2022 – What I’m Reading
This is a running list of books I’ve read in 2022, with the most recent first. Would love any recommendations you might have. First, here’s a link to our firm’s book club list (which goes back to 2011): St. Louis Trust Book Club List.
69. The Cloisters: A Novel, by Katy Hays. The main character, Ann Stillwell, nabs a job as a summer intern after graduating from College at The Cloisters — the gothic museum in NYC — to research the occult. She finds a 15th century deck of tarot cards that might predict the future. An interesting read about academic ambition and research.
68. How Much Is Enough: Money and the Good Life, by Robert Skidelsky and Edward Skidelsky. What constitutes the good life? What is the true value of money? Why do we work such long hours merely to acquire greater wealth? The authors address these questions and more.
67. Providence, by Max Berry. Humanity is at war with an alien race that humans have dubbed “Salamanders.” After some big defeats, humanity builds a series of “Providence Class” spaceships that are run by super-advanced Artificial Intelligence and sophisticated weapons. The book follows the four humans who crew Providence V, mostly on the ship for P.R. purposes because the A.I. has no need for human crew. The book, in addition to a page-turning plot, provides interesting discourse on the promise and peril of A.I.
66. Bad Monkeys: A Novel, by Matt Ruff. This is my second time reading this fun novel. Here’s its description from Amazon: “Jane Charlotte has been arrested for murder. She tells police that she is a member of a secret organization devoted to fighting evil; her division is called the Department for the Final Disposition of Irredeemable Persons—“Bad Monkeys” for short. This confession earns Jane a trip to the jail’s psychiatric wing, where a doctor attempts to determine whether she is lying, crazy, or playing a different game altogether.”
65. Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth, by Ed Diener and Robert Biwas-Diener. This book is by a father-son duo — both notable experts in the field of happiness. I’ve read multiple books about happiness, and this is the best I’ve read. It’s written in an accessible manner and does a great job of summarizing relevant research in many areas. The focus of the book is on building “psychological wealth.”
64. Day of Atonement, by Patrick Schofield. This book reminded me of a Jack Reacher or Jack Ryan novel. The main character, C.J. Reed, is a CIA operative who leads a mission that goes wrong. Following the mission, he tracks down those who betrayed him and makes them pay. Good stuff.
63. Now is Not the Time to Panic, by Kevin Wilson. I devoured this book. So good. It’s the story of two sixteen-year-olds who, during the summer of 1996 (basically pre-internet), create a work of art that goes viral and results in panic and multiple deaths.
62. The Metaverse: And How It Will Revolutionize Everything, by Matthew Ball. What is the Metaverse? Nobody knows exactly, but I know a ton more, having read this well-researched book. The author skillfully details what the Metaverse may or may not be, the technical challenges to achieving a/the Metaverse, and what the promise of the Metaverse holds for humanity. Not an easy read, but worth the effort.
62. Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë. I read this for the second time, my first reading being about 20 years ago. And it was just as good as I remembered. Arguably, the first feminist novel, it tells the story of Jane Eyre, an orphan who becomes a governess at great house and ends up marrying the lord of the house. But Jane is fiercely independent and remains her own woman at every turn.
61. Bold Ventures: Thirteen Tales of Architectural Tragedy, by Charlotte Van den Broeck. This book tells the tale of thirteen buildings and their architects, each of whom died by suicide or otherwise came to an early end. The author skillfully weaves her own story throughout the thirteen buildings. Really cool book.
60. The Long Ships, by Frans G. Bengtsson. This book was published as a serial between 1941 -1945 in Sweden. It is a Viking Saga that tells the story of Orm who journeyed far and wide plundering in the tenth century. I adored this book.
59. How to Write a Professional Bio: For Authors, Speakers, and Entrepreneurs, by Jeniffer Thompson. This is a short, helpful book on how to write a good bio. Our bios are viewed frequently in our modern age of social media and company websites. And how we present ourselves through our bios matters.
58. Burn Rate: Launching a Startup and Losing My Mind, by Andy Dunn. This book was dynamite. Andy Dunn is the co-founder of the men’s clothing company Bonobos. He’s also Bipolar. Burn Rate is about his struggles with Bipolar Disorder and also about the crazy early days of his startup.
57. Fifty Inventions That Shaped the Modern Economy, by Tim Harford. I enjoy Tim Harford books – I always learn from them. This book was no exception. It details 50 important inventions that are important to our modern lives, like barbed wire, the gramophone, the Pill, video games, IKEA’s Billy Bookcase, and Diesel engines, among others.
56. TED Talks: The Official TED Guide to Public Speaking, by Chris Anderson. I do a lot of public speaking (and I’d love to give a TED Talk) and I’m always looking to improve. This book is a dynamite guide how to be a compelling speaker. The key point is to have something worth saying (or in TED parlance, “an idea worth spreading”). Also helpful is the concept of creating a “throughline” for your talk.
55. A Fire Upon the Deep, by Vernor Vinge. This classic work of Sci-Fi has won both the Hugo and Nebula awards. I had read this book before- probably 20 years ago- so re-reading it was just like reading it for the first time. If you like Sci-Fi, this is an essential read.
54. Smart Brevity: The Power of Saying More With Less, by Jim VandeHei, Mike Allen, and Roy Schwartz. This book is by the founders of the super successful news website/organization Axios. Part of Axios’s popularity is due to how its articles are written — in so-called “smart brevity” style. This book is a guide how to use smart brevity in daily correspondence.
53. This is How it Always is, by Laurie Frankel. I loved this book. It tells the story of a family whose youngest child, Claude, is transgender. This book provides a great perspective on a family’s difficult choices when their child is transgender.
52. Obliquity: Why Our Goals Are Best Achieved Indirectly, by John Kay. This book paired nicely with the book “Why Greatness Can’t Be Planned.” It’s about how goals are best achieved not by head-on effort, but indirectly and through trial-and-error. Interesting stuff from a notable economist.
51. Wild Problems: A Guide to the Decisions That Define Us, by Russ Roberts. This book is chock-full of wisdom and is about how to make decisions about “wild problems” — those big problems that can’t be solved by measurement or weighing probabilities. Problems like, “who should I marry?” “where should I live?” “should we have kids?” “what should I study in school.” Great read.
50. Upgrade, by Blake Crouch. Another great book from Blake Crouch! Upgrade occurs in the near future in which a gene-editing experiment has gone awry and killed 200 million people. After that disaster, gene editing is outlawed. The main character is an agent for the gene editing police who one day finds that he has been edited into a superhuman. Great story!
49. Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow: A novel, by Gabrielle Zevin. This was one of the best novels I’ve read in years. In this exhilarating novel by the best-selling author of The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry two friends—often in love, but never lovers—come together as creative partners in the world of video game design, where success brings them fame, joy, tragedy, duplicity, and, ultimately, a kind of immortality.
48. Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier. This is the second time I’ve read this book. It’s fantastic! Written in 1938, the novel depicts an unnamed young woman who impetuously marries a wealthy widower, before discovering that both he and his household are haunted by the memory of his late first wife, the title character.
47. Authority Marketing: Your Blueprint to Build Thought Leadership That Grows Business, Attracts Opportunity, and Makes Competition Irrelevant, by Adam Witty and Rusty Sheldon. This book urges its readers to write a book in order to be known as an authority in their industry. Good point.
46. Why Greatness Cannot be Planned: The Myth of the Objective, by Kenneth Stanley and Joel Lehman. This book presents the interesting premise that objectives are often counterproductive because progress isn’t linear. Great discoveries piece together past discoveries from disparate areas in ways that were never contemplated.
45. The Rule of Four: A Novel, by Ian Caldwell and Dustin Thomason. The Rule of Four focuses on four Princeton undergrads who are involved in uncovering the secrets of a Renaissance-era text and a murder. This book is an intellectual murder-mystery. I enjoyed it.
44. What Happens When You Get What You Want?: Success and the Challenge of Choice, by Dr. Rick Eigenbrod. We all want to achieve our goals but often fail to consider what comes next. This book is by a psychologist who has dealt extensively with people who have achieved great success and focuses on the void that is left after achieving goals. The book’s main theme is that people are better prepared to pursue success than achieve it.
43. Your Essential Guide to Sustainable Investing: How to Live Your Values and Achieve Your Financial Goals with ESG, SRI, and Impact Investing, by Larry Swedroe and Sam Adams. This is the best book I’ve read on ESG investing. The authors unravel the competing evidence on whether ESG investing adds or detracts from investment returns. A must-read for anyone interested in sustainable investing.
42. The Biggest Bluff: How I Learned to Pay Attention, Master Myself, and Win, by Maria Konnikova. The author of The Biggest Bluff has a Ph.D. in psychology and, over the course of a year, became a professional poker player even though she had never before played poker. The book is about what she learned about making decisions in the face of uncertainty. Great book.
41. NSFW: A Novel, by Isabel Kaplan. This novel’s protagonist is a recent college graduate working for a TV Network in LA as her first job. Semi-autobiographical NSFW presents workplace sexism and the challenges of succeeding in a male-dominated industry as a woman in a complex fashion. It’s a great read with important themes.
40. How to Change: The Science of Getting from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be, by Katie Milkman. This book contained fantastic “hacks” for creating lasting change. If you want to start or end a habit, How to Change will have a good idea about how to make the change. I found it more useful/practical than the widely popular books Atomic Habits by James Clear and The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg.
39. Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy. I loved Anna Karenina — what a triumph of literature! I felt like I was transported back into time alongside the characters in the late 19th Century. From Wikipedia: It deals with themes of betrayal, faith, family, marriage, Imperial Russian society, desire, and rural vs. city life. The story centers on an extramarital affair between Anna and dashing cavalry officer Count Alexei Kirillovich Vronsky that scandalizes the social circles of Saint Petersburg and forces the young lovers to flee to Italy in a search for happiness, but after they return to Russia, their lives further unravel.
38. Wolf Hall: A Novel, by Hilary Mantel. I know this book (and the next book in the trilogy) won the Man Booker prize, but I didn’t like it. I didn’t even finish it (I have about 25% left to go) — I’m including it in this list because I spent so much time and effort trying to like it. I know some people love this book, but I couldn’t get into Ms. Mantel’s writing style, which is unique.
36. Become a Fat-Burning Machine, by Mike Berland. This book says to do HIIT workouts combined with high-quality foods. Good points. I didn’t learn much, though.
35. Verses for the Dead, by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. Another Agent Pendergast novel (these are a guilty pleasure). Total murder mystery page-turner. Fun!
34. Fear of Flying, by Erica Jong. Published in 1973, Fear of Flying was a major work that helped launch the second feminist wave. Semi-autobiographical, it centers on the main character’s sexual escapades and desires during a European trip. It was the first to present a woman’s sexual desire (lust) as normal and not something to be condemned.
33. Night Film: A Novel, by Marisha Pessl. Night Film is a strange but wonderful book that centers on a reporter investigating the apparent suicide of the daughter of a cult-horror filmmaker. I loved every minute of reading this book.
32. Reap3r, by Eliot Peper. Combining technology, murder, quantum computing, and gene editing, this book takes the reader on a whirlwind journey and a possible glimpse into the not-too-distant future. Quite the page turner!
31. The End of Theory: Financial Crises, the Failure of Economics, and the Sweep of Human Interaction, by Richard Bookstaber. This book digs into why standard economic theory doesn’t do a reliable job of explaining financial markets or the global economy. Human biases and radical uncertainty, two huge drivers of the economy and markets, aren’t accounted for in current models.
30. The Watermen: The Birth of American Swimming and One Young Man’s Fight to Capture Olympic Gold, by Michael Loynd. The Watermen is by a friend of mine and tells the incredible story of Charles Daniels — America’s first swimming gold medalist (in the 1904 games). I loved this book and finished it in a day. Charles’s life was incredible as he overcame a fear of swimming and a rough childhood to be a world record holder at every swimming distance.
29. Autonomous: A Novel, by Analee Newitz. A fun sci-fi read. Jack is a drug scientist turned drug pirate — she reverse engineers drugs, reproduces them, and sells them cheaply to those who can’t afford the real version. The law hunts her- a human and a robot. This was a page-turner!
28. Unknown Pleasures: Inside Joy Division, by Peter Hook. I love Joy Division, and reading this book turned listening to Joy Division into an obsession. I really enjoyed learning about the origins of the band, how they created their music, and their internal dynamics. Great book if you like Joy Division.
27. Razorblade Tears: A Novel, by S.A. Cosby. This book was on Barack Obama’s 2022 book list. It is about two fathers who team up to hunt down the men responsible for their sons’ deaths. A great page-turner and full of action.
26. The Wealth Elite: A groundbreaking study of the psychology of the super-rich, by Reiner Zitelmann. This book is basically the author’s PhD dissertation. It provides a bunch of research on the wealthy and then provides its own analysis of the wealthy based on in-depth interviews with 45 people.
25. Trust, by Hernan Diaz. This book is fantastic! One of my favorite things I’ve read in the past few years. It tells the story of an early 20th-century Wall Street tycoon and his wife. The story is told in four competing narratives. Brilliant!
24. A Children’s Bible: A Novel, by Lydia Millet. What a strange yet amazing book this was. It mainly takes place at a vacation home that a couple of families have rented for the summer. The children are strangely mature, and the adults are basketcases. It’s a page-turner of twists and turns with a dark metaphorical message. I LOVED IT!
23. How to Market a Book, by Joanna Penn
22. The Last Children of Mill Creek, by Vivian Gibson. Mill Creek is an area that existed in downtown St. Louis that was largely inhabited by African-Americans. The houses and neighborhoods ended up being torn down in the 1960s for commercial expansion. This book chronicles the author’s childhood growing up in this ethnic conclave. I found it to be an interesting view into a completely different set of experiences from my own.
21. Richer, Wiser, Happier: How the World’s Greatest Investors Win in Markets and Life, By William Green. In this book, the author focuses on various legendary investors and gleans from them (through their own writings and sometimes interviews) what wisdom they have that makes them great.
20. Sea of Tranquility, by Emily St. John Mandel. I loved two of Mandel’s prior books, Station Eleven and The Glass Hotel, and also loved this one. It was weird to read this book right after The Anomaly (#18 below) because it deals with both an anomaly and the simulation hypothesis. Great book.
19. The 10 Commandments of Author Branding, by Shayla Raquel. I’ve written a book and read this one to learn about best practices for branding myself and my book. I thought it was pretty good and I picked up numerous helpful strategies.
18. The Anomaly, by Herve Le Tellier. The plot of The Anomaly is fascinating. A flight from France flies through a horrible storm and when it emerges on the other side reality has shifted. I loved this book. The New York Times said it “lies in that exciting Venn diagram where high entertainment meets serious literature.” I agree.
17. Old Man’s War, by John Scalzi. A fun sci-fi page-turner by one of my favorite sci-fi authors. In Old Man’s War, senior citizens are recruited into the military to become soldiers. They know that somehow their bodies are “fixed,” but they don’t know how until they become new recruits. Great story and a fun book.
16. Zaddik, by David Rosenbaum. Zaddik is great. It’s about a murder of a diamond dealer and the loss of one of the most valuable diamonds in the world. The book takes place in the Hassidic community in NYC. I learned a lot about Hassidism.
15. The Dark Tower VII, by Stephen King. The final book the in the amazing Dark Tower series! This series is so good! Cowboy sci-fi!
14. Unstoppable: Siggi B. Wilzig’s Astonishing Journey From Auschwitz Survivor and Penniless Immigrant to Wall Street Legend, by Joshua M. Greene. Another work book club book. This book is about Siggi Wilzig, an Auschwitz survivor and penniless immigrant who went on to be CEO of two highly successful companies. Amazing story of survival and grit.
13. Think Again, by Adam Grant. Another work book club book. This book is about how to embrace a worldview that we might be wrong and the importance of knowing what we know and what we don’t know. Sometimes we need to “unlearn” what we think we know.
12. Dare to Lead, by Brene Brown. This was a book club book at our firm. I’ve loved Brene Brown ever since watching one of her TED talks. Her messages mainly focus on being real and showing vulnerability. Dare to Lead takes teachings from her other books and suggests how to apply them to business. Solid book.
11. Cloud Cuckoo Land, by Anthony Doerr. This book was amazing! It is set in three periods: around the fall of Constantinople, in contemporary times, and on an interstellar space ship hundreds of years in the future. What links the three stories is a lost ancient Greek novel that tells the story of a shepherd who travels to a shining city in the sky. One of the better works of Fiction I’ve ever read
10. Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life, by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles. I didn’t like this book on Ikigai nearly as much as the one listed at number 8. This one didn’t provide as much practical advice and strayed off into a lot of areas that aren’t Ikigai.
9. Dark Tower Six: The Song of Susannah, by Stephen King. More Dark Tower. This series is so good.
8. Ikigai: Giving everyday meaning and joy, by Yukari Mitsuhashi. This was a great book! It’s on the Japanese philosophy of Ikigai which is a way of looking at life’s purpose. Here’s an IFOD I wrote about Ikigai. If you’re interested in learning more, I’d highly recommend this book.
7. The Song of Achilles: A Novel, by Madeline Miller. I loved the author’s other book, Circe, so I decided to read this one as well. I really enjoyed it. It’s about Achilles — the hero of the Trojan war — told from the perspective of his best friend and lover, Patroclus. This book was well written and a page-turner as it provided a different perspective on the Iliad.
6. Beat the Reaper: A Novel, by Josh Bazell. This book was super fun. It’s about a former mob hitman who went to medical school and is now a doctor at a hospital in NYC while in the witness protection program. The book takes place over the course of a day, supplemented by numerous flashbacks. The author is a physician and the detailed medical information about various patients the main character deals with is interesting. The gist of the book revolves around how the main character’s life is thrown into upheaval when a member of the mob becomes his patient and recognizes who he is.
5. The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music, by Dave Grohl. Wow. This was an amazing biography. I listened to this as an audiobook which was narrated by the author. The book is mainly just stories from Dave’s life — growing up, his love of music, being in Nirvana, starting and leading the Foo Fighters, and being a dad. It’s an interesting and compelling read and Dave seems like a super good guy.
4. The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova. I read this book about ten years ago and liked it so much I decided to re-read it. It’s pretty long, but it keeps you engaged with its plot and great character development. The book is about a historian, and his daughter and their quest to find and kill Dracula, whom they think is still alive. One of the most interesting aspects of the book is learning about the history of the regions the characters visit — Istambul, Romania, and Bulgaria. Great book.
3. Starship Troopers, by Robert A. Heinlein. I discovered Robert A. Heinlein as an adolescent and he quickly became one of my favorite authors and sparked my love of sci-fi. This is probably the fourth time I’ve read Starship Troopers, which is about a recent high school grad, Johnny Rico, who joins the infantry and ships off to fight bug-like aliens. It is a fantastic book and a fun read.
2. The Left Hand of Darkness, by Ursula K. Le Guin. I’ve been wanting to read this book for decades as the author is considered the “Grand Dame of Sci-Fi” and this is her most heralded work. And the book did not disappoint. The plot revolves around an emissary from a galactic consortium of planets who journeys to a backwater, nearly frozen planet to sell its citizens on joining the consortium. The humans on the planet loosely referred to as “Winter” has had millenniums of different evolution than the rest of humanity scattered across the galaxy. These humans have no gender for most of the time and then randomly become male or female, only when it’s time to breed. Fascinating concept. In addition to exploring our concept of gender, the book also considers friendship, loyalty, and how we deal with others different that we are.
1. Scythe, by Neal Shusterman. This book takes place far into the future where A.I. has solved most problems for humanity, including death. Basically, everyone lives forever. Even if you accidentally die, technology has advanced enough that you can be put back together and revived. Immortality of course leads to overpopulation problems so “scythes” kill people (called “gleaning”) to prevent this problem. The book focuses on a girl selected to be a scythe and is interesting in terms of thinking about what it means to be human, mortality, and morality. Good book. Also, Scythe is considered “Young Adult Fiction”; I find it interesting that so many books with morbid themes are young adult, like The Hunger Games, Divergent, etc.
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