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Do You Read LDS Lit??

By Angela Hallstrom

I’m a Mormon who reads and a Mormon who writes, but I haven’t purchased LDS fiction from a bricks-and-mortar bookstore in almost a decade. Of course, I moved to Minnesota in 1998 and didn’t move back to Utah until 2006, so that’s one explanation. And I haven’t stayed away from LDS bookstores altogether. While I was a resident of the Land of 10,000 Lakes, I made many visits to the small LDS bookstore adjacent to a Quick Stop gas station and down the road from the Minnesota temple. But what did I buy when I was there? I bought sheet music for a Christmas quartet. Some of those “Help Me! I Can’t Think of What To Do For Sharing Time!” books. Little Articles of Faith cards to go in the Primary kids’ birthday bags. Every once in a while I’d buy a book by my favorite General Authority, and once I splurged and bought myself a copy of Rough Stone Rolling for Christmas. But even with all those visits to my independent LDS bookstore, I never bought a single work of fiction. And since I’ve moved back to Utah, I haven’t darkened the door of an LDS bookstore even once.

Here’s the kicker: I write fiction about Mormons for Mormons. I’m a former fiction editor of Irreantum magazine (the magazine for the Association for Mormon Letters) and I’ve spent the last three years or so trying to persuade any number of LDS publishers to take a chance on my novel. I care about LDS fiction. I’m interested in it. I want LDS writers to succeed . . . and I want LDS readers to buy LDS fiction because, well, I’m writing it! But with all that background and as much as I have personally at stake, I still have a difficult time finding fiction by, for, or about Mormons that I’d like to read.

But we do have some LDS publishers that I know are publishing well-written stuff. Signature has published a lot of wonderful fiction over the years, and some new publishers like Zarahemla and Parables are trying to win over literary Mormon readers as well. (In the interest of full disclosure, after three years of looking, I finally found a publisher willing to take a chance on my novel and Parables is publishing it in February.) But it’s very difficult for books from these publishers to find an audience. Not only is advertising money hard to come by, but these titles very rarely find their way onto the shelves of Deseret Book or Seagull. Often, the only way to find out about the book is through word of mouth, and the only way to order it is online.

Which is why I’m taking up space on this blog. I want to know what LDS literature you like and where to find it. I also want to give you a heads up on some of the titles I’ve loved and see if you agree. There are many of us, I’m sure, who love literature and want to see Mormon literature succeed—but we have no idea what novels are out there and where we can go to get them. So let’s help each other!

During my monthly posts, I’d like to talk about literature explicitly aimed at the LDS market, but I’d also like to discuss Mormon authors writing for a national market (Orson Scott Card, Brady Udall) and non-Mormon authors writing about Mormons (Jacqueline Mitchard’s recent Cage of Stars, for example). So, to get things going, here are my questions: Do you read Mormon literature? Of not, why? If you do, what do you like? What are your recommendations? Also, what would you like to see in the future, as more LDS authors with literary talent try to reach an audience? What kinds of books do Mormons want? What kinds of books do Mormons need? I’d love to hear your response to any or all of these questions. Let the literary discussion begin!

About Angela Hallstrom

(Advisory Board) grew up in Utah, then moved to Minnesota, then came back to Utah, then packed up her husband and four kids and moved to Minnesota--again!-- in the summer of 2010. Although she loves the Land of 10,000 Lakes, she dearly misses Slurpees, Sunday dinners at her Mom's house, and eating a whole entire Cafe Rio pork salad while lunching with her Utah-based Segullah sisters. And yes, she finds it telling that everything she misses about her hometown is somehow related to food. She has an BA in English from BYU, an MFA in creative writing from Hamline University, and has taught writing to high school and college students.

50 thoughts on “Do You Read LDS Lit??”

  1. I have shopped for LDS fiction even less frequently than you! I have lived away from the Rocky Mountains for 17 years. I used to belong to the Deseret Book "Book of the Month" club, but left the club because I am often disappointed by the quality of the fiction with Mormon themes. I think the Work and the Glory series was the last reading I did, and they were a gift. I get very annoyed with the books that are about contrived topics…traveling through time with the 3 Nephites, for example. I can't remember the name of the book, but O.S.Card has a book that rips off the Nephi/Laban story with a sci-fi twist. That annoyed me. I don't want to read the scriptures in novel form! I want believable LDS characters going through every day things. Since I live in a place where I can't get these at my local library, I don't want to spend money and then feel like I wasted it.

  2. When I moved to Utah in 2000, a friend handed me books by popular LDS fiction authors. I read one and said to myself, "Ugh."

    Then I started writing. I started attending writers groups and joined in with a critique group. 2 of the authors were published in the LDS fiction market. I read their books, and I realized that I liked them. So I started getting brave and cracked a few more covers. Sometimes I was stung, other times I was pleasantly surprised.

    I love historical fiction. I wrote a novel and it was finally accepted by an LDS publisher. (I blame my critique group for making me walk on the dark side). But the journey has been incredible. I have met many many LDS authors. Some whose books I love, some I don't care for.

    This year I read some excellent novels. And I'll be the first to say that yes, they stacked up to my national favorites:

    Sheep's Clothing by Josi Kilpack (suspense novel about internet predator)

    Counting Stars by Michele Paige Holmes (if you like good, thick romances, this is for you)

    House of Secrets by Jeff Savage (suspense–incidently the character is LDS, but that's as far as it gets)

    Annette Lyon has written some historical romances (and being a history lover, I enjoy them)

    A book that has been out for a few years is My Not-So-Fairy-Tale-Life by Julie Wright–(about a pregnant teen . . . it's awesome and heart wrenching at the same time)

    You can easily do an inter-library loan if you don't want to purchase.

    If you haven't read LDS fiction for awhile, you should try it again. The bar has been raised.

  3. I have enjoyed LDS historical fiction (Dean Hughes' work and the series about African-Americans in the early church), but otherwise, I have very little interest in LDS fiction.

    I think the biggest reason for me is that I'm around LDS people ALL THE TIME. Reading about people from other times, places, and cultures is much more interesting to me.

    Another thought came to me as I was thinking about this. I think I have a bad taste in my mouth because of some of the LDS stuff I read in my teens that played on my sentimentality a lot; I think they ultimately influenced me for the worse. I hadn't thought about that, but I think there's some truth to it.

    Aside from historical fiction, I'm not sure if there's anything that would draw me to LDS fiction. I do enjoy LDS non-fiction.

    Great idea to pick our brains–good luck!

  4. I haven't bought much LDS fiction, but I've read a lot. I also didn't read much at all until my husband took an LDS fiction class and had a bunch around. We also subscribed to Irreantum for a while too. My hubby did an undergrad and masters in creative writing at BYU, so we've gotten to know a number of Mormon writers. Some of the stuff I've particularly liked:

    Falling Toward Heaven–John Bennion

    Heresies of Nature–Margaret Young

    Angel of the Danube–Alan Rex Mitchell

    Hearts of the Children series and Children of the Promise series–Dean Hughes

    Anything by Virginia Sorensen, especially her memoir/essay collection Where Nothing is Long Ago as well as A Little Lower than the Angels

    Under the Cottonwoods (short stories)–Doug Thayer

    Standing on The Promises series–Margaret Young and Darius Gray

    I have always enjoyed reading stories and essays in Irreantum and Dialogue. Even though they are usually not explicitly Mormon in their books, I love the YA authors Louise Plummer, Kristin Randle, and Carol Lynch Williams. Another good YA book is called The Shakeress by Kimberly Heuston. Eric Samuelson has written some very interesting plays with Mormon themes as well.

    I think I like stuff best that puts story first and theme second. Too many authors think of a theme or issue they want to explore and then write a story about it. It usually feels forced. I like it when authors present people with real problems and don't force solutions or gloss over difficult issues with a simple "they prayed and it worked out".

  5. p.s.–Heather, you wrote your post while I was writing mine. After reading yours and FoxyJ's comments, I'm taking back my "not sure anything would draw me" statement. I'm not going to run over to Deseret Book for fiction anytime soon, but I'll be more open!

  6. All of FoxyJ's books I would put on my list. Everything by Margaret Young is fantastic. As for what the need is with Mormon literature. Oh man. Where to begin? Everyone is going to say something different. For me, I want less didactic Jack Weyland-type novels and more like Card's historical fiction novel, Saints. (Without being too critical of Weyland, I'm one of those people who feels that if I want a list of moral do and don'ts, I'll read the For Strength of Youth pamphlet, not a novel that preaches it.) I think we need more LDS fiction that explores the very real, authentic, dynamic experiences we face as a group and individuals on a day to day basis—with characters that aren't perfect.
    I think Saints is one of the best LDS novels out there exactly because Card creates a Joseph Smith that is more real than any other one I've read about. That doesn't mean I think that he is actually like the one Card created–but too many times LDS writers create characters based on the ideal character that Mormons have come to create in their minds. And that is simply not helpful to me. I guess my expectation for LDS writers are based highly on what I want to get out of LDS lit.

    I don't want to be merely entertained. I want to be transformed, or have my most core beliefs challenged and then reaffirmed. That's why I like Cracroft, England, Card, Young, and several more.

    I think we also need more personal essays. There are several collections out there that are fantastic, and I hope we keep going!! (Hooray for the book Kathy's doing on mother's personal essays, coming out in 2008!!)

    great post. This is a very important dialogue that needs to remain active, all the time.

  7. Wendy, I haven't read Dean Hughes. So if I were to pick up one of his books, which one do you recommend the most (so many books, so little time).

    I'm also reading an ARC right now called "The 13th Reality: The Journal of Curious Letters" by James Dashner. It's a fantasy series for children. Deseret Book/Shadow Mountain will release it in March 2008. My kids are loving it. My 10 year old especially. And she says she hates all books (one of those, I know). Anyway, it's very fresh and fun. I can't for the life of me figure out the clues the author is giving throughout the book. I never was good at that sort of thing.

    Some of the other fantasy series by LDS authors I haven't been able to get into.

  8. I admit I wasn't big on reading LDS fiction until I stumbled upon Traci Hunter Abramson's book, Undercurrents. A non-member friend of mine was raving about it so I didn't even realize it was LDS fiction until I noticed that the main characters were LDS. The whole book read like it was mainstream but with higher standards. I also enjoyed her other books, Ripple Effect and The Deep End.

    Since reading Abramson's books, I started exploring some other LDS fiction and have found that the quality has greatly increased over the past several years. I think that the talent level of LDS fiction is now beginning to rival that of mainstream. I just appreciate the higher standards of the LDS versions.

  9. I just started exploring LDS writing more seriously this year, after I started doing some contract editing for an LDS publisher. I have been fascinated by the range out there– plenty of sentimental romances and interesting nonfiction, which I expected. Also lots of LDS sci fi, action thrillers, etc, which I didn't expect at all. Most of what I've read hasn't had a very literary bent, but if readers with those tastes aren't frequenting LDS booksellers, what can we expect?

    I was excited to read your comment, Heather. Your books are probably my favorite from this year, so it was especially fun to see your name. I hated the Work and the Glory, so I didn't expect to enjoy your books (I know, sweeping sweeping, generalization) but I found them engaging, thought provoking, and inspiring–in a delightfully non-cheesy way. You're right; the bar has been raised.

    And Segullah fans, we are scheduled to have a book of essays by Segullah writers released next year by a major LDS publisher, so let's not steer clear forever!

  10. Thanks for all the recommendations; I need to look up these authors at my library.

    Here's the thing with me: I'll read just about any LDS lit, as long as it's free. I don't always seek it out at the library, but if I stumble on it as I'm browsing, great. The only LDS novel I have plunked down money for in the past year is "The Boxmaker's Son," (Donald Smurthwaite) and that was because I really enjoyed "Fine Old High Priests." Which I borrowed in the first place.

    If I could know that the books recommended above were like "Fine Old High Priests," then I'd pay for more of them. But right now, it's hard for me to find someone whose literary tastes match my own, and I don't like to pay for a risk. I don't want to pay money, and use up precious shelf space (it seems like we just bought a new book shelf! and it's full already!) for something that disappoints me.

    I'm the same way with non-LDS books, too–I'd rather buy it only if it's something I'm pretty sure I will want to reread.

    I feel slightly guilty about this, because I'd like to support good writing. No, I take that back: I really only have the funds to support excellent writing, writing that I simply must own or else I'll feel bitter and deprived. There are plenty of LDS books I'd enjoy reading, but not so many that I feel the need to own.

  11. I'm new to blogging here at Segullah, and I didn't know how many comments to expect. I was a little nervous that I would get NONE and my worst fears (that people really aren't interested in LDS lit, thank you very much, at least not the types who would comment on a Segullah blog) would be realized. But it's been so wonderful to read all your responses.

    Heather, I loved reading your post. That's exactly the kind of commentary I'm looking for. I'm pretty well acquainted with the literature being written by the Margaret Blair Youngs and Doug Thayers and John Bennions (if any of you like short fiction, his collection _Breeding Leah & Other Stories_ is really great), but I knew there was other good stuff out there that I simply hadn't heard about. Or that I'd heard about but haven't gotten around to trying–Dean Hughes is a good example.

    I think I'm going to challenge myself this month to read a book by a put out by a "mainstream" (e.g. Deseret Book or Covenant or Cedar Fort) LDS publishing company–one that's been recommended here–and then report back next month. I would love it if some of you would do the same.

    For those of you who aren't familiar with the smaller LDS publishers like Zarahemla or Parables or Signature, perhaps you'd be interested in reading one of their titles that have been recommended here. I can vouch for Falling Toward Heaven and Heresies of Nature (Signature), and I've recently read three Zarahemla titles (Long After Dark, Hooligan, and Kindred Spirits)and enjoyed all three. Long After Dark was my favorite, though–mainly because I love short stories and I swoon over pretty language. I still haven't read Arianne Cope's The Coming of Elijah, last year's Marilyn Brown Novel Award winner recently published by Parables (and I should, since they're publishing me! In fact, I should go buy it right now). But I've heard good things about that one, too. These titles might be a little "edgier," overall, than what might be published by DB (although Thayer's memoir is anything but edgy–it's a wonderful reminiscence of his WWII era boyhood in Provo and I'm considering buying it for my Grandpa), so they might not be to some folks' taste. But I can attest to the fact that the writing is good.

    And Emily, ultimately I don't think that everybody has to BUY LDS lit. Of course, somebody has to buy it or the publishing companies will go out of business. But I'm just encouraged by the people who actually want to *read* it.

    So those of you who are interested, pick up an LDS title at the library or borrow it from a friend or, if you're so inclined, buy one–and lets talk about them next month, (December 16th?? I'm not sure what day I'm scheduled to blog again, but it will be close to that date). Should be fun!

  12. I'm a book fanatic, but I haven't purchased LDS fiction in years, mostly because almost everything I read was awful. And oddly, the most popular stuff was some of the worst. There is so much overwrought, overly dramatic, overly everything stuff out there. There is one author in particular, who I will not name, that is extremely popular with many LDS women I know, but whose stuff is just – terrible. I think her stuff almost does a disservice to LDS fiction in general because it leaves such a bad taste in the mouth.

    I think a lot of LDS publishing, for a very long time, was based on who you know, and a lot of very terrible stuff got published. Most of the people I know who read a lot, don't read LDS fiction, because they've just been turned off over time. It would take a lot for me to actually buy a book of LDS fic. I don't have any interest in reading yet another "mystery" story where the blond gorgeous innocent yet fiesty heroine ends up choosing between two suitors. Ugh.

    I tend to think LDS fiction is somewhat limited because there are such strict boundaries on what you can and cannot have a character do. In real life, even good people face really extreme temptation and problems. That makes for good fiction. But it doesn't always sell well with LDS readers in general.

    By the way, I loved Jack Weyland as a VERY YOUNG teen, but feel his stuff was better off as it originally was distributed – as shortish fiction pieces for the New Era. (Why did they stop including fiction anyway? Must we teach our kids to be so drop dead serious about everything, all the time?)

  13. Heather, the Dean Hughes books I read were the Hearts of the Children series and Children of the Promise series that FoxyJ mentioned above. I forget which comes first. One is about an LDS family during WWII, and the next series is about the next generation during the 60's. Some people say they like the first better, but I liked both quite a lot.

    Angela, I'm going to take you up on your challenge to read one!

  14. Sue, you have a good point about LDS fiction being limited in what the characters can do. I have always chuckled over the fact that my publisher asked me to not have one of the main characters drink Mountain Dew. I tried to put my foot down, but it seemed like such a sill thing that I finally let it go.

    Sometimes we learn a lot from mistakes, but if our characters can't make the big ones then where does that leave us?

  15. One of the hardest issues I have with reading LDS lit is the shipping to Australia. When my order costs less than the shipping (sometimes $30 plus of shipping!) from the major LDS retailers, I tend to just not buy it and wait for someone to buy it for me.

    That being said, there is lit out there that is "main stream" and still LDS. I'm thinking mostly here of Lost Boys by Orson Scott Card. Definately no easy answers, full of real people and my favourite book of all time. I also bought books from his website (www.hatrack.com) that he has published through his Hatrack River Publications, written by others. Perfect Neighbours (by DeAnne Neilson) is great because there are real people in it, and it's life that they have to deal with. Ditto for the books by Kathryn H. Kidd.

    I appreciate you all taking time to add your comments, as word of mouth can be the truest form of quality control, particularly from Segullah people!=)

  16. I don't buy LDS fiction. And frankly, I'm skeptical of a lot I see. I also have a very limited book budget. I've just been so disappointed with the fiction that I have read that it seems a waste to spend money on the stuff. When I read your post, all that came to mind was the annoying stuff. I've lived so far from Utah for many years that I can't even get LDS fiction at the library.

    If I had read a LDS novel at the library that was really well written and profound and worth rereading, I would make an effort to purchase it.

    My favorite LDS author is Anne Perry, who does not write LDS fiction.

    My experience with some of my friends, though, is that there is a hunger for good LDS fiction and people would be willing to pay for it, even outside of Utah.

  17. The last LDS writer I read was, (and does this even count) Virginia Sorenson's A Little Lower than the Angels. Was she even a Mormon?

    I stopped trying after I started reading The Work and the Glory and stopped quick enough to make your head spin.

    This has given me something to think about.

    And John Bennion is in my ward. I'm going to ask him to lend me a copy of his book!

  18. "“they prayed and it worked out”.

    That's why I tend to steer away from LDS fiction. At least what I have read, resolutions tend to come in the form of miracles, a dream-conversation with Grandma, or some other rare occurence. I think it sets up an expectation that THAT is how our life's problems get resolved, an ultimately false expectation that leads to disappointment.

    Plus, I abhor maudlin sentimentality.

    I realize I am making sweeping generalities and that GOOD LDS fiction must exist. I just haven't found it yet. I've discussed this and thought about it a lot. People in other religions manage to write fiction about their religions without the sentimentality. Why can't we?

    I'm going to check out some of the authors suggested here. Thanks so much!

  19. Angela–thanks! I just looked at your website. Congrats on the upcoming book. It looks very interesting!

    Wendy, thanks for the recommendation on Dean Hughes. One of his newer ones is about an R.S. President. Thought I'd steer clear of that one.

    Matthew–you could probably get Mountain Dew in there now. You just have to find another book published by DB or Covenant that has something similar (hint: Josi Kilpack's UNSUNG LULLABY).

    But, yeah, authors who write for LDS publishers have to write inside a neat little box. Strides are slowly being made to soften the barriers.

    Michele Holmes' book (Counting Stars) has breast-feeding in it. And a honeymoon scene (although very tame).

    Moving slowly forward.

    Rachel Nunes just published a "national" book–Flying Home–I haven't read it yet. She published it under the Shadow Mountain imprint (Deseret Book) and supposedly there's no LDS in it.

  20. I have to agree with Allison's recommendation of Traci Hunter Abramson's novels. My daughters had been reading her books and I finally decided to read her latest one, The Deep End. It was both captivating and well-written. It also proved to me that there is some LDS fiction out there worth exploring.

  21. I would agree with Heather on Matthew's comment. As long as you can find something in another book published by either of those publishers, you could work it in. The Mountain Dew would probably be able to get in nowadays.

    I also agree with her that characters are not being forced into good little boxes as much as they used to.

    In Julie Wright's My Not-So-Fairy-Tale Life, her character has made some big mistakes. And the great thing about that story is the working through them, and repenting. That's not a "they prayed and it worked out" story at all. Nor is the character forced into a little box, and forced to behave like a good little Mormon girl. Her choices are real, and the consequences are real. It's something any real life girl in the main character's situation would find herself working through.

    Josi Kilpack's Unsung Lullaby has some characters making major mistakes prior to the story beginning, and throughout the story the characters work through the results of the mistake. Very realistic. The consequences of choices are very real, and the dealing with the consequence, very realistic. Again, the story is not a "they prayed and it worked out".

    In my own writing, I've consiously made an effort to clear of that sort of cheating. It isn't fair to the readers not to have the characters working through their own weaknesses in a realistic way.

    In fact, in these author's works, namely,
    Heather Moore,
    Josi Kilpack,
    Tamra Norton,
    Rachel Nunes,
    Julie Bellon,
    Julie Wright,
    Annette Lyon,
    and I'm sure several others that I can't think of right now, the characters have relied on their LDS faith to strengthen them through trials, but they have always been the ones doing the bulk of the physical and emotional work to get through them. I've never read a story published by any of these 7 LDS writers where "they just prayed and it worked out". And I know there are others I haven't mentioned that write stories of the same quality.

    As Heather Moore said,

    "The bar has been raised."

  22. Maybe that is how I should have dealt with the issue. The character wanted to drink some Mountain Dew, but then said a prayer was able to withstand the temptation, and was freed from the soda's evil grip. 🙂

    It should be noted that a lot of us dump LDS lit into a single category. We like to say it's all great and good, or it's all (fill in the blank). That's like reading a book about a Jewish family and deciding that you don't like Jewish literature. There are all kinds. There are good books out there, there are not so good books out there. We are more and more seeing a wide variety of books written about and by LDS people. Chances are there are ones you will like out there somewhere.

    Just because a person knows a Mormon, doesn't mean that all Mormons are 'like that'. Each book should be judged by its own merits.

  23. It's interesting to me the variety of just the posts on this thread–some people loved Work and the Glory, some didn't. One thing that we need to understand is that all mormons are not created equaly. Some Mormon readers love the dramatic stuff (just like some catholics do) Some don't. One author can strike a cord with a particular reader that another author won't. Do we have to put each other in a box or saying 'this author stinks and you must be stupid to like them?' I've become very picky as to what I will read in the LDS market because I don't like certain themes–but if 10,000 mormons do like it enough to pay for it, then it's got a place here too.

    Many of the titles mentioned here haven't sold well, even people that want to read them won't pay for them, and hence they become a bad investment for the publisher and will hurt the chances of other things being published in that genre because publishers aren't in the business to lose money. On the reverse a sappy 'pray and it's all better' that people will pay for is going to set a trend.

    Some of my favorites:
    Strength to Endure by Tristi Pinkston–follows the life of a baby born in a concentration camp in WWII.

    False Pretenses by Carole Thayne–suspense novel that faces forgiveness and judging others head on

    Don't you Marry Those Mormon boys by Jannet Jensen–this was just released by CFI and is the story about a modern day escape from poligamy

    but I also loved the Tennis Shoes Among the Nephites, the Dean Hughes and work and the Glory series. Heather Moore's Out of Jerusalem is amazing.

    I think Mormons as a whole could help themselves and each other a great deal if we could respect that its okay for us to do our own thing, like our own thing, and be different. Maligning readers that like something that doesn't appeal to us is just as bad as the 'prejudice' some of us feel in regard to the lack of variety of literature available.

    Great post, Angela, and congrats on the publication. Beth is an amazingly talented woman and I wish you the best. I loved Coming of Elijah.

  24. It has been so interesting to read the comments to this post. As I mentioned, I haven't bought LDS fiction in years. But several of you mentioned books that seem worth looking at. I will be soooooo thrilled if the standard of writing has improved as well as the quality of writing.

  25. I'll admit to have been terribly disappointed with the LDS literature I've read in the past, so I just haven't bothered to read any more. We have some excellent humorists and poets, but I've found the fiction lacking. (I once practically got booed out of enrichment because in a book review about a certain holiday bestseller I used the words "contrived" and "manipulated.")

    What do I want? If someone would write the LDS equivalent of "The Ladies Auxiliary" (by Tova Mirvis) I would turn cartwheels. I want us to tell our stories well and with honesty. Even our made-up stories.

  26. Matthew, you couldn't write about a character drinking Mountain Dew? Oh my. I must say that sometimes the LDS culture in Utah is just strange. (and yes, I lived there for 7 years)

    Dalene, I'm cracking up about the reaction from your Relief Society sisters. I remember a time when it was considered heretical to suggest that you didn't like "The Work and the Glory" series. You know, it might have put a damper on the testimonies. . .

    Okay, sorry. I must confess to listening to a book on tape by some LDS author that wrote "As the Ward Turns" or something like that and deals with a blundering Relief Society president who offends a woman in the ward by trying to clean her house. I found it very amusing and light. Just what I needed at times. Can't remember the details or the name of the author, for that matter. But I remember that I appreciated the book.

  27. Loralee, thanks for all the great suggestions. I'm so glad to see authors from mainstream LDS publishers represented in this discussion. I've been a part of the Association for Mormon Letters for a while now, and I've always wished we heard from folks publishing with Covenant and DB more often (and I know why these writers stay away from the AML sometimes–and I don't mean to open that can of worms here). I will definitely take a look at some of the titles you suggest.

    Josi, I agree that there is room for all sorts of different styles and tastes within the world of LDS publishing. I am very heartened to see that some of the suggestions here have been described as well written as well as entertaining, which I'm sure we would all agree are adjectives that don't have to be mutually exclusive. I enjoy reading light, entertaining stuff, or historical fiction, or some of the other genres that are most often associated with LDS lit–just as long as the writing is solid. (I'm not much into romance novels, LDS or non-LDS, but that's just me. And I'm sure there are some well-written LDS romances out there). But maligning each other never helps anybody, I agree totally. And Beth at Parables is very talented and an amazing editor.

    Matthew, I can't believe the Mountain Dew story! That's a great one.

    Dalene, I love your comment "I want us to tell our stories well and with honesty. Even our made up stories." I couldn't agree more.

  28. LDS literature has changed so dramatically over the last few years. Of course, it all depends on the authors you choose. I love Jeff Savage's Shandra Covington mystery series that is seriously spine tingling, Kerry Blair's Ghost series, Robison Wells "The Counterfeit" that is about economic terrorism that is intellectual and entertaining, I mean, the offering out there for clean mysteries written by LDS authors that aren't overtly LDS and that still keep you on the edge of your seat is tremendous. I think that if you haven't tried LDS literature in the past three years, you should try it again, because it's changed—for the better.

  29. I'm so glad Josi made the comments she did. It is true that different authors strike different chords with different readers. We all have our preferences. And they're all okay. One person is not stupid or inferior for liking a certain genre that another person does not like.

    I do believe that there are certain types of writing that take more thinking and skill to create. Having, for example, characters working through their own problems, instead of having some miracle suddenly jump from nowhere to solve the problem for them.

    But it is true, what sells best, is what publishers will publish. Not necessarily what is most skillfully crafted.

  30. Loralee, I think I'm going to rewrite your final statement like this, What sells best, is what publishers will publish,in either the LDS market, or nationally. Not necessarily what is most skillfully crafted. We are just lucky that the national market is so expansive and so we have a greater range of choice.

  31. I have to say that I don't read very much LDS literature, because a whole awful lot of it is not very literary and I hate things that read like an embellished primary lesson or are ooey gooey dripping "perfect" Molly Mormon stuff. I have read some good books though and would agree that things are slowly getting better. Sometime a long time ago someone gave a talk at a BYU Devotional about this, written as if it were the Screwtape Letters. It was very well done, and made the point that all the terribly written stuff getting published was good for Screwtape's boss. I usually only read things that are recommended to me by others, but what I am looking for in LDS literature is that it be the same quality of great literature out there without the obscenity and all you find in the modern stuff anymore. If it is overtly trying to be LDS then it usually comes off fake and tacky to me but if it really deals with real deep issues in a realistic and thought provoking way, then I'm on board. Of course, light silly stuff that is just fun and goofy and makes fun of ourselves is always a welcome relief too.

  32. Julie–maybe I gave up too soon. I'm going to check out some of your recommendations and a few of the others offered in these comments and give it another try.


  33. I am so thrilled to find this post! I was looking for some better LDS fiction. I knew there must be something out there. I have read Dean Hughes, but when I was done I felt only a little better than I did about Stephanie Meyer's Twilight series: Like I just ate a box of chocolates alone in the dark. It was tasty, but not too nourishing. It might not have been the best use of time and money. If you pin me down, though, yeah, I liked it.

    Couldn't stomach Work and the Glory. I studied LDS History at BYU and don't like people making up conversations between Joseph Smith and Brigham Young.It feels a little like sacrelige.

    Recently bought Heaven Knows Why! by Samuel W. Taylor, which apparently is one of the first popular LDS fiction books. It was cheesy but took more risks than I expected for 1948. It isn't preachy. Sort of old-fashioned funny.

    I tried reading Cage of Stars, but couldn't handle the .

    Maybe someone can set up a Shelfari shelf (or similar) where people can reccommend LDS fiction books? I am always looking for something new and great!I buy 'em too. Can't remember to return things to the library!

  34. I banned myself from looking at most blogs because I was falling behind my word count goal for National Novel Writing Month, so I just saw this post today.

    I like Card's stuff, because it doesn't assume the reader is LDS and it doesn't assume God is made-up, which are the problems I find with the overwhelming majority of LDS and non-LDS titles, respectively. At first the Alvin Maker stories bugged me, but I got over it, especially because they haven't gone off into weird "Alien Chipmunk Society Clashes With Brazilian Wackos" territory, unlike some other series of his I could name.

    I like things that are similar to what I write: normal books with Mormon characters. I work hard to avoid the Relief Society on Sundays, so it's not surprising I don't want to spend my free reading time there either. When a story feels like it's more about Larry The Churchmember than Larry's Life I get somewhat exasperated. It's probably not odd that CS Lewis is my favorite "LDS writer," in terms of what Mormon people quote and all read. I liked Jack Weyland for about six months around the time my family became active again; I was a few months shy of my sixteenth birthday at the time. In my own writing, LDS characters are usually secondary (the NaNo project for this year has an LDS next-door neighbor who marries the original protagonist and is stepfather to the final protagonist.)

    Oh, oh! And I loved The Great Brain books as a child. Never mind that the primary characters (and author) are all Catholic. It's almost an LDS book, anyway.

  35. I just stumbled upon this today so I may be a little too late for people to notice my comments. But, it's been interesting to get all different opinions about LDS authors/books.

    I would also recommend author Shannon Hale. She writes children/young adult stuff typically. She's LDS, but the books are not about LDS characters. They're very good books and fun reads. Great for elem/jr high kids but she was also on my assigned reading list for a class I took in college.

    Also, the book, "The Secret Diary of Brett Colton," by Kay Mangum is fantastic. It's Mormon written, but the main character is not LDS. Very emotional, very well-written. I would recommend it to anyone.


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