Books I have read in 2022
List of books I have read since Jan 2022
I put out a list of books that I have read over the course of a year in December. I am thought I would share it every quarter for those who wish to read. If you want to check out everything I read in 2021, click here.
Exercised: Why Something We Never Evolved to Do Is Healthy and Rewarding by Daniel Lieberman
Man did not evolve to exercise, but man was also not built to sit on a chair in an air-conditioned room for 16 hours a day.
Daniel Lieberman begins the book by diving into why we hate exercising and why it is normal to hate straining yourself unnecessarily. Then he takes apart our daily routines as compared to hunter-gatherers to show that our level of exercise has fallen a great deal compared to what it once used to be. He finally shares the advantages of exercise as well as the need to do it to keep maladies at bay.
It was an interesting book with some really new things that I learned. I would certainly recommend it.
The Wizard and the Prophet: Two Remarkable Scientists and Their Dueling Visions to Shape Tomorrow's World by Charles C. Mann
The book is a contrast of approaches. Vogt, an ornithologist, who let out the war cry for the modern ecological movement which suggests that we need to cut down on our consumption to save the world; and Borlaug, an agriculturist who played a crucial role in the green revolution and made it possible for us to feed as many people as there are today.
The prophet predicts doom and suggests the action of cutting down and the wizard sees a problem and finds ways to overcome it. Which way will win out eventually? Will we engineer our way out of the population, food and energy crisis?
An incredible book!
Fifty Inventions That Shaped the Modern Economy by Tim Harford
The book delves into things that changed the world to be what it is today. To me, it felt like reading ‘Tell me why?’ from back when I was a kid. Each chapter is structured as a 3 to 4 page write-up about how the invention made a difference in our lives. The thing that I really appreciated about the book was the author’s willingness to talk about all the bad that has come out of those inventions as well.
Highly recommend this book.
48 laws of Power by Robert Greene
After reading this book, one thing becomes abundantly clear. Power and ethics do not reside together.
The author outlines 48 rules that one must follow in order to be able to secure power. Some of it is intuitive like flattery of those who are more powerful than you. Others are cautionary such as never taking a free lunch because the generous will eventually seek a favour. Still, others are completely Machiavellian, such as ensuring that those in power are always dependent on your insight/support to ensure that they can never turn against you.
I don’t know about good or bad but the book is positively mind-blowing.
If you can leave ethics in the waste paper basket, do read.
Silk Road by Peter Frankopan
There is a genre of books called Big History which tries to tell the story of the entire world in brief. Silk Road is a category-defining book that tells the story of the last 2000 years starting with the birth of Christianity. The book effortlessly weaves across what was then the known world.
Starting from Persia, Jerusalem and Rome which was the centre of the world at the time, at least for the Europeans. The author traces the rise of Christianity which was a mere cult at the time. The fall of the Roman empire, the position of China, the rise of the Mongols, the rise of Islam, the Persian renaissance, the rise of Europe, the plunder of South America, the rise of Britain, the Empire and colonialism, through the world wars to this day. All of this is in the context of the Silk Road. The book is a true work of genius. Most importantly it is honest.
If you are not even interested in History, this is one book you should read.
Super Thinking by Gabriel Weinberg and Lauren McCann
Mental models are a great way of understanding the world around us and all that happens in it. The book starts with the mental model of Critical Mass. Although used specifically in nuclear physics this model is used to understand business viability, network effect and many other things. The authors take you through a journey of about 300 mental models in this book to help you form a framework for looking at the world.
I knew many of them already, so perhaps it was not as mind-blowing as it could have been.
The Web of Meaning: Integrating Science and Traditional Wisdom to Find our Place in the Universe by Jeremy Lent
If there is one book you will read this year, read this one. Enough said.
Trillions: How a Band of Wall Street Renegades Invented the Index Fund and Changed Finance Forever by Robbin Wigglesworth
While this book is about the rise of the Index fund industry that controls trillions of dollars in finance today, it could as well have been able the evolution of investment thought. The author artfully takes the reader through the various eras starting from the 1900s. He explains how investment philosophies evolved as simple questions such as - Is stock investing just the same as throwing darts? And how those who answered these questions often were wrong. The right answer in the 1990s seemed to be the Index fund. The book goes on to show the outsized influence that Index funds have today and how it is destroying competition.
I really enjoyed this book.
Ms Adventure: My Wild Explorations in Science, Lava, and Life by Jess Pheonix
I have followed Jess on Twitter for a while now. She is a volcanologist. The book that she has written is about a set of geological research trips that she made. Unfortunately, the book has very little geology and a lot of narrative about the experiences in those places. The book seems to want to focus on the drama in the places where she was forced to stay rather than the actual science.
I was really disappointed with the book.
The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing: Violate Them at Your Own Risk! by Al Ries and Jack Trout
Although the book is quite dated and most of the data is from the 1990s, the laws mentioned within are quite true. It is just 100 pages long and totally worth it. Even more so, if you are working in the area of branding.
If brands and marketing interest you, definitely read it.
Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
A micro-organism is suddenly found near the sun and it is eating up the sun. Earth needs to find a solution or else the world would die due to cooling. The micro-organism is found to be a source of power and a team is concocted to study it and come up with a solution. Project Hail Mary is sent to another star system that does not seem to be affected by the micro-organism that is christened Astrophage. Does Project Hail Mary find the solution?
Made to Stick by Dan Heath and Chip Heath
There are so many things that we communicate to one another in life and there is a need to ensure that the message does not get lost. What makes certain messages stick and others not? Why are certain people able to pass their ideas on to others more effectively? This book attempts to answer the question through several illustrative examples and a clear framework.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and highly recommend it.
The Deficit Myth: Modern Monetary Theory and the Birth of the People's Economy by Stephanie Kelton
The author asks very early in the book - When you ask someone if the federal deficit should be brought down to zero? Almost everyone would say yes. But if you asked the same people should we dissolve the treasury bond market? They do not seem to agree but these are one and the same things. She goes on to describe the Modern Money Theory where money is not pegged against anything but is issued by fiat. The assumption of looking at the budget of a government the same way that a household budget is wrong because the household cannot issue currency but the government can.
While this is super interesting, it is also written under the assumption of the primacy of the US Dollar. If that reality changed, everything else would as well.
The Meaning of Everything: The Story of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester
The Oxford English Dictionary was a lexicographical tour de force that almost never got created. Between the challenge of finding the right person to lead it, fund it and print it, the Oxford English Dictionary went through several challenges. A book that was to be put together 3 years ended up taking 68 years and almost all the men who dedicated their entire lives to it were dead by the time the dictionary was finally finished.
An incredible true story.
Principles by Ray Dalio
I realised that the book was recommended by Bill Gates, only after I bought it. I would have saved the money if I had already known. While not as much of a toilet paper as Naval Ravikant’s Almanac, it is somewhere on the spectrum.
To the unassuming reader, it might seem like it is conveying a lot of insights but if you were to write down what he was offering as principles on a piece of paper you would start to realise how much of it was just repetition and that there is precious little to take away.
Fallout: The Hiroshima Cover-up and the Reporter Who Revealed It to the World by Leslie Blume
In the aftermath of the two atomic explosions in Japan, the US government ran a tight ship and ensured that almost no details leaked out. The American public was made to believe there was no residual radiation and America had successfully settled the score for Pearl Harbour.
A year later the government has become lax and thought the bombing was entirely justifiable. In that climate on 31 August 1946, a year and weeks after the bombing this article was released. This book is the story of how that article came to be.
I would have never thought that a book about someone writing an article could be so absorbing.
What a Plant Knows: A Field Guide to the Senses by Daniel Chamovitz
What are the various senses that plants have? Do they see, how? Do they hear, how? Do they smell, how? Do they feel, what? Do they remember, what?
Plants are aware of a lot more than we give them credit for. These characteristics vary based on the plant and the region where they are grown. This book will show you what plants sense