Much to the consternation of my wife (who handles our money), I am a rather frequent visitor to William & Mary’s book store. It has been a while since I glanced through their religion section (of late I have been buying poetry or history), but the other day I did glance through the “Mormon” section to see what they have. Mormonism is not a big seller in Williamsburg, but still the bookstore always gives about eighteen inches of shelf space to Mormons. To my surprise the bookstore wasn’t carrying any copies of Brodie’s biography of Joseph Smith. This is the first time this has happened. Indeed, the only books they had on Mormonism were the new paperback edition of Rough Stone Rolling and Terryl Given’s By the Hand of Mormon. When RSR first came out, I expressed some doubts as to whether or not it would replace No Man Know’s My History as the standard Joseph Smith biography. For the time being, however, Bushman seems to have triumphed, at least in Williamsburg. I suspect that part of this mainly has to do with purchasing practices at the bookstore. On the other hand, both books are published by Knopf, and I suspect that many purchasing agents if faced between the choice of stocking the old Knopf biography and the new Knopf biography, will opt for the new one.
Of course the absolute nadir of Mormonism in college bookstores came when I checked out the religion section at the Harvard Bookstore only to find that their only book on Mormonism was the anti-Mormon “history” One Nation Under Gods, which if I recall correctly had dust jacked endorsements from such well-respected scholars as the Tanners and Ed Decker. Things seem to be looking up.