Top 10 Reads of 2014

(this is a post that originally appeared on an older blog, which I have transferred across to A Deliberate Life)

I set myself a little personal challenge for 2014, to read a book a week on average. I mostly just read whatever interested me, but when I discovered that I was gravitating overwhelming to books written by American men in the last 10 years, I also tried consciously to mis up my author perspectives by nationality, age of the book, gender, etc., because it’s boring and a little dangers to view the world through only one lens!

I still didn’t manage as much variety in that as I would have liked, but at least I’ve learnt my own unconscious bias of author choice now, and I can be more aware of it going forwards. I’ve listed below the ten books that had the biggest impact for me. For all of these, something about them has really stayed with me – they introduced me to ideas, information or concepts that have impacted my thinking, behaviour or understanding. Or in the case of Amy Poehler’s they were really, really funny!


My Top 10 Reads of 2014

(in no particular order)


  1. Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking (Susan Cain)

“If we assume that quiet and loud people have roughly the same number of good (and bad) ideas, then we should worry if the louder and more forceful people always carry the day. This would mean that an awful lot of bad ideas prevail while good ones get squashed. Yet studies in group dynamics suggest that this is exactly what happens.”




2. The New Jim Crow: Mass incarceration in the age of color-blindness (Michelle Alexander)

“The impact of the drug war has been astounding. In less than thirty years, the U.S penal population exploded from around 300,000 to more than 2 million, with drug convictions accounting for the majority of the increase… The United States now has the highest rate of incarceration in the world, dwarfing the rates of nearly every developed country, even surpassing those in highly repressive regimes like Russia, China, and Iran.”



3. The Civil War as a Theological Crisis (Mark Noll)

“In sum, the theological crisis involving the Bible and slavery had several components: a failure to examine biblically the Southern charge that individualistic consumer capitalism was an ethically dangerous economic system; a blow to Christian orthodoxy caused by the abolitionist flight to the ‘spirit ‘ of Scripture; an inability to act on biblical teaching about the full humanity of all people, regardless of race; and a confusion about principles of interpretation between what was in the Bible and what was in the common sense of the culture.”


4. Integrity: The courage to meet the demands of reality (Henry Cloud)

“And just as with a boat, there are always two sides to the wake that a leader or someone else leaves when moving through our lives or the life of an organization… The two sides of the wake are: 1. The task 2. The relationships… What did he accomplish and how did he deal with people?”




5. Celebration of Discipline: The path to spiritual growth (Richard Foster)

“Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.”





6. Getting Things Done: The art of stress-free productivity (David Allen)

“You increase your productivity and creativity exponentially when you think about the right things at the right time and have the tools to capture your value-added thinking.”





7. Scripture and the Authority of God: Revised and expanded edition (NT Wright)

“integrity consists not of having no presuppositions but of being aware of what one’s presuppositions are and of the obligation to listen to and interact with those who have different ones.”





8. The Palestine-Israel Conflict: A basic introduction (3rd Ed.) (G Harms and TM Ferry)

“At the beginning of World War I, the countries of Lebanon, Israel, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Kuwait, and the Arabian Peninsula states did not exist; the region consisted of Greater Syria, Palestine, and Arabia. The Middle East was casually carved up with a stick in the sand by foreign (European) powers, and with no concern for the people or cultures living in the newly created geopolitical designations. Colonel Edward Mandell House, an aide to President Woodrow Wilson, seeing France and Great Britain divide up their spoils at the end of World War I made a comment more prophetic than he probably realized: ‘They are making [the Middle East] a breeding place for future war.'”


9. Good to Great and the Social Sectors: A monograph to accompany Good to Great (Jim Collins)

“In executive leadership, the individual leader has enough concentrated power to simply make the right decisions. In legislative leadership…no individual leader–not even the nominal chief executive–has enough structural power to make the most important decisions by himself or herself. Legislative leadership relies more upon persuasion, political currency, and shared interests to create the conditions for the right decisions to happen”



10. Yes Please (Amy Poehler)

“So, let’s review. My phone is trying to kill me. It’s a battery charged rectangle of disappointment and possibility. It’s a technological pacifier. I keep it beside me to make me feel less alone, unless I feel like making myself feel lonely. It can make me feel connected and unloved, ugly and important, sad and vindicated.”


And the rest…

11. Divergent (Veronica Roth)

12. Spiritual Leadership: A commitment to excellence for every believer (J Oswald Sanders)

13. The Artisan Soul: Crafting your life into a work of art (Erwin Raphael McManus)

14. One More Thing: Stories and other stories (BJ Novak)

15. Conference Crushing (Tyler Wagner)

16. Church Unique: How missional leaders cast vision, capture culture, and create movement (Will Mancini)

17. Growing Leaders: Cultivating discipleship for yourself and others (James Lawrence)

18. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)

19. Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia [re-read] (CS Lewis)

20. Bossy Pants [re-read] (Tina Fey)

21. Mockingjay [re-read] (Suzanne Collins)

22. The Hyperlinked Life: Live with wisdom in an age of information overload (Jun Young and David Kinnaman)

23. Fahrenheit 451 (Ray Bradbury)

24. The End of Absence: Reclaiming what we’ve lost in a world of constant connection (Michael Harris)

25. All My Friends Are Superhereoes (Andrew Kaufman)

26. Love Does: Discover a secretly incredible life in an ordinary world (Bob Goff)

27. The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team: A leadership fable (Patrick Lencioni)

28. Through Painted Deserts: Light, God and Beauty on the open road (Donald Miller)

29. Sphere (Michael Crichton)

30. The Rule of St. Benedict (St. Benedict)

31. Escape from Camp 14: One man’s remarkable odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West (Blaine Harden)

32. Purple Hibiscus (Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie)

33. Accelerate: Building strategic agility for a faster-moving world (John P. Kotter)

34. Do the Work (Steven Pressfield)

35. A Farewell to Mars: An evangelical pastor’s journey toward the biblical gospel of peace (Brian Zahnd)

36. Are Women Human?: Penetrating, sensible and witty essays on the role of women in society (Dorothy L. Sayers)

37. More Than Serving Tea: Asian-American women on expectations, relationships, leadership and faith (Kathy Khang, Christi Heller De Leon and Asifa Dean)

38. Battlelines (Tony Abbot)

39. Launch (Jeff Walker)

40. The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert (Rosaria Butterfield)

41. Long Walk to Freedom (Nelson Mandela)

42. Chasing Francis: A pilgrim’s tale (Ian Morgan Cron)

43. Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on prayer (CS Lewis)

44. The Writings of St. Francis of Assisi (St. Francis of Assisi)

45. Attitude 101: What every leader needs to know (John Maxwell)

46. Ten Days in a Madhouse (Nellie Bly)

47. The Next America: Boomers, Millennials, and the looming generational showdown (Paul Taylor and Pew Research Centre)

48. Blessed: A history of the American prosperity gospel (Kate Bowler)

49. Buying into Fair Trade: Culture, morality and consumption (Keith R. Brown)

50. The Art of Stillness: Adventures in going nowhere (Pico Iyer)

51. Fierce Conversations: Achieving success in world and in life, one conversation at a time (Susan Scott)

52. The Great Stagnation: How America ate all the low-hanging fruit of modern history, got sick, and will (eventually) feel better (Tyler Cowen)


What about you? What did you read in 2014? What would you recommend for the reading list in 2015?