The 10 Most Influential Books I Read in 2014

This year I only got a chance to read just over thirty books. There were a few that I found too boring to finish, and others I just struggled to bother finishing which slowed me down, but ultimately, I read a great bunch of books that I think changed my ways of thinking for the better. Others I just enjoyed so much I;m thankful for having the experience. These are the 10 that left the deepest impacts:

One Day, David Nichols (435 pages)

I picked this one up because I was still staying with my parents way out in the far suburbs (one that has mostly old people, families and too much bush in it) after returning from Europe. I didn’t have much time or money to be going to bookstores in my old haunts so I went to the local library which was a tiny old converted church and this was about the only decent book I could find. As it turned out, the book is very, very good, which is unusual for a best seller. This was just a hypnotic character study and there are many times I’d forget that you know the two characters are going to get together eventually. In fact, a lot of the book goes where you’d think it would, but then goes somewhere else as well. The visceral moments of reality in this resonated with me personally and painfully a couple of times. It helped also that I knew the female lead was played by Anne Hathaway in the movie I hadn’t seen.

Jesus’ Son, Denis Johnson (133 pages)

This was the first book I bought, because I’d run out of decent books at that local library after 3 tries. Another book that’d been made into a film I hadn’t seen, but what stuck with me about this sliver of a book, was the craft of Johnson’s fiction. I was incredibly impressed by his styes that could swiftly and deeply construct a world then leave it behind. Fiction, of any medium, involves a movement between realities, just like two destinations. Truly great fiction is an instantaneous teleportation, and Johnson comes real close with this book.

Sex at Dawn, Christopher Ryan & Cacilda Jetha (309 pages)

Absolutely a mind blowing/expanding anthropological account that everyone should read. This was the most invaluable reading I had done in a very long time. It is so jammed full of information yet so fluidly entertaining and relatable it made me mad I’d had it sitting around or 2 years before cracking it.

The Fight, Norman Mailer (278 pages)

Nothing can easily compare to Mailer at his best, nor to good old fashioned journalism. It must have helped that Muhammed Ali V George Foreman in the Congo in the 70s was an amazing boxing match with a cinematic story already built-in.

Save The Cat! Goes to the Movies, Blake Snyder (285 pages)

I never usually read How-To guides, but a good friend and published author recommended this to me, and I owe him a huge thanks. Snyder lays out a structure for basically every film just shy of arthouse, avant-garde and abstract, which is undeniable, and very helpful as a guide for a young writer like myself.

Significant Others, Craig Stanford (208 pages)

Following on strongly from Sex at Dawn, this brilliant anthropological work was fascinating in it’s simple relation of primates to human society. The parallels are very clearly made with no real jumps to imagine. If you didn’t already know, we revere chimps as intelligent and alike us the most, but we ignore their violent behaviour, territorial animosity and misogyny. The book covers a wealth of areas without really becoming tired or repetitive.

Post Office, Charles Bukowski (204 pages) 

The first of Buk’s novels, and the last one I’ve read. He really had his style down from the start (he was kind of 49) so no surprises, but I still found it affecting to read the thing that started him out taking the years of small fiction and poetry fame and settling into over 2 decades of success. Then he died like a little bitch.

The Essential Difference, Simon Baron-Cohen (185 pages)

I don’t want to seem hyperbolic, but this book was fucking life-altering. Dr Baron-Cohen is a renowned Psychologist and accomplished leader in the study and treatment of the Autism spectrum. How’s that linked to the difference between Men & Women? Read the book and understand more than any comedian has ever joked about.

Sombrero Fallout, Richard Brautigan (177 pages)

Brautigan remains one of my all-time favourite writers, and undeniably unique. This little (all his books are little, what a douche I am) book was a lucky find in a Chiang Mai bookstore that I would have paid $100 for (maybe). It’s from his later period, when he was being ignored again, but it’s just as brilliant and enveloping. It has two parallel stories: the first a simplistic story of love/lust melancholy with flashbacks to joy from utter loneliness, sits alongside a fantastical and ridiculous story about essentially nothing. How both pay off is inconsequential.

Death of the Liberal Class, Chris Hedges (217 pages)

Chris Hedges has a reputation you’re either aware of or you’re not. He is very distinguished, and highly erudite. In this, he explains why sometimes we’re not sure who to be mad at when we see injustice and we are disappointed by a reality where the hope, optimism, love, sympathy and sense of community are turned upside-down. Obviously, there’s no real polarisation, nor absolutes, nor therefore, Good and Evil. There are just degrees of selfishness washed in a spin cycle with too many human insanities and natural catastrophes to pick out anything without going mad or getting wet. However, Hedges gives comfort in this book, he has done the research and for the most part, simply presents his findings on how Liberals are needed to bolster the beautiful aspects of society/democracy that everyone makes cheesy, appealing, but insincere slogans out of. There are some wild turns at times, which won’t resonate with some, and will seem too scary to be true, but it doesn’t really take away from how much I got a kick out of his work.

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