What’s wrong with this picture

January 14, 2004 | 13 comments
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Last night Cirila and I got a babysitter and went out to celebrate our anniversary. After dinner and dessert we ended up in our local Barnes and Noble, enjoying the chance to browse without our two year old demanding that we purchase those Matchbox car “books”. Anyway, I was somewhat surprised to see what books made up B&N’s LDS section.

Here is the sum total of what they carried:

Juanita Brooks, Mountain Meadows Massacre
Sally Denton, American Massacre: The Tragedy at Mountain Meadow
Will Bagley, Blood of the Prophets: Brigham Young and the Mountain Meadows Massacre
Ostling, Mormon America: The Power and the Promise
Claudia and Richard Bushman, Building the Kingdom: A History of Mormons in America

Wha??? Three books on the MMM, one (albeit terrific) general book on Mormonism aimed at high-schoolers, and the Ostlings’ book? Now I don’t expect too much from a general chain bookstore, and I understand the MMM books are new, but that selection just seems silly.

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13 Responses to What’s wrong with this picture

  1. Renee on January 14, 2004 at 5:38 pm

    It seems to vary wildly from store to store. At the 2 BN stores here, they frequently throw some fiction. 1-2 copies of assorted volumes of Lund’s Work and the Glory or Hughes’ Childen of the Promise series. One store has Hinckley’s books, the other one never does.

    But something more interesting is the library. Everything from Jesus, the Christ to several BoMs, mostly with comments about how evil we are in the margins and how we’re going to burn.

  2. Taylor on January 14, 2004 at 5:46 pm

    Maybe they’re just sold out of all the good stuff? Maybe??

  3. Nate Oman on January 14, 2004 at 5:48 pm

    In Little Rock you generally see at least one or two anti-cult books like _Nation Under Gods_, along with one or two mainstream titles. (Ah! The Bible-Belt.) Thank goodness for Amazon.com.

  4. Nate Oman on January 14, 2004 at 5:59 pm

    When I lived in Cambridge, I spent quite a bit of time (and money — don’t tell my wife) in The Harvard Bookstore (not to be confused with the Harvard Coop, which is the university bookstore), a fine, mainly academic bookstore across the street from LaMont Library. I used to play the same game in their religious studies section. _One Nation Under Gods_, an anti-cult book, also popped up there from time to time. Taylor and I even considered lodging a complaint with the management of the bookstore. For example, I am assuming that The Harvard Bookstore would not have carried anti-cult books on Catholicism in their religious studies section. For that matter, I doubt that they would have carried B.H. Roberts’s _Outlines in Ecclesiastical History_ or James E. Talmadge’s _The Great Apostacy_.

  5. Dave on January 14, 2004 at 6:24 pm

    Greg, I think you shop at the wrong chain. At my local Borders, I found (just browsing) Arrington’s Mormon Experience and Barlow’s Mormons and the Bible.

    My local library stocks Alexander’s Mormonism in Transition, Bushman’s Beginnings of Mormonism, Flander’s Nauvoo, and Hansen’s Mormonism and the American Experience, as well as more popular treatments and (of course) a few “it’s really a cult” books. It’s better than other public library holdings I’ve seen–seems very hit and miss in libraries.

  6. Steve Evans on January 14, 2004 at 7:05 pm

    Yeah, that’s a pretty weird selection for a B&N. But frankly, what books about mormons ought a secular bookstore carry? I think the Bushmans’ book is a great pick b/c it hits the basics of mormonism in a simple way, but it’s difficult to think of what books ought to be there. I think any selection of books on Mormons should include the LDS scriptures, but alas, the Corporation of the President exercises strict control over that. Wait a minute… is this thread just another version of Bushman beats Brodie??

    Another thing to remember is that generally, LDS people think WAY more about their own faith than people of other religions (with some exceptions). So an LDS couple on their honeymoon (congrats, BTW) could walk into a B&N and be shocked at the paucity of selection, while some regular dude exploring religions will be AMAZED at the wealth of knowledge on the shelf.

  7. Greg on January 14, 2004 at 9:18 pm

    Thanks for the congrats Steve. Now I’ll get to see what this “seven-year itch” stuff is all about ;)

    The last B&N I haunted with regularity was the one on 66th and B’way in NYC, and they always seemed to have Shipps, Arrington, Quinn, Brodie, Bushman, Alexander etc. I would have thought the selection would be better, rather than worse, on the west coast.

  8. Clark Goble on January 14, 2004 at 10:04 pm

    Both Barnes and Nobel and Borders are interesting. The selection of books they have when they open is always far better than the selection of books they have after a few years. I suspect this is because when they open they have someone from headquarters determine the selection while afterwards it is more haphazard.

    I read a lot of books in different genres and I’m always initially excited but they quickly go down hill. Thank heavens for Amazon and all their new features.

  9. Kristine on January 14, 2004 at 10:40 pm

    There’s a huge difference in B&Ns philosophy and Borders’ (although the difference is narrower now than it was 10 years ago). B&N cares a lot more about merchandising, so a B&N store of the same size as a Borders store will stock roughly 30% fewer volumes. Within that stock, B&N tries never to be sold out of bestsellers and its top 25 titles in every subject area, whereas Borders is willing to be sold out of a school reading list book that can be bought at the B&N down the street for the sake of keeping around a larger backlist. The upshot is that a 37,000 sq. ft. Barnes and Noble will carry up to 50% fewer titles than a Borders the same size. Also, B&N will quit stocking a title that doesn’t sell in 6-8 months in a particular store, while Borders will wait about 2 years for a single copy to sell before removing a title from a store’s standard inventory list.
    (Doesn’t everybody quit grad school and work at a bookstore (or two) for a while?? We now return you to your regularly scheduled…)

  10. Clark Goble on January 15, 2004 at 1:34 am

    Kristine, the exact opposite is true here in Provo. Initially B&N had a fantastic selection and then it got very poor. When Borders opened in had a very large row and now has very little but B&N has gotten better. The problem is that they aren’t very diverse. For instance B&N must have at least 12 different books by Derrida and many by Heidegger, and a huge section of Nietzsche. But it has relatively few on more analytic topics. Unfortunately both stores have poor science sections, although Border’s is better than B&N. B&N has a better literary criticism section, although both have fairly good classics and poetry sections. Their computer sections are about on par with each other.

  11. Kristine on January 15, 2004 at 10:23 am

    Well, from my brief sojourn in Provo, I think pretty much nothing there fits with what I know about how the rest of the world works! :)

  12. lyle on January 15, 2004 at 4:47 pm

    re: public libraries, my older sister (6 years) worked in the Davis County Utah library for a few years and would frequently note/complain that they carried zero “mormon” books; to which she explicitly attributed to the explicit dislike of the library director to religion and a county-wide policy to ‘avoid’ “mormon” stuff. I know this has since changed…

  13. lyle on January 15, 2004 at 4:48 pm

    oh…this would have happened around 10-20 years ago.

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