Laura’s Year End Mini Reviews

When I first started blogging for AMV I had a traditional post every December where I talked about what books I’d read that year by Mormon authors and ranked/recommended them. 2010 was a turbulent year so I missed doing it last year but there was no way I was going to 2011 end without making my list. Thanks to Goodreads, I have a comprehensive list of what I read in 2010 and 2011, so here’s my recommendations for both years. Enjoy and don’t forget to tell me what Mormon books you’ve read lately and would recommend!

In 2010 I read 39 books (yikes! that was not very many!), 12 of which were by Mormon authors. In 2011 I read only 47 books– still short of my “book a week” goal–13 of which were books by Mormon authors. Many of the titles were YA titles because those are the most readily available, but I did manage to buy a few and get my local library to buy a few. Also, I have to say I am a big fan of my ereader and I am excited by the number of LDS/Mormon books available in e-formats. I was not pleased with Deseret Book and difficulty I’ve had with ebooks from their site (why, oh why!, couldn’t they just sell some that are kindle compatible??), but Zarahemla Books has done an awesome job offering a great array of ebooks (see here for Kindle compatible books and here for other eformats). Getting those books for those prices is a steal. Peculiar Pages also does a great job making their anthologies available in eformats. Parables Publishing is even starting to offer some of their titles. Forgive the infomercial tone to this next comment but, seriously, being an avid Mormon reader has never been easier (or cheaper)!

Anyway, on to the rankings:

Books worth buying:
*Believing Christ and Following Christ by Stephen E. Robinson (I read both these devotional books in 2010–did I mention it was a turbulent year?– and was greatly comforted by them. Believing Christ didn’t have the same power it did when I was a teenager [I’m old enough to be hip to the theological fallacies], but Following Christ had a lot of what I needed to hear, especially the chapter that enumerates and blasts Mormon cultural pitfalls.)

*In the Company of Angels by Dave Farland (Read my review here)

*Broken Things to Mend by Jeffrey R. Holland (Elder Holland is an amazing thinker and speaker and, since I was feeling particularly broken for awhile there, this collection of his conference talks was amazing. So worth the money.)

*Standing on the Promises series by Darius Gray and Magaret Blair Young. (I loved these books. Yes they fall prey to some of the oversimplifying necessary in historical fiction, but overall the important stories of early black Mormons is presented in an artistically and emotionally satisfying manner. Also, you can tell there is a lot of research to back up what Gray and Young wrote. And they are now available for the Kindle! Go read them!!)

*Rift by Todd Robert Petersen (This book deserves all the praise and awards it’s gotten. If you haven’t read this, you are seriously missing out! Read my interview with Petersen for more on his books.)

*Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby. (I went to school with a relative of Kirby’s and was interested in checking out his work. Icefall was a great place to start. I bought it for my Kindle and read it in less than two days. I predict Kirby to be a rising star in the YA field.)

*Fire in the Pasture edited by Tyler Chadwick. (I haven’t actually read every poem in this large anthology, but what I have read I love. A truly surprising experience awaits you!)

*Dispensation: Latter-day Fiction edited by Angela Hallstrom. (There were pieces of this book that I LOVED. There were also pieces I didn’t like, which is to be expected from an anthology of this sort, but even the stories I didn’t like were still well-done.)

*What of the Night by Stephen Carter (I had no idea what I was getting into when I bought this one, but I loved it. Excellent writing in a beautiful memoir.)

* Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon Hale (This is an excellent and fun twist on a classic tale.)

*He Restoreth My Soul by Donald L. Hilton (This is a non-fiction book about pornography addiction and its effects on the body and spirit. It’s self-published so it has more than a few editing errors, but it is worth buying and reading because of the information it contains.)

Books worth inter-library loaning:

*The FOB Bible edited by Eric Jepson (Okay, the only reason this book isn’t in the must-own category is because I don’t want it on my shelf for my children to stumble across. There would be waaaaay to many uncomfortable questions. That said, this is an amazing book and I am SO glad I have it on my Kindle because I have actually read several of the stories more than once. So, buy this one, but be aware that some of the content with probably be uncomfortable–not bad, but uncomfortable.)

* The Year of the Boar by Anneke Majors (This one is actually well worth the digital price. Great book. Read my review here!)

* The Flight and the Nest by Carol Lynn Pearson (this book is like the Mormon answer to The Feminine Mystique. Worth reading but not worth buying unless you are very interested in Mormon cultural history.)

*Eternal Companions by Douglas E. Brinley (Someone gave my husband and I this book as a wedding gift. Since we were coming up on our ten year anniversary I thought I’d read it. It’s not bad, but it is a self-help book. It had some good info with only a little bit of the insufferable tone that is the bane of this genre. There were a couple chapters, though, that were really awesome: the one about the way Mormon talk about sex and marriage and the impact that kind of language has on our culture and the chapter about how all relationships follow the creation-fall-atonement pattern.)

*Book of a Thousand Days by Shannon Hale (I liked this one and I was glad I read it, but it didn’t blow my mind enough to make me wish I owned it.)

Books worth reading if someone hands them to you:

*Pillar of Light by Gerald Lund (This first book in The Work and the Glory series failed for me. It’s funny because a friend gave it to me and I read it and then promptly dropped it back on my bedside table where I keep all my to-read books. I picked it up a few months later and couldn’t remember the storyline or the characters names. I concluded I must not have read it, so I read it again realizing about 2/3 of the way through that I had already read it but just didn’t find it worth remembering. Ouch!)

* by Dean Hughes (Much like _Pillar of Light_ this book failed to make an impression on me. I guess this genre just isn’t for me?)

*Isabelle Webb: Legend of the Jewel by Nancy Allen (Not my thing. This book is a fairly good example of mainstream LDS lit. It doesn’t do much for me.)

* Faith of our Fathers: A House Divided by Nancy Campbell. (Another forgettable piece of LDS historical fiction. This was reasonably well-done, but I just felt like the LDS angle was super-imposed on the story and it really bugged me.)

*The Silence of God by Gale Sears (Again, Mormon historical fiction. I just wanted this book to be actual historical fiction–but it’s more of a period romance novel. I wanted there to be more information and facts about the people it was supposed to be based on, but the author basically created them out of whole cloth.)

What books did you read this year? Which would you recommend?

13 thoughts on “Laura’s Year End Mini Reviews”

  1. .

    This is a great idea, Laura. How would you feel if I followed your lead and wrote a similar post?

    Incidentally, I would never have thought about reading any piece of Eternal Companions, but maybe I’ll look for interesting chapters. I think I might have a copy around here somewhere…..

  2. Wm–91 is an insane number!! Read less, write more? Is that the idea behind your second comment?

    Th–Go for it! I’d love to see your list and compare. Hopefully other AMV readers would too! If you ever find a copy of Eternal Companions you must blog about it–I bet your reactions would be quite interesting.

  3. My Mormon reads for the year, in order of how much I liked them:

    That Leviathan Whom Thou Hast Made / Eric James Stone

    This is an amazing story that richly deserved its Nebula win and Hugo nomination. I read it when it was posted on Stone’s site and I can’t wait to re-read it when I buy Mormons & Monsters.

    Candy Bomber / Michael Tunnell

    This is a YA (or even middle grade) nonfiction book about Gail Halvorsen, a Mormon pilot who became famous for dropping candy during the Berlin airlift.

    The Dark Divine / Bree Despain

    YA paranormal romance with a strong Christian theme. (The book is loosely based on the parable of the prodigal son.)

    Princess of Glass / Jessica Day George

    I didn’t enjoy this as much as Princess of the Midnight Ball, but it was still a fun read.

    Twelve Sisters / Leslie Beaton Hedley

    I picked this up because it won the 1993 AML Award for Novel and because it had an intriguing premise (sacrament meeting from the perspective of 12 different women in the same ward). I really wanted to like it, but it fell short for me because of some unrealistic characters and one very poorly researched chapter. (It made me wonder why this was chosen as the AML novel of the year. Was this truly the best thing that was published in 1993? Or was there something groundbreaking about it that I’m not seeing, almost 20 years later?)

    Honorable mention:

    The Unlikely Disciple / Kevin Roose

    This is a memoir of a liberal Quaker young man who decided to spend a semester “undercover” at an evangelical Christian college. It’s not a Mormon book, as such, but it has a lot of observations about religion and I think anyone who went to BYU would find it interesting to get a peek at life at an even more conservative religious university.

  4. One of the reasons I can read so many books is that I have 50-minute each way bus commutes. I usually read the scriptures and write in my journal (all on my phone — the LDS apps are awesome) for the first 30-35 minutes in the morning, but I still end up with about 70 minutes a day to either read or listen to podcasts. Add in some reading in the evening before bed here and there and on the weekends and it’s not too difficult to get in 600 pages or so a week.

  5. Katya and Luisa– I love your lists. I’m gonna have to look up some of those titles.

    Wm–I remember you mentioning the benefits of your long commute earlier. . . I just wondered why you wanted to read less.

    D. Michael Martindale–If you are really interested in the details of applying theological scrutiny to _Believing Christ_ you should check out _How Wide the Divide_. It’s a conversation between Robinson and a well-known Evangelical theologian named Craig Blomberg. The main theological issue is the so-called Parable of the Bicycle in which a daughter earns a small amount of money thinking that she will be able to buy a bike. Her daddy takes her to the store where they both realize that no matter how hard the little girl works it will take her forever to earn that bike. Daddy decides to buy the bike for her and they hug and have a happy ending. Robinson likened the little girl to each of us, the bicycle to eternal glory, and the father to Jesus Christ–thereby implying that when our efforts toward “earning” the Kingdom of Heaven have fallen short Christ comes along to pay off the rest of the price through His eternal atonement. While this story is often emotionally satisfying it falls short in that, when it comes to sin and/or “earning” our way into heaven, well, from what I understand, we as fallen beings cannot earn any portion on our own. We can never be perfect because of our fallen natures and so we cannot achieve *anything* without Christ’s grace. If we are true Christians (which Mormons are, as long as you suspend the believing-in-the-trinity requirement) then we must rely on Christ for EVERYTHING we have and admit our inability to do anything for ourselves. (King Benjamin’s sermon, anyone??) It’s the old grace-vs-works dilemma.

    What is interesting about this was that Robinson was aware of the limitations of his analogy but chose not to mention them in his first book. In the follow-up, _Believing Christ_, he covers how our covenant relationship with Christ (i.e. our works) interact with Christ’s sacrifice (i.e. His Grace) in a much more satisfying manner. His conversation with Blomberg on this subject is really enlightening–as is their conversation on trinity-type phraseology in the Book of Mormon.

    Anyway, here’s hoping you weren’t just baiting me 🙂 I’m no theologian or apologist so I’m not going to say any more on the subject!

    Happy reading!

  6. I want to edit on part of my above comment. It should say, “We can never be perfect because of our fallen natures and so we cannot achieve *anything* (most especially repentance and forgiveness) without Christ’s Grace.”

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