Reading Resolutions

As soon as the calendar changed to December 31st, posts began appearing in my Facebook and blog feeds from friends detailing their reading for 2013. Some had set goals to read a certain number of pages; others had set goals to read specific numbers of books or certain genres; some had just been keeping track of their reading and wanted to report their numbers and comment on their favorite (and least-favorite) books of the year. I’m usually in the last category: I started keeping track of my reading on my blog about seven years ago, but have never set goals related to reading. The system that works for me is to create a post for each month that lists the books I have read along with a short paragraph describing my reaction to them. I never really kept track of my reading prior to doing this and worried that it would be too time-consuming and difficult. Instead, I have found over the years that I really like having an easily-accessible record of things I have read, and the part of my brain that loves statistics and order gets a kick out of my final tally each year. At the end of each year I write a summary post that breaks down the numbers between fiction and non-fiction as well as male and female authors, and I also add some thoughts about general trends for the year and a listing of some of the most memorable books. Continue reading

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YA Corner: Books for Christmas

Our little home looked like Early American D.I. (to use Elder Holland’s expression) years ago when the Bishop came to visit. The children were still young enough to hug toys and bounce on the couch. I was pretty sure I was getting a new church calling and that was the reason for his visit. Little wasted words were spent. A ward organist was needed. Could I play, he wondered? Answering yes, but hesitating, he followed up with “Okay, but do you know how to play the organ?” (No, not really.) “I think I could do it,” I innocently replied. Maybe he saw hope in my eyes, or simply had to take me regardless. A plan formed in my mind. Grandma Hyde played organ every Sunday in her chapel. She could give me a speedy overview and I could practice and take it from there. With much kindness that is what she did for me. A gift was given. I intensely wanted to learn and there was a moment of opportunity.

And here I am shamelessly attempting to write something for AML. I am excited for this opportunity and adventure. All I bring is my work as a mother and Children’s Librarian—the years of books I have brought home that we have read together. Finding a gem of a book–one that when read out loud engages all the now teens and young adults (even those college goers) in our home, is one of my particular pleasures. It’s not that easy to do. More often time is at a premium for the simple basics of life. But there are a number of titles which have become part of our family and draw us together whenever we read them. That is for a different future blog.

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AML Website Down

This is just an announcement to let people know that the AML website is temporarily down. We’re working on resolving the problems related to this.

The blog continues to be functional.

Thanks to those who pointed this out to us. And for everyone who’s noticed, yeah, this mans it’s not your computer going wonky.

And a happy new year to all!

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In Tents # 36 Hyvää Joulua ja Onellista Uutta Vuotta

Way back last January, our stake Leaf-A-Ciety president spoke in our sacrament meeting, mentioning her mission in Finland. I went up and talked to her afterwards, “Onellista uutta vuotta.” She looked startled and blinked a couple of times, like she wasn’t quite sure what she had heard–Did he just say Happy New Year? “Kiitos,” she said. Thank you.

I didn’t serve my mission in Finland. Because of the brain surgery mentioned in #33 the doctor recommended my staying stateside. But my brother Kevin did. He turned 19 shortly after we returned home, and went right back. And my cousin Nathan Soderborg served in Finland. (Favorite family story: Nathan’s mother was talking with her mother on a party line, and to stop the nosy neighbor from listening in they switched to Swedish. The neighbor called the police about spies talking on her party line.)

I had lived in Finland because my father finally took a sabbatical.

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This Week in Mormon Literature, December 28, 2013

Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Covenant release 2013 Best Seller lists. I caught up on a few books that had slipped through the cracks this year. I should have the National Year in Review out next week, and the Mormon Market Review after that. Thanks to all of those who have sent their comments to me. Please send any news or corrections to mormonlit AT gmail DOT com.

News and new stories

Brandon Sanderson’s THE RITHMATIST was named the Best Teen Novel in the iBooks #Bestof2013 list.

Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Donner Dinner Party by Nathan Hale was named one of Buzzfeed’s “20 Of The Best Children’s Books Of 2013

Covenant 2013 Best sellers.

#1 – Glimmer of Hope By Sarah M. Eden Continue reading

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in verse #36 : For I will consider Christopher Smart

Anyone might consider him smart, for that matter.  He was well educated in Greek and Latin as a schoolboy, attended Pembroke College, Cambridge, earned many scholarships (most for scholarship), was widely published both as a poet and as an essayist, and undertook, among other tasks, to translate the Psalms.  He was brilliant in many ways, and it shows in his poem “Song to David,” not least in the elegant turn of phrase within the tight confines of the stanzaic form he adopted.  Because it is not a simple poem, nor easily found in its entirety, I offer you, as a Christmas offering on this day after, the entire text here, and urge you to read it aloud as your gift to yourself:

Sublime—invention ever young,
Of vast conception, tow’ring tongue
To God th’ eternal theme;
Notes from yon exaltations caught,
Unrivall’d royalty of thought
O’er meaner strains supreme.

His muse, bright angel of his verse,
Gives balm for all the thorns that pierce,
For all the pangs that rage;
Blest light still gaining on the gloom,
The more than Michal of his bloom,
Th’ Abishag of his age.

He sang of God—the mighty source
Of all things—the stupendous force
On which all strength depends;
From whose right arm, beneath whose eyes,
All period, power, and enterprise
Commences, reigns, and ends.

Tell them, I am, Jehovah said
To Moses; while earth heard in dread,
And, smitten to the heart,
At once above, beneath, around,
All Nature, without voice or sound,
Replied, O Lord, thou art.

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Christmas Stories Story

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I brought back A Christmas Carol this year after a three-year hiatus. It was a middling success. Perhaps my kids are still too young to follow Dickens’s sentences. Of course, we did Luke 2 last night, like every Christmas Eve, whether they get it all or not. Plus, we’ve turned the pages (over and over) on all those piles of picture books that get taken out of boxes each December. Add to that sung stories like “Rudolph” and “Frosty” and my kid’s have no shortage of Christmas tales, the best of which tie thematically or metaphorically or literally to a certain babe in a certain manger.

My grandmother used to buy random old books, many of which are on my own shelves now. For instance, I have an unmodernized version of Holinshed’s Chronicles, and if you’ve never read Shakespeare’s source material with all the Us and Vs switched you must. Another, older book is a crummy, late eighteenth-century reproduction of an even older—that is—medieval manuscript. You can make out the illumination though deciphering the words is impossible, not least because of an apparent smear. I like to imagine that the monk had stayed up late, taking great care with each letter, then, as he stood to head for bed, his sleeve dragged over the drying letters as he reached for his candle. Continue reading

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Wise Men

In honor of the season, I’m going to talk about “Wise Men.”

Back in 2008, a Catholic friend of mine was having trouble understanding why God waited until only 6000 years ago to introduce himself to humanity, when so much paleontological evidence evidence points to there having been human beings for over 100,000 years.  I sent him an email that said: Continue reading

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Abandoning the Field or Fighting the Good Fight: Ethics in Business, the Arts, and Hollywood

Although I doubt it was really targeted specifically for me, I received a family e-mail the other day with an article that the Deseret News published about Scott Ditty, a Mormon actor trying to make his way in Hollywood. Ditty was a working actor for 15 years, but eventually abandoned his enterprise because he felt that acting was too compromising of a career choice to be made if one wanted to stay true the values of the LDS faith. He now works at Alta High School in Utah as a football/track coach and film studies teacher.

I appreciate the personal integrity that this showed in Ditty, especially since he adds the caveat “I’m not saying you can’t be a good member of the church if you’re in that profession; I have many dear LDS friends who make it work. Mine was a personal choice to follow inspiration and pursue the noble profession of teaching and coaching.” However, I was also discouraged by the continuing pressure this kind of sentiment puts on Mormon artists, writers, actors and film folks to abandon the field of their creative aspirations.

When I tell people that I’m working towards being a screenwriter/playwright/TV writer, I can’t count the number of doubtful reactions that I have received, not because it’s such a competitive industry (which I’ve received, too…and it certainly is absurdly competitive!), but because they consider it to be a “corrupt” environment. “Oh, Mahonri, that’s not for you,” is a typical response.

Now is there some legitimacy to some of these concerns? Of course there is. However, if I had told some one that I was working towards being a lawyer, would have they told me that the moral compromises seemingly required in the legal field were incompatible with my faith? Or a politician? Or a businessman? To me, those fields are riddled with moral pitfalls, but they are common vocations for many Mormons, without the same cultural stigma attached to them.
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Hope, Horror, and Context

A meander in several parts on Mormons and tragedy, and an ongoing struggle to keep the beast at bay.

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Zombie lore is founded on the idea of thoughtless, mindless pseudo-people seeking to steal precious life—to no apparently constructive purpose. The twin terror of insatiable hunger and relentless pursuit by a foe that cannot be reasoned with speaks to an ultimate horror of battle that must be waged, but can never be won.

The metaphor isn’t even remotely subtle. Cast it as shambling hoards of the undead seeking to devour your brains, uncounted minions of the netherworld seeking to devour your hope, or armies of mindless Mormons swarming like locusts to devour individual identity in the name of vapid, happy groupthink it’s all the same—I have no responsibility to even try to understand those un-holy un-people.
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