Books That Delighted Me in 2014 (And A Few That Didn’t)

Posted on 31 December 2014

Here are some of the non-fiction and fiction books I read, enjoyed and was inspired by in 2014 (they weren’t necessarily published in 2014).

In each category, I’ve listed the books in order of my subjective preference. I’ve also listed some books that I wanted to enjoy but found disappointing.

With thanks to the public library system in Hong Kong (I borrowed lots of books from City Hall Library), and to Flow, my favourite second-hand bookshop, where I bought and recycled some books.

Non-fiction

This category includes books about marketing, branding, customer behaviour, business, personal development, healing, spirituality, psychology, the subconscious, meditation, mindfulness, the nature of reality, improvisation, creativity, storytelling…

  1. “Improvisation for the Spirit – Live a more creative, spontaneous, and courageous life using the tools of improv comedy” by Katie Goodman
    Brilliant and funny! My new favourite book.
  2. “The Art of Possibility” by Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander
    Beautiful. Rosamund is a psychotherapist and painter; Benjamin is the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic – together, they offer practical tips, advice and anecdotes that “invite us all to become passionate communicators, leaders, and performers whose lives radiate possibility into the world.”
  3. “Emotional Alchemy – How the mind can heal the heart” by Tara Bennett-Goleman
    Inspiring, helpful, practical.
  4. “How The World Sees You” by Sally Hogshead
    An unconventional look at personality and branding that will help you to understand and market yourself better, and also to understand other people, how they behave, and how to communicate and work effectively with them.
  5. “marketing – a love story – how to matter to your customers” by Bernadette Jiwa
    Delightful, juicy, practical, provocative and unconventional. The marketing book I wish I had written.
  6. “The Antidote – Happiness for people who can’t stand positive thinking” by Oliver Burkeman
    Funny, fascinating and thought-provoking.
  7. “Joyful Wisdom – Embracing Change and Finding Freedom” by Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche
    I don’t consider myself a Buddhist, but I love the practical methods outlined here, and I enjoy the writer’s honest anecdotes about his personal experiences of and challenges with meditating.
  8. “From Workplace to Playspace – Innovating, Learning, and Changing Through Dynamic Engagement” by Pamela Meyer
    Brilliant! Lots of good stuff about play and improvisation.
  9. “Steering by Starlight – The Science and Magic of Finding Your Destiny” by Martha Beck
    A funny, challenging, no-BS toolkit of stories and exercises.
  10. “Wherever You Go, There You Are – Mindfulness meditation in everyday life” by Jon Kabat-Zinn
    Lovely!
  11. “Uprising – How to build a brand – and change the world – by sparking cultural movements” by Scott Goodson
    About how to communicate the purpose of your business, identify what will inspire people to support your cause, and make it easy for them to do that.
  12. “Chief Culture Officer – How to Create a Living, Breathing Culture” by Grant McCracken, an anthropologist
    About why and how to spot and act on the earliest signals of new cultural trends in society that could spell boom or bust for your company.
  13. “How Hits Happen – Forecasting predictability in a chaotic marketplace” by Winslow Farrell
    About what makes some products, services and ideas take off while others are ignored and forgotten.
  14. “Where Good Ideas Come From – A Natural History of Innovation” by Steven Johnson
    Fascinating! I love the author’s wide-ranging and voracious curiosity.
  15. “The Hidden Brain – How Our Unconscious Minds Elect Presidents, Control Markets, Wage Wars, and Save Our Lives” by Shankar Vedantam
    The author, a science correspondent, journeys through neuroscience, psychology and behavioural science to identify and explain our unconscious biases.
  16. “Drunk Tank Pink The Subconscious Forces that Shape How We Think, Feel, and Behave” by Adam Alter
    In the style of Godin, Gladwell and the authors of Freakonomics, the author shares anecdotes about the subconscious and sometimes surprising drivers of our behaviour. (“Drunk Tank Pink” is the name of a particular shade of pink that has a strange effect on people’s muscular strength.)
  17. “Overcoming Underearning” by Barbara Stanny (Full of practical techniques and exercises – I’m looking forward to studying the book with a mastermind group in 2015.)
  18. “Rip it up – the radically new approach to changing your life” by Richard Wiseman, Britain’s only professor for the Public Understanding of Psychology
    Down-to-earth examples and exercises about how our behaviour and physiology shape our feelings
  19. “Search Inside Yourself” by Chade-Meng Tan
    About Google’s in-house training program about mindfulness.
  20. “The Element – How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything” by Ken Robinson
    Brilliant.
  21. “The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are” by Alan Watts
    Fascinating, mind-blowing, thought-provoking.
  22. “The Holographic Universe” by Michael Talbot
    Mind-bending.
  23. “In An Unspoken Voice – How the body releases trauma and restores goodness” by Peter Levine
    This renowned psychologist explains his life’s work: healing PTSD by using the principles of embodiment.
  24. “Lead with a Story” by Paul Smith
    Worth recommending for its excellent ideas about how and why to use storytelling in business and marketing, but there are many annoying errors and inconsistencies that I wish the editor had spotted and fixed.

Disappointing Non-Fiction

  1. “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain
    As someone who is half-introvert, half-extrovert, I found the book irritating – it seems the author protests too much about why introversion is better than extroversion.
  2. “The Improv Handbook – The ultimate guide to improvising in comedy, theatre, and beyond” by Tom Salinsky and Deborah Francis-White
    The authors share lots of good tips and games, but are annoyingly purist and judgmental about what kind of games they consider acceptable.
  3. “Unconscious Branding” by Douglas van Praet
    I couldn’t finish it because it was annoying – the writer didn’t know how to use hyphens in compound adjectives, or the “not only… but also…” structure. It needed a good editor.
  4. “The Innovator’s Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book That Will Change the Way You Do Business” by Clayton Christensen, a professor at Harvard Business School
    I couldn’t finish it – too much left-brain, analytical number-crunching for me.

Fiction

  1. “The Signature of All Things” by Elizabeth Gilbert
    A beautifully written, fascinating and unputdownable novel, imagining a 19th-century American woman who becomes a botanist and, independently of Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace, researches and writes her own treatise about the theory of evolution and natural selection.
  2. “The Invention of Wings” by Sue Monk Kidd
    A compelling tale, loosely based on the true story of Sarah Grimké, a 19th-century American campaigner against slavery. Lovely! I like all of the author’s other novels too.
  3. “Tapestry of Fortunes” by Elizabeth Berg
    About a group of women, friendship, diving heart-first into change, and love. Beautifully written, like all of Berg’s novels.
  4. “The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared” by Jonas Jonasson
    Playful.
  5. “Jitterbug Perfume” by Tom Robbins
    Delightful storytelling about the power of the sense of smell, spanning centuries of history and many cultures. Thanks to my friend Michele Davis for recommending it.

Disappointing Fiction

  1. “The Other Side of the Story” by Marian Keyes (I wanted to enjoy this novel because it’s set in the world of publishing, but I found it confusing and didn’t finish it – I couldn’t follow who the characters were or their relationships to each other, and didn’t find them worth caring about.)
  2. “Reaper Man” by Terry Pratchett (I’ve enjoyed most of the books in Pratchett’s “Disc World” series, but for me, this one was… meh.)

Dear reader, what was your favourite book of 2014?


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