The Best Books I Listened to in 2014

I tend to read in my car—audiobooks, that is, though my eyes are getting bad enough that it probably wouldn’t matter a whole lot if I actually read while driving. And I “read” a pretty fair amount, about a book each month. In fact, I consumed exactly 12 in 2014. Here’s what I thought of them:

Gone Girl. Enjoyed it, haven’t seen the movie yet. Gosh, there wasn’t a likeable character in the whole darn story.

Salem’s Lot. I generally don’t like scary things anymore, but listening on the road, in the summer, in bright sunlight, took away the creepiness. It wasn’t as creepy-crawly as actually reading it in my room late at night as a teen.

World War Z. Maybe I do like scary stuff, because this was my other fiction audiobook last year. And I think I’m much happier reading zombie fiction than watching it. Yuck!


Salt Sugar Fat. I found this very engaging, and I thought Michael Moss did a very good job of explaining the reasons why food scientists make the choices they do without harping every single minute on why it’s so bad for you. In fact, when I was reading the extensive section on Coca-Cola, I developed a huge craving for one. So I’ll blame him for the fact I made little progress on eliminating soft drinks from my diet this past year. Also, I have more of a “salt tooth” than a “sweet tooth,” so I found his section on that fascinating.

The New Jim Crow. Really powerful, though I didn’t quite finish it. Like a lot of non-fiction books, I felt like, alright, I get the point, and chose to pull up before the finish. That said, it did connect some dots with the justice work my wife pursues through the Unitarian Unitarian Pennsylvania Legislative Advocacy Network, which she serves as board co-chair.

The Everything Store. This book fascinated me, especially the details on how Jeff Bezos conceived of the company as so consumer-focused. The parts about how ruthlessly Amazon competes (treating its rivals and own employees badly) almost made me reconsider my Amazon Prime membership. But I couldn’t quite pull the trigger.

Going ClearVirginia and I listened to some of Lawrence Wright’s opus on Scientology on our trip to Vermont, and she couldn’t take it. L. Ron Hubbard, as exhaustively researched as he is in this book, is just such a monstrous creep and flimflam artist—and the organization he left behind is proof that his imprint was lasting. Talk about an institution built on whim and ego—and formidable tenacity and grudge-keeping. It could have been an hour shorter.

Hatching Twitter made me like Ev Williams, dislike Jack Dorsey, and not want to use the social media platform for about 4 months. I’ve gotten over it, though the idea that Twitter is for conversations is so patently untrue it makes you question your sanity. It’s a broadcast medium with a heavy dose of network effect.


I don’t know how else to characterize these two books.

Radical Acceptance. This is Tara Brach’s book on how cultivating acceptance can make you more fully alive. Frankly, I found it much less interesting than the teachings she posts as podcasts. Could be the book’s reader, who I think has done other books I’ve listened to—Gone Girl? Whatever it was about the product, it was one of those, “I get it. Is this over yet?” books.

What We Talk About When We Talk About God. I really enjoy Rob Bell, the “universalist” Christian minister, but this book really felt, again, like he was stretching an essay into a book. I enjoyed it, but he could have used an editor. I liked Love Wins about 45 times better.


The 2014 Audible book list:

Radical Acceptance
Gone Girl
Salt Sugar Fat
The New Jim Crow 
Going Clear
What We Talk About When We Talk About God
Creativity Inc 
Hatching Twitter
Salem’s Lot
The Everything Store
World War Z

One thought on “The Best Books I Listened to in 2014

  1. I’m a big Audible reader too, Kevin, and I’ve started to feel like I prefer listening to reading, especially when the voice artist does a great job of inhabiting multiple characters. Audible + Kindle with WhisperSync is such a killer app. (It almost but not quite makes me forgive Bezos for the aforementioned mistreatment. I have a real Brokeback Mountain problem with Amazon… “Why can’t I quit you?” Enjoyed your list!


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