The best books that will dazzle you with their science and allegorical magic—and stoke the science/religion debate

Who am I?

Cristofori's Dream is a very personal work that helped me clarify and illustrate the (sometimes crazy) ideas that have been tumbling around in my head for 50+ years about our magical existence in this strange and beautiful universe. Working in the educational publishing field for 25 years has helped me stay on top of all things science and philosophical. I wanted to write a good Christmas story filled with magic and a sense of spirituality (no preaching!) which—let’s face it—are in very short supply. (Yes, I did receive permission from solo pianist David Lanz to use it.) Perhaps you will see in each chapter how the magical books on this list influenced me. 


I wrote...

Cristofori's Dream

By Robert Italia,

Book cover of Cristofori's Dream

What is my book about?

In a magical quest for a miracle, he did not understand the power with which he played...

In this timely and haunting tale about revenge and forgiveness, writing and painting, a bullied young teen—overwhelmed by tragedy—abandons his faith for science, then escapes to a world of his own making in search of a miracle for his dying younger sister. There, he must confront all of his creations—the sacred and the unholy—if he wants to recapture the true love he once knew, and save his sister from the deadly legacy that relentlessly stalks her. Because it really does matter what he believes. What he believes becomes matter.

The books I picked & why

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The Time Machine

By H.G. Wells,

Book cover of The Time Machine

Why this book?

The novella that gave birth to science fiction and introduced the world (and a very young me) to the magical concept of time travel. After hosting a dinner party, and via his “time machine” (a term coined by the author), the Time Traveller embarks on a journey to the year 802,701 when our Earth has evolved into a lush paradise seemingly void of industry. Humans have become fragile, docile, and childlike (the Eloi), lacking curiosity about their world or the discipline to maintain it or build upon it. They fear the night, but remain silent about their reason. The Time Traveller finally discovers the truth about their fears as fearsome subterranean creatures (the Morlocks) capture the Time Machine and set a trap to ensnare the Traveller. How did humanity evolve into such beings, he wonders, and will he ever be able to return home to tell his fantastic tale? Wells used this classic as a commentary on wealth and poverty, science and industry, and the future of humanity, and his views are just as relevant, poignant, and haunting today as they were in his day—the hallmark of any classic.

The Time Machine

By H.G. Wells,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked The Time Machine as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A brilliant scientist constructs a machine, which, with the pull of a lever, propels him to the year AD 802,701.

Part of the Macmillan Collector's Library; a series of stunning, clothbound, pocket-sized classics with gold foiled edges and ribbon markers. These beautiful books make perfect gifts or a treat for any book lover. This edition of The Time Machine features an introduction by Dr Mark Bould.

The Time Traveller finds himself in a verdant, seemingly idyllic landscape where he is greeted by the diminutive Eloi people. The Eloi are beautiful but weak and indolent, and the explorer is perplexed by…


A Christmas Carol

By Charles Dickens,

Book cover of A Christmas Carol

Why this book?

The Christmas ghost story that popularized the expressions “Merry Christmas!” and “Bah! Humbug!", inspired festive family gatherings around a Christmas tree and holiday food & drink, and landed Scrooge in the Oxford Dictionary as a synonym for Miser (go ahead, look it up). “Squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner!” Ebenezer Scrooge must endure three hauntings from three distinctly different ghosts on Christmas Eve—and change his miserly ways—if he wants to escape a hellish afterlife that his former business partner, Jacob Marley, has been condemned to. Written in part as a commentary on child poverty of the time, with main themes of redemption and benevolence, and religious hints of angels, demons, condemnation and the afterlife, the novella remains a must-read gold standard of holiday stories to this day, and will certainly fill you with the magic of Christmas. (If you can find a copy with the original John Leech illustrations—even better).

A Christmas Carol

By Charles Dickens,

Why should I read it?

12 authors picked A Christmas Carol as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Tom Baker reads Charles Dickens' timeless seasonal story.

Charles Dickens' story of solitary miser Ebenezer Scrooge, who is taught the true meaning of Christmas by the three ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future, has become one of the timeless classics of English literature. First published in 1843, it introduces us not only to Scrooge himself, but also to the memorable characters of underpaid desk clerk Bob Cratchit and his poor family, the poorest amongst whom is the ailing and crippled Tiny Tim.

In this captivating recording, Tom Baker delivers a tour-de-force performance as he narrates the story. The listener…


The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

By C.S. Lewis, Pauline Baynes (illustrator),

Book cover of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Why this book?

The first book of the religious allegorical series The Chronicles of Narnia. For their safety, four English children are evacuated to a country house during WWII. Via the portal of a magic wardrobe, Lucy and her three siblings enter Narnia, a magical world filled with mythical creatures and talking animals. Here, the siblings first learn of, then attempt to fulfill, a prophecy about the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve to save, with the help of Aslan the lion, the kingdom from the White Witch Jadis, who keeps Narnia in the grips of winter. The allegorical highlight of the book is Aslan’s story as it is clearly symbolic of Christ’s crucifixion, as he sacrifices himself—then rises from the dead—to battle the evil Witch. A classic tale that combines science and religion that avoids the pitfalls of preaching.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

By C.S. Lewis, Pauline Baynes (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

23 authors picked The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Lucy steps into the Professor's wardrobe - but steps out again into a snowy forest. She's stumbled upon the magical world of Narnia, land of unicorns, centaurs, fauns... and the wicked White Witch, who terrorises all. Lucy soon realises that Narnia, and in particular Aslan, the great Lion, needs her help if the country's creatures are ever going to be free again...


The Fellowship of the Ring

By J.R.R. Tolkien,

Book cover of The Fellowship of the Ring

Why this book?

The first book of the epic fantasy trilogy that created the modern fantasy genre, and my favorite of the three as it establishes the myths and legends from which the trilogy springs. Via the magical Rings of Power and his army of Orcs, the Dark Lord Sauron embarks on a campaign to conquer all of ancient Middle-earth. But the ring that controls them all—the lost One Ring—is by happenstance in the possession of the Hobbit Frodo Baggins. With the help of the wizard Gandalf, Leolas the Elf, the dwarf Gimli, and others of the Fellowship, Frodo embarks on a perilous journey through dark and dazzling magical kingdoms rife with danger and mythical creatures where he must ultimately destroy the Ring in the fires of Mount Doom. With the main themes of death and immortality, and its cast of devilish and angelic creatures, The Fellowship is a masterwork of Christian allegory.

The Fellowship of the Ring

By J.R.R. Tolkien,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Fellowship of the Ring as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This brand-new unabridged audio book of The Fellowship of the Ring, the first part of J. R. R. Tolkien's epic adventure, The Lord of the Rings, is read by the BAFTA award-winning actor, director and author, Andy Serkis.

In a sleepy village in the Shire, a young hobbit is entrusted with an immense task. He must make a perilous journey across Middle-earth to the Cracks of Doom, there to destroy the Ruling Ring of Power - the only thing that prevents the Dark Lord Sauron's evil dominion.

Thus begins J. R. R. Tolkien's classic tale of adventure, which continues in…


The Golden Compass (Northern Lights)

By Philip Pullman,

Book cover of The Golden Compass (Northern Lights)

Why this book?

Pullman’s imaginative, controversial, and award-winning best-selling novel introduced an international audience to the concept of parallel universes. Set in a parallel universe of its own, the story revolves around the tomboyish main character Lyra and her companion daemon (a creature that reflects her spirit) who are swept up in a nefarious plot by her mysterious and brilliant uncle Asrial involving an elementary particle (“Dust”), and by the oppressive ruling Church leaders to separate children from their daemons to eliminate Dust, which they consider the elements of original sin. During her battle to thwart the plot, Lyra encounters all sorts of magical creatures—including English-speaking armored bears—while obtaining a golden compass that can answer any question, which she uses deftly to avoid danger and to solve many great mysteries. Lyra eventually discovers the truth about Dust (which she considers a magical gift), her uncle, and his attempt to destroy Dust, and she follows him to the North Pole and into another parallel world to stop him.  I was intrigued by Pullman’s attempt at combining science and religion in a sci-fi novel from a “non-believer’s” point of view—a task always fraught with danger, but he succeeds without being offensive or preachy.

The Golden Compass (Northern Lights)

By Philip Pullman,

Why should I read it?

18 authors picked The Golden Compass (Northern Lights) as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The first volume in Philip Pullman's groundbreaking
HIS DARK MATERIALS trilogy, now a thrilling, critically
acclaimed BBC/HBO television series. First published
in 1995, and acclaimed as a modern masterpiece, this first
book in the series won the UK's top awards for children's literature.

"Without this child, we shall all
die."

Lyra Belacqua and her animal daemon live
half-wild and carefree among scholars of Jordan College, Oxford.

The destiny that awaits her will take her to the frozen lands
of the Arctic, where witch-clans reign and ice-bears fight.

Her extraordinary journey will have immeasurable consequences
far beyond her own world...



This…


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