This year I read 61 books, about ten more than average, roughly equally split between fiction and non-fiction. As I get older, the number has begun to creep up. I’ve always been a reader. A speed-reading class in high school gave me techniques for increasing speed and comprehension, and I still occasionally use some of those.
Of this year’s list, here are 15 highly recommended favorites.
- Blood Sugar by Sascha Rothchild. First time cheering for a killer, a multi-murderer, in fact – and I bet you will, too.
- These Women by Ivy Pochoda. A murder mystery propels the story, but the power here is getting to know some remarkable women in south LA and their stories.
- The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab. Immensely creative approach to the classic immortality story. Everyone I’ve suggested it to has loved it.
- Deacon King Kong by James McBride. I loved every page of this book. McBride paints characters so vivid and lovely, the time spent with them was just heaven. I was so sad to see it end, although it was a satisfying conclusion.
- Random by Penn Jillette. Jillette’s mind fascinates me and I’ve read nearly all of his previous books, seen his live show, his movie about Vermeer, and many of his YouTube videos.
- Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir. His book The Martian was marvelous and even the movie version turned out pretty good. He makes an effort to get the science right in his stories. Project Hail Mary imagines the first connection with an alien species. It is right on so many levels while being a terrific story.
- The Investigator by John Sandford. Sandford must have done all he feels he can with Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers, moving here to Davenport’s daughter, Letty. Like Sandford’s other books, I’ll read them all.
- All the Old Knives by Olen Steinhauer. I loved the Mick Herron books (Slow Horses series) and a friend recommended Steinhauer. This was a fascinating story that kept me guessing, right up to the end. Very well done.
- Leviathan Falls by James S. A Corey. This was the ninth and last book in this series. I’d read all the previous books as well as the “in-between” short stories.
- The Church of Baseball by Ron Shelton. This movie struck so many cords. I outlined why I truly loved this book here.
- How to Be Perfect, by Michael Schur. Schur produced the four-season TV series The Good Place which I loved. If you saw it, you couldn’t miss Schur’s interest and fascination with Ethics. Here Schur puts most of the good parts of all my Philosophy and religion textbooks into one entertaining and simple book.
- Jump First, Think Fast by Frank O’Connell. Reading a book written by a friend and co-authored and edited by another good friend has its special moments. In this case, I’ve recommended and bought the book for friends as gifts and they’ve all loved it. Newsletter subscribers may have seen my review of it.
- Think Again by Adam Grant. Probably the one book on this list I wish everyone in the world would read.
- Why We Did It by Tim Miller. Not typically a book I’d pick up, but the idea of getting a better understanding of how our current political situation got to be where it is today, drew me in. While I am glad I read it and better understand how today’s politics work, it left me more cynical than I was before, although I still have some hope.
- The Dawn of Everything: A New History of Humanity by David Graeber and David Wengrow. These authors propose and support the idea that our remote ancestors were not nearly as primitive, childlike, warlike, and thuggish as history portrays. Recent breakthroughs in archaeology and anthropology show a dramatically different story.
Hi Steve. Nice list. I’ll give them a try. I read Hail Mary and loved it too. Also all of the S.A. Corey books, AND listened to the Audible versions AND watched the TV series. I’m definitely a fanboy.
“You might also like…” SCI FI: ” The Old Man’s War” by John Scalzi, and the following books in that series. Good sci fi, humorous. “The Windup Girl”, Paolo Bacigalupi. Southeast Asia controlled by agri business in the future. Ian McEwan “Machines Like Me”. Alan Turing lived, and the resulting future. You probably already read “Klara and the Sun” by Ishaguro, right?
MYSTERY. I worked my way through the Martin Cruz Smith novels starting with “Gorky Park”. “Havana Bay” and “Polar Star” and a couple of notable books in the series. The Audible versions are great too.
NON-FICTION. I’m not a huge non-fiction fan, but loved Endurance by Scott Kelly. How a directionless New Jersey youth grew up to become one of our most notable astronauts.
Great to hear from you, Doug. I will add “The Old Man’s War” to my reading wish list, as well as “The Windup Girl.” I have NOT read Klara and the Sun” and will add those, too. Plus “Machines Like Me,” as I’ve read others my Ian McEwan and liked them.
Yes, I’ve read nearly all of Martin Cruz Smith’s novels and enjoyed mostly all of them. Some were better than others. Not sure any were as good as Gorky Park. If you like those, you may also enjoy Jessi Adler Olsen’s series of books around Dept Q. They’re in a similar genre to Smith, well-crafted mysteries centered in a police department with a great detective figure and a slowly evolving (over several books) support characters.
3/4ths through The Windup Girl.
Slowly making my way through Addie LaRue off your recommendation. And although I still carry a deep fear of aliens from movies like E.T. and Fire in the Sky, Project Hail Mary helps to heal those wounds.
Can’t wait to add another of your top 15 to my own virtual book shelf! Haven’t steered my wrong yet.
I think Project Hail Marry is the perfect SciFi book I’ve read so far. He hit it out of the park with that one.
Leviathan Falls was really great. It is written so beautifully. Robert and I listened to it on audio book, and the writing took my breath away.
I’ll be sure to add some of your other suggestions to our book list for this year. Will keep you updated on our progress.
I agree with you on “Project Hail Mary.” Doug Winz responded to this newsletter with a recommendation of “The Windup Girl.” Have you read it? I’m about 3/4ths of the way through and while it is a terrific book, I’ve not found a character that I really like. I find that is a critical part of my enjoyment of a book or movie. I need at least one character to admire, appreciate or like to fully immerse myself in a book. I think its why I didn’t care for “Game of Thrones” or “House of Cards.” I didn’t like anyone in “Cards,” and the characters I was beginning to like in “Game” got killed.
Doug, As I may have mentioned earlier, your comments on my 2022 Book List are much appreciated. That feedback went a long way towards my adding some of your suggestions to my reading wish list. I liked that you had the same appreciation I did for Hail Mary, the S.S.Corey books and Martin Cruz Smith. I felt we had enough in common that I could trust your recommendation. So, after some quick research, I decided to read one of them – “The Windup Girl” by Paolo Bacigalupi, and in fact, just finished it.
Let me give you a quick response and see if it would then alter any of your other recommendations.
About half way through “Windup Girl” I’d decided it wasn’t to my liking. When reading fiction, there has to be at least one character with whom I can either relate, like or appreciate. At the half-way point, I’d not yet found that person. Eventually, enough was revealed about Emiko (the Windup girl) that I was pulled through to the end. Still not one of my favorite reads, but there is a lot to admire in this book. First, the descriptions of the heat of this place and how that affected everything, is superb. The vision of a future Bangkok as a stew of paranoia, overblown ritual and adherence to arcane religious deities, genetic manipulations, a world on the brink of extinction, weird and barely imaginable diseases like blister rust, cibiscosis, weevils and more.
So, significant applause and appreciation for this level of imagination and creation, but not enough enjoyment for me to want to revisit this world, and I’d only undertake reading another of Bacigalupi’s books if I knew it was better.
I’ll now read the new John Sanford book “Righteous Prey,” #32 in the series. It sounds like he’ll bring together two of his characters, Lucas Davenport and Virgil Flowers into the same story. I’ll be interested in how the above influences your recommendations for:
“The Old Man’s War” by John Scalzi
Ian McEwan “Machines Like Me”
“Klara and the Sun” by Ishaguro