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Mormon-Themed Books

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A Song for Issa Bradley by Carys BrayI had some Mormon friends read this with me in a book club and they really didn't like the main character. I, on the other hand, loved seeing a family deal with the loss of a child in ways that weren’t perfect. Sometimes Mormons are so hard on each other about real grief. We're supposed to just have faith that we'll see that person again in the next life and move on. Well, that's not the way it works for most of us. A Killing in Zion by Andrew Hunt Another Mormon mystery series! This one is set in 1934 Salt Lake City when Art Ovesen, a Mormon detective, is set the task of being part of the anti-polygamy task force. What do you do when your religion isn't as clear-cut as you thought it was?
The Agitated Heart by J Scott BronsonA great Mormon novel about a young boy and his family. Heartfelt and touching. I blurbed it and this happens rarely. Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings ed. Joanna BrooksThis is just what it says it is, essential readings of Mormon feminism from the early days to the present. It's a great introduction and overview of the different waves of feminism through a religious lens.
Saving Alex by Alex Cooper with Joanna BrooksI met Alex in person and was amazed at her composure and her healing after this horrible experience. If you aren't Mormon, you may not understand the parents' serious, faithful attempt to "fix" their daughter who they see is going to end up in hell as a lesbian. And Alex’s demand to be seen as who she is, using the legal system to free herself. A real story. The Polygamous Wives’ Writing Club by Paula Kelly HarlineMormons, you must read this. Polygamous women speak from their own diaries, and you have a narrator who helps you put it all together to make sense. No matter what your opinion on polygamy, this is a chance to get differing viewpoints from those who lived it.
Brian C. Hales: Joseph Smith's Polygamy, Modern Polygamy and Mormon Fundamentalism: The Generations After the Manifesto.This is a hugely long work, but it's got so much in it you need to read to really understand the history of Mormon polygamy. It’s from a faithful perspective, which may bother some, but I consider it a must-have reference book. Carol Lynn Pearson: The Ghost of Eternal PolygamyI disagree with the premise of this book, but it's well-written and has a lot of stories in it by Mormon women who still feel polygamy is part of our doctrine (I don't).
The Lost Book of Mormon by Avi SteinbergI love this book! It's such a quirky look at Joseph Smith and The Book of Mormon. A Jewish man is intrigued by Mormonism and ends up going on a tour of Book of Mormonland in Central America with other Mormons. Also masquerades as a Mormon to get into the Hill Cumorah pageant. See how Mormonism looks to others.

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy
by Eric Metaxas
Bonhoeffer is one of those Christians that makes you proud to be a Christian, if you are one. He wasn't a social Christian. He wasn't interested in being comfortable with his Christianity. He wasn't much interested in being saved personally. He was interested in figuring out what was right to do and doing it, no matter the cost. He spent a lot of time trying to figure out what a good person does when a government likes Hitler's takes over his country. And he decided that hiding behind the idea that murder is bad was a coward's way out. Saving his own soul wasn't his interest. If he made a mistake that damned him and saved the world, he was fine with that. I admire his courage and am persuaded by a lot of his arguments still.
The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance
by Elna Baker
This is definitely not a book I would recommend for every Mormon. It is edgy and at times irreverent. But it also hit my funny bone and I thought it was unique and told a story about a different side of Mormonism. It gave me hope that I can remain a Mormon despite my problems.

Traveling Mercies
by Anne Lamott
This is religion for the lost, uncertain, and downright angry at God. And for anyone that doesn't cover, too.
The Book of Mormon Girl
by Joanna Brooks
I connected to this story in a lot of ways. Joanna Brooks grew up in Southern California as a Mormon in the 70s and 80s, probably less of a minority than where I grew up in New Jersey around the same time. She sang pioneer songs in Primary, made handiwork as a Beehive, and admired the Osmonds. Like her, I felt a deep sense of belonging at church and not belonging at school. I moved to Utah at 9, and then had to deal with being a Mormon in a group of Mormons that suddenly didn't seem to fit as they did before. It was a lot different seeing people at church once a week than it was seeing them every day at school and at church. Or maybe Mormons in Utah really are different. It is so hard to tell and I don't like to make sweeping generalizations.

The Righteous
by Michael Wallace
After I read my Kindle sample of the book, I knew I had to buy it. And I was so, so glad that I did. I ripped right through it in one day. The character of Jacob feels so real to me, his doubts about the church seemed like they came right out of my head. And yet he continues to live the life, faking it until he makes it, which is part of what I do. It's never obvious if this is "right" or "wrong," and I loved that ambiguity. I also have to say that I loved the female characters in this book. The author is male, and I am sometimes dubious about men writing female characters, even some of my favorite male authors. In addition, this book begins in the head of Amanda, a character who dies at the end of the first chapter. I hate that! I kept reading it, realizing that all of this sympathy I felt for her was going to be wrenched away from me and I was going to have to identify with another character. To me, that is one reason why I dislike reading adult fiction of all kinds. I don't like head hopping. But like George R. R. Martin, Michael Wallace's writing was so well done that I immediately liked the next pov character, Jacob, and his sister Eliza. In fact, all of the female characters were done perfectly, all interesting in non-stereotypical female ways. They are polygamists, but they aren't stupid polygamists, which is part of the plot. But I don't want to give too much away.
Women at Church
by Neylan McBaine
Neylan McBaine has become well-known doing portraits of Mormon women of all different kinds. This book is something else, however. It's more directed at Mormons themselves, men and women, and goes through various problems in the church and how to address them--all without any doctrinal or difficult structurual changes. For instance, she suggests asking women in authority like Relief Society Presidency, Young Women Presidency, or Primary Presidency to sit on the stand next to the bishopric, so that there is a visual representation of what the women in our church do. Along with that, she talks about the problem of women not going to meetings where they might have more of an effect on local church policy, why we do this, and how to conquer the mentality that we don't belong. I found the book hugely enlightening and suspect it will be very important in the coming years in shaping a new Mormonism.

My Story
by Elizabeth Smart
This was Elizabeth Smart's own account of her kidnapping and the 18 months of her life she lost being raped and abused by Brian David Mitchell. There are many things to love about this book. Her voice is very strong and while she never glosses over the abuse, it's never described in great detail, either. If you had questions, like many, about why she didn't try to escape, this account explains it well. There are some unanswered questions for those who read carefully, however. I wonder if in twenty years, there will be a revised version of this to deal with that. I have enormous respect for Elizabeth and all she has accomplished since this horrible event in her life. To come out as a conqueror as she has is a wonderful thing.
The World's Strongest Librarian
by Josh Haganarme
This is a well-written, unsentimental and funny memoir about growing up Mormon with the added bonus of stories about being a nerdy book-reader, as well. I loved the descriptions of the physical, natural world of Utah, particularly the early ones near Moab. The family stories are also poignant and heart-rending.

Diary of Two Mad Black Mormons: Finding the Lord's Lessons in Everyday Life
by Zandra Vranes and Smith Tamu
This is a collection of funny stories about being raised black and Mormon. There's a lot about culture shock moving to Utah that non-Mormons and Mormons alike will enjoy. I personally did not like the sections trying to frame the story in terms of gospel lessons as much as the stories themselves, which I felt did not need anything added, but the publisher was Deseret Book, so that explains much.
City of Angels
by Sheralyn Pratt
This was one of the mysteries I read before I started writing The Bishop's Wife. It's the story of a young woman's investigation into first fraud and embezzlement, and then murder. Along the way, she finds Mormonism and converts to the church. I was fascinated at the combination of the two stories of faith and murder and while there are a few moments that were a bit sentimental for me, I still think this series is a good one. I was also interested to find out from the author that the traditional local bookstores found it too dark and gritty for their typical Mormon audiences.

Copyright Mette Ivie Harrison 2017 all rights reserved.
Last revised November 3, 2017.