"No obstacles are insurmountable when God commands and we obey"
- - Heber J. Grant
December 11, 2013
Good Reads to Give or Get
by Laurie Williams Sowby

Books are always on my Christmas wish list. Here are a few that may work well on someone else’s.

FOR KIDS: From two very talented LDS cartoonists with the same last name, who aren’t related to each other, come some colorful picture books perhaps targeted at, but certainly not limited to, children.

New is Val Chadwick Bagley’s What’s Hidden in the Golden Plates, a Seek and Ye Shall Find book from Covenant (2013, 34 slick, thick pages in hard cover, $11.99). Beyond the amusing art with a list of things to find, this book actually aims to teach children what the Book of Mormon contains: “Most importantly, the Golden Plates testify of Jesus Christ.”

Salt Lake Tribune cartoonist Pat Bagley’s I Spy a Nephite was first published by Whitehorse Books in 1999, in hardcover, but is just as much fun (and a bit less money) as the original in its paperback incarnation (about 30 pages, $9.95).

These sturdy pages are more the busy style of the popular Where’s Waldo books, but with more humor per page. Both of these “children’s” books hold immense entertainment value, especially when shared with kids.

FOR TEENS and YOUNG ADULTS: Seminary teacher Stephen J. Stirling offers Shedding Light on the Dark Side (Cedar Fort 2013,119 pages, $10.99 in soft cover). Subtitled Defeating the Forces of Evil, it speaks to youth and young adults, making the point that Satan and his power are real and should never be toyed with.

It also declares that Jesus Christ’s power far surpasses anything available to Satan.

Stirling offers solid strategies for turning away from darkness and seeking the light. The topic and his common-sense approach are interesting enough that young people should read it, and the book short enough that they likely will.

David M. R. Covey, son of the late Stephen R. Covey, proves himself to be a powerful motivational writer with The Highly Effective Missionary (Cedar Fort 2013, 115 pages, $12.99). Though small, it packs a punch with, as the cover suggests, “bold and innovative approaches to hasten the work.”

From personal experience as a young missionary to seeing his own sons serve, Covey offers a toolbox of ideas that could make a real difference for missionaries, current or prospective, who desire to make their efforts more effective.

FOR ADULTS: When the day comes that we can’t laugh at ourselves, we’re in trouble. To avoid that hazard, consider picking up Salt lake Tribune columnist Robert Kirby’s Family Home Screaming, a 1999 original (and I do mean original) re-issued from Liecester Bay Books, along with Sunday of the Living Dead and Kirby Soup for the Soul. I once worked at a newspaper with Kirby, and I can only say it was an experience.

What you get in these books is the real thing, from a dad describing the angst of having a teenager take a driving test to a day trying to enjoy a water park, there’s stuff here we all recognize and relate to.

Seeing titles like “Rise and Whine” and his assessment of grandparenthood as “the second most fun part of procreation,” how could a reader not smile? And to top it off, cartoonist Bagley’s added his own witty takes on family life (125 pages, $11.95).

At the opposite end of the spectrum is Emily Freeman’s Written on Our Hearts: Invitations from the Old Testament (Deseret Book 2013, 180 pages in hard cover, $19.99).

“The stories and lessons of the Old Testament have carried me through some of the greatest challenges of my life,” she writes. “In those moments, much-needed verses of scripture have been written on my heart…It is within those pages that I have come to know Jehovah, the Deliverer — Jesus Christ — in a way I might not have before.”

She takes a single book or groups books of the Old Testament together as she shares a related thought or experience briefly, then offers an invitation — a question or two that lead the reader to think how what’s learned may be applied. It’s a different way of approaching 2014’s Sunday school course of study, one that promises to make the Old Testament live and its teachings lively.

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About Laurie Williams Sowby

Laurie Williams Sowby has been writing since second grade and getting paid for it since high school. Her byline ("all three names, please") has appeared on more than 6,000 freelance articles published in newspapers, magazines, and online.

A graduate of BYU and a writing instructor at Utah Valley University for many years, she proudly claims all five children and their spouses as college grads.

She and husband, Steve, have served three full-time missions together, beginning in 2005 in Chile, followed by Washington D.C. South, then Washington D.C. North, both times as young adult Institute teachers. They are currently serving in the New York Office of Public and International Affairs

During her years of missionary service, Laurie has continued to write about significant Church events, including the rededication of the Santiago Temple by President Hinckley and the groundbreaking for the Philadelphia Temple by President Eyring. She also was a Church Service Missionary, working as a news editor at Church Magazines, between full-time missions.

Laurie has traveled to all 50 states and at least 45 countries (so far). While home is American Fork, Utah, Lincoln Center and the Metropolitan Museum of Art have provided a comfortable second home.

Laurie is currently serving a fourth full-time mission with her husband in the New York Office of Public and International Affairs. The two previously served with a branch presidency at the Provo Missionary Training Center. The oldest of 18 grandchildren have been called to serve missions in New Hampshire and Brisbane, Australia.

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