Best books I read in 2022
I’ve loved books since I was a child, when my parents would read aloud to me and my brothers. Until I got to college, I read voraciously, sometimes as many as a hundred books a year.
Then came a full-time university course load, a full-time job, smart phones, XBOX 360, iPhones… my attention span became flabby, underused. In 2017, I committed to reading more.
I started reading 10, then 25, then 40 and 50 books a year. In 2022, I’ve hit 61 (with a few more days to possibly squeak in № 62). Most of them were good, a few were terrible. A handful really stood out, and I want to share those with you. Here are the best books I read in 2022 (note, I only read these in 2022. All except for one weren’t actually published this year):
“The Wright Brothers” by David McCullough
McCullough is a master storyteller, and while his work on John Adams might be more popular, his biography of Orville and Wilbur Wright is a masterpiece.
The author does a tremendous job of providing context, of helping the reader imagine themselves in a pre-World War I America and Europe. The book captures the spirit of adventure and innovation that imbued the early 20th century with so much hope.
Most successful are the portraits of the Wright brothers themselves and their unique family, illuminating their personalities while judiciously delving into their letters to give us a sense of their hopes, dreams, frustrations and accomplishments.
I earned a new appreciation for the Wright brothers and for McCullough. Add this one to your list!
“Fermat’s Enigma” by Simon Singh
I haven’t taken a math class since high school and thanks to the calculator I carry around in my pocket (well, it’s a cell phone, but it has a calculator), I haven’t given math serious thought in about 15 years.
But I still loved this book, which while containing a good bit of math (although it’s made accessible for us non-mathematicians), is more of a historical detective novel than anything else. Fermat’s Enigma is full of fascinating characters, twists and turns and a final “eureka” moment (and a second, “okay, we actually did it this time” moment). A fascinating book you’ll struggle to put down (and one that will help you sound smarter at dinner parties).
“The Rise and Reign of the Mammals” by Steve Brusatte
A truly eye-opening book, especially if your knowledge of mammalian evolution was as shallow as mine (I knew that mammals had evolved… that was pretty much it).
Brusatte’s work is wonderfully entertaining, breathing life into ancient bones (actually, mostly just teeth) and brilliantly covering millions of years of a diverse evolutionary saga, building upon each piece of information like a patient teacher while introducing you to the wonderful men and women who shine light upon our distant past.
“Alexander Hamilton” by Ron Chernow
Chernow’s biography of perhaps the most fascinating of all Founding Fathers inspired Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical and introduced Alexander Hamilton to legions of folks across the world.
The book about the man who never seemed to stop writing is bulky: 731 pages, to be exact. Reading it is worth the time investment, however. Here’s what I wrote after finishing it in June:
“To read Ron Chernow’s biography is to fall in love with Alexander Hamilton, to wish behind hope that his fateful duel could be avoided and, after his death, to mourn — centuries later — not only the most brilliant, forward-thinking and sometimes frustratingly singular Founding Father, but also a friend.”
“Shoeless Joe” by W.P. Kinsella
The only fiction book to make my list (which is odd, because I read mostly fiction), Kinsella’s tale that inspired the movie “Field of Dreams” is soaked in magical realism and delicious prose.
“Shoeless Joe” is more effervescent and odder than the movie (a fictional version of the reclusive J. D. Salinger is a main character), and a worthwhile read for both baseball fans and sports novices alike.
“Supreme Commander: MacArthur’s Triumph in Japan” by Seymour Morris Jr.
Gen. Douglas MacArthur is a mythological American figure. A World War I veteran who commanded U.S. Forces in the “Far East” during World War II and led the United Nations Command in the Korean War, he left a profound impact on Asia and our current geopolitical landscape.
Morris’ book focuses on perhaps MacArthur’s most profound and longlasting triumph: the U.S. military occupation of Japan. Morris argues effectively that MacArthur’s time overseeing the Allies’ occupation from 1945–1951 is the most (and perhaps only) successful occupation in modern history.
MacArthur used his unique talents to rebuild and diversify the Japanese business sector and help enact sweeping social changes that set Japan up to not only quickly recover from World War II, but become a global economic power and U.S. military ally.