With 2022 now behind us, I can safely post my list of 10 best reads of the year, without excluding any potential late-comers. This is actually the second draft of this post. The first draft came in at something over 2,500 words, and as I read it, I thought: No one wants to read this much other stuff. They just want the list. To that end, I’ve tried to cut this significantly.
Summary of my reading in 2022
I read 101 books in 2022, finally meeting my goal of 100 books again, after two consecutive years of falling short. 65 of the 101 books were nonfiction. I was surprised by this because my tendency these last few years has been heavily toward nonfiction. But I reread some old fiction series I’ve enjoyed in the past and that shifted the balance somewhat.
My 10 best reads of 2022
A few notes before I get to the list:
- These are the ten books I most enjoyed reading in 2022; they are not the the ten best books that debuted in 2022. The books on the list were published over a wide range of years, the earliest being 1970 with only 2 of the books on the list debuting in 2022.
- In past years, I’ve listed the books as a countdown from 10 to 1. It seems to me this buries the lead and is an injustice to the books that I most enjoyed. This year, I’m listing them from my 1 to 10, and damn the suspense.
Here, then, are my best reads of 2022:
1. A Place to Read: Life and Books by Michael Cohen (2014)
This collection of essays by a former professor resonated strongly with me: the subjects, the style, the fact that we were both pilots. The book was an accidental discovery, a rare success for Amazon’s recommendation system. It is one of several books this year that convinced me that I want to be an essayist. It was my favorite read of 2022.
2. Destiny of the Republic: A tale of madness, medicine and the murder of a president by Candice Millard (2011)
I took a big lesson from Candice Millard’s Destiny of the Republic: that anyone rising to a position like that of President of the United States is worth reading about, even if they are not as well known (to me), anyway). James Garfield’s story was gripping, and Millard’s telling of it was wonderful, fascinating, and ultimately heartbreaking.
3. This Living Hand: Essays, 1972-2012 by Edmund Morris (2012)
The essays in This Living Hand run the gamut of subjects, from biographical to autobiographical, big subjects and themes to small ones, like the value of handwriting, and what one can learn from it. I’d had mixed experiences with Edmund Morris in the past, greatly enjoying his 3-volume biography of Theodore Roosevelt, and perplexed by his unorthodox biography of Thomas Edison. But This Living Hand was a treasure to read, and another push toward wanting to write essays.
4. Hell and Back by Craig Johnson (2022)
Hell and Back, the most recent installment in the Walt Longmire series (my favorite fiction series) supplanted the 7th book in the series, Hell is Empty as my favorite Longmire book. This is a different Longmire story, in tone as well as in the way it is told.
5. The Man from the Future: The Visionary Life of John von Neumann by Ananyo Bhattacharya (2022)
John von Neumann has come up frequently in my reading and from those incidental glances, I had the idea that he was a smart person even among smart people. I was delighted to find and read this new biography of von Neumann, The Man from the Future, and it convinced me that he was very likely the smartest person I have ever read about.
6. Consider the Lobster and Other Essays by David Foster Wallace (2005)
I’ve had Infinite Jest on my bookshelf for years, tempting me. Since I’d been reading a lot of essay collections this year, I thought I’d read some of Wallace’s essays first, and the first collection I read was Consider the Lobster and Other Essays. I was blown away by his writing, and came away awe-struck, and somewhat depressed. I don’t think I could ever write essays as well as Wallace did.
7. Our Mathematical Universe: My Quest for the Ultimate Nature of Reality by Max Tegmark (2014)
I came to Max Tegmark’s Our Mathematical Universe via James Gleick’s Chaos. I was immediately impressed by the scope, style, humor, and imagination that Tegmark put into the book. It was one of those reads that made me want to follow up with more, and I read his book, Life 3.0 as soon as I finished this one.
8. The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Vol. 4 by Robert A. Caro (2012)
The 4th volume of Robert A. Caro’s biography of Lyndon Johnson, The Passage of Power turned out to be my favorite so far. The arc of Johnson’s career and his thrust into the presidency after the Kennedy assassination is a great illustration of how unique the job is, and how no career, no matter how stories, can really prepare someone for it.
9. The Rising Sun: The Decline & Fall of the Japanese Empire, 1936-45 by John Toland (1970)
I’ve read a lot of the history of the Second World War, but I’d never read a history that focuses primarily on Japan. This is exactly what The Rising Sun by John Toland does. There were five themes that I found particularly interesting in this book.
10. The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell (2018)
Now and then I imagine what it might be like to own a used bookstore. After reading The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell, I no longer have to imagine. This is a charming book about the owner of the largest used bookstore in Scotland, who has kept a diary about the day-to-day running of the shop. I enjoyed it so much that I followed it up with its sequel.
In addition to these best reads of the year, here are some other books I read this year worthy of mention:
- The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich: A History of Nazi Germany by William L. Shirer. A masterpiece. Like many long histories, reading it made me want to know more about its author, and I followed it up with Shirer’s 3-volume autobiography.
- The Joy of x: A Guided Tour of Math, from One to Infinity by Steven H. Strogatz. Every now and then, I enjoy a good book on mathematics.
- Philosophy of Sailing: Offshore in Search of the Universe by Christian Williams. This was a wonderful read about a fellow who made a solo sailing journey from southern California to Hawaii and back.
- The Church of Baseball: The Making of Bull Durham: Home Runs, Bad Calls, Crazy Fights, Big Swings, and a Hit by Ron Shelton. If you like baseball and movie-making, this one is for you.
- A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books by Nicholas A. Basbanes. An absorbing book on the fascinating world of book collecting.
- River of Gods: Genius, Courage, Betrayal in the Search for the Source of the Nile by Candice Millard. A biography of Richard Burton and John Hanning Speke and the discovery of the source of the Nile river. It was this book that led me to Destiny of the Republic.
- The Hopkins Touch: Harry Hopkins and the Forging of the Alliance to Defeat Hitler by David L. Roll. I’m fascinated by the “people behind the people,” and David Roll’s biography is of just such a person, Harry Hopkins.
- Remarkable Diaries: The World’s Greatest Diaries, Notebooks, and Letters Explored and Explained by DK Publishing. This was a fun book to flip through slowly before I went to sleep at night
- Madly, Deeply: The Diaries of Alan Rickman by Alan Rickman. One of my guilty pleasures is reading memoirs by or about entertainers. This one was unique in that it was the private diaries of Rickman, published posthumously.
- DisneyWar by James B. Stewart. A fascinating inside look at the Walt Disney Company during the rise and fall of Michael Eisner.
I am aiming to read at least 100 books in 2023. It is always exciting to start out the year and wonder what will the best reads end up being? I’ll let you know a year from now. In the meantime, if you are interested here, are some past lists:
Written 26-31 December 2022.
Did you enjoy this post?
If so, consider subscribing to the blog using the form below or clicking on the button below to follow the blog. And consider telling a friend about it. Already a reader or subscriber to the blog? Thanks for reading!