My two favorite books of 2014

I’d like to mention two books that stood out for me in 2014:

Nonfiction: The First 20 Minutes. Gretchen Reynolds is a New York Times columnist who distills health and exercise research down to practical, readable advice. I’ve never dog-eared as many pages in a book as The First 20 Minutes. Reynolds writes about why you might want to brush your teeth standing on one foot, work out before eating breakfast, and how pickle juice might help with cramps. Should you get a cortisone shot? Does it help to believe in luck? Does long-distance running make your knees less healthy? Is chocolate milk a good recovery drink? Read the book and find out.

Whether you’re a couch potato or a ultramarathoner, you’ll probably learn something interesting and helpful from Reynolds’ book. Reynolds also writes with the easy readability of a seasoned newspaper columnist, and each chapter ends with bite-sized summaries of what the current scientific research recommends. My only nitpick is that I wish Reynolds had included footnotes pointing to the original research for people who want to dig deeper.

Fiction: As I’ve written before, The Martian describes an astronaut stranded on Mars who needs to figure out how to survive and get home with minimal supplies. Some of the science gets detailed, but the book builds to a very successful ending in my opinion.

What was the single best fiction or nonfiction book you read in 2014?

58 Responses to My two favorite books of 2014 (Leave a comment)

  1. Thanks for the post Matt, I’m interested in that First 20 minutes book.
    I need to get moving……the internet would be better for me if it involved exercise, perhaps you should have to do 20 pushups before you can turn the PC on ? Can we get an app for that ?

    • Book ordered yesterday……………

      • Half way through it, written so it is entertaining and interesting at the same time.
        As a result I’ve resumed walking again and feel better already.
        Thanks for the tip Matt.

        • I’m now drinking Red Bush tea twice a day and walking every day and enjoying it…..

        • “The First 20 Minutes” seems an interesting book.

          In this technical shift we have become so much occupied that we never get time to exercise. Going to grab this book for my next month’s reading.

          Thanks Matt.

    • Finished the book and it’s really changed the way I think about health and fitness.
      All I can say is thank you very much Matt…………really…………
      My only regret is the book is finished, I want to keep reading it !!!

  2. Gasping for Airtime was a great book in my opinion (for anyone who has ever dreamed to be on Saturday Night Live). Being an actor and sketch comedy writer, reading about Jay Mohr’s experiences with guys like Chris Farley and Adam Sandler is priceless.

  3. Stephanie Milani

    Loved The Martian. Best Non-fiction: Curiosity by Rob Manning, the NASA engineer who designed it. He’s also consulting on the movie of The Martian!

  4. I welcome this kind of books are really useful for mankind. I have read so many books related to health, spirituality, education, child-women issues and public welfare, after going through each book i kept on adding new tips and information to my memory. Each book provides unique and some new information, so it is necessary to read and pay attention on each and every books. In our daily life we know about several things but don’t know the right answer of Why? Books help us to grow our capabilities to understand the things much better.

  5. Mr. Gray is very right (as in other cases) on Michael Lewis – “The Flash Boys”.
    Others that are on top of my list:
    * The Alliance – Reid Hoffman, Ben Casnocha, Chris Yeh – This is an important book to anyone who is working in startups and high-tech companies.
    * Think Like a Freak – Both Stevens are the best. Another great one for a (short) flight.
    Happy new year!

  6. Ending up in the middle of nowhere several times that (last) year, I re-read a novel I first read in the early 80’s (damn, I’m getting old :-)) and I even enjoyed it more than the first time.
    Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. Heavy stuff, but worth giving it a try (if you haven’t already done so).
    Voted as one of the best english language modern novels of all time by time magazine (and several others).

  7. +1 on “Flash Boys” by Michael Lewis for the non-fiction book. Shocking and saddening that this is going on and world governments seem uninterested.

    My non-fiction choice would be “The Goldfinch” by Donna Tartt, a fabulous, epic story that reminded me a lot of the novels by Charles Dickens.

  8. Agree with you on The Martian —Fantastic read. For non-fiction, I really liked Everybody Writes by Ann Handley.

  9. flash boys is my favorite !!
    and happy new year to matt sir!

  10. I really liked Spam Nation by Brian Krebs as my nonfiction pick. The best fiction book that I read this year came out in the 70s: The Dispossessed by Ursula LeGuin. Great stuff!

  11. Matt you would love A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. One of my all time favs!

  12. Fiction: I’ve been reading the Game of Thrones series, it really is excellent. A lot of the stories that I haven’t cared about or paid attention to (Davos and Catheryn for example) really come alive in the books. Every chapter only makes you want to start the next.

    Non-Fiction: The Accidental Superpower, I was really surprised by how much geopolitics effect things. This book goes through how all the great superpowers throughout history (including the U.S.) have incredible luck when it comes to geography. I thought the second half was a bit dull, I wish the author would have spread out some of the really interesting stuff, but it’s still a good read.

  13. Bone clocks by David Mitchell – the author of cloud atlas does it again. But with much more flamboyance this time.

  14. My favourite fiction in 2014, The Peripheral by William Gibson

    Non fiction, Mecca The Sacred City by Ziauddin Sardar

    Both page turners.

  15. 2014 was the first year I really started to read book believe it or not. So I am way behind most people, but I came across Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich and was totally blown away. I have a new found vision and enthusiasm heading into 2015 and I can’t wait!

  16. The best book I read in 2014 was The Secrets Of The Millionaire Mind by T. Harv Eker.

    It’s actually totally changed the way I think about life and made me understand why I am where I am today.

    Your mindset is so important for success and if you think that’s BS like I used to, then look at the common characteristics of the most successful people in the world. I highly recommend you read this book, I honestly couldn’t put it down.

  17. Game of Thrones really rocks and A Clergyman’s Daughter by G.Orwell

  18. -Non- fiction: Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century
    -Fiction: An Unnecessary Woman by Rabih Alameddine

    “My only nitpick is that I wish Reynolds had included footnotes pointing to the original research for people who want to dig deeper.”

    Interesting. Never heard of her. But I’m pretty solid on science-based conditioning since it’s my job. Just curious: what is it you would have liked to get more info about (for example)?

    • It wasn’t anything in particular, but if I wanted to delve into a certain topic, it would be nice to see what the source materials say.

      • Not presuming what the author might write on the subject, but one thing should be cleared up, for sure: it’s the usual bro-scientific discourse about the dreaded “cortisol shot” and the appallingly ignorant “60-minute mark”. Cortisol acts as a suppressor of protein synthesis only if it chronically lingers at high concentrations in the body (which is a medical case). But there is no way of avoiding a cortisol shot if you’re looking for a testosterone shot – it’s a necessary cofactor of the stress-overcompensation cycle.

        Moreover, cortisol is a powerful mediator of motivation; its effects are similar to adrenaline and its role, as opposed to a widespread current assumption, is to defend our organism while containing stress-activated reactions. The adverse effects seen in some illnesses is a classical case of “too much of a good thing”. As long as we are in good health, and provided we take enough rest, we should go for a hypothetical “cortisol shot”, that is to the point of highest stress in a training session if the aim is to lose fat, or gain muscle – or both.

        Now, of course, if you’re ill, or overtrained, or a marksman, it is counterproductive – but it’s self-evident.

  19. Physical & Mental health (for me right diet) is a key to success:)
    Bravo Matt for such book advise!

  20. I read a number of books Matt but I fell in love with James Patterson’s works this year.

    I dig his Alex Cross series. Brilliant stuff, real page turners he writes.

    I’m reading Predator by Patricia Cornwell right now. A bit dark but she’s a skilled story teller. I find my blogging story telling increases while I’m reading the most riveting books.

    I am a bit of a workout nut so The First 20 Minutes sounds like an intriguing read.

    I for one do 100 sit ups and about 20 slow push ups – with some shadow boxing – before breakfast to boost my metabolism on waking.

    Thanks for the share. Happy I found your blog 😉


  21. The Definitive Book of Body Language is an incredibly useful and interesting read, it opened my eyes to a whole new level of human communication!

  22. I highly recommend you to read All The Light We cannot See! Great book.

  23. First, thank you Matt, for recommending The Martian! I not only read it, but passed the book on to my husband, who also loved it. I’ve already bought two other copies for friends and family (one I took with me to Brazil, where I noticed the book is also available in Portuguese). It was the best fiction book I read this year as well.

    As nonfiction, my favorite was “Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea”, which I read before the movie “The Interview” brought the country to the center of international news. The reality there, described in rich detail, is so surreal that I had to keep reminding myself that it was not a fiction book! Fascinating.

    Thank you also for asking the question — I’m now taking notes of the other book recommendations in the thread.

  24. I have been always a huge fan of Steve Covey’s book, my favorites have been the 7 Habits of highly effective people and the eighth habit.

  25. Here is one I highly recommend adding to everyone’s list, happy 2015

  26. Interesting suggestions everyone! I thought 2014 was one of the better years we’ve had for book releases.

    One obscure book I picked up when on holiday in the UK in November 2014 was ‘The Rejuvenation Project’ by ‘Sharon Starr’, but it is on Amazon in the USA too:

    Very fresh, in writing style and subject matter regarding the concept of coming back to life once dead. It had the right balance of excitement and an undercurrent of moral reason and realism if such a breakthrough was discovered. It was my favourite read of the year and one of those ones that I will always fondly remember too!

  27. Popular Crime, by Bill James. Read it twice.

  28. I read “papillon”, nonfiction book, this book was pleasantly surprised.

    “Snow Crash” and “The diamond age”, although you probably did read These books

  29. Hmm,
    Would you believe my favorite book I read in 2014 wasn’t a book at all.
    It was a video culled from NASA’s files about what strange looking things there
    are on Mars, including something the guy who shared the video called a Casket,
    but it looked more like a small warehouse with a rounded top to me.
    Plus there is another one that is very interesting…
    Have fun.

  30. Hello Matt,
    Hope you had a chance to spend great quality time with your family over the holiday season, I know I did! I’m glad you recommended “The First 20 Minutes,” I’ve been trying to lose some weight and I love anything health related. Have you seen the new health documentary called “Fed Up”? It’s a good one but my all time favorite it Vegucated.

    Also, If you’re a documentary buff like me you’ll like “Los Scandalous Skid-Row” a very good documentary about the homelessness in Los Angeles.

    Your #1 fan
    Cynthia Guerra

  31. Hello Matt,
    Hope you had a chance to spend great quality time with your family over the holiday season, I know I did! I’m glad you recommended “The First 20 Minutes,” I’ve been trying to lose some weight and I love anything health related. Have you seen the new health documentary called “Fed Up”? It’s a good one but my all time favorite it Vegucated.

    Your #1 fan
    Cynthia Guerra

  32. Hi Matt,

    Going to order “The First 20 Minutes” from Amazon. Although I don’t like reading books much but in 2015 I’m planning to finish at least 10 good books and this one would be the 1st one.

    Do you have more suggestions for me?

    Tauseef Alam

  33. The Martian is indeed great suggestion, Matt. Thanks for that, truly.

    Secondly, not much friction, but yes, had read to some books this time (but, yeah, not many).

  34. My favorite fiction book of 2014 is “An Untamed State” by Roxane Gay(She is the co-editor of PANK and essays editor for The Rumpus).

  35. I love reading, i will try to read this one as well. I just read some of your previously published articles and articles about spam emails were very interesting. Now spammers use Google or Google support as sender name.

  36. 10% happier by Dan Harris 🙂

  37. The First 20 Minutes sounds like an interesting/weird read. I’ll check it out thanks!

  38. Two non fiction books, since none of my fiction reads jump out at me:

    Being Mortal by Atul Gawande


    Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes

  39. I have again read Think and grow rich by Napoleon Hill.

    It must be the 5th time that I do so… 🙂

    Bought the book back in 1996 while working and living in Kenosha, WI.

    I am from Denmark, Europe.

    Cheers 🙂

  40. My evergreen favourite is Arnold Education of a Bodybuilder.

  41. Currently reading a whole heap of books

    Our local 2nd hand store had a $1 sale on so I got about 40+ amazing titles!

    Right now however its Influence By Robert Cialdini, and Yes Man by Danny Wallace

    Both of which I highly recommend

    (And if you saw the adaptation with Jim Carrey a few years back, the real story in the book blows it out of the water in comparison!)

  42. I have read The diamond age and its awesome.

  43. I love the book of Napoleon Hill, so good for business

  44. Thanks, I’ll buy it. My favourite books are Napoleon Hill’s books.

  45. Will definitely have to check out The Martian. Sounds like my kind of read as far as fiction goes. I think my best read of 2014 was Advanced Web Metrics With Google Analytics by Brian Clifton. I know the book is a couple years old but I was a little late getting to it.

  46. Non-fiction: The Checklist Manifesto, Atul Gawande
    Fiction: Karl Ove Knausgaard: My Struggle, Book 1

  47. Red Rising also sci-fi on Mars, way in the future. Sooooo good. I think they doing a movie of it

  48. Hi. I am from Brazil. I loved the best books of 2014 that you have read. I would say that for me the best book of 2014 was the Art of SEO. Written by people searching on the subject, was translated into Portuguese and met a lot that had not yet knowledge of SEO. I’m interested in the subject since 2011 and since then always follow your blog and its official publications on Youtube. I’m interested a lot about how Google tries to identify only good quality sites for certain keywords. It’s great.

  49. Have you read Psion Beta by Jacob Gowans. At first it kinda seems like Ender’s Game but as the series develops you will quickly see that it is a lot different. That is the best book I ready in 2014.