Since we are approaching the end of 2011, and I have a little extra time today, I thought it would be worthwhile to revisit the books I read this year and pick my top 7 recommended reads. I realize that there are still a few days left of 2011, but it is fairly unlikely that I will be able to finish any books by then that would make my top 7, so I'm forging ahead!
Though all of my recommended reads are worth checking out, these are the "must reads" that simply should not be overlooked! I've included their Goodreads descriptions below each title - and you can find a review for almost all of them here on my blog (a few were back before I starting writing reviews, but were still rated as 5 stars).
7) Twin Bred by Karen A. Wyle
Can interspecies diplomacy begin in the womb?
In Twin-Bred, the human colony on Tofarn and the indigenous Tofa have great difficulty communicating with and basically comprehending each other. Scientist Mara Cadell, who lost a fraternal twin in utero, proposes that host mothers of either or both species carry twins, one human and one Tofa, in the hope that the bond between twins can bridge the gap between species. Mara has secretly kept her own twin, Levi, alive in her mind as a companion and collaborator.
Mara succeeds in obtaining governmental backing for her project – but both the human and Tofa establishments have their own agendas. Mara must shepherd the Twin-Bred through dangers she anticipated and others that even the canny Levi could not foresee. Will the Twin-Bred bring peace, war, or something else entirely?...
6) Love Wins by Rob Bell
Millions of Christians have struggled with how to reconcile God's love and God's judgment: Has God created billions of people over thousands of years only to select a few to go to heaven and everyone else to suffer forever in hell? Is this acceptable to God? How is this "good news"?
Troubling questions—so troubling that many have lost their faith because of them. Others only whisper the questions to themselves, fearing or being taught that they might lose their faith and their church if they ask them out loud.
But what if these questions trouble us for good reason? What if the story of heaven and hell we have been taught is not, in fact, what the Bible teaches? What if what Jesus meant by heaven, hell, and salvation are very different from how we have come to understand them?
What if it is God who wants us to face these questions?
Author, pastor, and innovative teacher Rob Bell presents a deeply biblical vision for rediscovering a richer, grander, truer, and more spiritually satisfying way of understanding heaven, hell, God, Jesus, salvation, and repentance. The result is the discovery that the "good news" is much, much better than we ever imagined.
5) Soul Identity by Dennis Batchelder
What if you could bank your money for your next life? Smart-aleck and computer security expert Scott Waverly is skeptical of his new client's claim that they've been tracking souls for almost twenty-six hundred years. Is it a freaky cult, or a sophisticated con job? As Scott saves Soul Identity from an insider attack, he discovers the importance of the bridges connecting people's lives.
4) Galileo's Daughter by Dava Sobel
Inspired by a long fascination with Galileo, and by the remarkable surviving letters of Galileo's daughter, a cloistered nun, Dava Sobel has written a biography unlike any other of the man Albert Einstein called "the father of modern physics- indeed of modern science altogether." Galileo's Daughter also presents a stunning portrait of a person hitherto lost to history, described by her father as "a woman of exquisite mind, singular goodness, and most tenderly attached to me."
The son of a musician, Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) tried at first to enter a monastery before engaging the skills that made him the foremost scientist of his day. Though he never left Italy, his inventions and discoveries were heralded around the world. Most sensationally, his telescopes allowed him to reveal a new reality in the heavens and to reinforce the astounding argument that the Earth moves around the Sun. For this belief, he was brought before the Holy Office of the Inquisition, accused of heresy, and forced to spend his last years under house arrest.
Of Galileo's three illegitimate children, the eldest best mirrored his own brilliance, industry, and sensibility, and by virtue of these qualities became his confidante. Born Virginia in 1600, she was thirteen when Galileo placed her in a convent near him in Florence, where she took the most appropriate name of Suor Maria Celeste. Her loving support, which Galileo repaid in kind, proved to be her father's greatest source of strength throughout his most productive and tumultuous years. Her presence, through letters which Sobel has translated from their original Italian and masterfully woven into the narrative, graces her father's life now as it did then.
Galileo's Daughter dramatically recolors the personality and accomplishment of a mythic figure whose seventeenth-century clash with Catholic doctrine continues to define the schism between science and religion. Moving between Galileo's grand public life and Maria Celeste's sequestered world, Sobel illuminates the Florence of the Medicis and the papal court in Rome during the pivotal era when humanity's perception of its place in the cosmos was about to be overturned. In that same time, while the bubonic plague wreaked its terrible devastation and the Thirty Years' War tipped fortunes across Europe, one man sought to reconcile the Heaven he revered as a good Catholic with the heavens he revealed through his telescope.
With all the human drama and scientific adventure that distinguished Dava Sobel's previous book Longitude, Galileo's Daughter is an unforgettable story
3) The Little Universe by Jason Matthews
What if you could create a universe - a miniature self-enclosed universe? Imagine having probing cameras that could focus to any star or planet looking for life. And once you found life, what if you could accelerate time and watch it evolve? What might you find? Primordial soup. Strange beings. Alien societies. Profound wisdom. These are not the questions Jon Gruber ponders as he pedals to his next carpentry job. Over thirty and unmarried, he doesn't even own a car. But a new assignment challenges him to rethink his place in the world. Is he a loser? Or is he about to become a partner in an experiment of phenomenal discovery? Webster Adams, astronomer, inventor, and Jon's latest client, performs such an experiment. To Webster's amazement, he finds planets and cultures beyond his wildest dreams. His little universe turns into a discovery machine - an overnight goldmine. He and his crew observe societies that evolve so far past them on levels of technology and spirituality, that the world will be forever changed. Webster's lovely daughter, Whitney, also overwhelms Jon. She opens his eyes to the deeper meanings within the experiment - to the divine nature and connectedness of all life, by finding the most advanced beings within the project - the spirit guides from Theta 7. The Big Bang is a God-game at multiple levels. For Webster Adams, one question immediately comes to light. "If I can create a universe," he wonders, "then who created ours?" The debate between evolution and creation is the subtle undertone throughout Webster's story. Can it be proven that God exists? Or is life random and free-flowing without design or purpose? Along with Jon, you, the reader, will be presented a new perspective on life and your role in the great mystery of the universe.
2) What Would Satan Do? by Anthony Miller
Disgusted with God's plan for Judgment Day, Satan has quit his job and left Hell in favor of a quiet retirement in Washington, D.C. But life on Earth is tricky for an ex-angel with a short fuse and no impulse control. When a parking attendant mysteriously bursts into flames and a fat lady ends up in low-Earth orbit, Satan finds that he suddenly has a lot of friends at the FBI. Worse, there are signs that the governor of Texas has somehow gone ahead and started up the end of the world without him. The Prince of Darkness heads for the Lone Star State, where he tangles with a megalomaniacal televangelist, joins the Militant Arm of the American Geriatrics Association, and wields the Flaming Stick of Divine Justice at a Jesus impersonator called Festus. Through it all, one thing is clear: Someone has to put a stop to Judgment Day. Now, having spent millennia trying to wreck the place, the Devil may be the world's only hope.
1) Juliet by Anne Fortier
Twenty-five-year-old Julie Jacobs is heartbroken over the death of her beloved Aunt Rose. But the shock goes even deeper when she learns that the woman who has been like a mother to her has left her entire estate to Julie’s twin sister. The only thing Julie receives is a key—one carried by her mother on the day she herself died—to a safety-deposit box in Siena, Italy.
This key sends Julie on a journey that will change her life forever—a journey into the troubled past of her ancestor Giulietta Tolomei. In 1340, still reeling from the slaughter of her parents, Giulietta was smuggled into Siena, where she met a young man named Romeo. Their ill-fated love turned medieval Siena upside-down and went on to inspire generations of poets and artists, the story reaching its pinnacle in Shakespeare’s famous tragedy.
But six centuries have a way of catching up to the present, and Julie gradually begins to discover that here, in this ancient city, the past and present are hard to tell apart. The deeper she delves into the history of Romeo and Giulietta, and the closer she gets to the treasure they allegedly left behind, the greater the danger surrounding her—superstitions, ancient hostilities, and personal vendettas. As Julie crosses paths with the descendants of the families involved in the unforgettable blood feud, she begins to fear that the notorious curse—“A plague on both your houses!”—is still at work, and that she is destined to be its next target. Only someone like Romeo, it seems, could save her from this dreaded fate, but his story ended long ago. Or did it?
From Anne Fortier comes a sweeping, beautifully written novel of intrigue and identity, of love and legacy, as a young woman discovers that her own fate is irrevocably tied—for better or worse—to literature’s greatest star-crossed lovers.
Now that I've shared all these great reads with you, get out there and check them out! :) Think I missed a great read? If it was included in my list of books read for 2011 (you can see my Goodreads link on the left side of this blog) and it's not listed here, tell me about why I should rethink my list and add it instead. Is it a book I haven't read? Let me know about it and I'll see if I can add it to my list of books to read for 2012!