2022 in 20 Books

It’s been my personal tradition for the last few years to summarize and share the books I’ve read over the calendar year. Here are the twenty books I finished in 2022.

Competing in the Age of AI, by Marco Iansiti and Karim R. Lakhani

What happens to businesses and their leaders when new technology and platforms seem to evolve faster than us? This book attempts to shed a light on the way disruptive, AI-leveraging businesses (think Amazon or Airbnb) are adapting – and, in some cases, leading the way and what we can learn from them.

There are sections that are a bit “business-y” and make for dreary reading but I still think it’s worth checking out if you’re keen to understand how views on strategy and leadership can and do change when artificial intelligence is thrown in the mix.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World, by Andrea Wulf

Alexander von Humboldt is easily the world’s least known most important scientist-naturalist. The book is an adventure from start to finish, taking us along the voyages, life, and career of a truly remarkable polymath.

You might never see the natural world (and Latin America) the same again after reading this book.

Sometimes reading like a biography, at other times an adventure novel, this is a must-read book for anyone interested in science in general and the natural world in particular. Explorers, travelers, and mountaineers might even get a little extra from this.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Elon Musk, by Ashlee Vance

How Ashlee Vance convinced Musk that this was a good idea, we will never know – but it was a stroke of genius. Musk has not endeared himself to many around the world and this book reveals a lot more to dislike about the eccentric businessman.

The book will raise many questions for today’s young leaders who are on the fence about Musk. Are innovation and advancement worth paying steep human- and moral costs for? Should we sweep toxic leadership traits under the rug for shareholder value? Is the output more important than relationships and the people who work with you?

An enjoyable read and highly recommended for both sides of the like/dislike Musk spectrum.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall

A long-time weekend athlete, I’ve always been interested in books and movies that explore superhuman performances, especially when these stories surround mysterious and secretive groups, societies, or communities. Enter the Tarahumara and McDougall’s research and immersion into their incredible running culture.

Throughout the book, you will wonder why we aren’t seeing more of these superhuman runners at world competitions, or the Olympics for that matter. This book also explores the relationship between culture, competitiveness, and community – and those are what I truly enjoyed about this one.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

An Ugly Truth, by Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang

Nothing we do not already know about Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg’s principles. An Ugly Truth discusses in more detail the role the world’s most widely-used social networking site plays in today’s communication, idea dissemination, and its influence in shaping perspective or opinion.

The ‘secrets’ aren’t really secrets if you’ve followed the numerous issues Facebook (or should I say, Meta) has faced over the last few years. Still, a decent addition to one’s “OMG the digital world is a scary place” home/office library section.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

David and Goliath, by Malcolm Gladwell

I am, with some shame, a latecomer to the Gladwell books. I’m quite happy to have finally caught up earlier in 2022 with David and Goliath, which I found to be an interesting take on a story we all think we know (spoiler alert: maybe we don’t).

It’s safe to imagine that the core story of the book is even more enjoyable for those who grew up with a Christian upbringing; those of us taught from a young age that David was the underdog and that defeating the big, bearded bully that was Goliath was nothing short of a divine triumph. This book explores how a shift in perspective can forever change how we see and define what an underdog truly is – and the disadvantages seemingly invincible opponents have when you *cough* look closely.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Agincourt, by Bernard Cornwell

I’ve been engrossed in military history since I was about 9 or 10; my favourite novel of all time is, after all, Gates of Fire by Steven Pressfield. I wouldn’t say Agincourt comes a close second but it’s definitely in the top five.

Cornwell writes Agincourt from multiple sides and from different vantage points which makes for an immersive experience. The crude realities of war – and how absolutely horrific it can be for both combatants and civilians alike – are not spared and the titular battle is described in great detail.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

My Beloved World, by Sonia Sotomayor

Sonia Sotomayor was a little girl from Puerto Rico, who grew up rough in public housing in New York, barely spoke English at the time, developed diabetes as a child, and lost her dad to alcoholism – all before she turned 10. She was also the first Hispanic justice on the US Supreme Court.

It’s a book about childhood, overcoming challenges, and recognizing the system (and communities) that did allow her to pursue her own version of the American Dream. Sotomayor’s life is an extraordinary example for women everywhere.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Will, by Will Smith

Fun fact: I bought this book before the Oscar Slap Heard Around the World. The Slap then happened which, unfortunately, coloured the way I approached and read this book.

Yes, it’s self-serving and an absolute ego trip. But if you can get past that (it is his biography, after all) it’s enjoyable to peek into the life and career of a 90s icon who successfully evolved his work to adapt to the 00s and then into the 10s. It’s a coming-of-age tale told several times throughout one’s life, which is how I like to see our own, multi-chapter lives

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Never Split the Difference, by Chris Voss

Recommended to me by friends for a while now, Voss’s iconic book is the perfect foil to Yale’s Introduction to Negotiation course by Prof. Barry Nalebuff, which I completed almost two years ago. While Prof. Nalebuff urges us to look for ways to ‘split the pie’, Voss takes a more hardline approach as you can tell from the title.

Applicable in so many of today’s personal and professional challenges, this book is a practical guide to getting what you want and not in a nefarious, selfish way. Negotiation is as much an art (the “Voss way”) as it is a science (the “Nalebuff way”), and I strongly recommend this book to anyone at any point in their careers or businesses.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The Psychology of Money, by Morgan Housel

What I like about this book is that it avoids falling into the trap of being a prescriptive financial read. It explores the emotions and feelings that come into play whenever money, investments, and finances come into play – exactly up my alley.

In a collection of short stories about money, Housel drops wisdom bombs that are useful and memorable (“Saving is the gap between your ego and your income.”) and should be recommended reading for anyone looking to improve their financial intelligence.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Storyteller, by Dave Grohl

My generation knows Grohl from songwriting. The next generation, on the other hand, might know him for his book-writing. The Storyteller is one heck of a biography and if you’re familiar with the music of Nirvana and the Foo Fighters, a massively enjoyable trip down rock memory lane.

From his early days as a drummer to becoming one of the most recognizable rock frontmen in recent memory to becoming a father, Grohl’s life is both entertaining and inspiring. At the risk of overhyping this book, it’s my favourite of the year.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

One Life, by Megan Rapinoe

Football (or should I say soccer) has been a part of my life since I was about 11. Over the last two decades, I’ve not seen a national team so dominant and downright overpowered at times as the US National Women’s Team. But that phenomenon begged a question: Why is one of the most successful sporting legacies so grossly underpaid?

In this memoir, Rapinoe talks a lot about the causes she believes and fights for – most especially equal pay for women in football. She’s a firebrand, an inspiring and skilled player, and a captain on and off the pitch. You don’t have to be a football fan to enjoy this book (though that certainly helps), just someone who believes that equality, equity, and recognition are all principles worth fighting for.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

The End of Average, by Todd Rose

A book with science, case studies, human behaviour, and discussions of societal norms. I shouldn’t be this lucky. Rose explores the challenges we face when we use averages for a world full of unique individuals and how problematic it can be when we continue to use average-based systems in such a diverse world.

If you’re a massive nerd for case studies across a wide range of topics, this book is 100% for you. Enjoyable, insightful, and easy to grasp, this book is my second favourite for the year.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, by Yuval Noah Harari

Recommended by my friend Marlon Borreo, I’m glad to have jumped on the Harari book train. I would never consider myself a futurist, but this book admittedly made me curious about the possibilities on our horizon as a species and as a society.

From in-depth discussions on what it means to be happy to how seemingly close we are coming to achieving deity-like powers, this book is great reading for anyone interested in humanity, philosophy, and how technology plays a role in both.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Murder on the Orient Express, by Agatha Christie

First of all, I’m a big fan of whodunnits (look me up, jsncruz, on this whodunnit game). Second, I can’t believe that I only read Murder on the Orient Express in 2022. Shame on me.

An absolute classic, this is everything and more when it comes to brainteasing mysteries and unsolved cases. Christie’s writing stands the test of time and I’m looking forward to adding more of her work to my reading list.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A Man on the Moon, by Andrew Chaikin

A collection of stories around the missions leading up to and the actual moon landing, Chaikin’s book can be a tedious read for anyone who is already quite familiar with the famous space missions (including, but not limited to, the Mercury, Apollo, and the Space Shuttle missions, respectively).

I suppose I can recommend it as a space exploration flight but it’s definitely more enjoyable if this is one of your first books about the topic.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men, by Caroline Criado Perez

An eye-opening book, Perez’s work exposes a lot of hidden and dirty truths about the world we live in today: Virtually everything, from fitness trackers to office airconditioning, is designed for “the average male” person. It’s both insightful and sad to realize this, and Perez makes her case with numerous case studies to prove her points.

A part of me says there are too many case studies (especially as her arguments are quite compelling) but that’s nitpicking on my end. I highly recommend this – especially for male readers. Keep an open mind, it’s a wonderful and thought-provoking read.

This was a gift from my former agency’s CEO, Srinivas Gattamneni. Thank you for the book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Humble Pi: When Math Goes Wrong in the Real World, by Matt Parker

Probably one of the most fun books I’ve read in a while. Humble Pi is driven by both scientific wisdom and comedy at the same time (and in equal doses), making this a book so enjoyable I repeated many of the chapters.

Case studies are everywhere in the book, told with wit by a fantastic writer in Parker. You don’t even have to truly understand the math involved in this book to have a good time. It’s just full of great stories and makes you appreciate how much of the world relies on good and bad math – and somehow, it all works.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success, by Phil Jackson and Hugh Delehanty

Finishing this on the afternoon of December 31, 2022, ensured I did make my 20-book goal for the year. I’m a casual basketball fan but there are few people who have not heard of the trophy-laden exploits of the 90s Bulls and the 00s Lakers. The man at the helm of these incredible teams? Phil Jackson.

Jackson dives deep into his past experiences as a pro, his deeply-held beliefs rooted in Zen, and his personal methods of leading elite-level individuals. It takes a great man to lead great men, and Jackson is most definitely one. His book is exciting and insightful and is full of practical lessons for leaders of all maturity levels.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Note: My ratings are obviously personal and reflect only my preferences and no one else’s.

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