Here is a collection of my favorite books in 2022.
In no particular order, these are books that I highly recommend.
The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined – Steven Pinker
An 800-page history on human violence and how it has declined over the centuries. Starting with pre-historic tribes and ending in the modern era, Pinker covers a wide range of topics including conflict, how societies treat enemies, women, minorities, and “others”, as well as a detailed history of homicide and war. He pulls from a broad pool of data and narrates an incredible story which clearly shows an onward trajectory towards increasing order, non-violence, safety, and peace.
Rule Makers, Rule Breakers – Michele Gelfand
Why are some societies loose (have fewer social norms and have higher tolerance for deviance and diversity) and why are some societies tight (have stronger social norms, with harsher punishments, and have higher levels of conformity)? Gelfand takes case examples from loose countries, like the US and Spain, and tight cultures, like Singapore and Germany, and presents an incredible story. Generally speaking, the freer a society is from existential threats like dangerous weather and/or invading neighbors, the more loose it is. The higher the threat of, or perceived threat of, chaos and danger, the more significant the increase in social tightness societies will experience on average. While the theory may at first seem too simple to explain away the complexities of civilization, Gelfand does an impressive job creating a convincing argument upheld by a wide variety of research. This is one of the most interesting social science books that I have read in a long time.
Chaos: Charles Manson, The CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties – Tom O’Neill
As one of the most famous crimes in American history, you would assume that there wasn’t much left to learn about the Manson Murders. Tom O’Neill proves us wrong. This incredible ride through the 1960s reveals a world few have seen before. The intermingling of the 60s hippie culture, the CIA, psychological experiments, drugs, and the Hollywood elite presents a story hard to believe. While Tom O’Neill finds no “smoking gun” to explain why the murders took place, he finds something nearly as interesting, that the official story of what happened is not only inaccurate, but undeniably fabricated.
Life 3.0 – Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence – Max Tegmark
Artificial intelligence is arguably the most important innovation in the upcoming decades and possibly in human history. This evolution in intelligence on our planet comes with inherent dangers and opportunities. Tegmark shows multiple possible roadmaps extending from the near future, all the way to the end of the universe itself. This change from biological life 2.0, which we now exist as, to this new form of life that we are creating, will possibly be the most profound change imaginable, if we get it right.
Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds – David Goggins
How do you go from a self described lazy loser to arguably one of the toughest men alive? How do you run ultra-marathons, complete Navy Seals training, and push yourself to the limits of human biology? How do you overcome your mind when it tells you to tap out, stop, or quit? David Goggins’ story is an incredible look into what the mind can do and how to build what he calls “callouses of the mind”. While Goggins’ life is oriented around physical accomplishments, like breaking the chin up world record, the messages in this book go far beyond that. Goggins isn’t a philosopher, he admits that he has made a lot of mistakes, and that he is possibly a bit crazy, but this book isn’t about epistemology or understanding the complexities of life and meaning. This book is about pushing your limits and defeating the voice in your head that makes you want to give up. In this domain, Goggins is a legend.
Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Awakening – Joseph Goldstein
Joseph Goldstein is one of America’s most influential teachers of insight meditation, known as mindfulness. In this text, Goldstein goes through an exhaustive explanation of Buddhism in a mostly secular context to describe the subtle and transformative insights and understandings possible in the practice of mindfulness meditation. Goldstein bring clarity and nuance to a topic difficult to describe and explain. A long, but profound and useful read for those on the path of insight meditation.
Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire – Kurt Anderson
Why do Americans believe so many conspiracy theories? Why does America have more religious believers than any other first world nation? Why is America where Playboy, Disneyland, and Silicon Valley all flourish? Why is America so crazy? Kurt Anderson tries to answer this complex question by looking at the history of this unique country and its relationship to freedom and fantasy. A fun and engaging read sure to bring some insight into the madness that we see today.