What a year.
For me it was a year of perpetually feeling behind. As the darkest days of the pandemic faded into memory, coming back into real life proved to be a challenge for me. I am an introvert/homebody/bookworm at heart, and a part of me loved being stuck at home with all my books during the pandemic. As it became acceptable to leave the house again, all the socialization and travel plans that had been postponed for two years came quickly and urgently back to demand my attention faster than I was ready for.
But remembering what it was like to make plans and go places also made it a great year (except for when I got COVID after a trip to Europe). The highlight (of course) was that I finally got married! At our wedding and during our honeymoon roadtrip I was able to see friends and family I hadn’t seen in 2 years or more. It was amazing.
Because of all this excitement in my life, I didn’t read as many books as I normally do (at least as many as I had during the first two years of the pandemic). But there were still some great ones.
This Year Is a Little Different
Last year, I split my best books list into fiction and nonfiction. This year, I didn’t read enough great fiction to merit its own whole post, so I rolled my recommendations for both genres together into one super awesome best-of list.
And yes, this wasn’t published until March 2023. Life is busy, okay? This is proving to be an exciting year too! I’ve read 26 books so far, (including rereading most of Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings so take it with a grain of salt) and I’m sure a few of these books will make next year’s list.
Now, what you came here for: here are my top 10 best books of 2022, in the order that I read them.
My Reading List: Top 10 Best Books of 2022
The Nature of Nature: Why We Need the Wild by Enric Sala
From my book note: “a well-written, future-focused Ecology 101 for any background, with a bias to the marine realm that I can appreciate.” Whether you took ecology in college or not, this book illuminates how the real world world works with understandable examples and cross-disciplinary insights.
We need to build for stability and resilience instead of unfettered growth. The protection of our natural world is the inoculation we need, right now, before it’s too late. Even if it’s just for selfish reasons—for our own survival—now more than ever, we need the wild.
Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World by Tracy Kidder
This book has been on my reading list since 2012. The nudge I needed to read it was the death of Dr. Paul Farmer, “the man who would cure the world”, who is the subject of the book.
Truly good people are a rare find, but Dr. Farmer was one of them. He sacrificed so much to help people all over the world. This book made me rethink how best to help others who are suffering, and what is really important in life.
Education wasn’t what he wanted to perform on the world, me included. He was after transformation.
The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of Their Lost World by Steve Brusatte
From my book note: “Most of the time when I learn about dinosaurs from someone, I get either way too much information about them or not nearly enough. This book strikes the balance perfectly.” It gives exactly what was promised: a high-level tale of the evolution, domination, and extinction of the dinosaurs for the average dino-enthusiast.
The sauropods would thunder across the land no more. But let’s not forget about those birds—they are dinosaurs, they survived, they are still with us. The dinosaur empire may be over, but the dinosaurs remain.
The Last Stargazers: The Enduring Story of Astronomy’s Last Explorers by Emily Levesque
Reading this book made me want to write one of my own, although I don’t think I could do justice to the field of marine science the way Emily Levesque has done to astronomy. If you have any interest in how science works behind the scenes, this book is fascinating. From cloudy nights to earthquakes to skunks in the telescope, this book has all the funny, exciting stargazing stories you’d love to read, from a young professor who lived them all.
This method—entering coordinates and then letting the telescope find them—has led to what may be one of the most disappointing disconnects between what astronomers actually know and what our friends think we know: we are absolutely terrible at finding things in the night sky on our own.
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
This is the one fiction book on this list. I haven’t found many great books with neurodivergent main characters, and this one was so endearing and funny. A nerdy genetics professor decides it’s time to find himself a wife, and begins a quasi-scientific project to find the perfect one. But of course, love doesn’t always follow the facts. The movie adaptation is in preproduction as of this writing, so I will definitely be watching for that release.
And it dawned on me that I had not designed the questionnaire to find a woman I could accept but to find someone who might accept me.
Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Climate Change by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway
This book has also been on my reading list for a while, since 2015. It was the work that really called attention to the power of the oil industry to obscure the truth about climate change, among other important scientific issues over the past few decades. This is a huge eye-opener for everyone about the extent of hidden power in the world, and a must-read for anyone who cares about the climate.
Doubt is crucial to science—in the version we call curiosity or healthy skepticism, it drives science forward—but it also makes science vulnerable to misrepresentation, because it is easy to take uncertainties out of context and create the impression that everything is unresolved. This was the tobacco industry’s key insight: that you could use normal scientific uncertainty to undermine the status of actual scientific knowledge.
An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us by Ed Yong
I’ve been a fan of Ed Yong since before he became known for his pandemic pieces in the Atlantic. From my book note: “An Immense World is a beautiful exploration of what life is like for other animals…With beautiful language and apt metaphors, Ed Yong takes the reader on a sensory journey across air, land, and sea.” Seriously, animal lovers have to dive straight into this one.
Earth teems with sights and textures, sounds and vibrations, smells and tastes, electric and magnetic fields. But every animal can only tap into a small fraction of reality’s fullness. Each is enclosed within its own unique sensory bubble, perceiving but a tiny sliver of an immense world.
How to Hide An Empire: A History of the Greater United States by Daniel Immerwahr
Another must-read, this one for any American. Daniel Immerwahr makes the argument that America is still a global empire, even though it seems to make every effort to hide that fact. Since I live in a US territory, I found this especially enlightening for context of the geopolitics around me.
Empire might be hard to make out from the mainland, but from the sites of colonial rule themselves, it’s impossible to miss.
Stuffed Animals and Pickled Heads: The Culture and Evolution of Natural History Museums by Stephen T. Asma
If you like museums, check this one out. It’s a very cool behind-the-scenes look at the functioning of a museum. It’s 20 years old now, so it has no mention of some of the colonial issues museums are reckoning with these days, but if you enjoy going to museums, you’ll be interested to learn about all the work that goes into the displays.
The museums that we’ve studied throughout this journey reveal the tremendous diversity of goals and motives for collecting and displaying elements of the natural world. Yet underneath all these various constructions of nature, there has been a continuous dialogue between image-making activities and knowledge-producing activities. Unlike texts, natural history museums are inherently aesthetic representations of science in particular and conceptual ideas in general.
Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach
This is the book Mary Roach was born to write. She has no shame, and an abundance of good humor and enthusiasm for a topic many people would shy away from. This is a hilarious, educational, and thorough adventure through the science of sex.
This, to me, is as good as science gets: a mildly outrageous, terrifically courageous, seemingly efficacious display of creative problem-solving, fueled by a bullheaded dedication to amassing facts and dispelling myths in a long-neglected area of human physiology.
I hope this list of the best books of 2022 gave you at least one good new book recommendation. Stay tuned for next year’s list, I can already tell there will be some good ones! Want last year’s list? It’s split into best nonfiction and best fiction.
See them all together on my Bookshop list
The quotes above were gathered using Readwise. It’s a truly amazing app to help you remember what you read. If you want to try it out, use my link and we both get a free month 🙂
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