The Best Books I’ve Read This Year (2014 Edition)

I spend quite a bit of time reading. Most of what I do for work, research, writing, and academia all involve massive amounts of reading. If you throw in my parenting and religious interests, I certainly spend a large portion of the average day reading content in various forms. I really enjoy reading plenty of other blogs and online sources, but when I really want to delve into a subject, I actually still prefer long form books. I tend to focus primarily on non-fiction, but I always enjoy throwing in a popular novel or two into the mix.

My methodology is pretty simple when it comes to finding new material. Anytime I hear about a new book, my first response is to find it on Amazon and send over the sample to my Kindle. I rarely have time to jump straight into a book when I first learn about it. So, samples are a great reminder tool, as well as a nice little addition to keep a running list of my current interests. I think most of the books I’ve read this year have been personal recommendations or ones I’ve seen recurring on blogs or other feeds that I follow.

I’ve discussed my all time favorite books in the past and also a handful of books that have changed my life. I’m always looking to add to my list, and books remain one of my favorite ways to learn. So, without further ado, here are five (or more) of my favorite books that I’ve read this year. I’ve also included some bonus ones at the end and some on my reading list. Do you have any books you think I should read next year? I’m always looking for things to add to my list.

vagabondingVagabonding – Ralf Potts
If there is a book I would recommend to anyone that is considering traveling overseas, it would surely be Potts’ classic. It is also a pretty good resource to encourage people to expand their horizons through a broader international perspective. I really wish I had been given this book when I was in my early teens. Although I already had a penchant for traveling, many of the logistical tips and overall insight would have been perspective changing on what to expect when traveling. The book talks about travel through the eyes of someone who wants to spend more than an hour or two at the tourist traps on a journey overseas. It also includes a lot of insight about the nature of things you can learn and experience when you travel with time and flexibility. I enjoyed the book so much, I actually ended up getting the audio book from Tim Ferris’ book club so I could share the audio with my wife. I could realistically add this to my favorite books of all time.

zenZen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance – Robert Pirsig
The book had the interesting ability to put into words many of the thoughts I’ve had about life and perspective. At times the book could drag on or get pretty philosophical, however, there were several eloquent passages that really seared into my psyche. One of the most popular posts I’ve ever written, Living Intentionally (And The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance), was based on many of the thoughts contained within the pages of ZAOMM. As I’ve said before, I don’t really read many books that fall into the category of philosophy, but I enjoyed this one. The stories I liked best were based on the internal dialogue of a small group traveling through the U.S. on motorcycles. This book is a modern classic.

clutterfreeClutterfree with Kids – Joshua Baker
Becoming Minimalist has been one of my go-to blogs and has remained surprisingly consistent over the years. The volume of incredible free content Baker has produced is pretty impressive, so I was happy to oblige when he released his new book. We are in the midst of adding members to our family and clutter is still a bit of an issue in our reasonably sized house. The practical tips were useful and the general mindset provided a great perspective on the “whys” behind the methods. This can also be a good one to give away to people you know who struggle with clutter and kids.


quietQuiet: The Power of Introverts – Susan Cain
Before reading Quiet I never really thought or considered myself an introvert. I tend to enjoy conversation, thrive in community, and love meeting as many new people as possible. I also tend to speak a lot for my job and I am constantly presenting in the academic world. However, I actually found that I identify with a lot of ideas presented in Quiet. The book is about different personality styles, but also about different types of leadership. It made for great family discussion as my wife leans a little towards introvert on the overall scale. The book has plenty of factual information and lots of citation to reinforce the claims that are introduced. It can be a great read if you consider yourself an extrovert but interact regularly with individuals who are introverts.

bluebikeNotes From a Blue Bike – Tsh Oxenreider
The art of living intentionally in a chaotic world accurately describes the journey a reader follows in Notes from a Blue Bike. After a short stent living overseas, Oxenreider’s family is forced to confront many of the assumptions and challenges we face building community in the United States. The book appeals for a simpler lifestyle that is filled with free time and the community of others. In her book, she entertainingly tells stories about her family as they adapt to feelings of isolation after an incredible second world experience. We are still planning on living overseas for some period of time, so it can also be read as an example of what it is like to take a family across the ocean for a short journey.

I also had some nice, brainless vacation reading this year where I read two of the most popular books (Mockingjay and The Faults in Our Stars) which both turned out to be relaxing, enjoyable reads. I only read a few fiction books a year and I tend to go for the most popular ones simply to try and understand their mass appeal. Our little daughter loves to read books and we spend time each evening reading a few books to her. There are many books she likes, but most we find incredibly repetitive or get annoying quickly. However, we have come across a few favorites for the year. The silly one we enjoy is Sandra Boynton’s But Not The Hippopotamus and we are planning to get/give The Book With No Pictures by Novak.

My Crazy, Pregnant Wife! by Jeff Walter was given another re-read due to a new little munchkin joining the team this year. Lastly, there are always several books I’m planning to read or will try to finish up by the end of the year. I’m sure many will carry over to my new year’s reading list:
Essentialism – McKeoown
The Checklist Manifesto – Gawande
The Upside of Irrationally – Ariely
Happy Money – Dunn & Norton
The Behavior Gap – Richards

What about you? What are your favorite books of the year? Anything I need to add to my reading list? Anyone else read any of the above mentioned books?

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