Check out the latest podcast episode Listen
Book Nook

The Joy of Reading–Shared


By Richard H. Cracroft, ‘63

READING is usually a solitary pleasure, but that pleasure is multiplied when we talk about books with friends. Since 1963 my wife and I have been engaging in good-book talk with a group of 16 like-minded (and sometimes happily light-minded) friends in a great-books group. Several of the men in the group—all BYU professors emeriti—are unregenerate scientists who delight in baiting the English and music professors. Our discussions are vigorous and animated and focused by four undeviating factors—our love for each other, for reading, for BYU, and for the restored gospel. It has been pleasant and enlightening, book in hand, to stumble together over life’s milestones.

Writing this column has made me aware that many of you are similarly engaged in the paradoxical sharing with friends in book clubs or study groups the solitary pleasures of reading good books. I congratulate those of you who are “anxiously engaged” in the good cause of reading and sharing good literature. I can’t think of a better way to spend some of life’s precious moments. Here are a few good books you may wish to enjoy in solitude and in your own great-books group.

I thoroughly enjoyed Finding God at BYU (American Fork, Utah: BYU Religious Studies Center Publications, 2001; 299 pp.; $14.95), edited by S. Kent Brown, ’62, Kaye T. Hanson, ’64, and James R. Kearl, ’69. Inspired by Finding God at Harvard (1996), a book about finding religion at an unabashedly secular institution, the editors asked each other, “Why not Finding God at BYU—an unabashedly spiritual institution?” The answer is 23 very readable essays by BYUfaculty members and former BYU students. Some of them joined the Church at BYU, like Melinda Cummings Cameron, ’74, and her sister, daughters of Hollywood film star Robert Cummings; and Earl F. Kauffman, ’97, from Germany, or Johnny A. Bahbah, ’85, a Palestinian Arab. Some of other faiths found God but were not converted to the Church—like Juliana Boerio-Goates, ’82, professor of chemistry and a faithful Catholic (“a better Catholic” [53], she insists, because of her BYUexperience), or Eula Ewing Monroe, professor of teacher education and a committed Baptist. The book is replete with stories that underscore that BYU isremarkably different, harboring a believing and devoted faculty who perform comfortably in both academic and spiritual roles—like Madison U. Sowell, ’75, professor of Italian, who represents the profound difference it can make to students to have a teacher who is, at once, an excellent scholar, a concerned teacher, and a spiritually attuned bishop of a student ward.

I found two recent biographies very interesting. T. Edgar (Ted) Lyon Jr., a BYU professor of Spanish and Portuguese [??], in T. Edgar Lyon: A Teacher in Zion(Provo: BYU Press, 2002; 346 pp.; $18.95), writes the biography of his father, T. Edgar (Ed) Lyon (1903–78). Lyon was a mission president (the Netherlands, 1933–37), historian, seminary teacher, long-time institute teacher at the University of Utah LDS Institute of Religion (1937–75), CES course writer, and a moving force in the Nauvoo restoration. T. Edgar Lyon is the felicitous inaugural volume of the Biographies in Latter-day Saint History series of the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Latter-day Saint History and BYU Studies. In Beautiful Singing: “Mind Warp” Moments (Salt Lake City: Printing XPRESSIONS, 2001; 183 pp.; $19.95), Clayne W. Robison, ’62, BYU professor of music and one of my favorite vocal soloists, combines his autobiography of profound personal insight with a sheaf of creative ideas about living wisely and adds a richly detailed manual on the physics and technique of singing beautifully.

Here are three novels, any one of which reading groups might enjoy. Lyman K. Hafen, ’79, a southern Utah author, has written a gem of a novel about loss, hope, redemption, and baseball. In the Midst of Winter: A Tale of Hope (St. George, Utah: Tonaquint Press, 2001; 161 pp.; $12.95) is narrated by Andy Adamson, who recalls his deep grief in the fall of 1986 at the death of his baseball-loving father. Young Andy is unable to begin healing until the brilliant, articulate, partially crippled, devoted student of baseball Theodore W. Messenger moves to town. Theodore takes over the management of Andy’s fifth-grade baseball team and primes the boys for what becomes an epic game between the two fifth-grade classes played on New Year’s Day, 1987, a game that produces several healing miracles.

Ronald G. Woods, ’68, administrative assistant to the dean of the College of Humanities at BYU, Latter-day Saint bishop, and seasoned writer of several books of nonfiction, has just published his first novel. Although The Hero (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2002; 192 pp.; $15.95) aims at a national teenage audience, don’t let that fool you. My wife and I, who read it to each other during a drive to Phoenix, thoroughly enjoyed this gripping story of three Idaho boys whose summer lark on a homemade raft turns into a tragic adventure with terrifying consequences. The upshot of a white lie, told in order to solace a strange and angry father, is a great deal of growing-up, insight, wisdom, and finally, redemption. This book, an exciting and instructive literary treat, is one you’ll want to give the teenagers in your family—after you’ve read it yourself.

Marilyn McMeen Brown, ’62, in House on the Sound: A Novel (Springville, Utah: Salt Press/Cedar Fort, 2001; 251 pp.; $22.50), combines personal memoir and fiction to tell, from the point of view of 10-year-old Lindy, of growing up in a new house on Puget Sound during the years of World War II, 1940–44. Brown recounts life in the nearly autobiographical McKinsey (McMeen) family amidst rumors of an imminent Japanese attack, Pearl Harbor, the “war effort,” espionage (real and rumored), and the mysterious and frightening activities of the strange Barbar family who live in the nearby woods. I heartily agree with my colleague Bruce W. Jorgensen, ’66, who calls the book “a good read—funny, scary, lyrical” (from the dust jacket).

If your group is in the mood for gripping suspense and adventure reading, two recent novels by prolific storyteller Clair M. Poulson will fill the bill. I’ll Find You: A Novel of Suspense (American Fork, Utah: Covenant Communications, 2001; 310 pp.; $14.95) is the exciting story of Jeri Satch’s 17-year search for her playmate Rusty Egan, who is kidnapped from her side as the two 6-year-olds are at play. Fulfilling her promise to find him, Jeri embarks on a long, frightening, and life-threatening adventure. I also enjoyed Poulson’s Relentless: A Novel (American Fork, Utah: Covenant Communications, 2002; 282 pp.; $14.95), another fast-paced chase tale in which police pursue an escaped killer and his hostages across Colorado, Utah, and into the mountains near Jackson Hole, Wyo.

Finally, I mention Dory J. Peters, who has just published his second novel, The Warriors’ Code (Springville, Utah: Bonneville Books/Cedar Fort, 2002; 133 pp.; $12.95). The Warriors’ Code picks up where Peters’ quasi-autobiographical first novel, Winds of Change (2000), leaves off—relating how Victor Bishop, a Navajo boy placed in a white, Latter-day Saint home, grows up in both cultures; serves a mission in Switzerland; marries Allison, a white Latter-day Saint; and begins to explore his Native American heritage. In this new novel, Victor discovers in his search for his heritage the story of his grandfather, Lee Benally, who is wrenched, at age 18, from his Navajo world to become a U.S. Marine, Navajo code-talker, Iwo Jima survivor, and World War II hero. Peters’ novels, like his perspective, are unique in LDS culture and make for fascinating reading.

I hope fascinating reading is something you are doing a great deal of these days, for yourself and, perhaps, as part of a book group. Long may they live!

Richard H. Cracroft is a professor emeritus of English.

Correction: Because of an editing error in the spring 2002 Book Nook, François L. Radzik’s book, Alles über Josef (about Joseph, son of Jacob), was incorrectly described as being about Joseph Smith.


BYU Studies and the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute jointly publish inspiring scholarly works on the history and heritage of Latter-day Saints. Below are descriptions of recent publications:

A Trial Furnace: Southern Utah’s Iron Mission, by Morris A. Shirts, ’47, and Kathryn H. Shirts, ’71 (2001, 523 pp., $29.95 [hardback], $21.95 [softback])

In 1850 Church leaders established the Iron Mission in southern Utah. A Trial Furnace chronicles the lives of the people who ran this mission, men and women who struggled in their new environment but found strength and faith in their community.

No Toil nor Labor Fear: The Story of William Clayton, by James B. Allen, ’56 (2002, 454 pp., $29.95 [hardback], $19.95 [softback])

This book explores the life of William Clayton, the pioneer famous for writing the words of the beloved hymn “Come, Come Ye Saints.”

Voyages of Faith: Explorations in Mormon Pacific History, edited by Grant R. Underwood, ’77 (2000, 413 pp., $18.95)

With Voyages of Faith you can embark on your own journey to the Pacific. You’ll meet influential Saints, find out about the area’s missionary and colonization efforts, and learn the history of the Laie Hawaii Temple.

web: For more information on books by BYU Studies and the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute, see


For more information on books reviewed in “The Joy of Reading–Shared” see the links below:

Alfred A. Knopf (Random House)

• Ronald G. Woods, ’68, The Hero

BYU Religious Studies Center;

• S. Kent Brown, ’62, Kaye T. Hansen, ’64, and James R. Kearl, ’69, (eds.), Finding God at BYU 


• Marilyn McMeen Brown, ’62, House on the Sound: A Novel

• Dory J. Peters, The Warrior’s Code

Covenant Communications;

• Clair M. Poulson, I’ll Find You: A Novel of Suspense and Relentless: A Novel

Joseph Fielding Smith Institute and BYU and

• T. Edgar Lyon Jr., T. Edgar Lyon: A Teacher in Zion


• Clayne W. Robison, ’62, Beautiful Singing: “Mind Warp” Moments