Welcome to my annual reading list. If you are familiar with my work, you’ll know that it integrates ideas, research, and practices from diverse domains. (See my latest book, for example.) People always ask me how I do this. The answer is simple: I do my best to live in the world with my eyes open. And I read lots, and lots, and lots of books, from a variety of disciplines and authors. And then I discuss them with friends and colleagues at length.
I am also an enthusiast and supporter of what I call deep reading, or full engagement in a book. Deep reading is an absolute joy. It is good for mind and spirit, and it is also an advantage in today’s knowledge-based economy. Increasingly, people struggle to pay attention to just about anything, let alone a book. Yet deep reading confers many benefits above and beyond watching a YouTube video or skimming an article. These benefits include developing a richer understanding of a topic, increasing your ability to pay attention itself, more empathy, and enhanced creative thinking. (For more on deep reading, check my guide on the topic.)
With that, here are the 8 non-fiction books I loved most in 2022. These books were not necessarily published this year, but I read them for the first time this year.
Life is Hard, by Kieran Setiya. Nobody goes through life unscathed. Being here is beautiful but, as any mature adult knows, it is also hard. In this book, Setiya, a philosopher at MIT, consoles us by helping us to realize that we are not alone in our struggles — many of them are perennial. He goes on to offer a toolkit, founded in the best philosophical ideas of the last two thousand years, that can help us to meet the challenges of life with grace and grit.
Do Hard Things, by Steve Magness. It is a deeply researched yet concrete and actionable book for developing real toughness, resilience, and the ability to make the right decision when under distress. This book offers five principles, with numerous practices for each, that, together, give rise to a new definition of toughness and a more genuine way to pursue it.
The Chaos Machine, by Max Fisher. The best book on the perils of social media I’ve yet to read. Fisher interweaves rich investigative reporting on the social media companies along with the…