On January 1st every year, I sit and look at all the books I read over the previous 365 days, books I deliberately don't shelve but stack (eventually precariously). I sit there and look at them and think about what I loved best, which words changed me.
2014 was a great year in my reading life: so much awesome.
Of the 45 titles read last year, here are my favorites, the books that had the biggest impact on me, organized according to rough categories that go like this:
Non Fiction, aka Overall Productivity and General Kick-Ass-ery
(1) Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen totally changed my life. I mean it. Seriously. One of the very best things that happened to me this year was reading this book, on the recommendation of one of my clients – which in and of itself was powerful validation that I’m doing exactly the right thing. If you’re trying to manage a busy life and make sure you're achieving your purpose, I highly recommend.
(2) Playing Big: Find Your Voice, Your Mission, Your Message by Tara Mohr. I love Tara, whom I’ve heard speak twice now, under the auspices of the wonderful Speak to Me speakers series in Mill Valley. There were so many giant take-aways from her book, but the most significant for me – in the year that I stepped out and really starting Playing Big on my own terms – is how it helped me recognize that through all my years of schooling, all those years of sitting at the front, taking diligent notes, reading every book the professor so much as referenced in passing, getting As, in all that time I might not have expressed one single original thought of my own. If you're serious about wanting to get out of your own way and make that life, that thing, whatever it is, that you've been dreaming of but deferring, get this book and get to work!
(3) The Freaks Shall Inherit the Earth: Entrepreneurship for Weirdos, Misfits, and World Dominators by Chris Brogan. This book, too, I heavily annotated. It’s positively bristling with sticky flags marking passages that made me fist-pump from my seat in the airplane where I read it cover-to-cover, San Francisco to Chicago. I’m pretty wild about its central premise of ownership, as in owning your life, your business and your future. Whether you identify as a weirdo or not, if you've got a mission to accomplish, read this for a powerful dose of Fuck Yeah, I'm Doing This!
I love a book award prize-list, for the way it introduces me to titles I might not otherwise be exposed to. Not to mention that I love the challenge of reading everything on the short-list before the winner is announced. Unfortunately, the last two years I’ve felt totally let down by the Booker Prize list, so hurray that I somehow found (probs because Caitlin Moran was a judge) the Bailey’s Prize. I read some STELLAR books as a consequence of devouring the short-list. These two were my faves, but I loved all the short-listed books and can’t wait for the 2015 announcement.
Other Great Reads
The year was bracketed by two big books: I devoured (6) Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch in late January, and (7) Karl Ove Knausgaard’s My Struggle: Book 1 in December. Best sellers are always going to have their critics and detractors, but I could not possibly care less – I loved The Goldfinch. And I don’t know if Knausgaard is really a Proust for our time. All I know is that I couldn’t put this book down, and I’m champing at the bit to read Book 2 which is sitting on my desk just waiting for me to finish The Stand by Stephen King, which I’m finally re-reading.
Other notable titles for me this year?
(8) Laline Paul’s The Bees: really lovely piece of writing, like Animal Farm except bees. Ok, if you want to be all hard-core about it, sure, she takes liberties with the biology, but check it out: it’s not a textbook. Instead, it’s a lovely trip inside the hive mind in a way I’d never experienced before. A lovely flight!
(12) And I can’t forget the loveliness of Nora Webster by Colm Tóibín. He is such a master.
Finally, of course, no year is complete without a healthy dose of historical fiction. I loved (13) the much-anticipated third and final installment in Deborah Harkness’s All Souls Trilogy, The Book of Life, and also (14) Elizabeth Fremantle’s Sisters of Treason. Delicious!
This is, obvies, not the full list, just the books that I found myself fondling and opening on their way to their permanent homes on the shelves. There were so many good ones this year! Of course, I've got the full list in Excel, sorted and highlighted. Let me know if you want to swap nerdy lists. ;>
What were your favorite reads of 2014?