Best Books I’ve Read in 2014—So Far

The best books I've read in 2014 at midyear. July 3, 2014.

The best books I've read in 2014 at midyear. July 3, 2014.

As I did last summer, I’ve taken a midyear analysis of my book reading. (Which makes me wonder: Should I do the same critical review of my periodical perusal? Best articles written? Most memorable stories read? Hmm.)

So far this year, I’ve read twenty-two books in full, which puts me ahead of my pace from last year yet still behind my typical reading levels and lagging in terms of what I’d liked to have read by now. I need another book-filled vacation. Or just more time in the day, given how work’s currently all-consuming nature has left me little time to get basic life- and home-maintenance done—much less reading.

Have any of the books I’ve read made my all-time favorites list? Impossible to say. The test requires time. My criteria for top-level books go beyond just fun and compelling reads and the mechanics of writing well. For me, over all other qualifications, a book must stick in mind long after I’ve completed it for it to rank as one of the best I’ve ever read. Good books make me think while I read—and continue to pop into my mind for chewing long after I’ve closed the back cover.

This freshly after reading them, I can only mention the books I’ve read in the first half of 2014 that have stuck with me so far and that I’d recommend to others as worth the effort:

  • The Sports Gene, by David Epstein: How much of athletic prowess can we attribute to genetics and how much can we credit to hard work? Epstein’s book looks at the latest research and provides fascinating case studies to explode commonly held notions and explain new thinking about human athleticism. As a sporty nerd, I couldn’t put this book down and talked about it with everyone I met—even long after putting it back on the shelf.

  • Londonstani, by Gautam Malkani: I found this novel about the culture of young South Asians in London a little clunkily written and slow; Malkani could have tightened it a bit and elided certain sections. However, the cumulative effect of the tale and the world it exposes had incredible power over my imagination and has me thinking even still about the nature and psychology of youth, culture, and race relations.

  • Built to Sell, by John Warrilow: I have zero even remotely near-term plans to sell either of my businesses, buta friend so adamantly recommended this book that I had to give it a go. Warrilow validated some of my thinking and prodded me forward in a few stalled initiatives, which I needed. Even better, he provided illuminating new ideas to help build lasting value in my companies. I’ve since recommended his text to more than one other business executive as a “must read.”

  • Olive Kittredge, by Elizabeth Strout: Don’t read this book if experiencing any level of depression or ennui. Rarely do I suffer the blues, but I felt them simmering a few times while reading Strout’s collection of short stories connected around her central character. I had to put it down due to “heaviness” more than once. However, I found the book's exploration of life’s struggles and the energies often required to just keep going worth pursuing to the end. The images the book left and the musings it generated still linger.

In January, I’ll provide my full-year favorites for 2014, just as I did for 2013. Stay tuned.

What books have you most loved in 2014 so far?