January 12, 2023

The year in books: 2022

In 2022 I finished 20 books spanning 15,801 pages. 3 more than I read in 2021, but about twice the number of pages. 3 fiction and 17 non-fiction. Another ~30 started but not finished.

I had a hard time reading books while I was trying to start my own company. But I also discovered audiobooks. I would put on a book and listen while I did my chores. Only 5 of the 20 books I finished were physical (or kindle) books. The other 15 were audiobooks.

Non-fiction: 13 to recommend

After I started read Robert Caro's Master of the Senate I got hooked on history and felt less daunted about larger books.

The only non-fiction I read in 2022 was US and UK history.

Here were my favorites:

  • Master of the Senate by Robert Caro: Covering more than just Lyndon B. Johnson but the history of the Senate and the Civil Rights movements in the US. This book is now on my list of best books.
  • The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Visions of Glory, 1874-1932 by William Manchester: First in a three-volume series about Churchill. He's an especially interesting guy to read about because he served in UK politics 1901 to his retirement (for the second time) as UK Prime Minister in 1955. He was First Lord of the Admiralty in World War 1 before he, more famously, become Prime Minister during World War 2. This entire series is on my list of best books.
  • The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr.: Sad and revealing. Though it doesn't talk much about his legacy since it only includes his writings.
  • Passage of Power by Robert Caro: Covering LBJ's pathetic failed attempts at the presidency before becoming JFK's Vice President, up to JFK's assassination. Still a very good book. I can't wait for Caro's final book to come out.
  • Truman by David McCullough: I always thought Truman was a lame nerd but he actually had a very interesting life (and as I'd later discover, is far from the lamest president. Wilson hands down takes that place.) And unlike most other famous politicians I read about, he had a great relationship with his wife. He was honest and respectable and was the first US president to normalize relations with Mexico since the Mexican-American War (that U.S. Grant and Robert E. Lee fought in in the 1840s).
  • The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Alone, 1932-40 by William Manchester: The second book in the series. Pretty depressing because it's a decade of Churchill noticing Nazi German behavior and stressing UK preparedness and the UK ignoring him and Nazi Germany.
  • The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill: Defender of the Realm, 1940-1965 by William Manchester: The final book in the series, covering his Prime Ministership.
  • Eleanor Roosevelt, Volume 1: The Early Years, 1884-1933 by Blanche Wiesen Cook: Her background and many problems, as the daughter of Theodore Roosevelt's brother and later husband of their distant cousin, is pretty hard to relate to. Still it was quite interesting to hear about her life and early activities how she became such an outspoken progressive activist from being quite conservative.
  • Abraham Lincoln: A Life, Volume One by Michael Burlingame
  • Abraham Lincoln: A Life, Volume Two by Michael Burlingame
  • Grant by Ron Chernow: Among famous generals of the Civil War, somehow Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson came to mind to me more readily than Grant. I'm glad I read this book because the popularity of Southern generals today seems like revisionism. This book makes strong arguments that while Lee was a great officer, he could only think in terms of short-term tactics and the Virginia region. Whereas Grant was the first (US, anyway) officer to consider and command (via telegraph) all theaters of war at once, every day. And this book redeems his presidency somewhat. His progressive adoption of freed Black people and work to make them equal citizens is highly commendable. Even with the horror of what happened in the South after the war ended.
  • The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris: First in a three-volume series about the 26th President. I read somewhere that it can feel impossible to read a bad biography of Roosevelt because he was such an interesting human. That may be true. This book didn't disappoint. Roosevelt growing up in a townhouse in Manhattan, going to Harvard, buying a farm on Long Island is all hard to relate to. His Puritanical morals and machismo were also difficult to get past. But he was a very interesting guy.
  • Theodore Rex by Edmund Morris: Second in the series, covering the entirety of Roosevelt's presidency. Like the first volume, a great read. I always used to think Roosevelt was a pure war-monger. But he helped avert war with the UK and Germany over Venezuelan debt-default. And he later received the Nobel Peace Prize for mediating peace between Japan and Russia in 1905.

Fiction: 1 to recommend

Of the three I read last year, I really enjoyed one:

  • The Leopard by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa: A gentle piece of historical fiction set during the 1860s in Sicily during and after the unification of Italy. I learned about this book from a Rick Stein episode in the Mediterranean Escapes series.