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The Accidental Terrorist: Confessions of a Reluctant Missionary

4.32  ·  Rating details ·  143 ratings  ·  36 reviews
Finalist for the 2015 Association for Mormon Letters Award

“This just may be my favorite true-life amazing-but-true tale—never has threatening an aircraft been funnier or more thought-provoking.” —Cory Doctorow, author of Little Brother and Homeland

“I devoured the more than four hundred pages of this memoir in what was essentially one sitting . . . A welcome addition to the
Paperback, 1st Edition, 448 pages
Published November 10th 2015 by Sinister Regard
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Average rating 4.32  · 
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Mar 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Hoo boy – every once in a while you read a book that sort of stabs you in the heart. I won’t belabor this point – that is exactly what this book did for me. It stabbed me right in the chest. Blood is everywhere and it’s because of those damned pointy corners.

Wait, I think I took my metaphor and made it literal there. There was no blood, it only made my heart hurt because of the emotions I felt, not through a physical confrontation with the bound paper it was printed on.

If I take a step back an
Mike Norton
Nov 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I first heard the story of "Elder Shunn" from a close friend who was serving on an LDS (Mormon) mission with him in the late 1980's. A few years later I read the story online when the internet was still in its infancy after the author published the story online under the tongue-in-cheek title, "Terror On Flight 789".

First and foremost, one need not be Mormon or an "RM" (return missionary) to appreciate this book. The author, Bill Shunn, is a talented writer who has a gift with the written word.
Nov 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I was the mission office secretary on our couples mission so I have sat with troubled young missionaries, seeing them with new eyes. Even as a supposedly mature adult with returned missionary sons I had not processed the idea that they were boys trying to do an impossible job.

I love the way Shunn weaves in the story of Joseph Smith, exposing his teenage angst and foibles as he followed in his father's footsteps. In lockstep with tradition, Joseph's life followed the path of magic and treasure di
Aug 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Full disclosure: I've known Bill Shunn for twenty years, and knew all of the events in his memoir long before reading The Accidental Terrorist. I know that it's a true story, and know how it turned out in the end, but even so, I couldn't put it down and couldn't stop wanting to find out what happened next.

The Accidental Terrorist is compelling. It's also a mature and compassionate look at the author's younger self, at the time of his Mormon mission, and it's interspersed with the history of the
Robert Howe
Aug 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Heartfelt, thoughtful, and fascinating. For this gentile, it was a glimpse into a parallel universe.
Jan 08, 2016 rated it really liked it
I "read" this by listening to the audio podcasts by the author. I found it very engaging and informative. It's truly interesting, and I recommend it. :D
Jan 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
After rolling through an entire back-catalog of paranormal romance books, I figured a nice non-fiction book was the ticket. I picked up this one on recommendation of a book blog, and got it with a Kindle gift card that I received for Christmas. I grew up in an area with a good-sized Mormon community and had friends in school that were Mormon, but apart from that and reading a few other books and seeing a season or so of Sister Wives, I have minimal knowledge or interaction with Mormons as people ...more
Jacob Haller
Oct 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The event at the center of the story -- the author's ill-advised decision, as a young Mormon missionary, to call in a bomb threat, to prevent a fellow missionary from deserting his mission -- is exciting and interesting enough, but the details of the day-to-day life of a Mormon missionary are also well-observed and fascinating. Shunn makes you understand how he could come to be in a mental state where calling in a bomb threat would make sense, while not excusing his actions, or pretending that t ...more
Derryl Murphy
Oct 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
My own full disclosure here, as I am mentioned in the "about the author" details as being a co-author of Bill's, so take this with however many grains of salt you wish. But this is a remarkably entertaining, forthright, educational, appalling, sometimes even cringe-worthy book. Bill's honesty in telling you about his life as a missionary is unblinking and edifying, and I got through this much faster than I had anticipated, pleased to finally know the full story, excited to turn from page to page ...more
Sep 30, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book. The author shared many of the same sentiments that I have regarding the mission field--in my case, the thought of losing my son for 2 years. (I'd obviously support any well-researched decision he made, but at the same time, I am too selfish to willingly lose my child for that long; especially for something I myself don't believe.) This book was researched, documented, well thought out, and captivated me throughout the entire read. Thanks for sharing your story, Bill!
Woman Who Weaves
Dec 16, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oh lord, I read about this book on John Scalzi's website feature "The Big Idea". Somehow I thought it was fiction and included an alien invasion along with the Mormon missionaries. (A book I would still like to read.)

It reminded me of my time in the Peace Corps. It cemented my thought that the Mormons would be wise to change the nature of the mission. If it were community service I bet they'd attract a lot more converts, keep more members and just generally be more inspiring.

I enjoyed his comp
Brian Wolak
Jan 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I won this book as part of the goodreads giveaaway. This book offers a one of a kind look into the history of the mormon faith from the questioning eyes of a 19 y/o. missionary. Witty, honest, and quite the page turner. The accidental terrorist will shock you with it's stranger than fiction climatic look into the world of "religious" cults, the strings they pull and the lives they alter. I would not have bought this book myself had I not won it. Now having read it I will be purchasing online cop ...more
Oct 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This heartfelt, revealing, scary tale of a Mormon missionary year is a page-turner. Mormon history is cleverly interlarded, but not as well dramatized as the autobiographical material. Shunn remembers and renders the gut-wrenching conflicts of his youth with both empathy and a critical eye.
Dec 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Seriously brilliant. I've looked forward to reading this book for years, and it did not disappoint. Honest, funny, charming, and completely engrossing -- highly recommended!
Sep 02, 2018 rated it really liked it
The author used to host a slightly different audio version of this book on his website that I found very amusing. When I was reminded of the story I decided I could spend a few bucks and a few hours reading the updated book.

The book itself offers varied insights into many missionary and Mormon mindsets. This while also touching on problematic areas of LDS church history in a manner less caustic than that of the CES Letter (though some of these waxed a bit long for me).

The biographical style and
Nov 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
**I received this book for free through the giveaway program but that in no way affects my honest review** If you are at all interested in the LDS church then this is a must read. Having never been involved with the church or anything remotely similar it was really interesting to get an inside look at what being a missionary is actually like. Shunn's weaving of Mormon history with his own experience is really effective, I've read books about the church that drag on but alternating between the hi ...more
Nov 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. A terrific memoir.
For those of you who are ex-Mormons, note that this book will probably give you the heebie-jeebies. It will take you back to a place you left behind for probably a very good reason. Be that as it may, don't let that stop you from reading this! You'll come to love Elder Shunn and appreciate his horrifying journey. HAHHAHAHAHAHAH
He intersperses his story with some Joseph Smith history, which is actually pretty interesting. And the point at which he becomes "The
Craig Edwards
Nov 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Accidental Terrorist is an autobiographical account of the author's Mormon missionary experience, including the crazy and touching things he did as a young 19 year old missionary, heavily indoctrinated with Mormon beliefs and principally concerned with pleasing his church leaders. Shunn’s story is an entertaining reminder of what religious excess can lead to.

Along side with telling his mission story, Shunn also describes Mormon beliefs, culture, and practices, and gives the most efficient an
Dec 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A good memoir not only lets us learn something about another person, but it lets us learn something about ourselves. I have never been a fan of organized religion, this book didn't change that. But it did give me conflicted feelings about people practicing their religion. It helped me see them as people, not sheeple. At least some of them. But William/Bill, I feel his internal conflict as he recognizes his true motives, and that realization makes me wish I could go back in time and hug his young ...more
Nada Loughead
Dec 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Loved this book - great insight into the LDS missionary role as well as an expose on Joseph Smith. Lived in Calgary for a few years so enjoyed the local references - even though from a '80's perspective. Won this on Goodreads.
Francis Bass
Oct 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
An excellent book, as informative as it is entertaining. I love all the interesting details about mormonism, and what missionary work really is like.
Dec 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A really fascinating look into the life of a Mormon missionary, and a crisis of faith.
Ulrike Dunlap
Feb 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Very easy to read and I learned a lot about Mormonism.
Cherie Nef
Mar 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
A fascinating look into the life of a missionary. Not for the school library due to the "F" word and frank talk about sex.
May 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a marvelous read, alternately funny and honest and educational and most of all, moving. Bill is a wonderful writer. Read it. You won't be disappointed.
Oct 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Great writing about an interesting subject. I couldn't wait to find out what happened next! I highly recommend.
Jan 01, 2016 rated it really liked it
I received this book as a First Read. It's a well written and funny memoir. It also provides a nice history and good insight into the workings of the Mormon church.
Jan 28, 2016 rated it liked it
Well written and interesting, on a topic I didn't know much about.
Heather Lowry Marshall
Sep 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, memoir
So SO fascinating.
Jan 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Read this as part of my ongoing quest to understand Mormonism. This was a superb memoir of one of those clean-cut, white-shirted Mormon missionaries one sees all over the world, interleaved with a short biography of Joseph Smith, the founder of the Church of the Latter-day Saints. I thought it gave superb insight into how these young men (and sometimes young women) must feel as they go through the drudgery of their work, having doors slammed in their face multiple times a day, and what could mot ...more
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William Shunn was born in Los Angeles and raised in Utah, the eldest of eight children in a devout Mormon family. A writer from a young age, he attended the Clarion Writers Workshop at Michigan State University in 1985, when he was 17. As was expected, he departed on a proselytizing mission for the LDS Church at the age of 19. He was assigned to preach in Alberta, Canada, but after six months he w ...more

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