When I was younger and didn’t know anything the majority of my reading was of the non-fiction variety.
I don’t read nearly as much as I did in the past but when I do it tends to be more fiction than non-fiction these days.
It could be the fact that podcasts, blogs, opinion writers and such have made non-fiction books less useful.
But I’m always more impressed with the creativity involved in crafting characters, plot and storylines in fiction. I don’t have the ability to do that.
Plus it provides a nice escape.
Having said that, I did read some good books from each category in 2022. Here are my favorite books I read this past year:
I’m a sucker for data about the incredible improvements in living standards the human race has experienced in the past couple hundred years or so.
This one reminded me of Factfulness, another wonderful book in this genre.
A few good stats from the book:
- Nearly 90 percent of the world’s population in 1820 was illiterate. Today almost 90 percent can read.
- Demographers estimate that in premodern societies, out of every 1,000 babies born, about 300 died before reaching their first birthday. In 2017, the UK and U.S. infant mortality rates were, respectively, 3.8 and 5.9 per 1,000 live births. Since 1900, in other words, infant mortality in those two countries has fallen by more than 95%.
- In 1968, for example, a 23-inch Admiral color TV cost $2,544 in 2018 U.S. dollars, or 120 hours of labor in the manufacturing sector. In 2018, a 24-inch Sceptre high-definition LED TV cost $99.99, or 4.7 hours of labor at the average hourly wage in the manufacturing sector. That’s a reduction of 96% in human effort.
It doesn’t seem like it sometimes but the world is getting better all the time.
I love movies and business. This book was all about the movie business so I was hooked immediately.
Evans was a character and as the former head of Paramount had stories about just about every huge movie star from the 1960s and 1970s.
The book is full of Hollywood stories about Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty, Ali MacGraw, Jimmy Cagney, Al Pachino, James Caan and more.
One of my favorite stories in the book was about the film Marathon Man. Dustin Hoffman played a compulsive runner in the movie and would run a mile before filming a scene about being out of breath.
Sir Lawrence Olivier took the complete opposite approach of Hoffman’s method acting which caused some tension between the two:
At least on Dustin’s part, there was great unspoken competition between the two. On the set they were enormously respectful of each other, but occasionally the surface cracked. “Why don’t you just act?” Olivier would say after Dustin kept everyone waiting an hour while he analyzed whether he should or should not take off his shirt.
I love the fact that two of the greatest actors of all-time couldn’t agree on the correct process for getting into character.
There is no universal process for finding success and this book is full of anecdotes just like this one.
This book made me realize the importance of energy resources in the progress we’ve made as a species:
An abundance of useful energy underlies and explains all the gains—from better eating to mass-scale travel; from mechanization of production and transport to instant personal electronic communication—that have become norms rather than exceptions in all affluent countries.
There is a lot in this book that could change the way you think about how the world actually functions.
This is a book every financial advisor and retiree should read.
Some people may scoff at the premise of spending your money more freely but the message of the book resonated with me — you should spend money on the things you enjoy while you can enjoy them.
This book is more about mindset than concrete financial advice but that’s a good thing when it comes to personal finance books.
Everyone’s circumstances are different so philosophy is more important than strategy when it comes to figuring this stuff out.
As far as I’m concerned the 1990s was the best pop culture decade in history (sorry 1960s I was not there).
Klosterman is my favorite pop culture writer so this book was a no-brainer for me.
He covers Nirvana, Pulp Fiction, Garth Brooks1, how the internet ended decades as a thing, life before everything became political and how weird it is for people in their 40s to have lived through life in the pre- and post-internet age.
If you’re an older millennial or Gen-Xer you have to read this.
I liked the Hulu version of this novel so much that I decided to read it as well.
It’s a weird, quirky story about relationships, divorce, friendship and how we’re all the main character in our own lives.
It’s possible this book simply resonated with me because I’m a 40-something with young kids but I’m always impressed with writers who are able to craft stories about relatively normal people and make them interesting.
I’ve read every single book about PI Elvis Cole and his mysterious right-hand man Joe Pike.
This series dates back to the 1990s but was one of the better ones I’ve read in a while.
One of the best things about reading a series about the same characters is it feels like you’re checking in with old friends.
This is one of the more underrated detective series.
This was the 8th John Corey book from DeMille. They don’t come around nearly as often as most books like this.
John Corey might be my favorite wise-ass of all the wise-ass book characters out there.
I’m surprised this book has not been made into a B- Netflix movie yet. It had a good twist ending that was not what I expected at all.
This one felt like a Gillian Flynn novel.
By happenstance, I read this book just before the FX show with Jeff Bridges came out.
Much like the show, the beginning of the book hooked me immediately. Also like the show, the beginning was better than the end.
Sometimes it’s easier to present a plot than land the plane.
Regardless of the ending, it was still a good book and a great character.
Station Eleven came out on HBO last December and was one of my sleeper TV shows of the year.
Much like Fleishman, I enjoyed the show so much that I wanted to read the book to better understand the source material.
This is one of the few instances where the show was better than the book (mainly because they made one ginormous plot change) but the book was still unique.
Plus, a book about the collapse of civilization from a flu pandemic hits differently in a post-pandemic world.
I’ve probably read well over 40 books (not to brag) about Minnesota investigators Lucas Davenport and Virgin Flowers at this point.
Somehow Sandford still has the ability to come up with good criminals worth chasing.
And this one has a finance angle where a bunch of early Bitcoin investors become fabulously wealthy and get so bored with their lives that they begin murdering people they don’t agree with.
The Best Books I Read in 2021
1Who surprisingly had the most album sales of anyone in the 1990s which kind of blew me away.