Reading List 2022
Political nonfiction dominates the list this year. In 2022, I spent more time working and less time reading.
1. Four Thousand Weeks (Nonfiction)
An overtly philosophical and spiritual perspective on productivity and time management. Ostensibly self-help in the realm of Getting Things Done, but actually more of a meditation on what causes productivity anxiety and an emotional toolkit for how to deal with it.
What you pay attention to will define, for you, what reality is.
So when you pay attention to something you don't especially value, it's not an exaggeration to say that you're paying with your life.
It's that the distracted person isn't really choosing at all. Their attention has been commandeered by forces that don't have their highest interests at heart.
Worry, at its core, is the repetitious experience of a mind attempting to generate a feeling of security about the future, failing, then trying again and again and again
2. The Origins of Political Order (Nonfiction)
Classic political science and historical theory from Fukuyama. Groundbreaking, methodical work, though perhaps a little outdated after some recent anthropological discoveries. I liked The End of History and wanted to hear more.
Human beings cooperate to compete and compete to cooperate.
Shared mental models—most particularly those that take the form of religion—are critical in facilitating large-scale collective action.
3. The Dawn Of Everything: A New History of Humanity (Nonfiction)
The final work by David Graeber, the anthropologist and social thinker responsible for Debt: The First 5000 Years, Bullshit Jobs, and Occupy Wall Street. Summarizes his view of modern anthropology, which is surprisingly different from what we heard in the 90s and 2000s. We were told the story that the direction of history inevitably resulted in our current system of state-based globalized capitalism, but this book makes the case that it may not have had to end up that way. While the book admittedly has a political bias, I was particularly affected by the emphasis on "schismogenesis" (contrarian, reactive movements) as the engine for human culture, and the rather obvious but extremely underdiscussed idea that so-called primitive peoples may have deliberately rejected bureaucratic states, money, or other modern civilizational fixtures.
Humans may not have begun their history in a state of primordial innocence, but they do appear to have begun it with a self-conscious aversion to being told what to do.
One must simplify the world to discover something new about it. The problem comes when, long after the discovery has been made, people continue to simplify.
It seems part of the human condition that while we cannot predict future events, as soon as those events do happen we find it hard to see them as anything but inevitable.
4. The End of the World Is Just the Beginning: Mapping the Collapse of Globalization (Nonfiction)
This guy correctly predicted our current geopolitical situation. Here's what he thinks might happen over the next decade or two.
5. How the World Really Works: The Science Behind How We Got Here and Where We're Going (Nonfiction)
Nobody knows the economics of energy better than Vaclav Smil. This is a more accessible (and also more boldly predictive) iteration of his previous theoretical text, Energy and Civilization.
6. Disrupting the Game: From the Bronx to the Top of Nintendo (Nonfiction)
I love Nintendo. Reggie drove Nintendo's marketing strategy for over a decade. The book is about his business philosophy and the internal workings of Nintendo, adding similar stories about the many other companies he worked for. There's a lot of useful insight here, but I interpreted much of the book as follows: "to be successful, you must achieve success". He never really seems to have made big mistakes. To be sure, Reggie is a business icon. Perhaps he really is just built different.
There are situations in which you have done all the right things to achieve success, but staying the course is no longer viable. This applies both in a business and a personal context. Be clearheaded in these situations and understand the reality of what you face. At that point, make the best decision, without resentment and without blame.
7. High Output Management (Nonfiction)
The former Intel boss gives us his management framework. Serious business. An empathetic but pragmatic guide for running a team of professionals.
The absolute truth is that if you don't know what you want, you won't get it.
When a person is not doing his job, there can only be two reasons for it. The person either can’t do it or won’t do it; he is either not capable or not motivated. To determine which, we can employ a simple mental test: if the person’s life depended on doing the work, could he do it? If the answer is yes, that person is not motivated; if the answer is no, he is not capable.
8. The End of History and the Last Man (Nonfiction)
Fukuyama's philosophical distillation of 90s neoliberal utopianism. His argument: the ultimate endpoint of humanity's political development is liberal democracy combined with free market capitalism. The primary argument involves the human desire for recognition, which, according to Fukyama, is best satisfied by our current political system, as it enables us to achieve recognition via abstractions like wealth, sports and government, rather than by outright violence. Is our world a utopia? Certainly not in the present. Was it a utopia in the 90s? Indeed, maybe it really was.
If men cannot struggle on behalf of a just cause because that just cause was victorious in an earlier generation, ... then they will struggle against the just cause. They will struggle for the sake of struggle. They will struggle, in other words, out of a certain boredom; for they cannot imagine living in a world without struggle.
9. The Sublime Object of Ideology (Nonfiction)
In short, language is always saying, more or less, something other than what it means to say.