Ever since 2007, I’ve kept track of every book I’ve read. Ideally, I’ve also written short lessons learned or reviews of each – though I have hundreds of draft reviews that I need to just hit publish on. Here are the books I’ve read this past year.
I generally stop reading a book after 100 pages if it’s not any good. So everything that I finished is generally worth reading in some way. I plan to do full reviews of all the books. If I’ve written one, there will be a link.
This post covers books read in 2022. You can also read from –
The Games by David Goldblatt was a follow-up to The Ball Is Round that I read back in 2015. I’m a huge fan of big, global sporting events (like the 2022 World Cup) and the world of Big Sport is fascinating. This book was a fun, fast read. I wrote a Book Review.
Our National Forests by Greg Peters was a great read about America’s most important public lands. Whether you are an American citizen, a fan of the outdoors, a conservationist, etc – this is the book for you. I wrote a full Book Review as well.
The Almost Nearly Perfect People by Michael Booth was a fun read exploring the stereotypes of some of the most stereotyped people in the world. I picked this up purely based on the Bill Bryson blurb and the fact that I spent 5 hours in a van with a group of Norwegians in Alaska this past summer.
Bowhunting Public Land Whitetails by Tony Peterson was a book I read after attending a SHARP class from the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. I wrote a full Book Review.
Midnight in Siberia by David Greene was a solid travel book about a country that is unfortunately in the news. It’s not as good as Ian Frazier’s Travels in Siberia, but it also has a different frame. I wrote a full Book Review.
How To Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas Foster – Book Review was a book that I wish I’d read in high school. It explains exactly what the title says, and more importantly, shows how reading is a skill that can be practiced rather than something innate that some people have, and some don’t.
The Story of Land and Sea by Katy Simpson Smith was a book that I ended up skimming to the end. It wasn’t super-great, even though I loved the setting.
One Day In The Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn was even more depressing than I had prepared for. It’s famously depressing – but I found it even more so. I guess that’s the point. I skimmed the last part to the end. I get why it’s important…but regret picking it up. I wrote a full Book Review.
DK Eyewitness Chicago was a book I picked up before going back to Chicago. It’s weird that in a world where everything is online, sometimes a topic needs the structure of a book to find out stuff that you “don’t know that you don’t know.”
DK Eyewitness Alaska was an amazing book I picked up after visiting Alaska. I was so focused on my backpacking trip that I neglected to really read up on Alaska itself. It’s an incredible place and this book really puts the state in perspective. I wrote a full Book Review.
A Literary Guide to Flannery O’Connor’s Georgia was a helpful and fascinating guide to pair with her writing. Her work has such a strong sense of place that it’s useful to learn more about those settings. It was especially interesting to me since I live in Georgia and grew up in the Bible Belt of the South. I wrote a full book review.
The Profiteers by Sally Denton was one of the best books I read all year. I picked it up after visiting Alaska and seeing the Alaska Pipeline in person. I got interested in exactly who builds all this mega-infrastructure. It turns out that there are like just a few mega-contractors that governments around the world turn to when they need mega-projects done. Bechtel is the biggest of them all. A fascinating read that led me to think “ahhh…so that’s how the world works….” Full book review.
The Son by Philipp Meyer was an amazing novel by the author of American Rust (one of my favorites). I haven’t seen the TV adaptation – and don’t plan to since the book is that good.
How The World Really Works by Vaclav Smil was one of the most eye-opening books that I’ve read in a while. He shows how the modern world is literally built on cement, steel, plastics, and ammonia. All four exist in some way due to cheap, accessible hydrocarbon energy. Providing all four pillars without hydrocarbons is much, much, much more difficult than simply swapping a coal power plant for a solar farm. Figuring it out will be the challenge of the century. Full book review.
The Craft by John Dickie was a good read that pairs well with Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. In short, freemasonry was the first global institution that allowed people regardless of nationality, ethnicity, or religion to trust each other enough to do business, trade, and collaborate. Full book review.
The Nineties by Chuck Klosterman was the most fun-est book of the year. I am a child of the Nineties, and wow did this book resonate. What pleasantly surprised me, though, is that he did more than tell stories. He also showed exactly why the Nineties were different and what has happened since to make it the “last decade” – full review.
The World For Sale by Javier Blas was a book that paired well with The Profiteers by Sally Denton. It is all about exactly who makes the world go ’round. We all have a fuzzy idea of where our food and energy come from. This book covers who, specifically, gets the physical oil out of the ground and moves it among refineries to get it to your local gas station – and the same with wheat, cotton, etc. Full review.
Georgia Scenes by Augustus Longstreet was the weirdest book of the year. It’s a collection of “humorous” stories from Georgia’s frontier. It’s also a good example of how culture and comedy change rapidly. Reading it in 2022 is just weird. Thank you to all the historians who comb through primary source books like this to produce readable history books. I wrote a full book review here.
Money Magic by Laurence Kotlikoff was one of the most interesting personal finance books that I’ve read in a while. The “twist” that made it different was that it imagined individuals as rational economic beings trying to maximize personal wealth over a lifetime – like a corporation or a government. Now, that premise is not true and is why personal finance is so much different than business finance. Using that perspective, though, shows just how many ridiculous tradeoffs we all make in life. It’s fine to make a ridiculous tradeoff…as long as you know it’s a ridiculous tradeoff. This book clearly explains all those tradeoffs. The sections on Social Security alone are worth the time / money to read it. I wrote a full Book Review.
I live in Atlanta – and absolutely love it. I will actively sell anyone on this city, while fully admitting to its many frustrating flaws. Atlanta’s Olympic Games were possibly the most peak-“Atlanta” event ever – including how the city used the event to deliberately reshape the city’s trajectory and development. Atlanta’s Olympic Resurgence by Michael Dobbins is super-wonky and boring in parts, but it’s also written by two of the actual architects of that controversial choice. Great read if you are into cities or Atlanta in general. Full review.
American Colossus by H.W. Brands was a mega-history book that I listened to as an Audible book. It’s long but very well-written. It’s a good follow-up to What Hath God Wrought. I’m a bit torn on the format though. As an audiobook, I actually got through it, but don’t remember everything. But as a print book, I think it would have taken me much longer, but I may have remembered more. Full review.
Bubble in the Sun by Christopher Knowlton was a hilarious, extremely relevant history of Florida. I had no idea, but wow, I was reading this as the stock / bond / crypto / real estate bubble of 2021 was melting down – and it is so amazing how history can rhyme (and note the long-term takeaway is that Florida did make it…only after a decades-long wild ride). Great read. Full Review.
Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Haruki Murakami was a collection of Murakami short stories. I’m a fan of Murakami’s work. I love the setting and characters…even if he can get weird and icky at points. However, I think he’s at his best with normal-length novels (South of the Border, West of the Sun, etc). His short stories and mega-long works (e.g., 1Q84) are not his best IMHO. Full review.
Public Citizens by Paul Sabin was an interesting book on the structure of American politics. The core argument is basically that the American Left bit the hand that fed them. American post-war liberalism had major flaws, but by-in-large was building a better society. By attacking American liberalism from the progressive left, the liberal project ground to a near-halt that not only provided an opening for resurgent conservatives, but also provided plenty of ammunition (and a playbook) for conservatives’ attack on big government. Both the Left and Right now have massive networks of public interest non-profits, legal teams, and think tanks that sabotage pragmatic government in their own way. Review.
How To Read Nature by Tristan Gooley was a fun, fascinating read with lots of tips on how to pay better attention to nature in everyday life.
Heroes of the Frontier by Dave Eggers was a good novel about a mother and son making their way as nomads through Alaska. I loved the setting, and the takeaway (that you can’t really ever run from your problems) is so true – even in remote Alaska, everyone knows where you are and what you’re doing – full review.
The Business Book by Big Ideas Simply Explained was an informative reference read. I did not go to business school, but I run my own business & consult on other people’s businesses. This book is an excellent summary of some of the jargon and concepts in business. I wrote a book review.
Grow or Die by David The Good was my kind of gardening book. I’m interested in gardening…but only from the angle of being able to grow my own food. I’m not interested in the “hobby” of it. This book was to the point with advice that I put right into practice when I read it. The most useful tip? Get potatoes from the grocery store, grow eyes on them, cut them up, and put them in the ground. Boom – you’ve got potatoes. Full review.
The Gift of Failure by Jessica Lahey was an excellent, must-read parenting book. Letting your kids fail is awful and counter-intuitive…but also necessary to raise the kids everyone wants (resilient, independent, thoughtful, gracious, kind, brave). The key is understanding the difference between failure and catastrophic failure. The former prevents the latter. And catastrophic failure usually comes from never learning basic failure skills in the first place. Full review.