January of 2008 found my writing in limbo. I was waiting to hear from an editor about a manuscript. Without my book to focus on my brain didn’t know how to occupy itself anymore. I found myself aimlessly surfing the internet for loooong periods of time. I was cranky and dissatisfied. What was I going to do (you know, besides the piles of laundry and dishes and taking care of my kids)?
Like any good product of the YWs Personal Progress program *wink*, I set a goal. To be specific, I set a goal to read one book a week for the entire year. It seemed like a lot to me at the time. (I got schooled by Th. who has read twice as many and I’ve heard authors/writers like Tristi Pinkston read hundreds of books a year.) I was pretty jazzed about my goal but I quickly realized that my previous reading habits (which included lots of historical nonfiction, regular nonfiction, and “literary” novels) would kill it. Those books are too hard/engrossing for me to read in a single week. I tend to let books tell me how to read them and most of those kinds of books want to be read slowly.
I ended up reading a lot of fiction, more than I have since my literature survey courses in college. And, surprisingly, over half of my 52 books were LDS/Mormon titles. I inter-library loaned almost all of them since there are only a few at my local library and I’m not made of money. Here’s a rundown of those titles split into categories of “Must own”, “Worth the inter-library loan wait”, and “If someone happens to hand it to you, why not?” So if you are still shopping for a literature lover (or yourself!) here are some ideas (beside William’s hawt AMV t-shirts).
Must own books
*Bound on Earth by Angela Hallstrom. This book has been blogged and blogged about. I personally think it marks a change in what LDS women can/will write.
*The Pictograph Murders by Patricia Karamesines. There was such a spirit of grace and charity about this book–even though it was a riveting murder mystery! Definitely worth it.
*Angel of the Danube by Alan Rex Mitchell. I *heart* this book! Okay, that was unnecessarily cheesy, but I LOVED this one. A fictional sort-of-memoir with a main character that was so run-of-the-mill Mormon I couldn’t help but identify with him. AML Novel of the Year awhile back.
*On the Road to Heaven by Coke Newell. There’s no way you haven’t heard of this one. Whitney Award winner and AML Novel of the Year. Good, good book.
*The Earthkeepers by Marilyn McMeen Miller Brown. This beats out any pioneer story I’ve read. Loved the addtion of American Indian characters. Wanted more from them actually. That’s the book’s only flaw in my mind. This book deserves a full on review but I’m worried that I’m hogging the blog so I haven’ t done it yet.
Worth the inter-library loan wait
*The Backslider by Levi Peterson. It’s a Mormon classic. You can’t talk about LDS literature without having read this one. Well, you can. But you’re missing out. It is a little graphic and rough (which makes me hesitant to own it. What if my children find it? How do I explain the masturbation and the self-mutilation and castration? Talk about awkward!), but portions of it are devestatingly beautiful. There were paragraphs I read multiple times simply because they were so well written.
*Not In Vain: The inspiring story of Ellis Shipp, pioneer woman doctor. by Susan Evans McCloud. This book is a biography of Ellis Shipp, one of the first female doctors in Utah. Oh, and she was also Mormon and married to a man with other wives. Shipp’s story is riveting, and its implications for our modern culture of LDS women are huge, but McCloud’s telling is overly romantic and taxed the patience of this reader. This story could use another telling. I hope there’s a historical fiction writer somewhere out there who’s up for it.
*Heresies of Nature by Margaret Blair Young. Beautifully written–the metamorphosis of Cody is crazy/cool– but so, so, so sad. Bummed me out for a couple days. But worth it.
*Lost Boys: A Novel by OSC. You actually don’t need to ILL this one. It’s probably in the stacks. Interesting take on Mormon life. The Mormon characters seemed a little contrived and the bad guys were almost too bad to be believable, but in essence it portrays Mormon mindsets pretty well. Oh, and the Atari/Commodore 64 stuff made it feel dated, but not dated enough to be vintage.
*Angel Falling Softly by Eugen Woodbury. I was really shocked by this one the first time I read it (lesbian vampire sex scene!). Interested enough, though, that I went back and read it again. It’s not on my “must own” simply because I’m still not sure how I feel about it. I also think it didn’t go quite far enough. There were some essentially Mormon questions that it toyed with but, in my opinion, should have wrestled with. Good read though. Loved the comparison of bubbling cider and Utah culture. Laughed out loud.
If someone happens to hand it to you, why not?
*Princess Academy by Shannon Hale. If I were, like, eleven, I would love this book. Good message about the power of good friends and community.
*Hooligan: A Mormon Boyhood by Douglas Thayer. I didn’t understand this book, but that might be because I’m not a ten year old boy growing up in rural Utah. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read it.
*Salvador by Margaret Blair Young. Literary equivalent of ordering a hamburger and only getting the bun. Not bad, just unsatisfying.
*Funeral Home Evenings (Kevin Kirk Chronicles, 2) and Early-Morning Cemetery by Patricia Wiles. Diverting enough for books aimed at young readers. I really appreciated how these books weren’t set in Utah.
*A Soul So Rebellious and its sequels by Mary Sturlaugson Eyer. Found these memoir of the first black LDS woman to serve a mission on the “free” table at Church. I think they could’ve used some better editing. The author was always telling her history inside of another, almost more interesting, saga. The first book is told as she is waiting for very, very, very white fiancee to meet her very, very black family. But the book doesn’t tell that story. It’s about how she joined the Church. It frustrated me. Of course, given Eyer’s place in our history, these are important books. I’m glad I found them.
*Charlie’s Monument by Blaine Yorgasen. This is such quintessential Mormon Literature. You can get used copies of it cheap. Worth knowing about.
I learned a lot about myself reading these books and I look forward to another year of voracious reading. Be sure to leave me your recommendations in the comments. Oh, and happy (you’ve only got six shopping days left–act fast if you have to ship something) shopping!