Best Books of 2014

Here is my Best Books of 2014 list, in no particular order. This isn’t a list of books published in 2014. This list is of the books I read in 2014 that I enjoyed/benefited from the most. Click here for last year’s list: Best Books of 2013 (and links to past year’s lists).

One Thousand Gifts: A Dare To Live Fully Right Where You Are by Ann Voskamp. Of all the books I read this year, this is the one that has impacted me the most. I’ve grown in gratitude and living more fully in the moment as a result of stewing my way through this book.

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. Originally I decided not to read this biography because I’d read a few reviews of it and concluded I already knew the gist of the book: Steve Jobs was an uncommon genius and jerk. But then a pastor friend told me he couldn’t put this book down and learned a lot from it. I picked up the book and experienced the same: I couldn’t put it down. This book is packed with leadership lessons (what to do and what not to do) and it provides a fascinating mini-history of Silicon Valley.

Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Tim Keller. For me, this book ties with Eugene Peterson’s, Answering God (noted on my Best Books of 2010 list) as the best book I’ve ever read on prayer. Peterson defines prayer as “Answering God.” Keller defines prayer as, “Continuing a conversation that God has started.” These two definitions are key to cultivating a rich prayer life–we first listen to what God says to us in his Word, then we keep the conversation going by responding to God in prayer.

Zero to One: Notes On Startups, Or How To Build The Future by Peter Theil. Thoughtful writing on entrepreneurship and leadership. I take back what I said above about One Thousand Gifts. Zero to One is a tie, I think this book has impacted me just as much. No, actually, it’s a three way tie between these two and Prayer by Keller.

Learning to Breathe Fire: The Rise of CrossFit And the Primal Future of Fitness by J.C. Herz. I started doing CrossFit a year ago. I really like it. This book tells the CrossFit story and provides a great education on fitness. I couldn’t put it down.

Simplify: Ten Practices to Unclutter Your Soul by Bill Hybels. Significant practical wisdom from a leader who has been around the block. I had two big takeaways from this book that I’ve carved into my life, and I’m better for it.

Looking for Alaska by John Green. One awkward character’s quest for “The Great Perhaps.” A good story. Good fiction.

Comfortable Words: Essays in Honor of Paul F.M. Zahl.  Many of the essays in this collection are really good–great thinking on the gospel and our culture.

Fearless: The Undaunted Courage and Ultimate Sacrifice of Navy SEAL Team Six Operator Adam Brown by Eric Blehm. The story of a man changed by grace, who then gave up his life for others.

Studies in the Sermon on the Mount by Martyn Lloyd-Jones. This summer I worked through much of this book in preparation to preach The Sermon on the Mount, which I’m preaching right now. MLJ’s material warms my heart and is, in my opinion, the best content out there on The Sermon on the Mount.

The Gospel: How the Church Portrays the Beauty of Christ by Ray Ortlund. What makes this book so good is Ray’s articulation of a gospel culture, and the reality that Ray is the real deal–a man continually changed by and passionate about the good news of Jesus.

The Interestings: A Novel by Meg Wolitzer. I have 50 pages left in this 468 page novel. I started it the first week of January. Throughout the year I’ve put it down and forgotten about it, but then a few weeks later I’m so curious about what happens next that I pick it up and read another few chapters. What makes this novel shine is the length of time it covers and the depth of its character development. The narrator repeatedly returns to each character’s backstory, showing why people are the way they are. Note: There’s a good bit of depravity depicted in this novel.

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull. You have to be proactive to stay creative and innovative, and to keep such a culture alive in your organization. I got a lot from this one.

Justin Buzzard is founder and lead pastor of Garden City Church, a church plant in Silicon Valley, and author of the book The Big Story: How The Bible Makes Sense Out of Life and Date Your Wife.

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