This is the second volume of the Future Day Saints saga. It is a rich graphic novel that builds off of 2020’s Welcome To New Zion. Really extraordinary.
All That She Carried: The Journey of Ashley’s Sack, a Black Family Keepsake (Random House, 2021), $25
A Nation of Descendants: Politics and the Practice of Genealogy (UNC Press, 2021), $30 [paper]

Lastly: the gentile picks (though the history of genealogy touches on our people, unsurprisingly). A Nation of Descendants isn’t exactly accessible, but it is good. And perhaps you have heard of Ashley’s Sack. The enslavement of black people isn’t easy to read about. But this bit of material culture and its intersection with family history should be a connection that makes sense within our community.


  1. May I add one? Decolonizing Mormonis: Approaching a Poatcolonia;Zion edited by Gina Colvin and Joana Brooks.

  2. Tim Ballard doesn’t need to read Real vs Rumor if the editors at DB would–and then vet manuscripts accordingly.

  3. Looking forward to Kristine’s England bio. I already read the less empathetic version.

  4. J. Stapley says:

    Thanks all. Just a quick note that I spaced it and have updated the post to include the latest volume of Future Day Saints!

  5. Aussie Mormon says:

    Where did Elder Holland say he used that particular annotated study bible?

  6. J. Stapley says:
  7. Andrew Hall says:

    There are two YA novels with LDS characters that I highly recommend.

    Rosalyn Eves, “Beyond the Mapped Stars”, set in the 1870s, a rural Utah Mormon teenaged girl travels to Colorado to participate in the viewing of a solar eclipse and become a scientist.

    James Goldberg and Janci Patterson. “The Bollywood Lover’s Club”. A contemporary high school romance between an Indian-American Mormon boy and a Indian-American Sikh girl.

    Other notable 2021 LDS-themed literature:
    D. J. Butler and Aaron Michael Ritchey. “The Jupiter Knife”. Sequel to The Cunning Man, fantasy novel set in 1930s Utah.
    Levi S. Peterson. “Losing a Bit of Eden”. Short fiction collection.

  8. I believe you are mixing up the study Bible that Elder Holland was referring to. He spoke of “the Oxford Study Bible, which is based on the Revised English Version.” That title with that translation seems to refer to this volume from 1992: https://www.amazon.com/Oxford-Study-Bible-Revised-Apocrypha/dp/0195290003. The New Oxford Annotated Bible has a different title and uses a different translation, the NRSV (with the most recent edition being published in 2018, not 2021 as described above). This identification is strengthened by Elder Holland’s explanation that his choice stems from his “devotion to things British,” as the Revised English Bible is a British translation used by many Anglicans.

    Regardless, your point remains that Elder Holland’s personal practice does endorse study Bibles as a helpful tool. The New Oxford Annotated Bible is a solid choice, comparable to the HarperCollins Study Bible.

  9. Aussie Mormon says:

    Thanks J.
    Not sure how I missed that when I read the article.

  10. It’s at the top of the BCC page, so it is sort of included here, but certainly also Blair Ostler’s book on Queer Mormon Theology is on my list to get.

  11. It’s at the top of the BCC page, so it is sort of included here, but certainly also Blair Ostler’s book on Queer Mormon Theology is on my list to get.
    And it is not a new offering, but the more I have read George Handy’s “American Fork,” the more I have found that that it is just stunningly wonderful in its breadth and beautifully intimate in its emotional precision. I will never look at a flower the same again. I am going to try to get it for my siblings’ et al gift this year.

  12. J. Stapley says:

    Thanks for all the suggestions. The omissions of fiction were particularly egregious.

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