The 15 best books I’ve read in 2022

The 15 best books I’ve read in 2022

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Posted: 12/20/2022 | December 20, 2022

For the past five years, I’ve ended the year with a list of my favorite reads. Reading is part of being a writer. Writers tend to read a lot. On the other hand, I’ve always loved to read since I was a little kid. I devour books. In a good year I read almost 80.

This year wasn’t one of those years. I’ve only read about 50 books.

As I compiled this list, I couldn’t help but notice that I was much more interested in history, literature, and self-improvement than I had been in the past. Although this is a travel website and I enjoy reading a lot of travel books, I’ve found that so many fall into the same narrative arc that I just needed a break from another book about someone quitting their job to travel.

Instead, I’ve been much more into destination-specific travelogues than personal travelogues. That put me down a history rabbit hole, and that’s where I spent most of the year.

I wonder if that will change in the new year. What will next year bring? Who knows!

But what I loved this year:

1. Sahara Revealed, by William Langewiesche

Sahara Revealed book coverWritten by journalist William Langewiesche in the 1990s, this book is beautifully detailed and wonderfully written. I was hooked from the hard hitting prose on page one. Langewiesche travels from Algeria through Niger and Mali before ending in Dakar. He offers deep insights into the culture and history of the region at a time when many changes took place. A fascinating snapshot.

Buy from Amazon. Buy in the bookshop

2. Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Journey, by Alfred Lansing

Endurance book cover This iconic book is about Ernest Shackleton’s epic voyage to cross Antarctica in 1914. While attempting to reach the South Pole, his boat got stuck in the ice and he and his crew were forced to abandon ship and head north, hoping to be rescued by a passing whaling boat. This book sheds light on their journey and survival as they spend over a year on the ice. It was absolutely captivating to read and a testament to the strong will and skill of the men involved.

Buy from Amazon. Buy in the bookshop

3. Deepest South of All: True Stories from Natchez, Mississippi, by Richard Grant

book cover of The Deepest South Of Them AllRichard Grant is a British writer who moved to Mississippi and has been writing great things about the state for years (check out his latest book which is one of my absolute favorites). This book is about the beautiful city of Natchez, a place I visited about six years ago and really loved. In it, he talks about this strange, quirky town and how it comes to terms with its past. He interviews all sorts of unique people and delves into the history and customs of the city. It is travel literature at its finest.

Buy from Amazon. Buy in the bookshop

4. The Far Country: 200 Years of Murder, Mania and Mutiny in the South Pacific, by Brandon Presser

book cover of The Far LandThis book summarizes the famous 18th century Mutiny on the Bounty. The Royal Navy mutineers landed on what is now Pitcairn Island and the book chronicles the mutiny. I never really knew much about this incident and it was really interesting to see what happened to the crew that made it home and what happened to those who mutinied (and the island culture they created).

Buy from Amazon. Buy in the bookshop

5. Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals, by Oliver Burkeman

book cover of Four Thousand WeeksI liked this book so much that I read it twice. It completely changed my life and my perspective on time. The bottom line is: there will never be enough time to do everything, so don’t try. Get used to the fact that some things just don’t get done and that if you run “Email Master” all you have to do is add more emails to your list. It’s an anti-time management book and has had a profound impact on how I think about time and what I do with it now. I can’t recommend it highly enough. It was my favorite book of the year.

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6. Doing Nothing: How to break free from overwork, overdoing it and underliving, by Celeste Headlee

book cover of Do NothingThis book was recommended to me by a friend who has also read my new favorite book, Four Thousand Weeks (see above). Doing Nothing Instead of being a book about the nature of time is more about how we need to separate work and free time and have more room for “boredom”. We see busyness as a good thing, but this book says that gaps in our calendar allow us to process our thoughts and be creative. It focuses much more on work-life balance and makes a very good second read after Four Thousand Weeks.

Buy from Amazon. Buy in the bookshop

7. Wanting: The Power of Mimetic Desire in Everyday Life, by Luke Burgis

Book cover desiredThis book is about how, whether we realize it or not, we mimic whatever behavior we see and that there really is no such thing as independent thinking. We are all consciously and unconsciously influenced by models in our lives (think how you didn’t feel like eating pizza until you saw someone else eat it) and we then mimic that behavior. It was a fascinating look at how we all make decisions.

Buy from Amazon. Buy in the bookshop

8. From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home, by Tembi Locke

Born a crime book coverIn the lush Sicilian countryside, Tembi discovers the healing powers of food, family, and unexpected grace after her husband’s death. From Scratch: A Memoir of Love, Sicily, and Finding Home is a captivating tale of love lost and found (it was also a New York Times bestseller). I absolutely loved the powerful imagery and emotion of this book. I’ve cried so many times. It’s an incredible read.

Buy from Amazon. Buy in the bookshop

9. How to Hide an Empire: A History of the Greater United States, by Daniel Immerwahr

How to hide an Empire book coverThis book chronicles the history of the United States Empire. It covers how the country grew, acquired foreign expansions, how “mainland” Americans felt about it, and how post-WWII US dominance affected the world map. Even today, the US has many overseas territories and possessions that we never really think about (see Doug Mack’s The Not-Quite States of America for a travel version of this). Although the book is dense, it sheds light on a lot of history that we don’t really talk about.

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10. Northland: A 4,000 Mile Journey Along America’s Forgotten Frontier, by Porter Fox

Scotland Beyond the Bagpipes book coverPorter Fox grew up in Maine and after a lifetime of travel decides to learn more about the US-Canada border. So he starts in Maine and heads west to trace the border, learn about its history, and meet interesting people all the way to Washington. With lots of vivid descriptions and historical background, Fox weaves together a truly wonderful travel book.

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11. The Song of Achilles, by Madeline Miller

book cover of The Song of AchillesLast year I read >Circe by Madeline Miller and many of you have recommended reading her first book, The Song of Achilles, which tells the story of Achilles from the perspective of his love Patroclus. While I didn’t like it as much as Circe (especially since she developed so much as a writer in her second book), this book was still phenomenally written. It’s an amazing first book. If you haven’t read Miller’s yet, be sure to get both because you won’t be disappointed.

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12. How To Be A Family: The Year I Dragged My Kids Around The World To Find A New Way To Be Together, by Dan Kois

book cover of How to Become a FamilyDan Kois and his family are stuck in their suburban life. So he and his wife decide to take their two daughters on a trip around the world in hopes of finding ways to bond as a family. I found this book really insightful with hilarious prose and astute observations. In certain parts, one also hears from his children their versions of the stories he tells.

Buy from Amazon. Buy in the bookshop

13. The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey, by Candice Millard

book cover of River of Doubt

This book traces Theodore Roosevelt’s journey through the River of Doubt. After losing the presidential election in 1912, he had the opportunity to go to Brazil. It was originally intended to be an easy journey, so he decides to chart the River of Doubt with Cândido Rondon, a Brazilian colonel entrusted to him. Along the way, they fall ill, have frightening encounters with natives, deal with murder and experience food shortages while mapping this never-before-charted river. It was an eye opening read.

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14. 30 Life Lessons: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans, by Karl Pillemer

30 Lessons for Living book covers

This book focuses on 30 lessons people have learned at the end of their lives. Pillemer surveys hundreds of seniors to find out what their biggest life lessons were, then distills them down to 30 pertaining to work, life, relationships, marriage, money, success, friendship and more. At 41, I’ve already learned many of these lessons, but it’s been a good reminder of what’s important and what’s worth investing my time and energy in. It is definitely a book that everyone should read, especially those who are young.

Buy from Amazon. Buy in the bookshop

15. The Vagabond’s Way: 366 Meditations on Wanderlust, Discovery, and the Art of Travel, by Rolf Potts

book cover of The Way of the Drifter

Rolf is one of the original budget travel experts and his first book Vagabonding is a travel classic. His latest book is about bringing home your adventurous, curious and open-minded travel mentality. With insightful quotes and reflections, the book shows how much travel is a way of life and not just the act of ‘going somewhere’. After years of restricted travel due to COVID, this book is the perfect reminder that travel is a mindset that should be embraced anywhere, anytime.

Buy from Amazon. Buy in the bookshop

There you have it! My Favorite Books of 2022. If you’re looking for a new read, check out one of these books! And if you’re looking for something else, click here for lists of the best books I’ve written! Now that I’m settled in Austin for the next few months, I’m looking forward to picking up my reading again. So many books, so little time!

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