On a lobby wall in the old Deseret Book corporate offices, the company once posted — in giant block letters — the titles of its all-time bestsellers.
I remember there were only two living authors on the list at the time: Stephen Robinson for "Believing Christ" and Chieko N. Okasaki for "Lighten Up."
I also remember thinking that thousands of sisters had read "Believing Christ" while I'd never met a man who had read "Lighten Up."
It made me wonder.
Did that mean women in the LDS Church were twice as well-read and twice as wise?
True, LDS women usually wrote for other women. But it was also true that men sometimes hesitated to pick up a book written by a woman — not only in the church but in society at large.
I've had some wonderful discussions with LDS women about the novels of Charles Dickens and John Steinbeck. But I don't think I've ever discussed the novels of Jane Austen or Anne Rice with another man.
So, with March 17 being the anniversary of the founding of the Relief Society, it seems a like a good time to give female LDS writers a shout-out.
Here are five books by Mormon women that men in the church might want to sample.
Any man who reads one will find himself to be a better man when he finishes.
Take my word for it.
1. "The Biography and Family Record of Lorenzo Snow," by Eliza R. Snow
Freshness shows up in literature when an author captures the world from a unique perspective. And there will always be only one Eliza Roxcy Snow. Whether describing her brother's wedding day or making puns and fun of her family name, Sister Snow can show you life anew.
2. "All Gods Critters Got a Place in the Choir," by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich and Emma Lou Thayne
A potpourri of poems, essays, sketches and think pieces from two true pillars of LDS literature.
3. "Lowell L. Bennion: Teacher, Counselor, Humanitarian," by Mary Lythgoe Bradford
It takes a wise and savvy author to capture the life of another wise and savvy author. Mary Lythgoe Bradford does that. Oscar Wilde claimed that biography added another terror to death. But Lowell L. Bennion ended up in good hands. Read this book and get to know one of the most formidable Mormons of the modern era, as well as one formidable biographer.
4. "The Simeon Solution: One Woman's Spiritual Odyssey," by Anne Osborn Poelman
I championed this little book when it came out in 1995. Now, 16 years later, I still sing its praises. I gleaned more from reading Anne Poelman's book than Ruth and Naomi could glean in a year.
5. "Cat's Cradle," by Chieko N. Okasaki
All of Chieko Okasaki's books are worth the investment of time and money, but this one in particular seems, to me, to be a felicitous mix of personal experience, scripture, humor, shrewd observation and spiritual insight. It's not easy to discuss weighty matters with a buoyant touch. But she is a master at it.