I kept meaning to post this and it kept getting forgotten. So, a little late, but here they are in no particular order because I love them all: (And please, please, please comment with your recommendations! I'm always looking for something good to read.)
1. The Mark of the Lion series by Francine Rivers: This is a trilogy taking place in the time of the Roman empire and follows the members of an affluent family, their humble servant girl, and a germanic gladiator. It is beautifully written and an excellent read. I could hardly put it down!
2. The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom: This is a book that my grandmother gave me many years ago, and I don't know if I ever read it back then. But after visiting the Ten Boom home in Haarlem, Netherlands last year, I decided to dig it out and actually read it. It was awesome to be able to picture parts of the story so vividly after having just been there. It is a biography of Corrie's life in Holland during the occupation in WWII. Her story is heart-wrenching and incredible. Her testimony to God's love and forgiveness is powerful. It's a quick but beautiful read. And supposedly there's a pretty good movie based on the book that I have yet to see.
3. The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs: This was a humorous and interesting read. A.J. Jacobs, raised in and practicing no particular religious tradition, experiments with what it would look like to commit to live one year following all Scriptural commands as closely as possible (after all, the Bible is the most influential book of all time). He writes about his experience including his struggles with how to follow certain commands and why such commands would be given, how his new lifestyle impacts his family life, and what he discovers in the process. It was a really enjoyable and thought-provoking read. I'm looking forward to reading other books by this author.
4. The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party by Alexander McCall Smith: The latest installment (book 12!) in the No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency series which is one of my favs. The story and characters are bright and entertaining as usual following the life and work of detective Precious Ramotswe in Botswana. A solid addition to the series. I look forward to book 13! Also, the series has been turned into a BBC mini-series. I got my hands on the first season, and it was great.
5. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand: (author of Seabiscuit) "A WWII story of survival, resilience, and redemption" This is the incredible true story of Louis Zamperini, olympic runner turned airman in WWII. The book has a bit of a slow start, offering a lot of background information with Louis's childhood, but Hillenbrand does a great job of giving historical backdrop to Louis's experiences. The book follows him through his service in the Pacific during WWII, his imprisonment as a POW, and his rough transition home following the war. It was an intense and heart-breaking, yet interesting and inspirational read. I haven't done the research, but I won't be surprised if this gets made into a movie.
6. All the World by Liz Garton and artwork by Marla Frazee: Ok, so this is actually a children's book. I include it on my list this year because it was probably my favorite new book that I read to my kids this year. The artwork is just beautiful and stirs something in me. The words are poetic and lovely.