My 2008 Literature Wish List

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

*Enna Burning by Shannon Hale. Read my  previous review and read Patricia Karamesines review. A chick who can control fire? Sweet!

*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.

*This is What I Did: by Ann Dee Ellis. Read my review and interview here.

*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.

*Kindred Spirits by Chris Bigelow. I reviewed this before and didn’t like it so much.  This book is a great conversation piece.

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.

*The Twilight Saga by Stephenie Meyer. Nuff said. You want more? Submit a paper here.

*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!

10 thoughts on “My 2008 Literature Wish List”

  1. These are some great quick takes, Laura.

    Out of your must read list, I’m ashamed to admit that I haven’t read _Bound on Earth_ (although don’t tell Angela Hallstrom, but I have read the thesis it was based on) and _The Earthkeepers_.

    And for some reason, I also haven’t read any Shannon Hale except for _Austenland_. I should remedy that.

    Also: you’re not hogging the blog.

  2. .

    I may have read more total books than you, but I’ve also read a lot more books than myself compared to last year. The trick is I’ve upped the comics.

    Speaking of comics, I recommend ILLing Mike and Laura Allred’s Madman. Start with Gargantua if you can. It took me a while to get into Madman, but the longer you read it, the deeper it slips into Mormony philosophizing. It’s fun. And if you enjoy those 850 pages, there are more volumes being released regularly.

    The best Mormon book I read this year was Nephi Anderson’s Dorian — a classic. (Discover why Theric calls Anderson the Mormon Austen! Read Dorian!)

    There aren’t that many LDS books I read this year that you don’t already know, but here are the others I would suggest:

    Added Upon by Nephi Anderson: Not nearly as good as Dorian but reading it was good for two reasons: I understood LDS Lit much better afterwards and it just makes you feel good.

    The Enoch Letters by Neal A Maxwell (also published as Of One Heart: This bit of epistolary fiction is hugely didactic, but it’s changed the way I think about Zion permanently.

    Survival Rates by Mary Clyde: Great short story collection.

    Long After Dark by Todd Robert Petersen: An even better short story collection. Actually, perhaps the best short story collection I’ve ever read.

    A Lion and a Lamb by Rand H. Packer: Not a brilliantly written book, but the story is one of my favorite and the book is very charming.

    The Marketing of Sister B by Linda Hoffman Kimball: Actually, I didn’t like this book, but I would love to complain about it with you.

    A War of Gifts: An Ender Story by Orson Scott Card: Yes, I read him too. And this one’s great, but an even better Christmas story is his Homeless in Hell. Check it out.

    Now remember everyone, before rushing off to Amazon, click on William’s new link up in the corner there.

    (Or, if you’ve already wended your way to my site, all my links are hooked up to Amazon too and I’ll gladly take a teeny percentage of your purchase. Remember: it’s not a popularly contest. Vote with your heart.)

  3. Good list, I agree with most of it. I would only disagree with placing The Princess Acadamy so low, I thought it was a brilliant work, and the kids liked it as well. I started The Pictograph Murders once, but failed to get into it, I know I should try again. I read Hallstrom, Ellis, and Newell this year, all great. I hope Angela wins some year-end awards.

    Other recent Mormon books I read in 2008:
    Martine Leavitt, _Keturah and Lord Death_, a fantasy about a poor, gifted peasant girl who gets lost in a forest, and meets Death. Like Card and Hale, Leavitt tells a good story, giving ordinary young people the opportunity to act heroic.

    I may have juvinille literature on the brain. We have a long commute to elementary school, and my 9-year old loves listening to audio books. After finishing Harry Potter, we have included many Mormon authors, including Hale and Leavitt. We also read Patricia Wiles’ first two Kevin Kirk novels, _My Mom’s a Mortician_ and _Funeral Home Evenings_. Like you, I was not blown away by them, but I think they were perfect for my son. Interesting tales in which Mormonism is presented in both a spiritual and realistic context, like committed parents who make big mistakes. The discription of the boy’s growing spirituality was nicely handled.

    Oh, another Hale book. _Rapunzel’s Revenge_, a graphic “novel” for kids, co-written with husband Dean and illustrated by not-related Nathan Hale. Very clever, another good bedtime book for a week or so.

    Orson Scott Card’s three recent books _Empire_ (a near-future political thriller about a new American civil war between the left and right), _The Space Boy_ (a short novel about a family who discovers a dangerous portal to another world), and _A War of Gifts_ (an Ender Christmas tale) were all forgetable at best. I especially disliked Empire. I have hopes for a comeback with _Ender in Exile_.

    Dean Hughes, _Before the Dawn_. In the Great Depression, prickly farm woman becomes Relief Society president in a small Utah town. Hughes is a great storyteller, with a fine nose for moral cunundrums in Mormon society.

  4. Thanks for all the recommendations, guys! I look forward to reading them. I’ve already read _Added Upon_ and liked it. It was alright. It seems like the kind of book most Mormon authors set out to write but then don’t because Andersen already did it (and so did _Saturday’s Warrior_). I’ve also read _The Enoch Letters_. It was nice enough. Oh, and I read a bunch of Dean Hughes when I first got married seven years ago but haven’t done much since. He was fun. I’m interested in reading the follow up novel about the little sister in his other series. (How’s that for vague!) Same with OSC–haven’t read much of him lately but look forward to checking out the new stuff. Like I said I’m interested in reading all these 🙂

    Oh, and Theric–I tried to link most of the titles through Amazon associates so the donations should work.

    William–What did you like about _The Marketing of Sister B_? You and Theric will have to argue about it until I’ve had a chance to ILL it.

  5. .

    Seriously, William. What did you like about it? I mean — it was better than, say, Baptists at Our Barbecue, but it wasn’t great. And it killed me because it was so few rewrites away from excellence.

    Amazing the difference a few rewrites will make….

  6. My favorite Card novels are Enchanted and Pastwatch. Both excellent. My favorite Hale book is Princess Academy. Another YA book I enjoyed reading is Pillage by Obert Skye. I haven’t read his Leven Thumps books, but I quite enjoyed this unrelated book. Another YA author to check out is Jessica Day George. She won the Whitney award for best new author, and her books are very good.

  7. Marny,

    I also quite enjoyed Pillage I thought it presented a non-didactic but insightful discussion of greed. This was a book my wife and I stayed up late talking about.

    There are a few authors who really speak to me, regardless of the quality or depth of their writing. One, for whatever reason, is Obert Skye. I identify really profoundly with Leven Thumps. Perhaps because we have similar imaginations – I don’t know. I haven’t read the fourth yet, but the other three are meaningful to me. I recognize that they’re not the most masterful works ever, but I find them far more insightful and less clunky than say, Fablehaven or other similarly targeted books. I think Skye entices young people to think and rewards them for doing it.

  8. Wow! What an inspiration! My reading has fallen short of what it used to be, as writing has taken the foreground. My new goal? To read a book a week. Sure, I am running for Mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah. The reading can only empower me further! All I can say is WOW! Thanks for the inspiration!

    I have placed your site in my fav’d links on my main blog at

    Thanks again!

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