Sunday, December 7, 2014

2014 Book Recommendations

End of year book roundup

I love to read.  I am convinced that there is so much knowledge out there and I want to know what others are thinking and how they are implementing.  I have many interests and I love to learn.  So far this year I have read 55 books and I have 5 books that I am currently reading along with probably another 10 in my Kindle and Audible libraries that I have not started.  I am always looking for the next great book and I am consistently getting both good and bad recommendations for books from friends and others.  It is important to mention at this time that I do a lot of research to read great books.  I have read many great books this year so it is a little difficult coming up with a top three list in fiction and non fiction.  With that in mind, I thought that I might be able to help you by giving my recommendations after a year of reading.  I recognize that many people do not read as much as I do so I have included my highest recommendations.  I will also give you my absolute must avoid book from my reading list of 2014.  Let's get started. 


Three non fiction books really impressed me this year.  The Casual Vacancy is the third best fiction book that I read.  This book was written by J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter's real mother.  Barry Fairbrother, a well loved high school teacher and town council member, drops dead from a heart attack and we are exposed to all the effects that his sudden loss has on the people in his town.   The author introduced such varied characters and helped me become so familiar with them that even through all their flaws, I liked every one of them.  I judge good writing by its ability to make me feel emotion and Ms. Rowling can certainly do that.  I recommend The Casual Vacancy but it is not my favorite fiction book of the year.  

The Girl with all the Gifts came in second place.  This is a very different type of horror book.  This concept of the zombie apocalypse has been tried before but this story was so well done that I recommend it for everyone.  There are a lot of great surprise turns in the story that if I say too much you may not want to read it.  Tension mounts as humans try to survive as the dominant species with help from the enemy until the final reveal that kept me up for hours.  Scary.  

The best fiction book of the year that I read was The Martian.  The research required to write this book must have been immense.  It is so believable that I felt like I was reading a true story.  The setting for the story could be the next couple of years.  Mark Watney is accidentally left on Mars by himself and no one knows that he is still alive.  Now what?  Mark has to figure out how to survive on Mars for a whole year until the next scheduled visit from Earth.  Great story!!  Read it!

Non Fiction

There is a tie for third place in the non fiction category.  I recommend both books.  I think the reason for the tie is because I had heard so much about both books before I read them that I felt like I knew what to expect.  Both books are life changing but in very different ways as you will be able to tell when I tell you the titles.  Open your mind, and if you are interested in leveling up your life take what you can from both books and incorporate their lessons into your life.  Tied for third place this year are Man's Search for Meaning and Wheat Belly.  Man's Search for Meaning is an historical account of Viktor Frankl's experiences in World War II Germany as a Jew. Wheat Belly is a research-based book on the effects of wheat and the many products created using wheat and how it affects our bodies.

In second place this year is Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World.  This is a well researched book by historians and educators that have access to the existing historical artifacts and literature.  I was greatly impressed by the incredible accomplishments of Genghis Khan and his sons.  Just by truly understanding who Genghis Khan was and his influence in modern society make this book worth reading.  However, that is not what has me referencing this book on an almost daily basis.  When I pay attention to world events I am repeatedly reminded of the fall of the Mongol empire.  Whether we learn from history or not, I am convinced after reading this book that we are doomed to repeat it.  

The absolute best non fiction book of the year was Zero to One by Peter Thiel.  This book was head and shoulders above all the other non fiction books I read.  Mr. Thiel is one of the most successful entrepeneurs of the internet age.  He is one of the founders of PayPal and a member of the group known as the PayPal Mafia.  Several very successful young leaders that are responsible for multiple billion dollar companies.  In his book he purports to give advice to young aspiring business builders but his words will have impact on everyone.  Peter Thiel takes on competition, capitalism and monopolies and sheds new light while exposing us to new perspectives that can only be gleaned from years of daily work in the business world.  You will definitely think differently after reading this book.  

Favorite Book of the Year

There is one book that I read four times this year.  A Short Stay in Hell is my all time favorite book of the year.  It is a short fictional account of what happens to a young man that dies of cancer.  Even though he was a pious and dedicated family man with no obvious character flaws he finds himself in an unexpected afterlife..  I am getting older and contemplating my mortality and this book gave me a new way of thinking about eternity.  I am frightened and more convinced that I must never die.  I doubt you will take what I did from this book but I like it and recommend it. 

Worst Book of the Year

The absolute worst book of the year is The Maze Runner.  When I heard that Maze Runner was being made into a movie, I started crying.  This book is terrible!  An exhaustive exercise in frustration and stupidity.  I weep for the future when I think that Americans will consider this entertainment.  In the movie "Idiocracy" we see how far entertainment devolves when we are shown an audience watching a bare butt on screen for two hours.  That is what I think of when I think of The Maze Runner in theaters.  

As I said at the beginning of this post, I read many many good books this year.  I almost feel bad having to pick just a few from the very impressive list of books.  You can see them all on my Goodreads account and read my reviews.  If you do like them, please connect with me on Goodreads.  I would love to hear your recommendations.