Books I Read In 2014

While I am no Bethany Gladhill (my wife, who read 64 books this year) or Austin Kleon, I’m proud that I read almost the same number as I have in years past. Especially as I expect next year to be quite different as I will be reading a lot more for book research than I ever have before. In fact, I have Eric Forner’s six hundred page tome on Reconstruction on deck next.

Without further ado, here is a list of the books I read this past year with short reviews:

The Authentic Swing: Notes from the Writing of a First Novel by Steven Pressfield — About golf and writing and the parallels between the two. Good, easy, book on writing from one of my faves. Some good behind the scenes on the making of the movie, The Legend Of Baggar Vance.

The Martian by Andy Weir — Fantastic and fun novel about an astronaut that gets stranded on Mars and his fight to stay alive and, hopefully, get home. Especially fun for space and science nerds.

Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered by Austin Kleon — Another wonderful manifesto from one of my favorite creative folks. Solid advice that had me nodding my head in agreement on every page. It was a mistake to go through this the first time without a highlighter and pen in hand. Going to go back through and mark it up. So much good.

Peace Is Every Step by Thich Nhat Hanh — A nice series of essays on finding and living everyday mindfulness by the honored Buddhist Teacher and Peace Activist. Deeply affecting and read at just the right time for me. This is now one of the books I will recommend when people ask me what to read to find out more about Buddhism.

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore: A Novel by Robin Sloan: — I had put this off for a while but then my wife read it and said, “You would love this”. Anytime my wife says that, a book moves to the top of my list. And I did love it. It’s a fun and engaging read about books, cults (both religious and business), mysteries, encryption, and immortality. Only took me a couple of days. Picked it up and spent every free moment reading it until the end.

Choose Yourself by James Altucher — Fantastic. I reviewed this in longer detail here before. This is a must-read survival book for the new economy. As someone who has “chosen himself” already, I’m often asked by those interested in doing so for books, resources, and my own writings on the subject that I recommend. I can confidently say that this book will now be at the top of that list.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed — Wonderful memoir. Evocative prose. The reasons this book was so popular was not lost on me while reading it. The Minnesota connections resonated with me. Also, gave me a strong sense of wanderlust. It was all I could do to keep from grabbing my ruck and heading out into the woods.

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green — Simply beautiful book about a young woman with terminal cancer. A journey of love, loss, anger, pain, and what it means to be human and dare to dream despite it all. It is a really effortless read that still manages to carry a tremendous amount of emotional weight.

Lexicon by Max Barry — A thrilling and action packed novel about the power of words and the power of love. Could not put this down.

The Sketchnote Workbook by Mike Rohde — A wonderful “next step” followup to his first book. This time, he focuses on the actual practice of Skechnoting and the myriad of situations in which it can be employed. If you care about enhancing the quality and versatility of your note taking, you need this in your library.

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Reza Aslan — Smart and well researched investigation into the Life of Jesus of Nazareth by one of the foremost religious scholars of our time. By setting up the times, places, and conditions Jesus lived in — long before, during, and long after his death — Aslan creates a narrative that is vivid and persuasive. I wish he would have spent more time laying out exactly how in a crowd of people claiming the title and role of messiah, it was a dirt poor day laborer from a town of less than a hundred families that is now known and worshiped the world over. Perhaps that is worth another book entirely. Worth a read no matter your faith.

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith(J.K. Rowling — The second novel about the adventures of Private Detective Cormoran Strike. As good as the first (better, likely) and a whole lot if fun. I can’t say too much dare I give anything away but, in this one, Cormoran is out to solve a bizarre murder in the London literary world. Highly recommended. Especially, though not required, if you have read the first book.

Babel 17 by Samuel Delany — You know a book will be a big win for me when the hero protagonist is a poet and the McGuffin is the power and complexity of language. This is a well written, taught, and compelling sci-fi thriller. Lots of fun to read.

The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore — Same name, same age, same neighborhood, similar family circumstances, but what makes one Wes Moore a Rohdes Scholar and the other a prison lifer. That is the not so easily answered premise at the heart of this book. A fascinating true tale that will give some food for thought to the problems facing so many Black youths today.

Indian Summer by Aaron Mahnke — A good New England thriller that follows the lives of seven childhood friends after one of them is killed in an accident. Steeped in the feeling of a coming northeastern fall and Native American lore.

Love Yourself Like Your Life Depends On It by Kamal Ravikant — Powerful insight packed into just a few pages. Read it in about an hour. It was an hour well spent.

The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman — Beautiful and sweet tale of a boy named Bod who, after a tragic event, grows up in a graveyard and his relationships with the ious residents who have taken him under their care. The theme of growing up feeling between two worlds resonated deeply with me. As always with Neil, prepare for some of the most magical yet completely down to earth writing you have read in a while.

Drawn Blades (A Fallen Blade Novel) by Kelly McCullough — The fifth book in the series finds Aral tied up with his old girlfriend, his old Master, his new Apprentice, and a few Gods that just refuse to stay good and dead. Yet another fun read. I really enjoy these.

3 a.m. (Henry Bins Book 1) by Nick Pirog — A fun little whodunnit about a guy who, due to a rare narcoleptic condition, is only awake for one hour starting at 3am every day. A quick read that, as of this writing, is free on the Kindle.

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway — The brilliance of Hemingway lies in his ability to take a simple premise and, from that, create a narrative that is at once epic and sweeping yet personal and tightly told. In this case, it is one of Robert Jordan, an American in the International Brigades attached to an antifascist guerrilla unit in the mountains of Spain during the Spanish Civil War. His job is to blow up a bridge but, he finds in the three days he spends with this unit, he builds more bridges than he destroys. There is a reason this is widely considered a masterpiece and the best of Hemingway’s work.

Evil Plans: Having Fun on the Road to World Domination by Hugh MacLeod — I’ve been a fan of MacLeod’s work for a while but had never read this one. He’s always good for a kick in the pants of life when needed.

The Financial Lives of the Poets: A Novel by Jess Walter — This book was a lot of fun to read. Wonderfully written, witty, and downright LOL funny in parts. It’s the story of Matt Prior, an out-of-work journalist at the dawn of the recession on the verge of losing it all — his wife, his home, his father, his kid’s school. One night, while out to the 7/11 for milk, he runs into a couple of young stoners and begins to hatch a plan to reclaim it all. This was a fun way to end the year.

Too many

Too many bullets
into too many bodies
placed in too many coffins
buried in too many cemeteries
for too little reason
none of which matter
to the dead or the living
who grieve them
for no reason
would be acceptable
enough to explain
to a mother
to have lost a child
to a brother
who has lost the same
to a community
that has lost hope
that any bullets
will be spent
to protect
the too little
they have too long
fought to call their own
instead of being used
to take too much away
to take away too much dignity
to take away too much justice
to take away too many freedoms
those same over which
too many wars were fought
too many soldiers sent
too many bullets
into too many bodies
in too many coffins
shipped back to
too many countries
for too many reasons
to protect
the too little
they have too long
fought to call their own
to protect dignity
to protect justice
to protect freedoms
they claim are guaranteed
in a country with
not enough stars
and too few stripes
to represent us all

Per request, here is me reading this poem.

Resolutions don’t happen in a vacuum…

This is especially true if you are in a relationship. At the very least most require support from those around us. And, at most, they require their active participation. To wit, the resolutions of others become your resolutions as well (and vice versa) if they require you to participate in order to be successful.

Last year, for instance, my wife decided that one of her resolutions would be for us to have monthly date nights. As parents with a young child, it is important to get some time to connect one-on-one outside of the house. Well, unless her plan was to go out alone, that is a resolution that could not happen without my active involvement. It had to be one of my resolutions too.

I wanted to have friends over for dinner once a month. Well, unless my wife was on board with such a plan, it couldn’t happen. In effect, my intention became a resolution for her as well.

And even those things you think are just for you — to exercise more, to eat better, to meditate — may not be able to be successful without our partners actively supporting those efforts and allowing us the time, space, and resources to achieve them. Accountability helps here too. If those around you know them you are more likely to be held to the goal.

This is all to say that you should be making and considering your resolutions in the proper context. Make sure to discuss them with those around you and that they have a chance to buy-in to them where needed. Find out which ones of theirs will involve you and plan accordingly. Only then will they have a true shot at being successful.