The Garden of Last Days: Having enjoyed House of Sand and Fog, I read this recent novel by Andre Dubus III. It’s about how the lives of a 9-11 hijacker, an exotic dancer with a little girl, an elderly widow, and a frustrated construction worker intersect. It’s well written on a scene-by-scene level and kept my interest, but I’m not sure all these plot threads really gelled together in a satisfying way. It’s a thick book but really clips along with very short chapters.
Rough Stone Rolling: I've been working my way very slowly all year long through Richard Bushman’s dense biography of Joseph Smith. I’m now on page 357, but I’m down to reading only a few pages on some Sundays, when I have time and remember. On some levels I find it engaging and feel like I'm learning a lot, but on other levels I wouldn’t call it an entertaining read and I feel like I will forget 98 percent of it. Thinking back, I remember that the book offered me some great insights on Joseph's father and on the Book of Mormon, but I'm already forgetting the details; but hey, at least I remember enough to know that it might be worth rereading those parts at some point. I want to read No Man Knows My History as my next Sunday book and compare my impressions.
Awakening to Our Awful Situation: This book by Jack Monnet is all about how modern-day conspiracies are fulfilling Book of Mormon prophecies about secret combinations in the last days. I felt like I’d already heard most of the conspiracies before, such as how secret families and committees manipulate wars and economies, but it was interesting to read this update, although I found myself wanting to skim parts that got too historically detailed. I got the sense that the author thinks virtually everything happens by conspiratorial design except maybe natural disasters, so it seems a bit exaggerated, but I’m sure there are some elements of truth as well. It’s full of obnoxious editing errors.
America in Danger: This book by Stephen M. Studdert is a lot more timely and compelling than Awakening to Our Awful Situation, and I’m still in the process of reading it. Studdert looks at the top-ten dangers currently facing America, and he paints a compelling case that we’re really in bad shape in a lot of areas and that if even just a few of these dangers come to fruition at the same time, life as we know it will change. His chapter on debt—which he identifies as the second most worrisome danger facing us—is already coming true. If you haven’t read the book, what would you guess are some of the other dangers he identifies and their ranking? At a minimum, what do you think he identifies as the number-one danger facing America and our way of life? I have been using this book a little in my freshman composition class at UVU. This is another book with tons of distracting editing errors, even though it appears to be published by a New York press.
The 19th Wife: My current novel is by David Ebershoff, and I’m about a third of the way through it. It’s a hybrid of historical and contemporary events related to Mormon polygamists, and the modern-day part involves a murder among fundamentalist polygamists like those in Colorado City. The novel innovatively blends various forms of writing from both time periods—in fact, I’m unsure whether some of the nineteenth-century stuff is real or made up—and I’m interested to see how it all comes together and plays out. It’s a nationally published book from Random House, and it’s gotten some good reviews. I wish I could read faster, but in my middle age I can read only a handful of pages at night before getting sleepy, so it takes me two or three months to finish a book.