The Best Books I Read in 2022 . . . (and other treats)
My top Books, Movies, Shows, and Albums of 2022
I’m drawn to books for many reasons. Reading helps me grow. Reading is entertaining. Reading is how I disentangle my experiences in this wild world.
And I read because it’s fuel—if I don’t read, I can’t write.
One positive of the last few years was that I had lots of down time to read and write. But in 2022 life became more normal, which meant more “doing.” Despite much going back to normal, this year was mentally more challenging for me than any I’ve had in a long while.
My response was to read more. I ended up getting through +50 books this year—a sneeze compared to my co-host Dan Breyer’s 100.1 Still, reading more made my task of narrowing them into a tidy list far more difficult. But people seemed to like the 2021 list, so, here we go 🛸
All The Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
Ask most writers, and they’ll agree that Cormac McCarthy is a top five living novelist. Though not his most famous work (Blood Meridian and The Road hold that mantle), this cowboy story is my favorite thus far. At the age of sixteen, John Grady Cole and two companions set off for Mexico on a sometimes idyllic, sometimes absurd adventure, to a world where dreams are paid for in blood. Cole’s impregnable virtuosity matched with McCarthy’s ability to write his characters into the furthest corners of immorality makes for quite an interesting drama. I’m obsessed with the book’s visceral natural western imagery, and the way it is shaded with both violence and smoldering romance.
If you want a companion, here is the podcast episode of Good Scribes Only Dan and I recorded on ATPH.
Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
If you have never heard of him, prepare to be unhorsed. A good place to start may be Foster Wallace delivering his an absolutely immaculate commencement speech some years ago. This man was one of the most brilliant, hilarious, tragic humans of his generation. I cannot do this behemoth of a book justice, so I’ll instead quote Foster Wallace’s close friend and fellow novelist David Eggers.
The book is 1,067 pages long and there is not one lazy sentence. It is is drum-tight and relentlessly smart and, though it does not wear its heart on its sleeve, it’s deeply felt and incredibly moving.
Infinite Jest is an intense, jaw-rattling comedy about the pursuit of happiness in America. The story jumps between characters in an addicts' halfway house and a tennis academy, and features the most screwball, yet endearing, family I’ve ever read. Foster Wallace explores essential questions of our time: what is entertainment really? Why is it so dominant? How does entertainment connect and disconnect us from the people around us? What does our choices of pleasure say about who we are? One part philosophical treatise, one part quirk-box comedy, Infinite Jest is the mind-bendiest piece of recent fiction to renew the meaning of what a novel has the power to do.2
Endurance: Shackleton’s Voyage by Alfred Lancing
Antarctica is ridiculous. In August 1914, Ernest Shackleton and his team of twenty-seven set sail for that southerly continent on the Endurance. The plan was to be the first to cross the continent on foot, but come winter the ship was immobilized, enclosed completely in ice. From there emerges what may be the most staggering set of challenges any humans have ever encountered. The book reads like fiction, which is both a testament to the story and to the skill of author Alfred Lansing, and is a brilliant narrative of this harrowing and miraculous voyage. To me, this book and story are a quintessential example of man’s adaptability, egotism and, of course, endurance.
I’ll begin by saying this book isn’t for everyone. At bottom, it’s a collection of advice columns penned by Cheryl Strayed, the author of Wild. And yet the book is pure magic. It’s not just about “life and love,” but rather rich with humor, insight, compassion, and is written with cold-hearted—yet absolutely tender—honesty. I am far from the book’s target audience; yet, it has still managed to land in my top 5 and has become one of my most recommended books of the year. This fact, if anything, is a testament to how arresting, relatable, and poignant are these tiny, beautiful things.
My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh
Months after finishing this novel, I still find it hard to describe. Set in New York City just before 9/11, the book is not for the faint of heart—though for different reasons than you might imagine. It’s main character is a twenty-something year old who is so severely depressed that she makes the conscious decision to “hibernate” and annihilate herself with sleep—anything rather than confront the pain of living. This book was recommended by David Sedaris at an event I attended last spring and, after diving in, I see how right he was to italicize Moshfegh’s work. It’s disturbing and anxiety provoking and terrifying, yet the tenor of her prose isn’t depressing or slow. It’s a fast and hilarious work of black comedy that will make you squint your eyes in discomfort, as if that could make you forget what you just read.
A Gift of Love by Coretta Scott King
The Bell and the Blackbird poems by David Whyte
Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
Empire of the Summer Moon by SC Gwynne
Another Country by James Baldwin
Movies | Series | Docs
(soundtrack also 💥!)
(soundtrack also 💥!)
(Someone, teach me to dance like this man STAT)
7) Drive My Car
8) King Richard
9) White Lotus
11) House of Dragon
(soundtrack also 💥!)
13) The Alpinist
For three years running, I’ve listened to one album every day.
I’ve found listening to full albums a wonderful practice that has changed the way I find, engage with, and appreciate music. With so many days to take down, I’ll listen to just about anything once.
More than anything, however, the practice has fortified my love for the primally beautiful art form (in which I have absolutely zero ability 💥👏💥).
1) SZA - SOS 🥇 🐐
2) Kacey Musgraves - Star Crossed 🥈 👑
3) Banks - Serpentina🥉 ☄️
4) Taylor Swift - Midnights (Deluxe ftw!)
5) Phoebe Bridgers - Snow in the Alps
6) Fred Again.. - Actual Life (April 14 - December 17 2020)
7) Maribou State - Kingdoms in Colour
8) Kendrick Lamar - Mr Morale and the Big Steppers
9) MUNA - Saves the World
10) Lizzy McAlpine- Give Me a Minute
11) Gracie Abrams - minor
12) Arlo Parks - Collapsed in Sunbeams
13) Joey Bada$$ - 2000
14) Fleetwood Mac - Rumours
15) Dua Lipa - Future Nostalgia
16) Magic City Hippies - Water Your Garden
17) Bad Bunny - Un Verano Sin Ti
18) ROSALIA - MOTOMAMI
19) Jack Harlow - Come Home the Kids Miss You
20) Kehlani - Blue Water Road
21) Surfaces - Hidden Youth
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Standup: Iliza Shlesinger
Standup: Sam Morril
YouTube: Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows
YouTube: Who Said It, Kanye or Hitler?
Podcast: Why I Left Twitter - Sam Harris
Podcast: Spotify, A Product Story
Podcast: Michael Schur on Tim Ferriss Show
Podcast: Frans de Waal on Alan Alda Podcast
If any of these books caught your eye, please make the effort to support your local bookstore. I use Amazon as much as anyone, but there’s something special about going into a brick and mortar bookstore. We can’t afford to lose them. Still, my greatest hope is that you read, no matter where it comes from!
And now the list for 2023 begins…
I’d love to hear your book, album, movie, show, podcast, youtube suggestions:
What were your tops this year?
What should I be reading, watching, listening to?
In my early twenties, I committed to a life filled with books. It gets harder every year, but reading and writing remains in the top tier of my priorities.
Books are magic. Learning is magic. And my biggest wish for 2023 is that you will treat your mind with the books it deserves.
Thank you all again for reading, listening to the podcast, and for your support. And as always reach out if there’s anything that I can be helpful with.
Take care and Happy Hol’s,
I read more than ever, but wrote far less. Part of me wonders whether this imbalance was just a symptom of a “tough year” or, perhaps, a cause. Regardless, I’ve learned my lesson.
Be warned, Infinite Jest is easily the most challenging book I’ve ever read. If you have a friend to read with, I highly recommend doing so (we read it in book group).
This also might be the book I’ve most recommended this year.. (s/o to SC for rec)
Only about half of these were released in 2022 - but all were my first time listening. There are also a few easter eggs. Not from albums but songs I want mixed in when I have this playlist going ;]