Ten Best Books of 2014

If you’d rather listen to this article you can grab our podcast episode here.

Our infographic of these best books is here.

Best Books of 2014The Best Books I’ve Read This Year

Each year for the past 12 years I’ve aimed to read 50 books. And, every year except one I’ve read at least 40 books. So far in 2014, I’ve read 49 books. I’ll make my target of 50 next week. As the Book Rapper, I’m often asked to recommend good books. Here are my top ten best books for 2014 from the ones that I’ve read.

To make this list these books had to change my way of thinking about something I valued.

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10 Die Empty

Todd Henry - Die EmptyTodd Henry, Die Empty

This book almost makes the list simply for the title: Die Empty. And, it’s got more depth than just a good slogan. We all want to make the most of our lives. And, this book puts a contemporary spin on this.

Traditionally most of us thought if we could retire and live on a beach in a sunny climate then we’d be at our happiest. However, new research suggests you’ll be happier if you do meaningful work. And, that’s what this book is all about – what’s the work you need to do?


Read this if…

If you’re not enjoying your work or your life this book might just point you in the right direction. It’s a fresh take on the power of working in your strengths and on the right projects. Make your life count – die empty!


9 The Game Changer

Jason Fox - The Game ChangerDr Jason Fox, The Game Changer

People I know

I know a lot of people who have written and published their own books. I’m guessing this is probably in the range of 30-40 people. And, this book is by one of my colleagues Dr Jason Fox (It was a gift from him).

Most of these books are really good and well worth reading. This one goes a little further… I think its world class. It provides a clear background to traditional motivation theory and why it’ll only get you so far before it fails. Plus it provides a clear way forward using games and gamification.


Read this if…

If you personally or your team need some added motivation to tackle your next project then this book could be the one you need.


8 Now, Discover Your Strengths

Buckingham and Clifton - Now, Discover Your StrengthsMarcus Buckingham and Donald Clifton – Now, Discover Your Strengths

New, Known and Ideal

Sometimes when you take a personality profile you gain a completely fresh insight into who you are and how you see the world. At other times, the results are wonderfully reassuring because they confirm wholeheartedly that you are who you think you are. And, if you’re really lucky, they confirm who you want to be.

In this case I was thrilled that it confirmed who I was and who I wanted to be.

Diagnostic Explanation

This book is an explanatory tool for the Gallup Strengths Finder tool. And, the good news is that access to the diagnostic tool is included in the book price.

Read this if…

One of the keys to happiness is to do meaningful work. This includes working in your strengths and this book is the tool for confirming that you’re doing this. Read to be inspired by your work.


7 The Infographic Resume

Hannah MorganHannah Morgan, The Infographic Resume, The Infographic Resume

The Spark Within

This book sparked something in me that had probably been staring me in the face for a few years. I started publishing Book Rapper way back in 2007. Essentially, I read a business book and rewrite it in a visual way so you can grasp the key ideas quickly and easily. Whilst visually presenting ideas was in my blood, I hadn’t made the connection to infographics. A couple of people had previously suggested it and I had dismissed it. This book sparked the shift. I could now see a big possibility to present my ideas and even Book Rapper as a single page infographic. A new future awaits!


Read this if…

Whilst written for resumes and job hunters the principles are the same to apply this to your business. The best way to present yourself might just be an infographic.

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6 Daring Greatly

Brene Brown, Daring GreatlyBrene Brown, Daring Greatly: The courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent and lead.

This book stalked me!

For a book junkie like me sometimes it feels like a certain book is stalking you. It’ll just pop up from the most unlikely of sources… a friend might be reading it, it’s mentioned on podcasts you’re listening to and it can even fall on your foot when you scouring the shelves at your favorite bookstore. For me, this book was one of those.

Brown’s TED Video

My first connection to Brene Brown’s work was through her TED video – it was shown at several different workshops I attended. And, if you’re not a reader, this is a funny, authentic and entertaining 18-minute entree into her career story. It’s now been watched almost 18 million times! That proves this topic has touched a chord with many people.

Vulner who?

Brown researches vulnerability. And, this is one of those topics that has rarely been talked about. And now that I’ve read Brene’s book I can see why – most of us don’t want to be vulnerable. (I know I don’t!) We would rather maintain the façade of ‘looking good’ and showing that ‘I’ve got life handled’. It’s part of how we fit in with our friends and family.

For Personal Reasons

Brown has now published five books. And, this one appealed to me because of the title: Daring Greatly: How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent and lead.

I started reading this for my own personal development. If this is your only reason for reading this book it will be worth the effort. It’s filled with personal stories and you’ll easily see how you face up to or avoid the tough conversations and being with the humbling truth of life.

The Big Surprise

However, there is more! The stunning connection for me was the role of vulnerability in the domain of leadership. Leaders of organisations have traditionally been schooled to not show weakness. Brown questions this and present a compelling case for being vulnerable as a powerful place for leading your teams and your organization. Added to this she points to the role of being vulnerable in the realm of innovation – another organizational imperative.


This book is rated 4 ½ stars on Amazon from over 1400 reviews. Impressive!

Read this if…

If you’re willing to truly engage with this book you can create a breakthrough in any area of your life – as the sub-title suggests – to live, to love, to parent and to lead. Take your pick – everyone’s a winner!


5 To Sell is Human

Daniel Pink - To Sell is HumanDaniel Pink, To Sell is Human

My Favorite Authors

There are a couple of authors that whenever they release a new book I simply go out and buy it. Seth Godin is one, Chris Anderson another and there’s Daniel Pink.

I’ve now read all five of Daniel Pinks books:

  1. Free Agent Nation
  2. A Whole New Mind
  3. The Adventures of Johnny Bunko
  4. Drive
  5. To Sell is Human.

Also, we’ve rapped two of his books (A Whole New Mind and Drive) over at Book Rapper. Given all this, perhaps it’s no surprise that his latest book would make my top ten list – again.

Three Things I can count on

There are three things I can count on when I read a Daniel Pink book:

  1. He writes well and usually I devour his books in one to two days. I can’t put them down! He’s a former chief speechwriter to Vice President Al Gore.
  2. They’re well researched and completely believable.
  3. His books are always insightful. Regardless of the topic Pink always add something new to my thinking and usually challenges what I thought I knew. Bravo!

And, so it is with To Sell is Human – well written, well researched and it provided some completely fresh insights for me.

The Familiar becomes the Fresh

This book takes a very familiar topic – sales – and presents a very different perspective. Here are some of the key points:

  • Pink reframes selling from the usual buy/sell relationship to a simple emotive frame of ‘moving people’.
  • The Information Flip is a crucial distinction – now that buyers know more than sellers the whole game of sales has changed.
  • We’re Future Flawed – evolutionary biology suggests we are preoccupied with the present and often fail to act for future sake – important for how you pitch your idea
  • Pitching – Pink offers a number of simple and elegant ways to pitch your idea.

Read this if…

If you’re involved in any kind of activity that involves other people (yes, I deliberately stated that so it would include everyone!) then you can gain some value out of this book. It might boost your sales results and it might even go further to boost your relationships.


4 Turning Pro

Steven Pressfield - Turning ProSteven Pressfield, Turning Pro

Two Approaches

I have a strong background in coaching. Typically, there are two distinct approaches to how you coach. One approach is soft and gentle. You ask a lot of questions and you explore what pathways there might be for moving forward. A second approach is to shoot the coachee between the eyes – metaphorically. It’s a straight, direct and tell it like it is approach. This book clearly takes the second approach.

A Writer on Writing

Steven Pressfield has written more than a dozen books including ‘The Legend of Bagger Vance’ which was made into a movie starring Will Smith, Charlize Theron and Matt Damon. It was directed by Robert Redford.

This book is part of a three part series. It’s the writer talking about writing. It’s based on hard-won experience, overcoming obstacles, failing badly and ultimately winning.

Do the Work

Turning Pro is an expansion from his earlier book Do The Work. Turning Pro highlights some big differences between the amateur and the pro. The message is simple: there are no valid excuses. You either do the work or you don’t. Choose.

A Change in Work

For me this catapulted me into a new world of doing what I said. I was an amateur wishing and hoping for pro results without doing the work. I needed this kick up the proverbial. Whilst it hasn’t been a miracle cure, it’s change how I view what I do. Thus the recent flurry of blog posts. My aim is one a day. And, mostly I’m achieving this.

Also by Steven Pressfield

  • The War of Art (2002)
  • Do the Work (2011)
  • Turning Pro (2012)

Read this if…

If you are not getting the results you think you deserve then the message in this book might be what you need. Be willing to confront yourself! Read all three for a super boost!


3 100 Things

Sebastian Terry - 100 ThingsSebastian Terry, 100 Things

An Inspiring Life

Normally, I read a lot of business type non-fiction books. They include stats, case studies and models for success. This book has none of that a whole lot more.

It the story of Sebastian Terry who simply wanted to live a great life. It’s a story that is simple and inspiring. Seb writes a list of 100 things to complete in his life and then takes off around the world to fulfill them.


Most of these bucket list items occur as simply outrageous. We share some of them here where we review this book.

Read this if…

If your life is a little ho-hum right now then this book might just jolt you out of your seat. It’s funny, it’s inspiring and it’s an adventure. Read it if you want more out of life.


2 Change by Design

Tim Brown - Change by DesignTim Brown, Change by Design

Buy it, read it

Like many people I buy a lot of books. And, I read less than I buy. Compared to many my record is pretty good. I probably read 80% of the books I buy. Unfortunately for me I bought this book about five years ago and since then it has sat on my bookshelf gathering dust. My loss!

Do you believe in destiny?

I originally trained as an architect. And, I now operate as the Ideas Architect – I don’t design buildings anymore I design ideas. When I read this book, I knew it was all about me! Or at least, I realized why I left architecture and started designing ideas. To a certain extent I’d been doing design thinking all along. And, that’s precisely what this book is about.

Design meets Business

This book presents the business case for design thinking. The author is the CEO of one of the premier design companies on the planet IDEO. Tim Brown lives and breathes design thinking.

Essentially, business as usual no longer exists. Instead, in our digital world of global competition, innovation is the driver to future success. And, design thinking as Brown suggest now must migrate from the fringes to the boardroom.

The Big Picture

This book is not intended as a how-to guide. Instead, it provides the big picture, the context for why organisations need design thinking and how to implement it. It’s filled with numerous case studies that show what’s possible.

Read this if…

If you’re serious about innovation in your organization this is the book you need to present the business case for making design thinking central to what you do.


1 Give and Take

Adam Grant - Give and Take bookAdam Grant – Give and Take – A Revolutionary Approach to Success.

The Rock in the Pond

Some books you read have the effect of dropping a very large rock into a still pond. They create waves rather than ripples through your way of being. This book did that for me.

At the time that I read this book I was recovering from a breakdown in relationship with someone that I had trusted. They had offered to help me when I sorely needed some help. And, then, at least in my eyes, they proceeded to help themselves in a big way and me in a lesser way. Until I read this book, I couldn’t make sense of what had happened.

Three Types of People

Grant presents three different reciprocity styles, which highlight how we interact and build relationships with other people. He describes three types of people:

  1. The giver pays it forward always sharing and helping others.
  2. The taker is all about themselves and what they can get from any situation.
  3. The matcher plays tit for tat – if you help me with this, I’ll help you with that.

What does it take to be successful?

This is another great book that asks a familiar question and provides a refreshing new answer. What does it take to be successful? In particular, which of these reciprocity styles is the best one to adopt to be successful in life and in particular in business? The answer will probably surprise you. (Listen to our podcast to find out the answer)

What I learnt

In answer to my relationship breakdown I was able to learn from this book that I’m a giver and the person I was dealing with was a taker. Grant actually suggests a sub-category of the taker. This type of person is a faker – they pretend to be a giver and really they’re a taker.

Grant also provided:

  • A few clues as to how I can protect myself from takers in the future.
  • A questionnaire to identify your preferred style

More here…

To dive deeper into this book, here’s our podcast episode discussing Give and Take.

Read this if…

If your career is not quite progressing as you expected it to or you feel like you’re being taken advantage of then this book may be the missing link you need.


Your Thoughts

  • What do you think of our list?
  • Which books appeal?
  • And, which ones would you have on your list of the best books you’ve read in 2014?

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