2022 Reading: a retrospective
I read 56 books in 2022.
I don’t think I’ve ever read this many books, except maybe as a preteen when I was blazing through fantasy novels. I listen to a lot of podcasts and read a lot of articles that mention books, not to mention all the references in other books. I keep lists of books that I might be interested in, which I end up buying books off of. I consider it a firehose and I only end up consuming a portion of them. I’ve always wanted to read more though and I finally figured out this year how to actually read more. The secret is to…read? I decided that if I found myself mindlessly scrolling the internet, or playing on my phone, to pick up a book instead. I don’t have stats on my average time reading per day, but it’s probably more like an hour now as opposed to 15 minutes before bed.
For fiction, I count it as a read if I either read the whole book or read enough of the book to decide I didn’t want to finish it. This usually means over 50 pages or so. I go through periods where I’m not quite sure what to read, so I try a little bit of everything. I don’t count a lot of those as a read!
For nonfiction, I count it as a read if I’ve read the intro, the conclusion, and maybe a chapter or two. This is the advice one of my history professors gave me, as a technique for preparing for your masters defense (not that I ended up getting there). In my opinion, it’s not important to read all of it unless I’m very interested in it.
I ended up reading a lot of fantasy/scifi this year, along serieses that I’d always intended on reading. The Sun Eater series was a surprise, recommended to me by a friend, in how much I actually enjoyed reading it. Howling Dark is a fantastic book.
The Great Hunt - Robert Jordan (Wheel of Time, book 2)
It’s fine, as I expected. I read the first four books pretty quickly between December 2021 and February 2022, got burnt out and didn’t continue. Might pick it up this year.
The Dragon Reborn - Robert Jordan (Wheel of Time, book 3)
Shadow Rising - Robert Jordan (Wheel of Time, book 4)
Empire of Silence - Christopher Ruocchio (Sun Eater, book 1)
What a fantastic, underrated series. I’m about to start book 4. The setting explores some pretty interesting concepts, writing is quiet good and the characters likeable. Book 1 is alright, books 2 and 3 are fantastic.
Howling Dark - Christopher Ruocchio (Sun Eater, book 2)
Devil in White - Christpher Ruocchio (Sun Eater, book 3)
Homage to Catalonia - George Orwell
Lions of Al-Rassan - Guy Gavriel Kay
Sailing to Sarantium - Guy Gavriel Kay
Silverview - John le Carre
Mauritius Command - Patrick O’Brien (Aubrey-Maturn, book 4)
This is the fourth or fifth time I’ve read this, and Desolation Island. I wanted something light for travelling. I can never get enough.
Desolation Island - Patrick O’Brien (Aubrey-Maturn, book 5)
Red Mars - Kim Stanley Robinson
A Desolation Called Peace - Arkady Martine
City of Brass: S. A. Chakraborty
Didn’t get through this. I read about half of it and got bored. I ended up reading the rest of the plot online, glad I stopped. Kindof a neat concept, but the writing is pretty mediocre.
Three Body Problem - Liu Cixin
Great series. I didn’t end up liking the ending in Death’s End very much, but books 1 and 2 were riveting. It’s turning into a TV series which I assume is going to be terrible.
The Dark Forest - Liu Cixin
Death’s End - Liu Cixin
There’s some patterns that can be seen in what I’ve been reading. I started a new job late 2021 in finance and realized I knew nothing about the industry, or about business in particular. My reading has been geared towards learning my new industry and more of how the world works. Late 2021 had most of the hardcore finance books. My new interest is in organizations, how they work, how they can change. I see my interest in AI to be pretty related to this as well - both AGI and the Firm are decision making machines.
Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed The Art of War - Robert Coram
Skin in the Game: Hidden Assymetries in Daily Life - Nassim Taleb
Anti-Fragile: Things That Gain From Disorder - Nassim Taleb
Exponentials: How the Next Digital Revolution will Rewire Life On Earth - Azeem Azhar
The Square and the Tower: Networks and Power, from the Freemasons to Facebook - Niall Ferguson
Good Profit - Charles Koch
Sam Walton: Made in America - Sam Walton and John Huey
The Gilded Page: The Secret Lives of Medieval Manuscripts - Mary Wellesley
Flying Blind: The 737 MAX Tragedy and the Fall of Boeing - Peter Robison
The Cold Start Problem: How to Start and Scale Network Effects - Andrew Chen
Power Law: Venture Capital and the Making of the New Future - Sebastian Mallaby
Working Backwards: Insights, Stories, and Secrets from Inside Amazon - Colin Bryar and Bill Carr
Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon - Brad Stone
Age of Wood: Our Most Useful Material and the Construction of Civilization - Roland Ennos
Phoenix Project: A Novel about IT, DevOps, and Helping Your Business Win - Gene Kim, Kevin Behr, et al.
Russia Against Napoleon: The True Story of the Campaigns of War and Peace - Dominic Lieven
How to Take Smart Notes: One Simple Technique to Boost Writing, Learning and Thinking - Sonke Ahrens
This is probably the most important book I read this year. I started reading it because I started reading a lot and not remembering a lot of it (classic problem). Ahrens suggests the zettlekasten method of note taking. I got to that part of the book, liked the idea, and haven’t looked back. I have about 2500 index cards now with various notes that I’ve taken on various subjects, but this is another blog post.
Devil’s Derivatives: The Untold Story of the Slick Traders and Hapless Regulators Who Almost Blew Up Wall Street - Nicholas Dundar
The Nineties - Chuck Klosterman
Talent: How to Identify Energizers, Creatives, and Winners Around the World - Tyler Cowen, Daniel Gross
Cost and Choice - Pat Buchanan
How To Prevent The Next Pandemic - Bill Gates
Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity - David Allen
Fossil Future: Why Global Human Flourishing Requires More Oil, Coal, and Natural Gas--Not Less - Alex Epstein
I like to think of myself as a bit of a contrarian, and as someone not opposed to contrarian viewpoints. It has some reasonable points (thesis is in the title). I’m not knowledgeable enough about the industry to pick out inaccuracies in the reasoning, but the author is too smarmy and too popular in the toxic right wing so I assume there’s something wrong in there.
Good Strategy Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters: Richard Rumelt
Novacene: The Coming Age of Hyperintelligence - James Lovelock
Read this lakeside at a cottage. An exploration into what a future dominated by AI would look like. Lovelock is bullish on it in a very novel way.
Sovietstan: Travels in Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan - Erika Fatland
Transformer: The Deep Chemistry of Life and Death - Nick Lane
Very dense, couldn’t end up getting through it. I started reading it after listening to Lane on the Lex Fridman podcast My rudimentary biology is too weak I think. I’ll probably come back to this at some point.
Built To Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies - Jim Collins and Jerry Porras
The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914 - Margaret MacMillan
Empire of Guns: The Violent Making of the Industrial Revolution - Priya Satia
The Structure of Scientific Revolutions - Thomas Kuhn
Chip War: The Fight for the World's Most Critical Technology - Chris Miller
Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail - Clayton S. Christensen
Prediction Machines: The Simple Economics of Artificial Intelligence - Ajay Agrawal, Joshua Gans, et al.
This was recommended as by FT (I think) as a good to read about AI. I found it a little too basic, but I don’t think I’m the target audience for it.
Build: An Unorthodox Guide to Making Things Worth Making - Tony Fadell
Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future - Peter Thiel
Why Manager’s Matter: The Perils of A Bossless Company - Nicolaj Foss and Peter Klein