The Mormon People
by Matthew Bowman (Random House, $17)
Between Mitt Romney’s presidential bid and the ongoing popularity of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight novels, America is experiencing a “Mormon moment,” said Diane Winston in The Washington Post. For a primer on the religion, readers could do a lot worse than Matthew Bowman’s “well-written and comprehensive” history. A Mormon himself, Bowman takes the church’s stories about founder Joseph Smith at face value, but he ably details the faith’s evolution.
The Book of Mormon Girl
by Joanna Brooks (Free Press, $14)
Joanna Brooks’s memoir is “a luminous ode to her passion for Mormonism,” said Meganne Fabrega in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Raised in Southern California as a Marie Osmond acolyte, Brooks didn’t turn from the faith even when she discovered that her liberal-leaning views clashed with church orthodoxy. Now an authority on Mormon culture, she’s written a book that should touch all readers who continue to pursue their faith even while rejecting some of its precepts.
by John G. Turner (Harvard, $35)
Sometimes a religious movement’s success “depends not so much on the mystical visions of its founder as on the executive energy of its first evangelist,” said Adam Gopnik in The New Yorker. John Turner’s “definitive biography of Mormonism’s greatest activist and apostle” details how Brigham Young took up Joseph Smith’s mantle and led the Mormon faithful west, nearly doing battle with federal troops in order to establish the church’s permanent home in the Utah territory.
Falling in Love With Joseph Smith
by Jane Barnes (Tarcher, $26)
Jane Barnes was an unlikely candidate for a late-life conversion to Mormonism, said Mythili Rao in TheDailyBeast.com. Yet this East Coast filmmaker briefly fell hard for the religion while working on a documentary about its founder. Her “unfocused” tale recounts how her infatuation inspired her to read the entire Book of Mormon and locate Mormon forebears in her family tree. Even though Barnes oversells the chances of her converting, “there’s an admirable curiosity at the book’s core.”