Discover more from Mind the Beet
📖 34 Books I Read in 2022
Introducing the Beet-O-Meter, a 1 to 5 beets review of every book I read in 2022
👋 Hi there, Adam here! I’m always on the hunt for a good book - about product making, history, science fiction, and more. Send me your recs!
In today’s post, I recap and review all 34 books that I read this past year. My year was split between 25% non-fiction and 75% fiction. 70% of my fiction was science fiction or fantasy. 60% of my fiction reading was by diverse authors, which is a way I incorporate new views into my life and keep up learning habits.
One of my longest-lasting traditions is fiction reading before bed, which is where almost all of my fiction reading occurs. For non-fiction, audiobooks while running is my primary mode of consumption, along with a surge in book picks during time off (a sabbatical this year definitely helped!). All my fiction is on a Kindle and most of my non-fiction reading is from printed books. A few of the books were quick skims or partial reads after I got the point, which is a grace I give myself.
👋 Mind The Beet: Two working parents (both product leaders in tech) discuss our journey with career, parenting, and life. We publish every Sunday. Subscribing is free.
Explaining the Beet-O-Meter
Each book is rated on a 5 beet scale:
Product Making Books
Build: An Unorthodox Guide to Making Things Worth Making by Tony Fadell
Tony Fadell created the iPod in less than a year and ran iPhone during its hockey stick growth phase. He went on to found Nest. In this book, Tony mixes product wisdom, manager wisdom, and storytelling into a treatise on large-scale product making. It’s worth a read for anyone who works in tech, especially product leaders. If there is any fault to the book, and why it’s 4/5 beets and not 5/5, is that its expansiveness in scope - basically covering every piece of advice Tony has - dilutes its focus just a bit compared to say Inspired by Marty Cagan.
Working Backwards: Insights, Stories, and Secrets from Inside Amazon by Colin Bryar and Bill Carr
This was a solid but pretty dense treatise on how Amazon corporate processes work, written from the perspective of operators at the company. It was somewhat overshadowed by Brad Stone’s Amazon Unbound, released at around the same time and which I hear was just a more engaging story (Brad is a journalist). If you have to choose one, I’d suggest Amazon Unbound if you are looking to be entertained and for the bigger themes, and chose this book if you wanted more of a practical manual.
Cold Start Problem: How to Start and Scale Network Effects by Andrew Chen
I find myself referencing this book more than any other in the course of 2022 at work. The stories of Uber’s early days and the intense focus on growth loops were fascinating to read. If you are looking to up your team’s experimentation-driven culture, this is the book to read for tips. You are unlikely to adopt the entire philosophy vs. just pick out snippets. The book also goes too far and glorifies a culture that is anachronistic today - not ensuring many voices are heard or that the cons of technology will be mitigated.
The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World by Niall Ferguson
This book is a great mix of history, economic concepts, and opinions on capitalism. Given how economic news like inflation and crypto has dominated this year’s headlines, this book is a great read for someone who wants to be grounded in where many of today’s concepts came from.
Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William Shirer
I listened to the audio version of this book in the early Spring of 2022 and the parallels between this book’s chronicles and Ukraine and Russia today were uncanny. Shirer was a reporter who lived through many of the events in the book and tells the story from a journalist’s vs. academic’s perspective. I talk more about this book here.
A Promised Land by Barak Obama
This was Helen and my audiobook of choice as we drove to/from our cabin during the winter. Behind all the name-dropping and storytelling, I found the rational and thoughtful statements on worldview most interesting. It was also fantastic to have a constant drip of human and kind leadership in our lives.
Atomic Habits by James Clear
I re-skimmed this old favorite as part of starting up some new Learning Cohorts in my organization. It’s a great reminder of where habits come from and complements Growth Mindset and Learn-it-all culture well.
Passages: Predictable Crises of Adult Life by Gail Sheehy
I will admit this book was too dense to read end-to-end and indeed the jacket cover is where the most wisdom lies. But it helped unlock some of my more meaningful writing this year on purpose and stages of life - as it talks about how there are stages in life like the Trying 20’s (trying on life’s uniforms), Catch 30’s (illusion are shaken, time to deepen commitment), and Forlorn 40’s (you’ve made it, but now what do you do with the mastery).
Imaginable: How to See the Future Coming and Feel Ready for Anything by Jane McGonigal
You might remember me talking about this book earlier in the year - it’s a quick breezy read that makes the point that you can’t be imaginative if you aren’t optimistic. It makes the case that a 10-year plan is less about being right and more about giving you a better mindset about the future.
Science Fiction & Fantasy
Leviathan Falls by James Corey
If you are into science fiction and haven’t read the Expanse series, stop what you are doing and go check it out. Leviathan Falls was the ninth and final book in this space opera. Great worldbuilding, political intrigue, lovable characters, and exciting plot twists - it’s great candy for any SF fan. I’m sad the series has concluded but overall it’s in my Top 5 SF of all time.
Shards of Earth & Eyes of the Void by Adrian Tchaikovsky
This is book 1 and 2 of a 3-part series, the third of which is going to be released in May 2023. This is Adrian Tchaikovsky at his best - complex yet easy-to-grok worlds, battles of epic proportions, characters you root for, and clear if terse writing. Highly recommend for Science Fiction fans and especially those who liked Expanse.
The Golden Enclaves by Naomi Novik
This is book 3 in the Scholomance series - a bit of Harry Potter school drama but with more intense monsters. It was the weakest of any of the books in the series (lots of teenage angst in this one), but nonetheless, I’d recommend it for fans of fantasy. I discovered Naomi Novik a few years ago for her wonderful Temeraire series (Napoleonic wars, but with talking dragons!).
Gideon the Ninth, Harrow the Ninth, and Nona the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir
There is still one more book yet to be published in this 4-part series. Space opera necromancy magic - so you can check off the “unique” checkbox. The first book was by far the strongest - I honestly recommend people read book 1 and move on.
The Clockwork Boys & The Wonder Engine by T. Kingfisher
A charming quick fantasy read that is a mix of whodunit and heist caper. The world-building and magic aren’t overwhelming and the plot and characters dominate vs. world exploration.
Roadside Picnic by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky
My father-in-law gifted me this book. It’s a 1970s science fiction classic written in the Soviet Union. It has an early science fiction vibe to the writing, but it is written from the point of view of an everyday person vs. a hero. It’s a great reminder of how diverse books can be and how normalized I am to Western conventions. One quote from the book that I love is: “Intelligence is the ability of a living creature to perform pointless or unnatural acts.”
Kaiju Preservation Society by John Scalzi
John Scalzi is a prolific science fiction writer who had a bit of writer’s block at the start of the pandemic. This is his first book after that time. An easy page-turner and beach read - not a lot of substance, but a fun thought experiment with exciting plots. The premise is that there are ongoing scientific experiments in a dangerous parallel world of large monsters. Nefarious organizations that need to be fought by a rag-tag group of nobodies provides a simple enough frame for drama and suspense.
Empress of Forever by Max Gladstone
Solid science fiction epic. Strong female lead character. High-stakes drama. Didn’t stick with me as extremely memorable and wanting more.
Empire of Black and Gold by Adrain Tchaikovsky
I decided to try to check out Tchaikovsky’s back catalog after enjoying his more recent works. This is book 1 of 10 in the Shadow of the Apt series, so I was hoping for plenty of runway. Unfortunately, his early work isn’t as strong as his more recent writing. I enjoyed this epic fantasy wartime adventure, but not enough to invest in more in the series.
The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi
This is book one in a multi-part series. The book takes place during the World Exposition in Paris in the late 1800s, except in this world there exists magic stones that offer a litany of different powers. The central plot is a typical heist story. I wanted to like this book more than I did - the worldbuilding was a bit confusing and muddled and the characters seem inauthentic.
Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel
A New York Times book of the year, this is a unique and inspiring piece of fiction that combines mystery with character development. It takes place over several interconnected times in history spanning hundreds of years. I was pulled into figuring out how it all connects together. Definitely some Cloud Atlas vibes.
Razzmatazz & Noir by Christopher Moore
I’m a huge Christopher Moore fan and Lamb ranks as one of my favorite books of all time. It had been a while since I checked out his stuff and these two books were published after I went on a Moore binge a few years ago. 1940’s San Francisco. A bunch of low-life’s go on a humorous mad-cap adventure. Biting sarcasm and satirical humor.
The Rose Code by Kate Quinn
The life and times of female code-breakers during World War II. This historical fiction is more slice of daily life than epic high drama and Kate Quinn does a good job of generating empathy for her characters as they experience world events. A refreshing take on WWII history that isn’t necessarily about power struggle but rather about finding a voice, growing confidence, and supporting each other.
Fairy Tale by Stephen King
No beet-o-meter for this one yet as I’m not yet finished reading it. As the year concludes, I just started the latest from master storyteller Stephen King. As you can tell, my books of choice don’t often involve the mega-successful & mainstream writers, but it had been years since I gave King a shot so I figured I’d see how this one goes.
8 Year Old
Warrior Series by Erin Hunter
Talking cats form four clans in the forest - imagine many many books of intrigue, battles, alliances, and special missions. These have been a joy to read and discuss what we think will happen next with our 8-year-old daughter.
Other Reads for 8-Year-Olds
2022 was the year that our 8-year-old turned into an independent reader as well, and she’s been enjoying reading Wings of Fire, Keeper of the Lost Cities, and the Land of Stories.
5 Year Old
Thea Stilton Series by Thea Stilton
These are great for kids who are learning sight words. A good introduction to chapter books with simple plots, reoccurring characters, and easy-to-understand world-building.
Princess Pulverizer Series by Nancy Krulik
This 8-book series follows a girl on a quest to become a knight, with her dragon sidekick (who loves to toast grilled cheese sandwiches with his fire-breathing mouth) and a not-yet-confident aspiring knight.
Princess in Black Series by Shannon Hale
Again a strong female character & easy to understand missions.
I’ve written about books before on Mind The Beet - you can find 7 page-turning science fiction reads by diverse authors, the best children’s books, and 3 books for our uncertain times if you are looking for more. Happy reading!