A Year in Books: 2022

Dec 27, 2022  •  6 minute read

Dedicating time to a reading a book is a consequential decision: the hours you spend with the book are hours you don’t spend elsewhere. Let’s celebrate the time we spent reading this year, and reflect on the best parts!

In 2022, I read 24 books. One shy of my 2022 reading goal—argh! (I might power through the rest of The Three-Body Problem just to meet it…). 13 books were fiction, and 11 non-fiction. Here they are in order of date read:

Fiction

  • Matrix, Lauren Groff
  • Project Hail Mary, Andy Weir
  • Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christopher Moore
  • Foundation, Isaac Asimov
  • Klara and the Sun, Kazuo Ishiguro
  • The Immortalists, Chloe Benjamin
  • Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
  • A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula Le Guin
  • Tortilla Flat, John Steinbeck
  • The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexander Dumas
  • Manhattan Beach, Jennifer Egan
  • All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr
  • The Overstory, Richard Powers

Non-fiction

  • Mythology, Edith Hamilton
  • The Big Short, Michael Lewis
  • Beginners,Tom Vanderbilt
  • The Psychology of Money, Morgan Housel
  • Four Thousand Weeks, Oliver Burkeman
  • Draft No. 4, John McPhee
  • Zen in the Art of Writing, Ray Bradbury
  • When We Ruled, Robin Walker
  • Programming Typescript, Boris Cherny
  • On the Shortness of Life, Seneca
  • The Passionate Programmer, Chad Fowler

Overall, it was a good haul inspired by friend recommendations, classics, and titles that popped up online and sounded interesting. Compared to years past, however, very few of the books had a meaningful impact on me. Two favorites, though, stood out:

A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula Le Guin

It is no secret. All power is one in source and end, I think. Years and distances, stars and candles, water and wind and wizardry, the craft in a man's hand and the wisdom in a tree's root: they all arise together. My name, and yours, and the true name of the sun, or a spring of water, or an unborn child, all are syllables of the great word that is very slowly spoken by the shining of the stars. There is no other power. No other name.

Le Guin wrote a A Wizard of Earthsea in 1968. It’s a classic of the fantasy genre; a progenitor of countless novels in the half-century since. By modern fantasy standards, it’s a short read at just under two-hundred pages and the prose is wonderful. She pulls you into the world of Earthsea by gracefully weaving hauntingly beautiful sentences with a simple and accessible story. It’s truly a joy to read, and one that I’ll revisit often when I want to wrap myself in a blanket of her writing.


Four Thousand Weeks, Oliver Burkeman

Why assume that an infinite supply of time is the default, and mortality the outrageous violation? Or to put it another way, why treat four thousand weeks as a very small number, because it’s so tiny compared to infinity, rather than treating it as a huge number, because it’s so many more weeks than if you had never been born? Surely only somebody who’d failed to notice how remarkable it is that anything is, in the first place, would take their own being as such a given—as if it were something they had every right to have conferred upon them, and never to have taken away. So maybe it’s not that you’ve been cheated out of an unlimited supply of time; maybe it’s almost incomprehensibly miraculous to have been granted any time at all.

Do you ever feel that an author wrote a book specifically for you, and that it was published only as a means of delivering it inconspicuously into your hands?

Ok, neither to do I. But this one is close. Four Thousand Weeks was the perfect read for me this summer as I was gearing up to start a new job. Burkeman molds together philosophy, productivity, and humor to get you to really stare yourself in the face and be real with how you’re spending your limited time on earth (four thousand weeks is roughly the amount of time the average human lives).

He asks you to consider if it’s really worth depleting all of your energy into a job that you don’t find particularly meaningful. He asks you to consider why you’re so focused on doing more and productivity hacking when maybe you should be more focused on what you’re spending your limited lifetime on (e.g, probably not all those emails in your backlog). He lets you in on the secret that at no point in history has anyone really achieved work-life balance. He shifts your perspective from life is unfairly short to life is wondrous and lucky to begin with.

I don’t take notes while reading books. I wrote 15 pages of notes for this one. There’s so much juicy goodness packed in these 200 pages that I still revisit my notes every few weeks to replenish my life-focus stores after they gradually evaporate during day-to-day life and work.

The average human lifespan is absurdly, terrifyingly, insultingly short. But that isn’t a reason for unremitting despair, or for living in an anxiety-fueled panic about making the most of your limited time. It’s a cause for relief. You get to give up on something that was always impossible—the quest to become the optimized, infinitely capable, emotionally invincible, fully independent person you’re officially supposed to be. Then you get to roll up your sleeves and start work on what’s gloriously possible instead.

If there’s one thing you take away from this post, it’s that I recommend you read this book.


Other honorable mentions from this year, in no specific order:

Fiction

  • Project Hail Mary, Andy Weir: If you like pragmatic, light-hearted science fiction with quick-moving plot.
  • Foundation, Isaac Asimov: If you like far-reaching, haunting, and expansive worlds that question the nature of humanity and how civilizations rise and fall.
  • The Immortalists, Chloe Benjamin: If you want to read an intriguing, multiple-point-of-view story in a single day.
  • All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr: If you want to read beautiful, immediate prose and root for two characters to win over the bleak backdrop of World War II.
  • The Overstory, Richard Powers: If you want something literary, sweeping, and multi-generational, with the most intricate descriptions of nature and trees you’ll find in fiction.

Non-fiction

  • The Psychology of Money, Morgan Housel: If you like simple, high-level advice for how to think about money and your finances, or if you’re curious how other people think about theirs.
  • Zen in the Art of Writing, Ray Bradbury: If you want a peek into the brain of a man who truly finds vigor and joy in his craft.
  • On the Shortness of Life, Seneca: If you want to supplement your reading of Four Thousand Weeks by adding even more inspiration to live immediately.

As always, receiving book recommendations is one of my favorite things! Please reach out to me however we are connected with the book or books that has impacted you the most recently.