Each year I try to spend time with the very best minds in the world. Podcasts are one way we can do this. I love, love, LOVE listening to podcasts. And books are my other favourite place to glean knowledge.
Because I’ve written two books this past year and bought and integrated a second business (Parenting Ideas), my reading hasn’t been as extensive this year as it might normally be. Nevertheless, I’ve sunk my teeth into about 40 books in the past 12 months.
And as I do each year, this article is my way of sharing the knowledge… (links to my 2019, 2020, and 2021 lists here). In this article I’m sharing the ones that have impacted me the most this year. I won’t mention any of the duds. You’ll only read my take on the ones worth your time. As always:
- It is irrelevant when they were written. I’m sharing books that have impact, regardless of whether they’re new or not. I read them this year, so I’m sharing them this year.
- It’s just an opinion. And just because I loved it doesn’t mean I agreed with everything in it. If it provoked deeper thinking and improved living, it gets a guernsey. The people who wrote these books thought deeply - more deeply than I’ve probably ever thought - and have remarkable insights that are worth understanding, even if you don’t agree with them.
- Sometimes I give 5 stars for breathtaking writing. Sometimes the writing is average but the science is elegant. Sometimes it’s just a cracking story that deserves 5 stars despite any number of flaws. I’ll list the flaws but still explain why it gets the 5 stars. Then it’s up to you to decide if it’s worth the $30-$35. In every case, the books on this list are worth it.
This year, reading these books will change you for the better - or they’ll simply be great fun to read. Here we go with my 5-star recommendations from 2022 - and there’s more fiction this year than I’ve ever had before, but that doesn’t mean I’m heading in that direction. I just found some rip-roaring reads that deserved a mention.
by Todd Kashdan
Todd Kashdan is one of those unique thinkers who courageously asks questions around hard topics that many people would rather avoid. This book asks hard questions, and then asks something harder: it asks us to develop the courage and habit of asking hard questions - that matter and in a principled way - ourselves.
I've read several books in recent years on being a rebel, particularly in the business world. None of them challenged me, developed original perspectives, or leaned on the science (in a digestible way) the way that this book did.
The book does a few things supremely well:
- It weaves extraordinary stories that demand you keep reading throughout its pages. For example, there's the NBA player who shoots free-throws "granny style" at over 94% accuracy but his style is against the norm so no one else will do it even though it's a game changer (or should I say game winner). Or the story of the questions that arose after the tragic accidental death of the first female US Air Force fighter pilot. Or the rebellion of New Yorker, Elizabeth Jennings, in an act of racial insubordination 100 years before Rosa Parks, or a fascinating story about punk rockers, Fugazi, or the cultural and social history surrounding the inventor and invention of the first rape kits for police investigations and hospitals. There are literally a dozen stories you've never heard that are compelling.
- Kashdan also integrates the very best psychological science that you haven't read about in other books. You won't hear the same stuff that everyone else talks about, copies, and continues to inculcate into a saturated psychology bookshelf. This is original. It's provocative. And it's hitting the right notes.
- It maintains momentum. This is NOT one of those books that makes you wonder if you ought to be checking your email or looking into the fridge to find a distraction. Instead, it's the kind of book that makes you feel like the kids will probably ok to get dinner themselves tonight because you've got another chapter to read.
Short upshot of all of this? This book is outstanding. Professor Kashdan has taken complicated science and made it accessible, practical, and real. I loved this book.
Buy it here: The Art of Insubordination
by Jennifer Traig
This may be my book of the year. Traig has probably spent forever and more researching this history of how people have been raising (or killing) their children for the past couple of thousand years. The work that's gone into this book is extraordinary. And it's inspired me so much! Written with a sassy, fun tone (sometimes too much sass, always lots of fun), Traig's self-deprecating historical treatise delights with surprises on almost every page. Stories about swaddling children, how crawling was forbidden, why the term parenting didn't exist until the 1950s, how little parents actually parented until the last 150 years, wet nurses, the way people lived (rushes on the floor), why toilet training didn't exist, how fussy eating only came to be a thing in the past 100 years, and the extraordinary characters who have influenced how we parent (like Rousseau who never wrote about parenting but is overly influential despite leaving his 5 kids at the orphanage so he could concentrate on writing). This book is one I could go on about forever. I LOVED this book. Just awesome.
by Ali Hazelwood
As a guy who doesn't like books with coarse language or explicit content - and as one who abhors rom-coms - I shouldn't be writing a 5 star review of this book, because it had plenty of both. But from the moment I picked this book up, I was hooked. Hazelwood has written a smash. Fast-paced, clever, and wickedly humourous, I was laughing out loud as I devoured this book. The truth of it is that the book is anything but real, the characters are not particularly deep or multi-dimensional, and the circumstances on which the book rests are impossibly unlikely. This book is pure escapism. But here's the thing: I don't read much fiction and when I do, I want to escape. This did it for me, and it was a delight.
Buy it here: The Love Hypothesis
by Sue Monk Kidd
A fictional history about the forgotten wife of Jesus, I found this book compelling. Beautifully written with vivid imagery and surprising historical gems throughout, this was a light, easy read that unexpectedly drew me in and kept me turning the pages. As far as fiction goes, this one did it for me.
Buy it here: The Book of Longings
by Taylor Jenkins Reid
This was a great book. Raw, edgy, raunchy, and unfiltered, it tells the story of a family raised by a single mum after her rockstar husband's unfaithfulness created pain and heartbreak for everyone. Once mum tragically died, big sister has to hold the family together. Expertly written, the story meanders like the California Coast, flashing back to historical excerpts from the lives of the characters until the party that blows their worlds apart. The climax is extraordinary. The book is fabulous, but not for the faint-hearted. I loved it.
Buy it here: Malibu Rising
by Jason Fried and David Hansson
A snappy 200 page read from the founders of Basecamp, this was a great rev up for everyone trying to run a tight ship as they build their shop/business. I loved it. Not a whole lot of new stuff for me. I feel like I do much of it already. But outstanding as a primer for anyone with a startup bent and a desire to run their own show.
Buy it here: Rework
by Ian Kerner
This is a book about sexual pleasure. I didn't think I needed to read it. I'm informed that I do just fine in that arena. However, it's changed SO much! And I highly recommend it. Very well written. Surprised me with how helpful it actually was. And the fact that it's so practical and so well received makes me wish I'd read it 20 years ago.
Buy it here: She comes first
by Michaeleen Doucleff
I rarely, if ever, recommend a parenting book. I struggle to enjoy parenting books unless I've written them. The way most "experts'' write about parenting drives me barmy. However, this book is going to be on my list of highly recommended parenting books for a long time. I loved this book. Doucleff spends time with the Hadzabe tribe in Tanzania, Inuit people in the Arctic, and Maya families in South America. And she highlights what these ancient cultures can teach us about parenting - and why the West has lost the plot in the childrearing domain. It's a brilliant book, terrifically written, and a delight to read and practice. I took more out of this parenting book than almost any other in recent years. Superb.
Buy it here: Hunt Gather Parent
by Johan Hari
Hari has written a book that gets to the heart of the individual’s tension with technology. He dives into fabulous interviews, stories, and science to show the impact that our obsession with screens is having on us. It’s impactful. It’s readable. It’s brilliant.
Buy it here: Stolen Focus
by Taylor Jenkins Reid
I loved Malibu Rising, so when I found out that Reid had a new book out based on one of the barely-mentioned characters from Malibu Rising, I purchased it and read it straight away. And I loved it. Again, coarse language warning. But… Reid writes a compelling narrative that sucks you in and doesn’t let you out. Her books are the kind that you don’t want to stop reading, and when you do, you keep thinking about the story and wish there were more pages, more chapters, more parts to the story.
Buy it here: Carrie Soto is back
by Salman Rushdie
As an 11th book, I’m going to add a provocative title. In the late 1980s Salman Rushdie was forced into hiding for a book that the Iranian leader called blasphemous. It was called The Satanic Verses. Early this year, Rushdie was stabbed on stage in New York by someone who wanted him dead because of the book.
I’m the kind of guy who rushes towards the fire, so I bought a copy. It was beyond me in a number of ways. Culturally and religiously I had little understanding of the novel’s underlying contexts and assumptions. It meandered, went on tangents, and in places there were sentences an entire page long, and paragraphs that stretched for two or more pages. A few times I used the book to help me fall asleep. One or two pages and I was out like a light.
However, the writing was actually sublime - even magical. The soaring narrative transcended time, space, culture… and while it took me a LONG time to get my head around what was happening, by the time I closed the book I knew I’d read a book that would stay with me a long time. But I was also bewildered. I want to give it 1 star. I want to give it 5 stars. In the end, I’m including it here because of the majestic writing, the tremendous scope, the enormity of the story, and the fact that I actually finished the thing!
Perhaps the book was blasphemous… my cultural understanding of all things Islamic is limited. And my cultural understanding of all things both British and Indian is also limited. I share this with no desire to offend. But I read it, and I’m glad I did.
Buy it here: The Satanic Verses
That’s the end of the list for this year. I hope it inspires some fun reading, some learning, and some new insights and delights.