This is my top ten list of the 125 books I read in 2014 and ten honorable mentions. This list could have been easily twice as long as there were so many good books that I read last year.
The Big Fat Surprise – Why Butter, Meat & Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet by Nina Teicholz. I cannot say enough good things about this book. Teicholz does super job of translating the complex data in various diet studies going back fifty years. She methodically looks at the various studies and points out the flaws based on poor assumptions and biased and sloppy interpretation of the research. Unfortunately we have been victimized by this flawed research in the information we have been provided by the American Heart Association and the USDA Food Pyramid. Trevor Butterworth in his review of the book in the World Street Journal sums it up: “The Big Fat Surprise” is more than a book about food and health or even hubris; it is a tragedy for our information age. From the very beginning, we had the statistical means to understand why things did not add up; we had a boatload of Cassandras, a chorus of warnings; but they were ignored, castigated, suppressed. We had our big fat villain, and we still do. This is a must read!
The Science of Running – How to Find Your Limit and Train to Maximize Your Performance by Steve Magness. Superb – this is a great coaching resource. Steve takes the scientific concepts and makes them useable and practical. If you work with any sport that has an endurance component this is a must for your library.
Antifragile – Things That Gain From Disorder by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. This is a game changer. He slays sacred cow after sacred cow. Taleb pulls no punches in his criticism of academics and intellectuals who pontificate but have “no skin in the game.” This is not an easy read, his writing style takes some getting used to but it is well worth it.
The Organized Mind – Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload By Daniel J. Levitin. Filled with great concepts and ideas. This is a great companion to Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow.
The Innovators – How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution by Walter Isaacson. Great insights into what it takes to innovate and drive change. Some parts of the book almost reads like a novel.
Free to Learn – Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life By Peter Gray. There is a clear message here – Let the kids play and explore, they are natural learners so don’t stifle them. It includes a very good historical overview of how we have become more structured in the learning environment to the detriment of learning. Offers insights into how we have the hypokinetic we have become.
An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth – What Going To Space Taught Me About Ingenuity, Determination, And Being Prepared For Anything by Col. Chris Hadfield. Powerful take home message here – The devil is in the details of the preparation. You can never be too prepared. It is very inspirational and informative.
The Nowhere Men – The Unknown Story Of Football’s True Talent Spotters by Michel Calvin. This is all about talent spotting and the men who work at this artful craft. Although this is specific to soccer the insights and lessons are applicable to all sports. Underscores that in talent ID so much is in the eye of the beholder.
Creativity Inc. Overcoming The Unseen Forces That Stand in The Way of Inspiration by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace. A window into the creative process illustrated by what is done at Pixar. It underscores the need to risk and understand that failure is part of the creative process. Some great examples of turning failures into success and know when to quit and start over.
The Burning Room by Michael Connelly. Connelly is a master storyteller. Reading the book makes you feel like you are on the streets and neighborhoods of LA. This might be the best of Bosch novels. He is a true master of the detective genre.
Legacy – 15 Lessons in Leadership (What the All Blacks Can Teach Us About The Business of Life) by James Kerr. Lessons in what it takes to achieve sustained excellence from the most successful sport team of all time – the New Zealand All Blacks
Wooden – A Coaches Life by Seth Davis. A masterful book abut one of the icons of coaching in-depth coverage about the man and his relationships with his players and coaches.
Wilson by A. Scott Berg. Biography of a very complex man who led the US is a time of tremendous change.
Johnny Cash – The Life by Robert Hilburn. No stone unturned here, we learn the good, the bad and the ugly about how Cash lived his music. A complex man with many demons
Thinking in Systems – A Primer by Donella H. Meadows Edited by Diana Wright. One of the pioneers of systems thinking offers insights into systems thinking and applications.
Design on the Edge – The Making of a High Performance Building by David W. Orr. Superficially about the planning and building of a green building at Oberlin college, but so much more than that. His insights into design, the creative process, learning and life are stimulating.
The Meaning of Human Existence by Edward O. Wilson. The latest by the master, Wilson is truly an American treasure.
Duty – A Memoir Of A Secretary At War by Robert M. Gates. Very real lessons in leadership and conflict resolution, he pulls no punches.
The Good Spy – The Life and Death of Robert Ames by Kai Bird. Reads like a spy James Bond novel except that it is a true story. In-depth insights into how the Middle East got to where it is today.
Sports Training Principles – An Introduction to Sports Science (6th Edition) by Frank Dick. Newest edition of this classic work updated and revised with contributions by experts in various disciplines. This is a must for every coach’s library as a ready reference for all aspects of coaching.
The QB – The Making of Modern Quarterbacks by Bruce Feldman. Find about gurus, charlatans, self-promoters and flesh peddlers in football. From my point of view this book underscores everything that is wrong with youth sports today with Five Star quarterbacks as the metaphor.
Wayfaring Stranger: A Novel by James Lee Burke. Burke is another master storyteller. This is a departure from his usual detective novel.
Moor’s Account by Laila Lalani. A very interesting historical novel looking at the ill-fated Spanish expedition to Florida told from the point of view of Estebanco a Moorish slave, a very interesting and different perspective.