The 2022.jpeg is coming to a close, and it’s been a wild ride. I put my 2 week’s notice in for my job in May, traveled to 15 countries, moved to Germany, started a master’s program, and am back celebrating the end of the year with my family.
How did I find time to read 102 books this year? First off, I bought an ereader last year which changed my life. Also, I traveled for 6 months so I had lots of time on trains, planes, and automobiles to catch up on my reading.
Fiction is my favorite genre, however, I also like to read outside of my comfort zone to broaden my horizons and learn about new ideas and ways of thinking. As a writer and vocabulary aficionado, I will only recommend books that have superb writing. Without further ado, here are my recommendations from 2022:
Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir (Science Fiction)
Editors talk about starting the story at the right time and place of the protagonist’s storyline—this one nails it. Our scientist wakes up from a coma in a spaceship and the story takes off from there. It beautifully explores life outside Earth from a scientist’s perspective, working through his thought process to solve problems and save humanity. You won’t be disappointed! So happy I stepped outside my genre comfort zone for this one. Unfortunately, I don’t think any of the formulas will stick with me though.
Swimming in the Dark by Tomasz Jedrowski
I finished this book in a frenzy, which I regret b/c then it was over. We follow the story of two people who fall in love during the 1980s in Soviet-governed Poland. Although they share the same general beliefs, they operate on different ends of the political spectrum because of convenience. It made your life a whole lot easier if you were friends with the right people. Will they sacrifice their values to stay together, or will their values be the trait that drives them apart?
I Will Die in a Foreign Land by Kalani Pickhart
As I write this, we are 8 months into the Russian invasion in Ukraine. This book was published in 2021 and only foreshadowed the war that would take place in 2022. Set at the outbreak of the Kyiv protests in 2013, I Will Die in a Foreign Land follows the stories of 4 people as they fare through the transpiring events as their worlds come crashing down. It paints a harrowing and horrifying portrait of what it’s like to grow up in the conflict area, deal with the aftermath of surviving Chernobyl, have family fighting on opposing sides of the war, fear sex trafficking and kidnapping from a young age, fight for basic human rights, and more.
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
A pillar of the dark academia genre, The Secret History follows a college freshman as he pines after the acceptance of a clandestine cohort at Hampden College. Insecure about his own unexceptional life, Richard admires the companionship, arrogance, and wealth of the 5 students studying Ancient Greek. Desperate to be a part of the friend group, he will stop at nothing to be one of them.
Donna Tartt’s writing is top tier, it’s no surprise a decade went into the revision and perfection of this novel. Also, a couple screen adaptations were supposed to happen, but unfortunately were discontinued for different reasons. I have no words because Donna Tartt took all the good ones, and that pretty much sums up this book.
The Spy and the Traitor by Ben Macintyre
How is this not a movie yet? If you like stories about espionage, check this book out from your library ASAP. We follow a secret agent from Russia who begins his career as a double agent serving for MI6 of England. It starts off with a cliff hanger and proceeds to fill in the background history for a page-gripping story about one of the most influential spies in history.
Stay: A history of suicide and the philosophies against it by Jennifer Michael Hecht
More than 30,000 people have taken their own lives each year in the US over the past 20 years. Consistently, historically and now, more people die of suicide than are murdered. Suicide is something everyone inevitably deals with in one way or another. This book outlines the history and philosophies against suicide, integrating thoughts from humanity’s most intellectual people. A few secular thinkers have argued that we all have a right to suicide, however, suicide was rejected by Plato, by Aristotle, by Kant, by Schopenhauer, by Wittgenstein, and by Camus. You never know when you will need convincing argument against suicide, and it’s better to be prepared earlier than too late.
Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss
Chris Voss is the top FBI hostage negotiator, and who better to learn how to negotiate better than the best? I thought it was written very well, especially for a self-help book, and definitely worth the read if you’re looking to improve your negotiating skills.
Logavina Street: Life and Death in a Sarajevo Neighborhood
A page turning, heartbreaking story about the war that transpired between the Muslims, Serbs, and Croats in late 1992. Unfortunately, this war is severely o
A Guide to the Serbian Mentality by Momo Kapor
I wish I could read this kind of book on every country. Witty, smart, and comprehensive take on the Serbian mentality.
Free Will by Sam Harris
This book is a great introduction to the argument and science against free will. Sam Harris challenges and disparages the views of compatibilism and libertarianism. Compatibilists, according to Harris, change the subject of free will. They trade a psychological fact for a conceptual understanding of ourselves as persons. Libertarians view our soul as the metaphysical entity in which we have free will.
Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre
I wanted to read this book because Sartre said it was his lifetime’s masterpiece. It was one of my favorites in a while. The book is a compilation of Antoine Roquentin’s journal entries. He is a solo traveler and decides it’s time to return home after 7 years on the road. He has the madness of a Dostoevsky character (think Dmitri from Brothers Karamasov) and journals about his devoid life through his unhinged perspective in a manner that reminds me of The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa. Madness interspersed with moments of greatness.
The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
Although this was my first of Dostoevsky’s novels, it won’t be my last. Cover to cover took me just over two weeks. I’m glad I finished it in a short time frame so I could really absorb the meaning.
Talking about meaning, The Brothers Karamasov has endless takeaways. It follows the reunion of a Russian family through a murder in their small town. Each brother epitomizes a very different way of living life.
As a religious man, Dostoevsky exemplifies the following in this novel, “I’m not entitled to have an opinion unless I can state the arguments against my position better than the people who are in opposition.”
I found a lot of similarities between this book and that of absurdism as defined by Albert Camus. It’s a lengthy book and not for the faint of heart. There’s lots of dialogue and extended scenes that seemed fruitless at first but it was actually in these parts I found some of my all-time favorite excerpts
A Happy Death by Albert Camus
I’ve been the solo traveler seeking resolve which Mersault finds himself as in Prague. Gone for night swims in the sea to escape delirium. Questioned unexplainable death the fleeting purpose of life. I felt Mersault’s character was quite relatable. I thoroughly enjoyed the sublime descriptions Camu provides of Mersault’s internal and external environments. There’s a stark contrast comparing this book to Camu’s infamous novel, The Stranger, where Mersault (same name) has no feelings and is indifferent to life throughout the novel.
A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
Chef’s kiss. It’s a short read, but it will revitalize you. Every woman needs a room of one’s own, and every. This is actually an extended essay published in October of 1929, but the message still holds true for modern times. This book is brilliant and witty.
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky
A Russian classic with a heartwarming ending. There’s so much meaning packed into Dostoevsky’s characters and this book is no exception. It’s long but worth it.