My Favorite Books Of 2022
Happy Wednesday! I’m doing a week of posts to recap 2022 and kick off 2023 with some writing momentum. Today I’m sharing some of the books I read this year.
Yesterday, I published a full-write up of how I generated $249k in income in 2022. It’s a subscriber-only post for now and if you join you’ll also get access to my newly launched community, Find The Others.
You can join the 35+ people and growing community for $20/month or a $350 lifetime access fee (which gets you all my stuff including courses and future creations).
You can join on Circle directly (and I’ll make you a subscriber here) or upgrade your subscription here.
This felt like an “off” year for reading for me. It looks like I only read about twelve books and a bunch more I didn’t finish. I also dive in and out of a number of books when I am intrigued by quotes or ideas. I spent a lot of time this year talking about my book on podcasts and tweeting about the ideas in the book and because of that I didn’t read as much as I’d liked.
I expect this coming year will be a much bigger reading year through a combination of shorter kid’s books 😁 and better recent habits I’ve put in place.
If you have any good recommendations please let me know!
Top Three Books
My Favorite: Crossing The Unknown Sea (David Whyte)
All of our great artistic and religious traditions take equally great pains to inform us that we must never mistake a good career for good work. Life is a creative, intimate, and unpredictable conversation if it is nothing else, spoken or unspoken, and our life and our work are both the result of the particular way we hold that passionate conversation.
This is the only narrative Whyte book I had not yet read and I put it off for a while because I knew I’d thoroughly enjoy this one. I read this in Portugal too which made it even better. This is probably my favorite Whyte book now:
A couple of my favorite quotes (among many)
There is almost no life a human being can construct for themselves where they are not wresting ling with something difficult, something that takes a modicum of work. The only possibility seems to be the ability of human beings to choose good work. At its simplest, good work, is work that makes sense, and that grants sense and meaning to the one who is doing it and to those affected by it.
“Get a Good Job," a parent says, meaning, "get a safe job." As if, over the years they have learned the wicked, veering manner of the winds that blow through life in their unmerciful ways; but also, they are passing on, parent to child, a fear bred into our human bones of that dark outer wind's howling, pushing presence...Work provides safety. To define work in other ways than safety is to risk our illusions of immunity in the one organized area of life where we seem to keep nature and the world at bay."
Wild Problems (Russ Roberts)
A delightful read. Here is what I said in a longer book review:
One of the best things about the internet is that you can access mentors without needing to use any of their time. One of my “digital mentors” for more than fourteen years has been Russ Roberts. Through his weekly podcast, Econtalk, I learned more about a wide range of topics while also getting to see inside the mind of an older and wiser man committed to personal growth and evolution.
This is what made reading Wild Problems, his latest book, so delightful. It wasn’t just a book about making better decisions in life. It was the book of someone I had gotten to know over the years, and more specifically, someone that went through an evolution in how he saw the world.
You can read the full review here and I also did a short video:
Art of Gig (Venkatesh Rao)
I am the 100% target market for this book. If you are nerdy, like stumbling upon interesting references, and think a lot about the nature of work as an indie professional then you should buy this book. I did a review thread here of some of my favorite ideas:
Just Keep Buying (Nick Maggiulli)
I wish I had this book 17 years ago! This is the common sense guide to personal finance more people should read. It always shocks me how many grown adults believe absolute nonsense about investing and money.
Nick cuts through the nonsense and talks to you in very clear, fun, and simple terms.
Here’s an example. Did you know the average retired person dies with hundreds of thousands of dollars?
According to a study by United Income, "The average retired adult who dies in their 6os leaves behind $296k in net wealth, $313k in their 70s, $315k in their 8os, and $238k in their gos.
Also, did you know lifestyle creep isn’t really a linear trend? As Nick shows by looking at the data, “increases in income aren't followed by similar increases in spending.”
Other Books I Enjoyed
Building A Second Brain (Tiago Forte)
I really enjoyed hearing more about Tiago’s personal story and how chronic illness forced him to look for new ways to live and work. It rhymed with my own experiences from 2012 to 2014. His second-brain approach is also the foundation of everything I do. I did a short video about how I implemented his methods in 2018 and remixed his approach to make it my own.
Expecting Better (Emily Oster)
This book is a must-read for anyone trying to get pregnant or currently pregnant. Helped us think about things in a more nuanced and helpful way than most medical professionals.
I would say we were overly prepared and comfortable when talking to doctors and could easily put their answers into context.
Excited to read her next book, Cribsheet, which is supposed to be just as good.
2-Hour Cocktail Party (Nick Gray)
Nick’s book is very good and inspired me to host an event in Austin which led to me making a bunch of new friends.
I also think Nick is a genuinely awesome human who gives a damn about people and that’s rare in today’s world.
I talked about hosting that party and Nick’s book here:
Soaring Twenties (Thomas J. Bevan):
Thomas is a delightful writer and I wish more internet writers would at minimum put together a collection of essays. I like picking up this book and reading an essay here or there. It is good writing!
Here’s a snippet:
In short, anyone who is uninterested in the current zeitgeist has moved to the catacombs- to the decentralised corners of the internet and even back to reality, to the place beyond computers.
You could call this surrender, but I think this is short sighted. The catacombs dwelling artist has not given in. Quite the opposite. They are merely taking shelter so that the flame that they carry is not blown out by the raging winds of the present moment.
And this, this very thing you are reading right now, is an artefact from my own personal catacomb. A small part of the new culture of independent art and thought that will be here for when the bloated empire of top down art has breathed its last breath.
4,000 Weeks (Oliver Burkeman)
This book was a nice contemplation on the art of leisure and appreciating the present moment. It didn’t have as profound an effect on me as it seemed to have on other people, mostly because I went down many similar rabbit holes as Burkeman for my own book.
It was still very good and a book I’d consider reading again. Here are some quotes that stood out:
It turns out that when people make enough money to meet their needs, they just find new things to need and new lifestyles to aspire to; they never quite manage to keep up with the Joneses, because whenever they're in danger of getting close, they nominate new and better Joneses with whom to try to keep up. As a result, they work harder and harder, and soon busyness becomes an emblem of prestige.
Which is clearly completely absurd: for almost the whole of history, the entire point of being rich was not having to work so much. Moreover, the busyness of the better-off is contagious, because one extremely effective way to make more money, for those at the top of the tree, is to cut costs and make efficiency improvements in their companies and industries. That means greater insecurity for those lower down, who are then obliged to work harder just to get by.
One Summer: America, 1927 (Bill Bryson)
Really cool book about one year, 1927, and a number of various events that year:
Lindbergh’s flight and the air race (many died)
Babe Ruth going for 61
Anarchist movements and trials of Sacco and Vanzetti
Coolidge deciding to give up the presidency
The book is chock full of other random interesting ideas and quotes and makes me want to go down a Bryson rabbit hole. Here's one fun quote from Coolidge:
By 1927, Coolidge worked no more than about four and a half hours a day—“a far lighter schedule than most other presidents, indeed most other people, have followed,” as the political scientist Robert E. Gilbert once observed—and napped much of the rest of the time. “No other President in my time,” recalled the White House usher, “ever slept so much.” When not napping, he often sat with his feet in an open desk drawer (a lifelong habit) and counted cars passing on Pennsylvania Avenue.
Here is another example:
Talent (Cowen & Gross)
The explosion of the types of jobs that exist is a great thing overall but quite terrible if you happen to be someone that has an interest in doing more than one or two things in your work life. Cowen and Gross take a firm stand against the broken world of the default path talent assessment:
Most of all, we oppose and seek to revise the bureaucratic approach to talent search, which is poorly serving the American economy—and many American and global citizens. The bureaucratic approach, as we define it, seeks to minimize error and loss, and it prizes consensus above all else. It demands that everyone play by a set of overly rigid rules, that individualism be hidden or maybe even stamped out, and that there is never any hurry, so another set of procedures can be applied, virtually without end…
In earlier times, and still today, we are not always putting the most productive people into the jobs they would best be suited for; in other words, we were and are underusing, indeed wasting, human talent. This is bad for our economy, but it is also a human tragedy for those who cannot rise, and it harms our national spirit and morale.
Tons of highlights. One of the best books I’ve read on talent assessment (and I used to work in talent assessment and have read many of them).
Spiritual Englightenment, The Damndest Thing (Jed McKenna)
A fun read about an enlightened man (Jed) going about his days and reacting to the various people around him. It’s a fun read but probably easier to digest if you’ve gone a bit deeper with mindfulness.
If you are intrigued by these quotes, check them out!
Anyone familiar with the process of deprogramming someone who has been brainwashed by a cult will be able appreciate what's really involved in breaking free of this kind of allegiance, but there's really only one real cult—the Cult of False Self—and everyone is a fanatically devoted member.
To the awakened mind the end of the world is no more or less momentous than the snapping of a twig.
The enlightened cannot conceive of anything as being wrong, so they don't struggle to make things right.
I plan to read one or two more this year.
Life Is In The Transitions (Bruce Feiler)
This book is like the advanced Pathless Path. It goes into so much detail and thought around the different phases of life transitions that I sort of got stuck and still need to make my way through to the end. I plan on doing a deeper review.
Here’s what I wrote about this earlier this year:
I’m reading an amazing book right now that offers a helpful reframe. It’s called Life is in the Transitions by Bruce Feiler (recommended by Aida Alston in our conversation about this). Feiler argues that most people think of life as a smooth linear path. If you ask most 21-year-olds, including me at the time, you’d probably get them telling you this is how life will go. After all, this is what almost every company recruiting college graduates tells you.
Despite our hopes that the linear path is real, Feiler’s extensive research into people’s found that the reality was much different. Instead of being defined by a line, people’s lives are shaped by a steady stream of “disruptors.” Most people have about three dozen disruptors in their lives, meaning on average people face things that send them in new directions every 12-18 months.
Start taking an inventory of your life and you’ll see that your life is full of disruptors. Graduating from school, starting a new job, getting fired, moving locations, starting a new relationship, ending a relationship, health challenges and, and so on. Live long enough and they are inevitable.
I listened to two great podcasts about books, Founder Podcast and Made You Think.
Founders Podcast is hosted by David Senra and you should be able to easily find an interesting episode to start with. I recommend Edwin Land, Henry Ford, Ed Thorp, and the David Ogilvy episodes
Made You Think is hosted by Nat Eliason, Neil Soni, and Adil Majid. They’ve been going down a great book rabbit hole recently but have a number of good episodes. I recommend starting with the recent Tao Te Ching episode and then going deeper if you like that one.
If you are looking for interesting things to read you can check out some older recommendation posts. I’m currently working on one for the last two years.
The Beginning of Infinity (David Deutsch)
Love the premise but just didn’t finish the book. I love this quote:
The only uniquely significant thing about humans (whether in the cosmic scheme of things or according to any rational human criterion) is our ability to create new explanations, and we have that in common with all people.
But the problem with imagination is that it can create fiction much more easily than truth. As I have suggested, historically, virtually all human attempts to explain experience in terms of a wider reality have indeed been fiction, in the form of myths, dogma and mistaken common sense – and the rule of testability is an insufficient check on such mistakes. But the quest for good explanations does the job: inventing falsehoods is easy, and therefore they are easy to vary once found; discovering good explanations is hard, but the harder they are to find, the harder they are to vary once found
Battle Hymn of The Tiger Mother
This book is wild. It’s like the hottest takes from Twitter but an entire book of them one after another. This was just the beginning:
I read 10-11 mini-chapters and hit eject. I don’t think this will be my parenting guide.
The Singapore Story
A lot of interesting stuff about Lee Kwan Yew but a lot of dry parts. It was interesting hearing more about how his life aligned with such important national events and put him in the right places at the right time to be the person that helped Singapore evolve:
The three and a half years of Japanese occupation were the most important of my life. They gave me vivid insights into the behaviour of human beings and human societies, their motivations and impulses. My appreciation of governments, my understanding of power as the vehicle for revolutionary change, would not have been gained without this experience
The Ministry For The Future
A fiction book recommended by a friend about the climate crisis. Perhaps I’ve learned too much about the climate and the issues to be moved powerfully by the book but I just wasn’t all that excited to finish.
How To Be A Founder
Book by Alice Bentinck and Matt Clifford. It had some interesting parts but I am not too interested in how to be a founder. It’s built around the premise:
Lots of people – especially young and ambitious people – say they want to start startups. Very few do
Clifford is a fascinating thinker and one of my favorite writers. I hope he writes another book about some of his deeper ideas from his newsletter!
Thanks For Reading!
I am focused on building a life around exploring ideas, connecting and helping people, and writing. If you’d like to support my journey, the best ways are to:
Buy or listen to my book, The Pathless Path
I’m looking for sponsors for 2023 for this newsletter or podcast. Please reach out or book a package here directly.
Subscribe to my podcast and leave a review
Support as a subscriber and get access to all my courses and community.
A reminder: I don’t check unsubscribe alerts and never look at my subscriber list. So if you feel like unsubscribing, you can do so below.