The books I read in 2022
For the last few years, I’ve written a post describing the books I’ve read in the previous year (see 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018). This serves to help me remember what I’ve read, and occasionally as inspiration to friends that might be looking for something to read.
I’m pleased to say I managed to read a bit more in 2022, so here’s the list.
- Demon Copperhead, by Barbara Kingsolver. I loved Kingsolver’s earlier novel, The Lacuna, so when I saw this was out, I picked it up and couldn’t put it down. A loose retelling of David Copperfield, but set in today’s Virginia
- The Housekeeper and the Professor, by Yoko Ogawa. A beautiful novella, of love (in its many forms) and mathematics.
- A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles. Funny and beautifully written, I loved this.
- Lie with me, by Philippe Besson. A beautiful yet tragic short novel, of forbidden love in a French village.
- Small things like these, by Claire Keegan. I always look out for the Booker Prize shortlist, and this one caught my eye — a beautiful short novel set in a small town in Ireland in 1985.
- The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro. I enjoyed this classic novel, of an ageing butler reflecting on events in the 1930s.
- Mother’s Boy, by Patrick Gale. A beautiful novel based on the life of the poet Charles Causley.
- The Heart’s Invisible Furies, by John Boyne. I mostly loved this fictional memoir of an Irish adoptee, attempting to make sense of his place in the world.
- Now we are Animals — by Paul Nathan. Dystopian young adult fiction isn’t usually my genre, but I really enjoyed this thought-provoking novel by a former colleague.
- Beartown, by Fredrik Backman. A page-turner, filled with forboding, set in a rural Swedish town obsessed with its ice hockey team, but I didn’t enjoy it enough to move on to the sequel.
- The Survivors — Alex Schulman. This is a novel of three brothers in Sweden, coming to terms with something that happened years earlier at their family summerhouse. I found it a bit hard to follow, or to really relate to the characters.
- Murder and Mendelssohn, by Kerry Greenwood. The first Phryne Fisher murder mystery I had read, it was fun to read a novel whose setting (Melbourne, amateur choirs and Mendelssohn’s Elijah) I was so familiar with.
- Over my dead body / Turn a Blind Eye, both by Jeffrey Archer. Not everything I read has to be quality, sometimes it is enjoyable to read something engaging.
- Liberalism and its Discontents, by Francis Fukuyama. A short, provocative exploration of the strengths and weaknesses of liberalism, defending it against the challenges of conservatism and progressivism. Even if you don’t come away completely convinced, it is still a helpful analysis.
- Values, by Mark Carney. This book, by the former Governor of the Bank of England, reflects on what needs to be done to allow economics to reflect society’s values. I really enjoyed it.
- Morality: Restoring the common good in divided times, by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. An argument for why society must engage with moral questions. I struggled to agree with some of this, and ultimately found it less convincing than Carney’s argument.
- What we owe each other: A new social contract, by Minouche Shafik. A thought-provoking reflection on what society should offer, and how that might be achieved.
- Thinking Strategically, by Dixit and Nalebuff. A classic of applied game theory, I had never actually read this, and I enjoyed the way it illustrated different techniques through historical examples from politics and business. It gets quite detailed in places, working through mathematical examples, but feel free to skim over these bits (as I did!).
- The Voltage Effect, by John List. I picked up this business book after hearing an interview with the author, and enjoyed its unpicking of the reasons that projects don’t succeed at scale.
- Never split the difference, by Chris Voss. This was an interesting guide to negotiation, especially high stakes negotiation (like hostage situations). Thankfully, my job is free of even much lower stakes negotiation, so I haven’t really had a chance to try out this book’s lessons.
- Four thousand weeks, by Oliver Burkeman. This is another one that pops up on a lot of ‘must read’ lists. Unfortunately it didn’t really change my attitude, though perhaps that’s because I gave up being an over-achiever and embraced my limits a long time ago!
- We are Bellingcat, by Eliot Higgins. The fascinating story of Bellingcat, an organisation devoted to crowd-sourced investigations and fact-checking, especially into war and human-rights abuses.
- The Pyramid of Lies, by Duncan Mavin. The story of Greensill Capital. A fascinating story of business hubris, both in Lex Greensill himself, and those that enabled him.
- Behind the legend: The many worlds of Charles Todd, by Denis Cryle. I had owned this biography of my great x3 grandfather for a few years, but finally got around to reading it this summer ahead of a family reunion in Alice Springs. I found it fascinating, especially learning about his work in meteorology and setting time zones (which has bearing on my work), and astronomy.
- This much is true, by Miriam Margolyes. If you’re not a fan of hers, you probably won’t like this memoir, but I really enjoyed it.
- Talking to my country, by Stan Grant. Another that had been on my reading list for a couple of years, I appreciated this meditation on race and identity.
- The Nutmeg’s Curse: Parables for a planet in crisis, by Amitov Ghosh. I’m a big fan of Ghosh’s novels (especially Gun Island which I read last year) — this is a non-fiction reflection on the damage wrought in the name of colonialism and science, much of which I hadn’t considered before.
- The Star Builders — Nuclear Fusion and the Race to Power the Planet, by Arthur Turrell. A very readable guide to the different approaches to fusion that are being taken by teams around the world, and why we should be cheering them on.
- Transport for Humans, by Dyson and Sutherland. Insights into the difference between what transport users value, and what transport designers frequently optimise for.
- Product Management in Practice, by Matt LeMay. I started this in 2021 when I was working as a product manager, and then moved out of that role, so didn’t get around to finishing it until this year. I would agree with its insights as to what makes a good product manager (and by implication, that I’m not one!).
- The Pragmatic Programmer, by Thomas and Hunt. I have seen this on a few lists of good books to help develop your craft, so decided it was worth a read. I think I enjoyed it, but don’t remember much from it — maybe that just means I effortlessly absorbed its insights.
- Object Oriented Programming in Python for Mathematicians, by David Ham. Written by a friend of mine, it is aimed at mathematicians looking to move beyond simple scripts, to having a more conceptual understanding of programming. Though, in my case (experienced at python, rusty at pure maths), it probably taught me as much about pure mathematics as it did about python.