Last year I read 97 books, and the year before, over 100. This year – 44.
(My reading list for last year is here (https://www.facebook.com/notes/robert-miller/the-books-of-2013/10152169762454540), and for 2012 here (https://www.facebook.com/notes/robert-miller/the-books-of-2012/10151392738919540), and if you’re curious 2011 is here: (https://www.facebook.com/notes/robert-miller/the-books-of-2011/10150550381829540) , 2010 is right here (https://www.facebook.com/notes/robert-miller/2010-the-books-of-the-year/10150111268299540), and 2009 here (https://www.facebook.com/notes/robert-miller/the-books-ive-read-in-2009/249747479539).
I love reading. Reading, and books, has been part of my life for a long, long time, and I enjoy the things I have learned from books, and the joy of great writing. Reading is part of my daily routine, and so many days I have looked forward to getting back to a current book. As I did last year, I have a rating system for the books I finished, and I have them in ranking from my favorites to my least favorite. More books are already on deck for 2015, including many that I could not finish by year end in 2014. Let me know your thoughts, please, and I’m always open for recommendations of good books you’ve enjoyed.
The books I read in 2014:
The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak
Notes: This fiction book was recommended to me, and I am glad I read it this year. Set in Nazi Germany during World War II, and narrated by Death, it was extremely touching. I really resonated with the love of books and the printed word, and growing up and learning to become a family, made this one of my favorite books of the year. Highly recommended.
Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality without Religion, by Sam Harris
Notes: This book is so well written, I couldn’t put it down until it was finished. It’s also an important book, as it is written by an outspoken critic of religion, but outlines the importance of spirituality, and regarding meditation in particular, which has helped me in many ways. Sam Harris has written many great books, but I think this one was my favorite, and I will likely re-read it.
Hallucinations, by Oliver Sacks
Notes: After listening to Oliver Sacks describe various medical conditions and outside influences that can trigger hallucinations, I knew I had to read this book. And it was amazing, well written, and really shows how even small changes in brain structure or chemistry can create reality different from what one is used to. Visual and auditory hallucinations, and hallucinations of time perception, are covered very thoroughly here.
The Little Book of Common Sense Investing, by John C. Bogle
Notes: This is solid investing advice from the master, and founder of Vanguard. Nothing flashy here, but by looking at the market from a ratio perspective and using low cost investing funds/etfs, this strategy almost guarantees you will beat the overall market and most sectors.
No Excuses: The Power of Self Discipline, by Brian Tracy
Notes: This book is first and foremost about self discipline. The idea of this book seemed to me, at first, to contradict the premises of many of Tracy’s other works, regarding how structures can make discipline less important. However, this book makes a compelling argument that using willpower, which is limited, in the right areas of your life can make drastic changes.
The Survivors Club: The Secrets and Science that Could Save Your Life, by Ben Sherwood
Notes: This book has an analysis of practical strategies for a number of situations you may or may not ever find yourself in. It’s also well written. With interviews from survivors of plane crashes, sinking ships, and survivors of concentration camps, this also tells you how to survive a heart attack or having something impale your body. Overall, the message is to have faith you will survive, be positive, and be on the lookout for lucky opportunities, which is good advice for life.
Drift: The Unmooring of American Military Power, by Rachel Maddow
Notes: I am not that familiar with Rachel Maddow, but the title of this book appealed to me. Regardless of your politics, this, I feel is an important book to read. So much of our identity as Americans, and our politics, is shaped by military policy, and in patch-working a national security policy, our system is opened to abuse and wasteful overspending, and leads us to military growth and suspicion, and thus almost perpetual military conflicts.
Great On The Job: What to Say, How to Say It, by Jodi Glickman
Notes: This book is really about communication in the workplace, and is meant for larger corporate environments, or people in the entertainment industry, but is a great read. The author clearly put a lot of time into thinking what works best for various situations, and has the experience to communicate that well.
Command Authority, by Tom Clancy
Notes: This “Tom Clancy” novel was actually written by Mark Greaney, using the Tom Clancy name. It starts during the Cold War 30 years ago, and covers the current Russian government, and many secrets that date back to the KGB era. Well written.
Life Beyond Earth by Timothy Ferris
Notes: I enjoy Timothy Ferris’ writing, although he does less of it these days, and this scientific look at the story of discovery of exo planets, outside our solar system, is thrilling. This is a companion piece to a tv series that I did not view, but the book stands on its own very well.
Before Happiness, by Shawn Anchor
Notes: This book is the follow up to the successful Happiness Advantage (which made my earlier list for 2012). For a Harvard professor, Shawn has a very casual and easygoing writing style, and his recommendations are all solidly rooted in science. Focus and meaning (or anchors, in the language of this book), and a willingness to keep going to the finish, are all you need to accomplish almost anything in life.
A Complaint Free World, by Will Bowen
Notes: This book is all about the power of thinking positive. Challenging the reader to do a “positivity challenge”, where you cease complaining about things, and look for the good in everything. A short book, but good advice (even if repeated in other books here on this list).
The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want, by Sonya Lyubomirsky
Notes: This book is well written, and is full of practical advice for how to increase happiness. I learned that hugging as much as possible increases happiness, and that the happier people are, the less they think or care about what other people think. Marriage increases happiness only 2 years, and then happiness returns to normal. A good easy read.
Home Court Advantage: Preparing Your Children to Be Winners in Life, by Dr. Kevin Leman
Notes: Making your home a safe haven for your child and his or her friends, and slowing down and doing less and concentrating on quality family life is the message of this book. Not a long book, but as a parent, I got a lot out of it.
Quiet: The Power of Introverts In A World That Can’t Stop Talking, by Susan Cain
Notes: This book is a call to change the injustice that introverts, who very often change the world, working in private, are overshadowed by a society that prizes the loud and extravagant. The author argues that introverts have a great deal to offer the world and that we are making a mistake by not accommodating and encouraging this important personality type.
This is a compelling and very well-written book, and the author is raising very important points and has done so in a well researched and thoughtful work.
The Art of Nonfiction, by Ayn Rand
Notes: A book for writers, to be sure, but it does give great practical advice from a best selling author on organizing thoughts and writing for clarity. “On Writing” by Stephen King, from my 2011 list, is still the best in this arena, but this is a great book on writing.
First, Break All The Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers do Differently, by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman
Notes: If you manage people, this book really makes you think about all the different ways that people are motivated and how best to do reviews, and how to bring out talent based upon the individual strengths and weaknesses of each person.
Death by Black Hole by Neil Degrasse Tyson
Notes: This is actually a collection of essays, published previously in a science magazine. It’s an interesting look at knowledge, science, and some facts about the universe you may not know, and shows Tyson to be an engaging writer. My only criticism is that it does sometimes change abruptly from essay to essay, and often repeats information.
The Youth Pill: Scientists at the Brink of an Anti-Aging Revolution, by David Stipp
Notes: This book reviews the many theories of allowing the body to stop aging, and live longer. Mainly focusing on caloric restriction, resveratrol, and the bio engineers and startups that hope to create life extension for all, and to stop aging.
Rethinking Thin: by Gina Kolata
Notes: This book is an excellent discussion of the science and theories, many unproven, of weight loss. Kolkata is a great writer, and points out that there are no weight loss miracles. As a result, and in the book she makes the studies of the last 100 years fascinating proof of this concept, there are no real solutions, but many people will find the hard reality of genetics, and the study of what works and what doesn’t, fascinating.
Happiness is an Inside Job – Practicing for a Joyful Life, by Sylvia Boorstein
Notes: As a meditation instructor, Boorstein has a practice with a series of meditations (wise effort and wise mindfulness practices) to improve your levels of happiness and the quality and performance of all you do in life. This is the third book I’ve read from Boorstein, who is a good, and insightful writer.
Drown, by Jonathan Davis
Notes: Like the book “The Brief Wonderful Life of Oscar Wao” (see my 2011 list), this book takes place in the Dominican Republic ghettos of New Jersey, and goes deep into the culture and jargon in 10 short stories. Short but a compelling read.
John Adams by David McCullough
Notes: After reading 1776, by the same author, I was ready to read more about John Adams. This book also gives great detail about another important figure, Adam’s wife, Abigail. This books focuses on Adam’s diplomatic tours, negotiating treaties with Europe, along with Franklin and Thomas Jefferson.
Under the Banner of Heaven by John Krakauer
Notes: I have read most of Krakauer’s books and essays and love his writing style. This book involves the murder of a 24 year old mom and her 15 year old daughter by a Christian inspired by God within the Mormon faith to follow the instructions and will of God in doing the killing. It goes into, in great detail, the passages of the bible and doctrines that led to the killing and extremism and violence.
I’m a Stranger Here Myself: Notes on America after being away for 20 years, by Bill Bryson
Notes: This is a collection of columns made into a book, and talks about our highway system, consumerism, politics and culture, and sometimes it delves into the mundane. If there is one thing that Bryson is good at, it’s observation, and his observations at the now and the past of America is brilliant.
Eat to Live, by Joel Furman
Notes: This diet book was recommended to me, and is a six week vegan food with no booze, caffeine, salt, or fat. (No fat means no olives, nuts, avocados, etc.). It conflicts other diets, but certainly the focus on vegetables is well taken. I think for most, this diet is hard to stay on long term.
There’s a Spiritual Solution to Every Problem, by Wayne Dyer
Notes: People seem to love or hate Wayne Dyer, and his earlier self help books have morphed into more vague spirituality writings, but this book is short paragraph writings towards short concepts of moving towards a better self.
Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School, by John Medina
Notes: This book was recommended by a friend, and it was both a book and DVD. While basic if you know anything about the brain’s evolution and various functions, it does have lessons and advice for managing mental tasks, learning, optimizing, and understanding your brain.
Get Rich Carefully, by Jim Cramer
Notes: I’m not a huge fan of Cramer’s, but he does have an encyclopedic knowledge of stocks and is obviously successful. While this is not the best written financial book, it does cover charting, finding growth opportunities, and the advantages of knowing the companies you invest in, and of the buy and hold method. This is probably right in between being too basic for anyone that knows about stocks already, and too complex for those that prefer to just get into investing in mutual funds and in the market at its most basic.
Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology To Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment, by Martin E.P. Seligman
Notes: This book was meant to be interactive, with tests, exercises, and lessons by a world famous researcher and psychologist. Lessons on how to improve the areas of happiness you can improve are definitely worth the read.
What Would Machiavelli Do? The Ends Justify the Meanness, by Stanley Bing
Notes: Stanley Bing is a good business writer, and this is his attempt at both a form of comedy, and an attempt to show lessons from Machiavelli’s writings. Satirical and a short read.
The Speed of Trust, by Steven M.R. Covey
Notes: This was a quick read, by the son of the deceased author of the “Seven Habits of Highly Successful People.” The premise of the book is that, as corporate scandal after scandal shows, trust is a measurable quantity in business, and offers some, even if superficial, tips for building trust with others. Although this is a simple concept, and this is a small book, this one premise is stretched out with padding through this book so much, that slogging through this meandering book was relatively painful.
Seven Men, and the Secret of Their Greatness, by Eric Metaxis
Notes: This book examines the lives, and religious beliefs, of seven famous men, notably,
William Wilberforce, George Washington, Eric Liddell, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jackie Robinson, Pope John Paul II, and Charles W. Colson. While I loved Metaxis’ biography of Wilberforce, “Amazing Grace”, this book unfortunately suffers from untrue conclusions, a lack of research, and a short attention span. The book is otherwise well written, but each of the seven men profiled here deserve a much better, in depth biography.
Understanding Mens Passages by Gail Sheehey
Notes: This book by a famous author does go over many psychological changes that men go through at different ages, as they age, but laughably glosses over men in their 20s and 30s, and then only hits a few stereotypes of men in their 50s, 60s, and 70s, in an attempt to “understand men”.
An Appetite for Wonder, by Richard Dawkins
Notes: This book, about one of the world’s best known scientists, goes back to his childhood in Kenya, and shows how he became a scientist by questioning how the world works from very young ages. Although Dawkins is a great writer, this book seems surprisingly bland given what could have been a very compelling true biography story.
The Tools: 5 Tools to Help You Find Courage, Creativity, and Willpower–and Inspire You to Live Life in Forward Motion, by Phil Stutz & Barry Michaels
Notes: This book has the authors introduce a novel method of psychotherapy, which is a combination of elements of Jungian psychology with a practical approach found in Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy, and this book is a series of exercises that they claim can affect radical, positive changes in their patients’ lives. I am almost certain this would not work for everyone.
Rescue Your Love Life, by Cloud and Townsend
Notes: This book is meant for those in a marriage that has issues. I am not in either, but thought it would be interesting to see what insights these well known authors had to share. The plans to avoid bringing out the worst in each other, and how to keep connection alive, and keep trust building, were the best parts of this book. Solid advice either way, even if from an overly preachy perspective.
How We Learn, by Monisha Pasupathi
Notes: This is a more academic book, from a series of lectures and writings on how humans learn, from a young age through adulthood, and what works best for acquiring knowledge.
Get Anyone To Do Anything – And Never Feel Powerless Again, by David J. Lieberman
Notes: This book promises almost too much, and seems to rehash much of the much more famous “how to win friends and influence people”. A very basic manual with some good ideas about human nature and influence, even if there are better books out there.
Good Medicine, by Pema Chodron
Notes: This book is created from a series of talks by the famous Canadian Buddhist nun, Pema Chodron. Exploring mindfulness and metta meditation techniques, this doesn’t have any actual guided or other meditations, but is a reminder of how you can control your life through your thinking.
Overcoming Life’s Disappointments, by Harold Kushner
Notes: Kushner is a rabbi, so much of this book comes from the Jewish tradition and writings. Kushner uses the story of Moses to give lessons in how to be resilient in the face of disappointments. Good, but not great modern practical advice.
Start Day Trading Now: A Quick and Easy Introduction to Making Money While Managing Your Risk, by Michael Sincere
Notes: This book promises a quick and easy introduction, but unfortunately it is very light on facts, advice, or promises, and definitely does not sufficiently describe risk or even basic trading principles.
Google Speaks: Secrets of the World’s Greatest Billionaire Entrepreneurs, Sergey Brin and Larry Page, by Janet Lowe
Notes: This book is very poorly written, and seems to be researched only through Google press releases. If you know nothing, or little, about Google, there may be something here you haven’t heard about. But otherwise, it contributes nothing and doesn’t teach anything about the “secrets” that Google’s founders may share.
Private, by James Patterson
Notes: Mentioning that I read this book, many people in my life mentioned that Patterson ghost writes his books through other authors. This book was actually written by Maxine Paetro, who shares co-authorship. And I’m sure even she must be ashamed at this book. With some almost impossible murders, and even more impossible forensics work, and no less than four subplots (one of which suddenly drops out of the book halfway through, and makes no connection with any other part of the book, and makes no sense overall). This book was a giant waste of time.