Last week I received in the mail a copy of Stephen Taysom's Shakers, Mormons, and Religious Worlds: Conflicting Visions, Contested Boundaries, recently released from Indiana University Press as part of their Religion in North America series. As I noted in a post a little over a month ago at the Juvenile Instructor, it is the first book on Mormonism to be published as part of that series.
Steve is a good friend and a thoughtful scholar, and I'm anxious to read through the book (just as soon as I finish grading final exams). I've read the dissertation that served as a starting point for the book manuscript, and while my own proclivities generally don't lean toward theory-heavy analyses, I found Steve's research insightful. He takes the comparison between the Shakers and Mormons further than anyone else has to date, revealing that even beyond their communitarian lifestyles and alternative marital practices and sexual arrangements, the two can be compared in fascinating ways. Looking at the rules that governed daily life in each community, their respective dietary codes, and their comparative modes of religious experience, Taysom adds much to our understanding of new religious movements in 19th century America (and provides some great fodder for lectures).
Over at the Juvenile Instructor blog, Matt Bowman has interviewed Steve about the book. Matt posted Part I this morning, and Part II should be following later this week. Part I describes where the idea for the book came from, the process of finding a publisher and revising the dissertation into a book manuscript, and Steve's reflections on the current place and trajectory of Mormon studies in the academic world.
If you or the religious studies geek in your life is looking for a last minute Christmas gift, consider stuffing her stocking with Shakers, Mormons, and Religious Worlds.