2022 Reading List and Recommendations
I read 45 books in 2022.
Nearly one in three you should probably read too. See the To Read list.
Star ratings out of 5 are below for every book. I’ve also included a “Do Not Read” list for books I wish I had not wasted my time on. I rate books differently: High stars given for new learnings, the surprising or entertaining, or things I can apply to my life. Rehashes or bombastic, unbacked opinions rarely rate. Oh, and am always a big fan of a good tale, well told.
Here’s the year in books with their star rating:
2022 in Books
- Empires of the Sea ★★★★★
- Pirates and Farmers ★★★
- How to Live ★★
- The Dawn of Everything ★★★
- Why We Sleep ★★★★★
- The Psychology of Money ★★★★★
- How to Not Die Alone ★★★★
- Hands-On Rust ★★★★
- Traction ★★★★
- The Coaching Habit ★★★★
- Distributed Services with Go ★★
- The Long Game★★
- Finite and Infinite Games ★★★
- Dataclysm ★★★
- Over the Edge of the World ★★★
- Storyworthy ★★★★★
- The Pathless Path ★★★★★
- The Planet Remade ★★★★★
- The Parable of the Sower ★★★★
- Lifespan ★★★★★
- The World Set Free ★★★
- Gerald Durrell: My Family and Other Animals ★★★
- Happy Sexy Millionaire ★★
- The Great Influenza ★★★★
- The Ministry of the Future ★★
- 100 Baggers ★★★★
- The Minimalist Entrepreneur ★★★★★
- Poor Charlie’s Almanac ★★
- Models ★★★★
- All About Me! ★★★★★
- A Short History of Nearly Everything ★★★★★
- How the World Really Works ★★★★
- The Almanack of Naval Ravslksnt ★★
- Designing Your Life ★★★★★
- Titan ★★★
- Consider Phlebas ★★★
- The Millionaire Fastlane ★★★
- What We Owe the Future ★★★★
- The Mind Thing ★★★★
- The Anomaly ★★
- Bullet Train: A Novel ★★★★
- The Peripheral ★★★★
- Six Easy Pieces Feynman ★★★★
- Entrepreneur Revolution ★★
- The Song of the Cell ★★★★
- Empires of the Sea
- Why We Sleep
- The Psychology of Money
- The Pathless Path
- The Planet Remade
- The Minimalist Entrepreneur
- All About Me!
- A Short History of Almost Everything
- How the World Really Works
- Designing Your Life
- The Song of the Cell
- How Not to Die Alone
- The Millionaire Fastlane
- What We Owe the Future
Do Not Read
- How to Live
- The Long Game
- Finite and Infinite Games
- Happy Sexy Millionaire
- The Ministry of the Future
- Poor Charlie’s Almanac
- The Anomaly
- Entrepreneur Revolution
Empires of the Sea
Crowley’s superpower is his ability to make the half-known past come to life in a compelling, page-turning way that entertains, educates, and appreeciates the great tapestry of history and import that came before .Crowly deftly takes the reader back to the 16th century when a divided Christianity in the West contested with the Ottoman Empire in the East represented in the persons of Philip of Spain’s Hapsburgs and Suleiman the Magnificent of the Ottomans.
Increasingly, the battle moved from land to the Mediterranean and naval battles between Ottoman supported corsairs and raids on storied outposts like Djerba, Tunis, and
In particular, Crowley does an impressive job discussion the first naval battles and Rhodes, the heroic and almost miraculous defence of Malta against all odds by the Knights of St John’s, and the horrific slaughter and fall of Cyprus’ Famagusta, then a Venetian outpost, down to the decisive battle of Lepanto between the combined Holy League fleet and the Ottoman and corsair forces.
Great, well-researched read that makes you appreciate a time when most of Christian Europe lived in fear of “the Turk” and how the world changed over two monumental Empires clashing. (I’d also recommend his books on Venice and Portugal in the 16th and 15th centuries as well).
Why We Sleep
nb: There’s been recent backlash against this book as being not scientifically accurate despite the author’s pedigree and especially surrounding advice like absolutely requiring 8 hours of sleep amongst other claims. Recommend, as always, reading crtiically and combining with other sources on topics (for example, Life Time by Dr Foster who has been highly critical of Why We Sleep publicly).
We’re all sleep deprived. And there’s a high likelihood it’s injuring us mentally and physically and may be killing us much earlier than it should.
Where precisely did sleep go from a biological necessity to optional?
Somewhat it’s because of the factory floor, artificial light, and the access to things lke cafeeine and alcohol. but also perhaps a more stressful life we all lead, but it’s clear there is also a macho BS sleep deprivation movement in business as being a badge of honour, most foolishly connected to the idea that sleep time is unproductive time.
The book gives a great survey of the research in both NREM and REM sleep and its effect on physical and mental health, the immune system and society at large. A total eye-opener for me since I am one who fights against going to bed all the time. While the author presents much scientific evidence supporting us all needing 8 hours sleep a night it should be pointed out that other books and researchers have been critical of this (and say people have a much greater range of good sleep and well-rested.)
Key change for me from this book? Immediately, upped my hours of sleep per night to 8 (which I consistently have failed at though glad to say I’m at a solid 7 now) and tried to keep a consistent sleep and wake time (also, ahem… still failing at that.). Getting better quality of sleep though, or at least trying to, was unquestionably on of the biggest quality of life and productivity improvements I made in 2022.
The Psychology of Money
I have to admit I was a little put off by the title of this book originally as I had imagined some horrid positive thinking, your attitude is your altitude sort of go-getter thing. This is a really great book though.
More than anything, rather than giving you recipes on what you should and shouldn’t do with your cash ro telling you what’s important to you, it guides how thinking arond money and understanding your own, is key to changing your behavioours around money.
I really loved the fact that it took a very even handed approach to not telling you how you should live but helping you understand what your relationship to money, savings, investments, and goals should be.
It’s an impressive, excellent read, and I highly recommend it to anyone confused or setting out to try and sort out their financial health, resiliency, and strategy. Definitely one of the most useful books on helping shape your thinking around money I have ever read.
Storytelling is an incredibly under-rated akill. People rarely make decisions due to facts, but because of the story that drives their decision.
This book is just amazing in terms of giving you little tools from a master storyteller to be able to not just start telling better, more interesting stories, but also about how storytelling can just simply make your life better, driving a greater awareness of the days of your life and how you can savour them.
Great book. Recommended in the highest terms. Really loved it.
The Pathless Path
Was worried this was going to be an Eat Pray Love for knowledge workers from the title, but it’s actually very good.
Written by an ex-McKinsey alum, it talks a lot about how we have let work supplant so much in our lives and unhappily let it define our concepts of success. Very topical with COVID making a lot of people question the role work plays in their lives, it encourages people to give themselves time and space to discover what they actually would like doing again and perhaps stepping away from the default path that has become the norm up till very recently.
I love how the author shared his own experiences and discomfort and how he took the risk and carved out a life for himself which is perhaps less financialy oriented, but seems much more richly rewarding and satisfying. And perhaps this also came at a time where I was deeply questioning why I’d taken a corporate gig during covid (they did ask really nicely, twice) when I knew that was not where I’d pointed my boat after my last role (to explicitly spend time exploring other life goals and opportunities).
So, well worth the read. If you’re at all confused about work or your career, this is a very good book to give you some other ideas about how you might make your way in the world.
The Planet Remade
A surprisingly even-handed, rational, and well-reasoned read about humanity needing to engage in large scale geo-enginering of our planet to decouple climate change from our carbon emissions (to say nothing of our interference in the nitrogen and sulphur cycles on to of carbon.).
Fundamentally the book starts with two questions:
- Are we on track to make our carbon emission reductions?
- Do we believe tranforming our economy to a lower carbon emissions is hard?
Since current legislative approaches are not working, nor do we appear to be able to transition to non-carbon power quickly enough, we will more than likely have to interfere in the large scale systems of our planet technologically.
While veiling of the atmosphere, such as we see when volcanoes erupt is the main talking point, the book does cover off interesting positions such as how nitrates being fixed into fertizlier via the Haber-Bosch process could be argued to be global geo-engineering as well as other side effects of the Anthropocene.
The book makes a compelling, scientific, and very reasoned case for the pros and dangers of why we may need to engage in planetary engineering though the 3rd part wanders a bit too much into specualtion rather than what I would have seen as practical ways we might research, accelerate, and understand the side effects of interventions (as there will be both winners and losers geographically from any monkeying with the atmosphere which has immense political and humanitarian implications.).
Good read though slightly existentially terrifying. I especially recommend it for people like me, who feel this may be a Promethean Frankenstein step too far moving us from our ideas of the “natural world.”
Much like last year’s, Ageless, this is about extending human aging. Strangely, I liked this one much much better than the previous book, and felt it was a lot more authoratative and practical. The author states it simply:
- Aging kills 90% of everyone
- If aging were a disease, we’d do everything in our power to cure it
The author claims there is no biological reason we can’t have much longer life spans. The fact we live to the age we do is a simple consequence of genes that optimize for passing along their information rather than longevity. Effectively, we know there are mechanisms by which the body prioritizes repairing itself and, effectively, if not specifically, turning back what are known as the 11 Hallmarks of Aging. And more than extending life and preventing senescence.
In particular, the focus of this book is on the “survival circuit” that is the centre of the author’s research, and in particular, the metabolic pathways which kick the body into its hunker down and repair mode, particularly around sirtuins, mTOR, and other “survival circuits” that focus on preserving and regenerating cellular function.
There’s some convincing arguments we’re on the cusp of greatly extending lifespans and while there is a third part which goes off more into specualtion (unfortunately) for what that mean for everything from lifestyle, to retirement, to the macro-economics of what that would mean globally, the parts of the book dealing with both the science and the practical things we can do now to both preserve (for example, taking NAD boosters) ourselves for a possible revolution in life extension is very readable and actionable.
Really liked the book. Also, suggest Ageless from last year’s list if you like this one and its focus.
The Minimalist Entrepreneur
I really liked this book. Perhaps a side-effect from working in tech where everyone seems to want to land VC money to “scale” and particularly after the 2022 implosion of many firms that clearly had no path to profitability.
The book is written by the “failed” creator of Gumroad who was supposed to go strateosperic but then pulled back after crazy growth and VC money to simply provide a great multimillion dollar revenue generating company that faithfully serves its customers well. It’s all about how to grow your company and create a worthwhile business without necesarily taking the “VC path.”
Loved how he talked about making sure you have a real product, then customers, then marketing, then repeatabilty. It’s amazingly good, practical advice on how to start and grow a business and long overdue for too many people focusing on VC funding but not having an y real path to profitability (or worse, their path to profitability is to sell the company to someone else to figure out profitability.).
Really loved his approach and his service orientation to his customers on delivering value and a fair exchange for that value. Really good read if you’re even thinking of starting a business.
All About Me!
Mel Brooks’ autobiography is surprisingly good.
It’s incredible how prollific his career spanning television, film, and theatre (and now, writing!) is.
It’s joyous, it’s funny, it’s packed with gratitude for people and graces rendered, and just kinda of an amazing tale for a career which you really don’t realize is as amazingly wide-ranging as it is until you actually read it in print.
If you’ve enjoyed his films, you’re going to enjoy this.
A Short History of Nearly Everything
I don’t know why I let this book sit in my “to read” pipe for so long considering how seminal Bryson’s Sunburnt Country was to me getting to Australia.
This follows Bryson’s account of the modern world, in a cheery, scientific-survey, great story-telling contrast to Vaclav Smil’s more serious and pointed “How the World Really Works,”
You can do much, much worse than reading this if you want a very readable and near-up-to-date primer on what we understand about out place in the universe and ourselves.
Really enjoyed reading this as well as Bryson’s interjected anecdotes on stories and personalities invlolved in our evolving understanding of science. Great read.
How the World Really Works
Vaclav Smil here throws some very cold water on our belief that we can de-carbonize our economies quickly and lays out, industry by industry why our transiiton to a non-fossil fuel future is not as close as we hope, or quite possibly, need.
While SMil has an unfortunately tlaking-down-to-you style of blaming urabnization and mechanization about us not understanding the way the world actually works, he makes some very, very good points in terms of our optimism on how fast we can de-carbonize our economy in the face of climate change and our need to rapidly reduce CO_2 emissions.
Smil does his rapid body slam of hope with a simple sruvey of how our modern world actually works, surveying three major areas:
- Fuel and energy production
- Food production
- 4 pillars of material world (cement, steel, plastics, ammonia)
HIs prescription for current de-carbnonization outside of electric cars is pretty bleak (though there is some hope in energy production, obviously). Food produciton depends heavily on fossil fuels both for fertilizer enrcihment and for mechniaization and transport for productivity and yields. His predicitons on if we were to suddenly try to stop fossil field use would be us being unable to feed half the world’s population with transitions away from fossil fuels being very slwo at the moment.
So, too the material world which consists of cement and steel are amazingly fossil fuel intensive, as well as plastics basically being frozen fossi fuels.
Smil makes an interesting discussion about whether human aspirations for prosperity can be achieved within our biosphere, though I wished a lot more of his book focused on the practical things we need to do to accelerate transition (or solutions in general). Paired with The Planet Remade they make for powerful and very sobering reading on the cliamte change issue.
Designing Your Life
Probably the book that most influenced me this year, Designing Your Life is from the co-founders of the Stanford Life Design Labs.
The idea is simple: apply product management principles to building your life.
And while I was already a big believer in and prototyped life changes and ran experiements on changes I wanted to make in my life, I picked up some great ideas from this book, incluiding Odyssey Planning, Workviews, and LIfeviews which ended up being powerful tools in helping me figure out some of my own issues going forward.
Highly recommended. Especially if you’re not thinking enough about your future and what you want to accomplish, or alternatively are questioning what you shoudl be doing after coming out of lockdown, this is a good book to read.
The Song of the Cell
I’ve been a huge fan of Siddharta Muckerjee since reading his Pulitzer-winning The Emperor of All Maladies and his followup The Gene: An Intimate History. Both were very well-written and completely engrossing.
Whereas Emperor is a biography of cancer, and Gene is on the , Cell is a survey of cellular physiology which drives the processes of veerything in our body.
While I don’t feel it was quite as good as his previous two, it is still a fantastic piece of work and I have to say I both learned a lot and was disabused of notions I’ve held since first-year biology which are simply not true anymore.
While it avoids the type of existential germ-line quesitons on the future of humanity as a species that Isaacson’s The Code Breaker did from last year’s list, Muckerjee does speak to them though mostly in the hope of innovative therpaies that would save the lives of patients he’s seen horribly pass away.
How to Not Die Alone
Recommended by a few friends who can’t believe I’m still single, this is actually a better book than you’d think. Written by the “Chief relationship officer” of Hinge perhaps it’s most valuable pieces are around the things that are holding you back from finding a life partner and how much of modern society and modern dating apps militate against helping us find the things that are really important in a long term partner.
Have to admit I was very skeptical of this book, so the fact you’re seeing it here is probably more of a grudging acceptance of its utility and practicality as well as the fact it actually points out some really great things to remember that anyone actually dating and looking for a partner should keep in mind.
The Millionaire Fastlane
While I really disliked how arrogant and judgmental (of anyone not following his advice ) this book swas (which may have been a way to make it more polarizing simply to garner more sales), it does raise some very good points.
A faster road to greater wealth that’s only a little less ilkely than Buy and Hold strategies is the entrepreneur’s road (though I challenge this guy’s calculations.).
However, the book is long winded and I honestly get the idea I would deeply dislike this guy in real life. It does have points, though basicxally the guy’s advice is “start a busines in fertile ground for scaling and don’t mess it up”.
Hardly rocket science or useful advice, but it’s more for the contrarian thinking that people that people should be considering in their financial planning calculus.
Basically, while the guy has points, I feel he may be just yet another internet lottery winner who got in early. Hispoints about process and how to perceive your wealth are valid though.
Take what you can from this and try not to let the writing irk you as much as it did me.
What We Owe the Future
I was bit reluctant to take on this book after the author’s first book “Effective Altruism” which felt like an apologist and “outsourcing” of individual action to “better technocrats.” (and note, I write most of this before the FTX meltdown and SBF’s tainting of the movement.).
Strangely, this book feels almost like a reversal of the first, talking about “Longtermism” and how society can take more action and on what sort of issues we should be focusing on in order to drive the most good in the future.
I liked the framework used focusing on what changes we should attempt to make and double-down on in terms of
- Significance (how big it s effect would be)
- Persistence (of intervention), and
- Contingency (how unlikely it would be to happen without intervention).
I also really liked about how, when brought down to the personal level and how people should consider what they may do, he also focused on tractability and neglectedness of the problems.
Besides the framework, the book focuses some time on people who have not started their careers spending time exploring and experimenting in order to find where they might do more good.
I found this an interesting book though hesitate to call it a great read, though am glad to see something in the realm of moral philosophy being brought down to something usable in a “living the good life” vein.
Strangely, books this year tended to be very good or quite bad. I have to admit to having read a greater proportion of what I’d consider “Do Not Read” books than I seem to have in other years (and which I’m trying to figure out how to avoid - what was the common thread between them? The only way I can now figure out how to make more effective use of reading time is to reduce the number of bad books I read.).
The year’s big change though, was that I felt I got a lot more deliberate about actioning and acting on learnings from books as well as working harder to retain what I’d learned (taking notes on learnings and points though still not using highlighting as effectively). I’ll work up a blog post on my technique there, though it’s pretty simple: take notes, highlight, review at the end, and write a summary.
If you liked this list, you can also check out the reading lists and recos from past years: 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, and 2016.
I’m always curious to hear how these recommendations go for people, or hear more about what you may have read and loved and found super useful (or even try to convince me one of my Do Not Read books I deeply misunderstood). Feel free to mention me as @awws on mastodon or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.