“The reading of all good books is like conversation with the finest (people) of the past centuries.” - Descartes
A big focus of this blog is on books that are full of helpful information and ideas. I have a hard time choosing which books to read every year, but I'm rarely disappointed with the amazing content that I read, digest, and review every year. It can be life changing, and I hope that readers of this blog not only read my summaries but read some of the books that I cover as well. Here is a list of 2022 books (with links to the blog) and a short summary of their most important point.
Let's Talk About Hard Things Anna Sale looks at the five topics that we all avoid discussing and how to tackle them.
From Strength To Strength Arthur Brooks talks about the mental decline that comes with aging and how other strengths emerge to take its place.
The Worth of Water Matt Damon and Gary White share their experiences building an innovative charity model that has brought clean drinking water to millions.
Profiles In Ignorance Humorist Andy Borowitz takes a look at the dunces that have led the USA for the past 75 years and the people who celebrate cluelessness.
Plays Well With Others Writer Eric Barker uses scientific evidence and great stories to illustrate how we relate to each other.
Toxic Positivity Whitney Goodman discusses the plague of positive thinking that's turning us into unfeeling zombies as we try to run away from pain and reality.
They Knew Sarah Kendzior Conspiracy theorists have the right idea, but are looking at the wrong people. People in high places are covering things up, but its mostly what you'd expect- sex scandals, hidden money, and organized crime hiding within global governments and businesses.
Belonging- Jeffrey Cohen looks at why we all need to feel like we belong somewhere. He focuses on schools, workplaces, healthcare, policing, and politics and how they can be transformed to be more inclusive and welcoming.
I Never Thought of It That Way- Monica Guzman looks at how polarization has destroyed communication, and caused us to retreat to silos of like-minded people. She encourages people to create bridging conversations that open communications back up between wary partisans.
Starry Messenger- Neal Degrasse Tyson defends science, astronomy, and the pursuit of objective truth in an age of strong opinions.
The Power of One More A traditional self-help book of encouragement by Ed Mylett, who pushes his readers to keep trying and do that one more thing that makes the difference.
Survival of the Richest Douglas Rushkoff takes on the tech titans who dominate today's economy while building escape bunkers to run away from the consequences if things turn dark.
Healing Thomas Insel takes an in-depth look at our mental healthcare system and proposes reforms that would improve long-term outcomes and get away from our current crisis care system that relies on prisons and expensive treatments.
Why They Did It- Tim Miller takes on his former bosses in the Republican party and examines how they went off the rails embracing conspiracy theorists and extreme ideologies in a cynical game where power and winning is the only thing that matters.
Get It Done- Ayelet Fischbach looks at how to make goals and achieve them in an age of infinite distractions.
How Minds Change- David McRaney looks at some fascinating techniques like deep canvassing, motivational interviewing, and street epistemology as ways to improve discourse and get people to examine their own beliefs more closely without feeling threatened.
Invisible Storm- Jason Kander tells the story of his struggles with PTSD from his tour in Afghanistan, all while he was a political candidate and possible presidential contender.
Stolen Focus- Johann Hari looks at a dozen different causes of our inability to focus on priorities in an age of distractions, and provides reforms and solutions that can help us take our brains back.
Imaginable- Game theorist and futurist Jane McGonigal looks at why we seem to always be unprepared for the future. She develops some scenarios that force us to use our imaginations and consider things that could happen.
Wired For Love- Researcher Stephanie Cacioppo examines love from a scientific viewpoint in conjunction with her own experience of falling in love and losing her husband to cancer.
Sick in the Head- Writer, director, and producer Judd Apatow shares fascinating interviews that he did with a wide variety of comedians and entertainers.
Power of Fun- Catherine Price looks at how to have more meaningful fun in life, and how to tell real fun from fake fun that is more of a distraction.
Jesus and John Wayne Religion scholar Kristin Kobes Du Mez looks at American evangelicalism and how it twisted the words of Jesus and radicalized American politics.
Cues- Body language expert Vanessa Van Edwards provides pointers on how to use body language and interpret that of others.
How to Be Perfect - The Good Place creator Michael Schur takes a deep look at philosophy with a helpful sprinkling of comedy to make it less intimidating.
The Sweet Spot- Paul Bloom looks at the balance between pain and pleasure, and why our moments of struggle are the most productive and illuminating.
The Helpers- Kathy Gilsinan looks at the lives of six selfless individuals during the Covid-19 epidemic and how they made things better.
The Extended Mind- Annie Murphy Paul looks at how we can use external cues, resources, and people to expand the power of our brains.
Under a White Sky- Elizabeth Kolbert looks at mankind and the environment, interviewing experts on things like climate change and dying species. The haunting title comes from the color change that could happen to our sky if drastic anti-warming chemicals were injected into the air.
Dopamine Nation Anna Lembke examines the effects of Dopamine on humans, looking for ways to counteract the addictive nature of much of our food, drugs, media, and lifestyles.
Power of Regret Dan Pink looks at our most common regrets, referencing a study of 10,000 people worldwide. By examining regrets, we can find a reverse blueprint on how to live happier lives.
Atlas of the Heart Expert on vulnerability Brene Brown covers 87 different emotions that effect our behaviors and our lives.
Humans- A brief history of how we f*cked it all up. Tom Phillips looks at some of the biggest failures in history to give us some perspective of the screw-ups of the 21st century.
All About Me- An autobiography of writer, director and producer Mel Brooks with great stories behind his amazing career.
The Book of Hope- Douglas Abrams interviews Jane Goodall in a fascinating look at why she is hopeful for the future and how she and her foundation have made a huge difference in the present.
Making Numbers Count- Chip Heath describes how to present meaningful data, thus avoiding losing people in floods of incomprehensible numbers.
If God is Love, Don't be a Jerk- Blogger and religious scholar John Pavlovitz takes on Christianity and its willingness to excuse bad behaviors when one side is seen as "saved" and the other side is seen as "wicked" and "asking for it".
Four Thousand Weeks- Time Management for Mortals Oliver Burkeman presents a book full of great reminders for how to spend your limited time on earth wisely, and which time sucking traps to avoid.
Wow! That was 38 books, most of them written in 2021 or 2022, and all full of thought-provoking content. I'm not exactly a bookworm- I enjoy movies, television, plays, concerts, and outdoor activities. But it's the books that I read that make the most impact on my thinking, especially well-written books about interesting topics like the ones above. You just don't get that kind of depth of understanding from the news or social media, where content is topical and quickly forgotten a month later.
The median American reads 4 or fewer books per year, and most of those are genre fiction that stick to a formula. A select few Americans read hundreds of books a year (go to Goodreads if you want to marvel at their selections). You can tell a lot about a person by their reading and viewing habits. Reading books:
improves brain connectivity.
increases your vocabulary and comprehension.
empowers you to empathize with other people.
aids in sleep readiness.
lowers blood pressure and heart rate.
fights depression symptoms.
prevents cognitive decline as you age.
opens up worlds and expands minds
Many of these books came from public libraries, so cost isn't a factor. My biggest problem is narrowing down my choices to the most interesting and impactful ones. I currently have almost 250 books sitting on my Goodreads "to read" shelf, with many more coming out in 2023. (If you're still reading this and have a good suggestion, drop me a line.)
38 of the best thinkers in the world took time to write down their thoughts on important topics, and I got to crawl into their minds and see the world from their viewpoint. Hopefully if you're reading this blog you've gotten a bit of that chance too. Thanks to life's thinkers and doers, and thank you for reading this blog.