Tom MacWright

My favorite books of 2022

Lineup of book covers

This year I read 22 books, which is about the average for the last few years. The ratio of fiction to non-fiction was skewed toward non-fiction. I think overall I read fewer amazing books than last year, when I finished 20, but also fewer duds - though there certainly were some duds. Next year as always, I want to read more and I’ll probably dive back into fiction. You can find the whole list and reviews in the /reading section. Here are the hits.

The Invention of Brownstone Brooklyn by Suleiman Osman

My review, on IndieBound

This was the best book I read this year. It tells the story of the modern era of Brooklyn - that of real estate appreciation, displacement, redevelopment and preservation, NIMBYs and Robert Moses. Osman knits together history in a way that’s compelling but doesn’t oversimplify. He reconsiders characters known as villains, like Moses, or heroes, like Jacobs. Somehow, he includes the political, geographic, and personal levels in such a short book. This isn’t a tome like The Power Broker but it feels just as rich with detail.

This was the perfect book to read shortly after arriving in Brooklyn, and I keep recommending it to everyone who is interested in the city, its people, and its built environment.

Stories of Your Life And Others by Ted Chiang

My review and on IndieBound

Chiang writes the kind of science fiction that I love: the kind that takes an idea, plays with it, builds just enough of a world and a story to make you care, and creates a satisfying ending. I’ve been turned off by classics that spend way too much time telling you about the syntax of an alien language or how a culture drinks chocolate all the time, just piling one concept onto another. Chiang knows that the point is, and writes about that.

He also writes obliquely about Judeo-Christian ideas in a way that I enjoy - with enough distance and abstraction that it never reads as evangelical or moralizing and saccharine, but like it’s exploring the ideas playfully and non-judgmentally.

Just Keep Buying by Nick Magguilli

My review and on IndieBound

I read a slew of money-related books this year. Over the last few years I’ve been reading things in the Bogleheads orbit - an investment philosophy centered around simplicity and evidence, and reading a few blogs like A Wealth of Common Sense. And I think I’m done with it for now. I’ve learned what I wanted to and have put those ideas into action and now there’s not much else to do but keep doing the same thing.

But I never had a book to point to when people ask me about this kind of thing, and now I do - it’s this one, Just Keep Buying. It’s the sort of basic advice that a lot of people would benefit from. The suggestions are pretty standard, as they should be. It’s well-written and well structured. I know there are plenty of people with successful careers but who haven’t thought about money outside of doing the recommended investment in their 401k. If that’s you, you might want this book.

You’re Paid What You’re Worth by Jake Rosenfeld

My review and on IndieBound

Ever wondered how much salary transparency might change your workplace? Or why some people get paid more than others? Whether unions are good or bad for overall pay structure? This is the book. It’s incredibly well-researched. Rosenfeld isn’t here to preach the theoretical benefits of one particular change: he’s more interested in seeing what the actual recorded effects are.

It turns out to be pretty sobering. There are no silver bullets, and a lot of changes to pay structure have narrow (though positive) effects. But it’s fascinating. This book was almost like the opposite of a Freakonomics: there is no one weird trick. There are a lot of complex interactions between policies and results.

December 27, 2022  @tmcw