The facts are indisputable: There is no way to slake the biblio-appetite of your scholar. Even if all 30 volumes of the Joseph Smith Papers were on the shelf, your scholar would still be dreaming of an imaginary four-volume J. Golden Kimball Papers (including the much-anticipated expletive facsimile volume).
Despair not. There are great gifts for your scholar — books that will delight him or her — even if your scholar never actually reads them.
The Joseph Smith Papers
What?! Your scholar does not have the first two books? Please tell me that your scholar at least has the first season of the Joseph Smith Papers TV show on DVD. No? This is why your scholar is crying at night. Mortgage your house, sell your car and buy the books already. Resistance is futile.
The Joseph Smith Papers Freebies (Free).
The JosephSmithPapers.com Web site will send a free bound index for "Journals Volume 1" to all who request one. You may think the book was fine without an index, but your scholar does not. You can also print off an errata document for the first volume. These are nifty enhancements to any Joseph Smith Papers gift and show that you really care.
The Joseph Smith Papers "Journals Vol. 1" limited-edition leather binding
A mere $165 while they last.
"One Eternal Round," by Hugh Nibley.
The last book in the Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, and Nibley's magnum opus, will be available soon — probably in time for the 100th anniversary of his birth in March. Don't let this stop you from giving the book — just pre-order it at DeseretBook.com and/or make up a homemade gift certificate.
"Personal Writings of Joseph Smith," edited by Dean Jesse ($70 if you can find one).
Think of this classic book as the best of the Joseph Smith Papers. Jesse gathered those writings that reveal the Prophet at his most personal level. Nothing can get you closer to the Prophet himself. Don't think, however, that this will free you from having to eventually purchase all the Joseph Smith Papers. That is non-negotiable. This volume is out of print anyway, so scramble to find one now.
"Remembering Joseph: Personal Recollections of Those Who Know the Prophet Joseph Smith," compiled by Mark L. McConkie ($32.95).
Even the Joseph Smith Papers is not enough. This book collects the reminiscences of people who knew Joseph.
"The Book of Mormon: The Earliest Text," edited by Royal Skousen ($35).
This volume is the full text of the Book of Mormon and is as close as possible to the original dictation by Joseph Smith. Because of the way Skousen arranged the text on the page, this is the easiest-to-read Book of Mormon in existence.
"The Book of Mormon: A Reader's Edition," edited by Grant Hardy ($16.47)
Not just every scholar, but every member of the LDS Church should consider this easy-to-read Book of Mormon. Instead of columns and having every verse as if it is a paragraph, the text is arranged like a normal book. Hardy even puts poetic passages in — surprise! — poetic line format. Hardy's footnotes are also refreshing and enlightening and must be read to appreciate the value of this volume.
"Muhammad: Prophet of God," by Daniel C. Peterson ($11.70).
A biography about Muhammad that is interesting, inspiring and enlightening (no small feat if you've tried reading other western scholars' biographies of the founder of Islam). It also shows that Peterson can actually write something that doesn't skewer an anti-Mormon.
A scholar does not live on books alone. There is also joy found in periodicals such as "Brigham Young University Studies," "The FARMS Review," "Journal of Mormon History," "Mormon Historical Studies" or even the ever-so-long-titled "Journal of The Book of Mormon and Other Restoration Scripture." Google the journal names, subscribe and watch your scholar weep with joy with every issue.
Terryl L. Givens books
Anything by Givens will make your scholar feel happy but also woefully ignorant in comparison to Givens, thus introducing, perhaps, your scholar to a new feeling: humility.
Margaret Barker books
Barker is an insightful Methodist scholar of ancient biblical practices and temple worship. Her books will also make your scholar feel happy and ignorant.
Take this article to your scholar's bookcase and compare. If everything here is already on the shelf, do not give up hope. There is one more book you could purchase that your scholar is almost guaranteed to not own:
"The Host," by Stephenie Meyer ($25.99).
Buying a book your scholar does not want is humorous. Just watch the face twitch. Relish the sheepish and limp "thank you" when they unwrap Meyer's book instead of Joseph Smith Papers "Journals Vol. 1." Then, after your laugh, tell your scholar they can take the book back to the store and exchange it. Or, maybe you'll prefer to just hand your scholar a gift card and read "The Host" yourself.