My 57 Books of 2014

The last two years I somehow read the exact same number of books each year: 63. That’s a strange number but I wasn’t able to quite live up to it this year. My favorite books were A Farewell to Mars by Brian Zahnd (#33) and Culture Making by Andy Crouch (#48). Here are all the books I’ve read since January of 2014 with my rating for them (5 being the best) and a brief review. You can see this list at any time by clicking on the link at the top of each page on my blog titled “reading list.” Any book without a number rating has been given to me by the author or publisher. You can also check out my lists from previous years, as well as my recommendations on how to become a better reader.
  1. Super Mario by Jeff Ryan (4). A fascinating look at the history of video games, focusing on Nintendo. Shows you how much thought and philosophy go into gaming and also provides a very interesting back story for those of us who grew up gaming.
  2. Newspaper Blackout by Austin Kleon (3.5). Austin is an artist with words. His book of blackout poetry is an easy, engaging read. Moreover, it invites you to try it yourself and tap into your inner artist whether you think you have it or not.
  3. The Drunkard’s Walk by Leonard Mlodinow (3). A very interesting look at how we interpret meaning from so many things in life that are actually the result of randomness. It’s intriguing to consider the research in this book and then evaluate how that affects the way we see God in our midst. My hope would be that we would more accurately see the things that are actually His doing.
  4. The Price of Inequality by Joseph Stiglitz (2). A subjective perspective looking at the issues of the economy in America. While there is much to consider in this book, overall it felt unconvincing and tedious to work through.
  5. Killing Lincoln by Bill O’Reilly (4.5). I really enjoyed how he retells the finals period of Lincoln’s life and the conspiracy behind the assassination. Reads like a great Hollywood movie.
  6. The Great Omission by Dallas Willard (4.5). A clever play on the Great Commission. Willard focuses on what it means to make disciples and not just Christians.
  7. After You Believe by NT Wright (3.5). I love Wright’s perspective but I regret to admit that I struggle mightily with his writing style. The parts that I was able to track with I sincerely enjoyed.
  8. Renovation of the Heart by Dallas Willard (3). A similar read to his Great Omission but this felt much more broad in its approach. I liked the drilled down version of The Great Omission better.
  9. The Introvert Advantage by Marti Olsen Laney (3). I was expecting a philosophy of introversion but this was more of a self-help guide for introverts. As such, some of it was helpful and other parts were almost comically humorous making introversion sound like a flaw to be adapted to.
  10. Jack by George Sayer (3). I love C.S. Lewis so I was very excited to read this biography of his life. However, it felt as if this was more of a scholarly collection of facts of Lewis’ life instead of a gripping narrative that sucks you in to the person himself.
  11. 12 Years A Slave by Solomon Northup (4). Obviously, a heartbreaking read. I was most impressed by Northup’s objective ability to view slavery and the people involved without creating cartoon villains in the process (which I’m told cannot be said of the movie version). It causes the reader to look deep inside himself and consider the way we view everyone around us.
  12. Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek (4.5). Looks at leadership from a variety of case studies and cultural evidence. I like the way Sinek challenges the status quo and invites the reader to think differently in a number of areas. I couldn’t agree more with him on the need of a leader to create and maintain a healthy culture for his team.
  13. The Language Instinct by Steven Pinker (2). I’m a fan of Pinker’s work and I applaud his level of detail. However, with this book the details he chose to include could only be interesting to maybe 4 percent of readers. The big ideas were interesting but when it came to his details, I wasn’t in the 4 percent.
  14. Reading for Preaching by Cornelius Plantinga Jr. (2.5). I love everything about the premise of this book but it never seemed to deliver up to the concept. Overall not a bad read, just not nearly as valuable as I was hoping.
  15. History of Greed by David E.Y. Sarna (3). Much more a story-by-story retelling of famous occurrences of greed than a social commentary on greed itself. I wasn’t able to retain the majority of the details of the stories but the common denominators and the commentary between them was very interesting.
  16. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (4). A really well told story about a few generations of preachers and the attempt of an elderly man to pass on what is important to the younger generations.
  17. Nothing but the Blood by Zach Hoag (2.5). A book about spirituality and the show Dexter. Sound impossible? I love both so it made for an entertaining read.
  18. What is the What by Dave Eggers (4). A gripping story of one of the lost boys of Sudan. Through his eyes we see a life unlike most of us can even imagine. It is a great way to see a global perspective and to objectively see how easy we have it in America.
  19. Worst Ideas Ever by Daniel B. Kline and Jason Tomaszewski (3). A really interesting case study on numerous cultural examples of bad ideas and why. I wished there would have been commentary provided with them as to the trends they shared and how we can avoid it.
  20. Killing Jesus by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard (4). A great recap of the events happening around the death of Christ. They do a great job adding cultural perspective from the time to what we see in Scripture.
  21. Thanks for the Feedback by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heed (4). Such a great resource for breaking down how to best give and receive feedback. A must read, especially for those of us who receive regular feedback as part of our jobs.
  22. The Sacredness of Questioning Everything by David Dark (3.5). I enjoyed the premise of the book and the refreshing way he sees his faith. Unfortunately, there were also quite a few times when I was unsure what point he was making or where he was taking it.
  23. Letters from a Skeptic by Greg Boyd (4.5). A beautiful dialogue between a son (Greg) who’s a theologian and his atheist father about faith. The book addresses the very logical issues many people have with scripture but offers them in a surprisingly heartfelt way.
  24. The Pastor by Eugene Peterson (3.5). The moving journey of the career of the man who wrote The Message translation of the Bible. Peterson is a bit old school in his thinking and approach to many things in ministry but this provides a unique and compelling perspective for us today.
  25. Moral Tribes by Joshua Greene (4). This is a look at morality from a non spiritual point of view. While I don’t agree with Greene’s conclusions in a lot of areas he certainly gives a lot of food for thought in how we interact with those around us.
  26. The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty by Dan Ariely (4.5). Such a fascinating and disturbing look at why we lie and cheat. In a nutshell, most cheating isn’t done by a few really bad people. Rather, most of us cheat and lie just a little. The effects of this are far reaching and insightful.
  27. Decisive by Chip and Dan Heath (4). A great look at why we make bad decisions and how to change the way we think and make better ones. Like other Heath books this one provides lots of different models and studies to consider and learn from.
  28. Worlds at War by Anthony Pagden (2). Overall, it serves as a great snapshot of the arc of the history of the east and the west. I found it tough to read though as the author clearly has an axe to grind with religion, especially Christianity.
  29. The Great Evangelical Recession by John S. Dickerson (4). A great look at the ways in which we will soon see a dramatic change in the American Church as we know it. While some might deem this pessimistic I think he’s dead on. I don’t agree exactly with his solutions but I believe this is a much needed conversation for the church.
  30. The Long Tail by Chris Anderson (4). This book makes a compelling point of the way culture has changed to the masses instead of the rare superstars. Because of how detailed the examples are the book already feels dated in a few areas (it was printed in 2008).
  31. House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski (3.5). I got into this book after reading S by JJ Abrams. It’s a book-within-a-book and is creative as anything you’ll read. I found it to be a bit too creative in parts and felt like a waste of time in some areas.
  32. The Fiery Trial by Eric Foner (4). The best part of Foner’s perspective on Lincoln is his ability to show Lincoln’s progression of thought as the years went on. We tend to look at the final product instead of realizing that like the rest of us, Lincoln was a work in progress.
  33. A Farewell to Mars by Brian Zahnd (5). Zahnd breaks down our need and dependance upon violence, especially the subconscious hold it has over us. This is a tough sell for Christians in America as I’ve personally experienced in the process of changing my own views on this the last couple of years.
  34. The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver (3.5). A very interesting look at making predictions and how confident we can be in them. Silver brings a ton of experience and interesting examples to consider throughout the book.
  35. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain (3). I had read parts of this classic but never gone through the entire thing. I did the signature performance on Audible and it made the accents really pop.
  36. Moment Maker by Carlos Whittaker (3.5). I liked this book more than I expected to. Carlos is an incredible storyteller and quickly engages you into each chapter. He’s also a bit crazy which allows an introvert like me to vicariously live through him (which is the opposite of what the book is about). Reminds me of a young Bob Goff.
  37. Good Manners for Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*CK by Amy Alkon (4). A modern day manners guide for our current environments and technologies. Alkon has a great wit and writing style and keeps you engaged the whole way. This isn’t your prissy manners book.
  38. Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull, Amy Wallace (4.5). A great look at the creative process through someone who does it and does it at a high level. Takes a look behind the story of Pixar and allows the reader to learn from their mistakes and successes.
  39. Animal Farm by George Orwell (4). I first read this book years ago but wanted to revisit it. I’m moved by how poignantly and profoundly Orwell weaves the realities of power through his farm animals.
  40. Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler (4). A study on a much needed skill for effective leadership today. The better we navigate the crucial (and usually difficult) conversations in our life the less frustration we’ll have and the greater the results we can help to create.
  41. The Rise of the Nones by James Emery White (4).  A book about the growing number of people in America who claim no religious affiliation. The spiritual landscape in America is changing dramatically. We need to see it for what it is and realize that something new is now called for.
  42. Whiskey, Tango, Foxtrot by David Shafer (2). Takes a little while to get into it but then it really picks up speed. That’s why it’s so disappointing when the book abruptly ends leaving the story dangling in midair in the process.
  43. On Writing by Stephen King (4.5). This is an unbelievable resource for writers. King walks the reader on a journey through his own career and the lessons he’s learned in the process. Definitely a book I will reread in the future.
  44. Walls Fall Down by Dudley Rutherford. Rutherford takes each day from the Biblical narrative of Joshua and Jericho to look at how we can apply these principles in our lives today.
  45. The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp (4). Tharp chronicles creativity through a lot of personal experience as a choreographer. I always love learning creativity through people who have created a lot of content over time.
  46. The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert (3.5). Gilbert—the author of Eat, Pray, Love—is a great storyteller. Although the story didn’t exactly have one great arc or point to it, it was engaging all the way through.
  47. Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry (3). The story of a barber living in a small town. You see life’s toughest questions processed through as he interacts with those around him throughout his life. Had a good premise but never fully hooked me.
  48. Culture Making by Andy Crouch (5). I’ve seen Crouch speak before and he had never captured my attention. However, this book certainly does. A terrific read for anyone looking to make their life matter to the world around them.
  49. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott (4). This is similar to #43 on my list this year. Great insights and perspective as a writer. I would say King’s book is more practically helpful while Lamott’s book is more entertaining to read.
  50. Crucifixion of the Warrior God by Greg Boyd. This book won’t be out for awhile (I was able to read a working manuscript) but holy cow is it good. Boyd addresses the difference between the violent depictions of God in the Old Testament with what we see in Jesus on the cross. Instead of explaining them away he actually shows how they point us to what we see in Jesus! This is a tall challenge, which is why this book is scholarly and quite the behemoth to read. When the popular version of it comes out it will for sure make it to my list of top 10 theology books.
  51. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (4.5). Continues to be my favorite of his books (and I love his books). This year I continued my tradition of reading it each December. If you’ve never read the “real” version and only seen the story in movies, you owe it to yourself to check this out.
  52. The Snow Queen by Hans Andersen (2). Hailed as the source material for Disney’s Frozen. While I liked the premise, it had way too many random characters and the plot rushes through the story in bizarre ways.
  53. What It Is Like to Go to War by Karl Marlantes (2). I appreciated this veteran’s look at the other parts of war that few people want to talk about. There are many recommendations he gives but there is no clear foundation for what he bases them on. He also seems to hope for an “ideal” war which I don’t think can exist as he hopes.
  54. Plan B by Pete Wilson (3). We gave this book out to our congregation at Central at Christmas this year. Pete does a great job of pastorally meeting people in the frustrations of life. If you are living out a Plan B in your life then this book has some encouragement in store.
  55. What To Do When It’s Your Turn by Seth Godin (4). Not surprisingly, it’s a very creative look at why we need to step up and do what we are wired to do. I really enjoyed the unique take he has on creativity and on going against the flow. I’m always encouraged by his books.
  56. Jeter Unfiltered by Derek Jeter (3.5). As a huge fan of Jeter and the Yankees I thoroughly enjoyed this book of pictures and behind-the-scenes stories of his legendary career. While there wasn’t anything earth shattering in it, it did provide a handful of insights and perspectives I never knew.
  57. The Bible (5). This year I used a number of different reading plans including The Story, The Essential Jesus, and Professor Horner’s Bible Reading System.

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Jeremy Jernigan

Speaker | Author | Founder of Communion Wine Co.