My Top Five Books of 2014 (that I read)

It’s that time of year! Note that these are books that I read in 2014, even though some of them were written much earlier.

For my full reading list, check me out on Goodreads. Alright, enough with the small talk. Let’s get into it!

5. Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

I first discovered Atul Gawande when I found out that Jack Dorsey, from Twitter, requires all new employees to read Gawande’s book, The Checklist Manifesto. I read The Checklist Manifesto and was blown away at Gawande’s quality of storytelling. Especially about a subject I didn’t think I cared too much about–surgery.

Normally I wouldn’t be excited to read a book about old age and dying, but when it’s by Atul Gawande, I’m all in.

The central point from Being Mortal is that doctors–and really the entire medical world–measure success by the number of years lived, regardless of the quality of life experienced during those years. In Gawande’s words: “We’ve been wrong about what our job is in medicine. We think our job is to ensure health and survival. But really it is larger than that. It is to enable well-being.” In the book he talks about everything from drugs to rest homes to difficult conversations and everything in between and how we can shift our “dying” system to be more well-being-focused. Highly recommended for anyone who plans on dying someday. Or if you know someone who is planning on dying some day. Check it out >

4. Situations Matter by Sam Sommers

This book is all about context. It’s all about the millions of factors that make up what we call situations. Sommers has a captivating, hilarious way of writing as he explores the ways that understanding context can help us be better decision makers. Since I did an entire episode about this book, I won’t go further. This is a fascinating read for anyone who finds themselves in situations. You read that right. Check it out >

3. A Whack on the Side of the Head by Roger von Oech

Although I have been using von Oech’s Whack Pack for years, I only recently picked up his book, A Whack on the Side of the Head, on which the Whack Pack is based. The book is about solving old problems by seeing things with new eyes. To get these new eyes, we need a whack on the side of the head, obviously. This is another one that I did a complete episode on. Check it out >

2. The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell

When we moved from NYC to SLC, we mailed a huge box of books via USPS’s media mail. The weeks went by and the box never showed up. Unfortunately, I was too cheap to put tracking on the dang thing, so we have no idea what came of the big box. As you can imagine, it was a very sad day in the Walker household when we accepted the fact that we would not be seeing those books again. I had a handful of books in the box that were next on my reading list. The Power of Myth was one of them. About a year after the box incident, I decided it was time to re-buy The Power of Myth.

Within the past couple of years, I have become fascinated with mythology and its endless culture-sculpting powers. Especially in the religious sense. What I didn’t expect by reading this book, is that it would truly change my perspective on just about everything in life. Instead of living life as I always had, meandering blindly by, I now see stories all around me. They are everywhere. I talk about this a lot in my episode about story. Check it out >

1. Essentialism by Greg Mckeown

You know how sometimes you read the exact right book at the exact right time? That is exactly what Essentialism was for me. I was attracted to this book because I liked the word ‘Essentialism.’ Since ‘minimalist’ may be a little strong, I feel that ‘essentialist’ is a better description of how I see myself. If that makes sense…

I went into this book expecting it to be a little more self-helpy. I was pleasantly surprised when I learned that most of Mckeown’s Essentialist methodology is applied in business settings–Mckeown himself being a consultant of sorts. He writes that life and business should not be about leveraging yourself or your resources in order to do more with less, it should be about identifying what is truly essential and doing only that (I’m looking at you, email). There is so much I could write about this book. Perhaps an episode is in the works…

In the meantime, episode eight, about being bored, was inspired by this book. Check it out. Literally and figuratively. Digitally and physically.

Honorable Mentions

Show Your Work by Austin Kleon

Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull

Columbine by Dave Cullen

The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

The Power of Less by Leo Babauta

10% Happier by Dan Harris

Here’s to some happy reading in 2015!


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