My 2009 Mormon Literature Wish List

For those of you keeping track: this year I read sixty-eight books (if you don’t include the Calvin and Hobbes and Fox Trot compilations I skim while brushing my teeth and the countless picture books I’ve read my kiddos) and twenty-four of them were Mormon–not quite as many as last year and not enough of them are Mormon classics, but I still stumbled on to some really satisfying reads. Here’s my ranking of the Mormon books I encountered during 2009. (Here’s my 2008 list.) Just in case any of you are still looking for Christmas gifts I’ve conveniently linked the titles to Amazon.com (which means if you buy them after clicking through from AMV some of your money will support the hosting costs for our site! Thanks in advance!!).

Books I wish I owned:

Byuck by our very own Theric, er, I mean, Eric Jepson. This is the best link I could conjure up for this quirky never-published novel about the fight to stay single while attending BYU. So sad it never made it into print. Maybe if we’re all really nice Theric will serialize it on his blog!

No Going Backwards by Jonathon Langdon. Gay Mormon teen. Need more? Then check out the website.

Slumming by Kristen D. Randle (To read my interview with Randle click here.) What I loved about this book was how uncompromisingly Mormon it was and how uncompromisingly national market it was. Okay. It wasn’t exactly Gossip Girl, but the fact that the book works in both worlds made me so happy.

Breaking Rank by Kristen D. Randle. This one had closet Mormons but the teenage protagonist’s decision making process was so true to teenage Mormons. I loved it.

Harvest: Contemporary Mormon Poems I had no idea how awesome Mormon poetry was until I bought this. It was truly the best forty-six cents I ever spent!

The Year My Son and I Were Born: A Story of Down Syndrome, Motherhood, and Self-Discovery by Kathryn Lynard Soper. If you know a Mormon mommy who loves memoirs and haven’t bought this book yet for her, then now is the time. Seriously beautiful book.

Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place by Terry Tempest Williams. I read this one for an ecobiography writing seminar and I was glad. TTW is a controversial and watershed figure not only in Mormon environmental writing but also in Mormon feminist writing and Mormonism as a culture and not just a religion. This book, part memoir and part ecology lesson, is a great place to start with her.

Long After Dark by Todd Robert Petersen. This book really pushed my litmus test, making me extremely uncomfortable in the process, but I felt like it was done artfully and purposefully and that made me glad. Read my interview with Todd Robert Petersen for more.

The Conversion of Jeff Williams by Douglas Thayer. This book about a California teen’s summer in the heartland of Mormonism is the novel that will shut the mouth of all the your Mormon fiction naysaying friends. Beautifully written, intensely thoughtful, this is one that demands repeat readings.

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George. For you readers who love teen fiction (it’s okay to admit it; I do too!) or just enjoy having a thought provoking book to read with your kids, this creative amalgam of Norse mythology and the Cupid/Psyche myth will delight. George is popular for her Dragon Slippers series and if you liked those you will LOVE this one.

The Candy Shop War by Brandon Mull. I love tween literature that encourages questioning and viewpoint broadening without being all Lord of the Flies or One Fat Summer about it. By creating an old lady of dubious motivations who makes candies that give kids super powers Mull does a great job of entertaining and pushing kids to think about consequences without preaching or settling for easy answers. I’m still waiting for a ten year old to read this book so I can chat with them about it. Really well done.

Books that were worth the inter-library loan:

Benediction: a Book of Stories by Neal Chandler. (Not everyone loves this book. A lot of people find it offensive. But I thought it was such a great parody of some of the wilder small town personalities I grew up with. Read my original post here.)

The Only Alien on the Planet by Kristen D. Randle. (Basically a novelization of the old “Cipher in the Snow” story. Interesting!)

Secrets by Blaine M. Yorgason (Quintessential Deseret Book “issue” novel. Tackles an important subject but tends to gloss over the difficulties.)

People of Paradox: A History of Mormon Culture by Terryl L. Givens (Probably the most important book for Mormon culture scholars and you should read it. But you might not tackle it more than once.)

A FUTURE FOR TOMORROW – Surviving Anorexia – My Spiritual Journey by Haley Hatch Freeman (Read my original review here. I also believe that this book should not be read without also reading Michael Greenberg’s Hurry Down Sunshine–just to give some context the psychotic break of it all.)

Books that are worth reading if someone hands it to you:

Circle Dance by Sharlee Mullins Glenn

Hold On, the Light Will Come: And Other Lessons My Songs Have Taught Me by Michael McLean

Abinadi by Heather B. Moore (For more of my thoughts on this book read here.)

River Secrets (The Books of Bayern)River Secrets (The Books of Bayern, #3) by Shannon Hale

Longshot: The Adventures of a Deaf Fundamentalist Mormon Kid and His Journey to the NBA by Lance Allred (My original review.)

Austenland: A Novel by Shannon Hale

Dragon Flight (Dragon Adventures) by Jessica Day George

All this has got me wondering, what Mormon books did you read this year and what did you think? Any you enjoyed enough to shell out money for? I need recommendations for next year!

22 thoughts on “My 2009 Mormon Literature Wish List”

  1. I didn’t read a lot of Mormon books this year, but I did catch Sanderson’s Mistborn trilogy and loved it.

    I also read the new releases in the Fablehaven and Leven Thumps,/i> series, mostly because I started both years ago and wanted to see where they went.

    One interesting one I only just finished was Veil of Darkness by Greg Park. My brother works with the author at Timpanogos High, and he (my brother) asked me to read it and give him my opinion. It’s the first of a trilogy called The Earthsoul Prophecies and I don’t know how to summarize my thoughts, but I’ll be posting a full review on my blog later this month.

    Oh, I think I read some Card this year, too. It would have been the last couple installments of the original Ender series. My thoughts on that.

  2. I’m very impressed, Laura. In fact, your list puts mine to shame. I kept meaning to get to some Mormon oriented titles, but according to my GoodReads account, the only Mormon-themed novel I read this year was The Actor and the Housewife by Shannon Hale. Now, I did read No Going Back (but forget to add it to GoodReads), much of the FOB Bible and two unpublished manuscripts and issues of Dialogue and Irreantum. And I reread Long After Dark. But still — that’s pathetic.

    I need to repent — and use InterLibrary Loan more.

    Also: I’m sure Fablehaven and Leven Thumps are fine fantasy series for young readers, but I bet they aren’t as brilliantly funny as Sanderson’s Alcatraz books.

  3. I’ve read most of the books on your list and agree with your asessments of them. My favorite Mormon book this year was Doug Thayer’s The Tree House. It was simply amazing–I could write an entire post about it.

    Another classic I encountered this year was The Giant Joshua. Again, I just thought it was phenomenal. Along those lines, if you haven’t read anything by Virginia Sorensen I would recommend those for next year.

    As far as national market teen books, I highly recommend Louise Plummer if you haven’t read her books yet. Most of them are not very Mormony except A Dance for Three. Another author I really like is Dean Hughes’ historical novel series.

  4. I’m not sure if you’re including nonfiction, but this year I read both the Spencer W. Kimball biography and the David O. McKay one and thought they were both great–both enlarged my understanding of these men and their time period in Church history. I would particularly recommend buying the Kimball one (Lengthen Your Stride) because it comes with great extras on CD.

  5. Read (fiction):

    Chandler, Neal. Benediction: A Book of Stories.
    Petersen, Todd. Long after Dark.
    Samuelsen, Eric. Singled Out.
    Sanderson, Brandon. Alcatraz Smedry Versus the Evil Librarians.
    —-. Elantris.
    Young, Margaret Blair and Darius Gray. One More River to Cross.

    Read (nonfiction):

    Arrington, James W. The Writing and Production of Here’s Brother Brigham: A One-man Show.
    Millett, Robert L. Parables and Other Teaching Stories. (This book includes illustrations by James Christensen.)

    Bought but not yet finished:

    Bennion, Mark. Psalm & Selah.
    The Fob Bible.

  6. I just read the first Alcatraz book with my son. I agree, it was a very funny book. I loved how it ended with a fantastic dig on the Harry Potter series’ trope of having Harry live with the Dursleys every summer.

    But William, I would say Fablehaven is just as good. Very imaginative, and edge-of-your seat exciting. I haven’t read Leven Thumps.

  7. I’ve been meaning to read Veil of Darkness so I want to see your review Adam.

    lets see, I’ll likely forget a few. read
    Abinadi and it just made me more interested to read Alma because he and his love interest were the best parts of Abinadi.
    David G. Woolleys latest-it was alright but not great.
    Uncut Diamonds-by Karen Gowen it was alright but not generally my thing.
    Tried to read an Anita Stansfield and couldn’t finish, no offense Anita but I just couldn’t care about the character.
    I have started Brandon Sandersons Warbreaker-prologue was great and then got bogged down abit for me-will finish by years end though.
    Brandon Dayton’s Green Monk-very good.
    Kris Cooper’s Noble and Great Ones-art of Book of Mormon-pretty darn good.
    Blackfoot Moonshine Rebellion of 1892 by Ron Carter-pretty good.
    Marcus King:Mormon by Nephi Anderson, like dit more than I expected. I know I am forgetting some but still it was probably double this for non-fiction.
    And lots a of short stories maybe a third thanks to AMV.

    Sorry if I was supposed to stick to things released this year.

  8. .

    Thanks, Laura, for the Byuck plug. My multiple acceptances followed by sudden drops from several publishers have really made me rethink things. I’m not quite where MoJo is, but I am considering it. (Incidentally, Byuck‘s prologue has appeared on AMV.) But you are, of course, right (aren’t you always?): Byuck is brilliant and comes highly recommended.

    Here’s what I’ve read this year (including only books that made my five-at-a-time lists so far in 2009):

    Book of Mormon Stories illustrated by Jerry Thompson and Robert T. Barrett
    Yeah, it has it’s merits and it has its problems. I kind of expected backlash here, but maybe I kept it short enough.

    Bound on Earth by Angela Hallstrom
    Looking back, this was probably the best Mormon book I read all year. Top five overall. You can also read my AMV interview with Angela here. If we’re talking Christmas shopping, this is the book I would get for any reasonably literate woman. (Men too, but you could give them Rift instead, see below.)

    Cypher by Brad Teare
    One of the best comic books I read this year. On AMV, a brief note on the book and also an interview with Teare and his wife.

    For a Good Time by K. Voss
    The great tragedy here is that Voss has dropped off the face of the earth. I wish she had stuck with it. Girl had potential.

    Gravity vs. the Girl by Riley Noehren
    Unquestionably the best comic novel I read this year. No direct Mormon content, but a great bit of fun. Maybe this is the one you should by for the ladies…. Also, my AMV interview with Riley and a couple others.

    Green Monk by Brandon Dayton
    This is inexpensive. Buy two. Pictures and interview on AMV.

    Hooper Haller by Dean Hughes
    I like Dean’s kids books. I like having them around for my kids. They’re pretty much all out of print now but that just makes the shoppiong more fun, right?

    Invincible vol 1 by Ryan Ottley (sorta)
    Ryan Ottley took over the art on this comic partway through and he’s very talented. No real Mormon content, but he through in eastereggs for any LDS fans.

    Love and the Light: An Idyl of the Westland by Orson Ferguson Whitney
    Not bad. This is the source of the phrase A Motley Vision, btw.

    The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance by Elna Baker
    I think you know what I think.

    One silent sleepless night by Spencer W. Kimball
    Unusual sort of memoir. Good for old people. Like, really old.

    The Proviso by Moriah Jovan
    Stay by Moriah Jovan
    Moriah’s work has lots and lots of sex. Just so you know. Here’s my AMV interview with her and a couple others.

    Rift by Todd Robert Petersen
    This is that manly book. (My manly review.)


    Madman Atomic Comics Volume 2 by Mike Allred with Laura Allred
    Superman / Madman Hullabaloo! by the Allreds
    The Allreds are cool. There stuff is as pop chic as it comes. I interviewed the Allreds on AMV.

    By the end of the year I will have added the Best of Mormonism 2009 and Jake Parker’s Missile Mouse to this list.

    I will say though, that for Christmas, the best Mormon lit present will be a subscription to Irreantum. It’s great stuff for a great price.

    (My looks at past issues.)

  9. Can’t believe I only just realized this: there’s a Brandon Mull and a Brandon Sanderson. That would explain some things. . .

    A lot these recommendations are going on my list for 2010. Especially the non-fic. I read a lot of national market non-fiction, but not a lot of Mormon non-fiction (unless you count scriptures and conference talks). I wonder why that is.

    I have to say though, I started _The Giant Joshua_ and hated it. Same goes for Anita Stansfield. (Hmm. Never thought I’d be comparing those two.)

    LOVE Virginia Sorensen and _Bound on Earth_! Might re-read those 🙂

    I should have plugged Dialogue and Irreantum; meant to but forgot so I’m glad you guys mentioned them. I’m especially happy that AMV (mostly William efforts with short story Friday) has helped people find and read a little more Mormon fiction. The best way to grow the market is to participate in it!

  10. I don’t have nearly as much time to read as I’d like, and only a fraction of that is spent reading Mormon literature. Here are some things I read this year:

    “Love Chains,” by Margaret Blair Young
    Beautiful short stories. Amazing writing. Loved it so much.

    “Nothing Very Important,” by Bela Petsco.
    It was good, but not great. Something I’d recommend to folks with a special interest in Mormon literature and art, but otherwise I’d say there’s better stuff in the world to read.

    Plain and Precious Parts of “The Fob Bible,” by lots of cool kids
    Loved it. Some amazing stuff. I particularly enjoyed the story of Abraham and Isaac, but everything was interesting, well-written, and worthwhile. I really want to get my hands on a copy of the whole thing, ’cause so far I’m loving it.

    “Under the Cottonwoods & Other Mormon Stories,” by Douglas Thayer
    Great. Thayer is an incredibly great writer, and these stories are all beautiful and moving and real. It’s hard for me to say whether I liked this one or Margaret Blair Young’s collection of short stories better this year–both are outstanding.

    “Harvest”
    Amazing poetry anthology. Some beautiful, beautiful poems in here.

    “Little Happy Secrets,” by Melissa Leilani Larsen (I also saw her “Standing Still Standing,” which I didn’t like nearly as much, but had some good things in it)
    Great play. The audio version up for free download online is even better than the very, very good New Play Project production that was produced back in March.

    Several plays by Eric Samuelsen, including “Peculiarities” (I think the others were all as-yet-unproduced, but all were great)
    Eric Samuelsen is awesome, and I superlove practically everything I’ve read of his.

    “On Second Thought,” by Robison Wells
    It had sort of a Dave Barry sense of humor for me–the sort of writing that’s trying constantly to be clever and funny, and rarely succeeds at inducing more than a smile. It wasn’t really my thing, though it was an entertaining enough read, and I’m sure there are those who’d love it.

    I re-read “Heaven Knows Why,” by Samuel Taylor, with my wife. She’d never read it, and we both loved it–it’s as great as ever, and one of my very favorite books. An absolute comedic gem.

    I also took part/am taking part in staged readings of six plays developed in the BYU WDA workshop (including one by me), all of which have some interesting and promising material (though I think all of them could still use some more work), and have seen/written/workshopped/been involved in the production of a number of short plays through New Play Project, have seen some good movies, and read some good stuff in the recent “Mormon Artist” contest issue. I’m sure there’s some more stuff I forgot to mention (I read some great Eugene England essays), but whatever.

  11. Wm.

    I’ve been meaning to get to Alcatraz. My wife and I like to read that kind of book out loud to each other. Kind of silly, perhaps, but fun. I used to try to keep on top of the books for this age range (for various reasons), but I’m departing from that a lot lately.

    Andrew,

    I like Leven Thumps better than Fablehaven for the most part. The conclusion to the former in particular is better because it has more thoughtfulness, less preachyness, and less plain weirdness. I found the most recent offering from Mull imaginative but fairly hard to get through.

    Skye’s habit of starting chapters off on random tangents and bringing them back around to the story in decreasingly logical ways gets really old after a the first two books, but his storytelling – I think – is superior to Mull’s. Mull merely tells you about a story, which takes away from just about everything. Plus the infusions of gospel teaching are often so direct that it becomes distracting. Skye has that problem noticeably less often.

    I actually like Skyle’s Pillage better than any of the Leven Thumps volumes. For its audience, it’s a fairly good contemplation of greed. I don’t remember if I read that one this year or last, though.

    As a side note, another promising youth fantasy series is Henry Neff’s The Tapestry, which consists of two books so far: The Hound of Rowan and The Second Siege. While he’s not Mormon (that I know of), I think his books are among the better ones to come in Rowling’s wake that have happened to cross my path. The first has a bit too much Potter in it for my taste, but the concept is there and the second really expands things nicely. Heff’s background as a history teacher brings a lot to his tales that is missing from others’.

  12. My favorite LDS book that I read this year (not that there were many) was The Hourglass Door by Lisa Mangum, followed closely by The Maze Runner by James Dashner and Farworld: Earth Keep by J. Scott Savage (all YA/MG books). I highly recommend all of them.

    I haven’t read Leven Thumps or Fablehaven, but my kids like the latter better.

  13. Davey–thanks for stopping by. It’s good to hear from first time commenters (I think you’re a first timer, anyway). I didn’t realize Little Happy Secrets was online. Missing that production–and other like it–is one of the few reasons I feel sad I don’t live in Utah.

    Adam! You’re going to spoil those books for me! *wink*

    Marny–I hadn’t heard of those first two authors; more good suggestions.

    AMV commenters are the best!

  14. .

    Oh no, Davey’s been here before — plugged Heaven Know Why before too — and every time he does it mopves higher up my list. It’s just so expensive…. I need to start ILLing like Laura.

  15. Don’t be chillin’
    It’s to time to get ILLin’
    Experience the thrillin’
    That Mo-lit be spillin’

  16. Marny,

    Have you read any of Dashner’s The 13th Reality series? If so, how does it compare to The Maze Runner? I’ve only read the first, but it made me want to check out more of Dashner’s work.

  17. I have read the first in the series (I have the second but it’s still on the pile of “next”). It’s for middle grade readers where Maze Runner is definitely YA. Both show James has an amazing imagination. The marketing for MR compares it to Hunger Games (which I haven’t read)–postapocalyptic pseudo-science fiction. 13th Reality has more humor; MR is a darker but still has funny moments. I enjoyed both.

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