Favorite Books of 2014

On the advice of the authors, I read Dan Harris’s 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story followed by Sam Harris’s Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion. The combination of the two is the best book I read this year.

10% Happier is an introduction to meditation from a skeptical ABC News anchor who had a panic attack on air in front of 5 million viewers and sought ways to come to grips with the frantic nature of his mind. He questions everyone and everything in the process and has laughably horrible results at first. He stumbles into some successes and has become in his words “10% happier,” which is a pretty good return.

If 10% Happier is your introduction, Waking Up is your deep dive.

Sam Harris serves as a much more experienced, yet even more skeptical meditator. He’s an outspoken Atheist neuroscientist whose previous books helped spawn a growing Atheist movement in America after 9/11. This new book surprisingly posits that spirituality can be experienced without attachment to religious superstition.

Some may bristle at the mention of the word “spirituality,” but here it is looked at from a scientific view of how the brain works and how we can manipulate the brain through meditation.

Meditation works. Spirituality works. None of it needs to be religious. It’s a great message.

As an honorable mention, I also loved Greg Gutfeld’s Not Cool: The Hipster Elite and Their War on You.

Greg is rare creature. He’s a political reporter who doesn’t fight about politics. He makes a living laughing at it. He has best friends on the extreme right and left. He anchors two popular TV shows on the Fox News network, including the hilarious late-late night show, Red Eye. His regular guests include King Buzzo from the Melvins, Andrew WK and congressmen more interested in laughing at themselves than screaming at each other.

The thing I loved about the book was the primary theme (I disagreed with a few of the ideas), which is that the cult we’ve built around what’s “cool” is the source of a great deal of our modern political and cultural problems.

After reading the book, you may be tempted to listen to a lot of uncool music and read some uncool authors. Nothing could be wiser or more fun in these times.

Of course, I have to mention my friend Patrick Rhone, who helps us all once again, in his new book This Could Help. Sometimes, I don’t even remember him in lists, because he’s reliably great - he’s just always on a shelf ready to help.