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Massacre, in pages

Local booksellers Ken Sanders and Catherine Weller agree that one of the biggest Utah releases of 2008 was the official, long-anticipated account of the tragic 1857 slaughter of more than 120 men, women and children, Massacre at Mountain Meadows, by Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints historians Ronald W. Walker, Richard E. Turley and Glen M. Leonard. "In terms of sales, historic import and splash within the community nothing topped it," Weller said. "People had been waiting years for this. It was nice for them to be able to put it in their hands." The book mattered, as something of an official answer to Will Bagley's 2004 Blood of the Prophets.

Beauty, of the broken kind

At the top of King's English owner Betsy Burton's year-end list is Terry Temptest Williams' Finding Beauty in a Broken World , the Utah author's prosaic attempt to make sense of the world's tragic disorder through the paradigm of the word "mosaic." Folding the seemingly disparate topics of a trip to Ravenna, Italy, where she investigates how mosaics are made, to grassland where prairie dogs are threatened, to the horrors of the Rwanda genocide, Williams documents the beauty of what is broken and how such things are re-created. "Now, more than ever with the economy in shambles, I think this is a book that speaks to everyone," Burton said.

Of paradise and the developer behind it

Some of the best books start with one topic in mind, only to become something else entirely. When Utah writer and photographer Stephen Trimble set out to document oil and real-estate magnate Earl Holding's acquisition of Snow Basin property during the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, he instead produced a book exploring the many questions of land development in the American West. The resulting title, Bargaining for Eden: The Fight for the Last Open Spaces in America , landed on Sanders' and Burton's lists, with Sanders lauding it as a first-rate example of "getting both sides of the argument."

More, more, more locally themed books

Just as the book-reading public is wont to disagree, so do booksellers. Below are a few titles each listed, sans accidental intrusion:

Catherine Weller, Sam Weller's Books

Fist Bump Heard 'Round the World: The 2008 Election in Cartoons , by Pat Bagley (White Horse Books) » "This is not a plug for the Trib, honest. It's flying out the door."

Always a Cowboy: Judge Wilson McCarthy and the Rescue of the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad , by Will Bagley (Utah State University Press) » "It surprised me that a book about a Denver & Rio Grande attorney would do so well."

Salt Lake City Then and Now , by Kirk Huffaker (Then and Now Thunder Bay) » "A really fun book, especially if you grew up here."

Betsy Burton, The King's English

A Country Called Home , by Kim Barnes (Knopf) » "Maybe this isn't so much about Utah -- a young Eastern couple heads out West to buy an Idaho home sight unseeen -- but it would be my pick for people who love beautiful writing involving the wilderness."

The Edge of Never: A Skier's Story of Life, Death, and Dreams in the World's Most Dangerous Mountains , by William A. Kerig (Stone Creek Publications) » "A twin-track, nail-biting story of both the making of a movie and the skiing of a treacherous mountain in France. At the end it becomes very much a story of family. Kerig is a Salt Lake City writer and former editor of Wasatch Journal. "

The Last Cowgirl , by Jana Richman (Avon A) » "About a woman who grew up in rural Utah and now works in Salt Lake City as a reporter. Then when her brother dies she goes back to the farm she ran from. There's a romance in here, but it's very much a novel of the land."

Ken Sanders, Ken Sanders Rare Books

Trespass: Living at the Edge of the Promised Land , by Amy Irvine (North Point Press) » "This is first and foremost on my list. It's an extraordinary story set against the backdrop of the author's own Mormon ancestors and the prehistoric peoples who once lived in Utah. She uses such powerful metaphors, pointing out that we tend to think of our culture as somehow permanent, when the Anasazi were here for 1,200 years, and now they're gone."

Devil's Gate: Brigham Young and the Great Mormon Handcart Tragedy , by David Roberts (Simon & Schuster) » "Five times as many people died in the Martin Handcart Tragedy as did in the Donner Party. With a handful of brave exceptions, Mormon history is either faith-promoting fluff or vitriolic anti-Mormon screeds. It's only in the past few years that we've seen a renaissance of books true to Mormon history. There's never been a better time to read about Utah's past."

Innocent Blood: Essential Narratives of the Mountain Meadows Massacre , by Will Bagley and David L. Bigler (Arthur H. Clarke Company) » "At more than 500 pages, I've yet to read it all. This is a marvelous companion to Massacre at Mountain Meadows ."