I have read approximately one book per week during 2022. It started off as a personal challenge — could I stay disciplined enough to read consistently? But as with most things in life, the benefits of the personal challenge ended up being much more than I originally anticipated.
The main benefit that I discovered was an inverse relationship between reading and wasting time on social media. Many of you have heard me talk about it, but a friend gave me a physical book to read over the summer. I found it difficult to sit down and read without checking my phone every 30 seconds. The digital addiction was smacking me in the face. I committed myself to reading only physical books for the rest of the year and I haven’t looked back. Increasing my ability to focus for long periods of time has been a very rewarding benefit.
As I have increased my ability to focus, I’ve spent more time reading and less time on social media. My overall productivity has shot through the roof and I also feel much more calm mentally. It is hard to describe, and I probably would think it was woo-woo nonsense if I didn’t experience it personally, but we are different animals when are our brains are on social media.
Lastly, the more reading that I’ve done, the more learning that I’ve achieved. This is probably the most fun part for me. Below I have compiled a list of my favorite 10 books that I read in 2022. I’ve linked to the book notes that I produced where appropriate — if a book doesn’t have a link to notes, I’ll be publishing the notes in the coming weeks.
Let me know in the comments or by replying to this email with your book recommendations. The best books that I find are always through others.
Here are the best books I read this year:
#1 — Mastery by Robert Greene
The mastery of a subject has become an outdated idea. Most people associate mastery with genius or natural skill. The truth is that mastery is almost always accomplished by intense focus and hard work over a decade or more. This book explains how to build mastery in the modern world. (Pomp’s Notes on Mastery by Robert Greene)
#2 — A Curious Mind by Brian Grazer
Curiosity is a superpower. We often don’t talk about, nor think of, curiosity as an endeavor worth pursuing on its own. Many people talk about creativity and innovation, but Grazer argues that curiosity is the more important pursuit. He uses his personal experience with “curiosity conversations” to highlight the benefit. (Pomp’s Notes on A Curious Mind by Brian Grazer)
#3 — Discipline Is Destiny By Ryan Holiday
The description on Amazon summarizes this book perfectly: “To master anything, one must first master themselves–one’s emotions, one’s thoughts, one’s actions. Eisenhower famously said that freedom is really the opportunity to practice self-discipline.” Ryan Holiday delivers again with a book that is hard to put down and makes you seek self-improvement. (Pomp’s interview with Ryan Holiday)
#4 — Being Mortal by Atul Gawande
No one wants to talk about the experience of dying, nor the days, months, and years that lead up to that moment. Old age used to be a revered status in a society — technology changed that. Rather than require our elderly to live the last days in institutionalized care away from their families, we now have a better path forward. Atul Gawande shares personal stories, and many different studies, that will make you think more deeply about medicine’s role in aging and the end of your life. (Pomp’s Notes on Being Mortal by Atul Gawande)
#5 — Good Profit by Charles Koch
Prosperous societies depend on freedom, both for the market and the individual, so Charles Koch argues prosperous companies should follow a similar strategy. He uses Koch Industries (one of the world’s most valuable private companies) as his example of Market-Based Management. This book includes the perfect combination of tactics, entertainment, and humor. It has become one of my favorite business books. (Pomp’s Notes on Good Profit will be published in next 2-3 weeks)
#6 — Empire State of Mind by Zack O’Malley Greenburg
Jay-Z rose from the streets of New York City to become one of the most successful businessmen in the world. This book unpacks the rapper-turned-business mogul’s life story, including the wins, losses, and lessons learned. The author does a great job of highlighting the macro trends, while exposing details of the story that really hammer home the point. (Pomp’s Notes on Empire State of Mind by Zack O’Malley Greenburg will be published in the next 2-3 weeks)
#7 — Creative Selection by Ken Kocienda
Apple is not only one of the most valuable companies in the world, but it is also widely considered one of the most creative and innovative. Ken Kocienda spent approximately 15 years working on numerous Apple products that you use on a daily basis, including the Safari browser and the keyboard on your iPhone or iPad. He uses anecdotes and analysis to unpack what made Apple special.
Ken is refreshingly honest throughout the book - sharing his accomplishments, failures, and the inside baseball of many major product decisions over the years. If you are an entrepreneur or investor, this book will be part inspiration, part education, and part entertainment. There are few companies like Apple, and even fewer leaders like Steve Jobs, so this behind-the-scenes look is worth reading. (Pomp’s Notes on Creative Selection by Ken Kocienda)
#8 — Freedom by Sebastian Junger
Freedom is a topic that we constantly talk about, but very few people stop to think what it actually means to be free. The pursuit of freedom is a concept as old as time - people have died fighting for it, others cherish it, and many enjoy its benefits without noticing. Sebastian Junger, who has traveled the world, walks hundreds of miles along the East Coast railroads with friends, while contemplating the concept of freedom. They are alone, dependent on only themselves, and forced to figure out how to survive. This is a quick read that will make you think more deeply about one of life’s most important topics. (Pomp’s Notes on Freedom by Sebastian Junger)
#9 — Paper Belt on Fire by Michael Gibson
Higher education is a massive bubble. Students are taking on tens of thousands of dollars in debt for a chance to be awarded a piece of paper, but colleges and universities are no longer testing for mastery of knowledge - they have become a status filter for those willing to sacrifice years of their life to get a job. This focus on status, rather than measurable value creation, is pervasive from Washington DC to Boston, which is what author Michael Gibson calls the Paper Belt.
After working for Peter Thiel and helping to steer the now famous Thiel Fellowship program, Michael and his colleague, Danielle, left to start a venture capital fund that would effectively short the higher education bubble. They have backed a number of companies that you have probably heard of, but their investment comes with a twist - you have to be a college dropout or never stepped foot on a college campus. (Pomp’s Notes on Paper Belt on Fire by Michael Gibson)
#10 — The Practice of Groundedness by Brad Stulberg
We live in a hyperconnected world where you are one notification away from a dopamine hit. Too many people are focused on productivity, self-improvement, and being “always on.” The solution lies at the intersection of ancient wisdom and modern science in what Stulberg calls “groundedness” — or the art of being present every day as you take the long-term view of your work and accomplishments. (Pomp’s Notes on The Practice of Groundedness by Brad Stulberg)
BONUS: The 50th Law by Robert Greene and 50 Cent
This book is a must-read, but everyone I suggest it to ends up thinking I’m joking. It addresses fear in a compelling way. Greene writes in his usual style, but overlays the lessons with 50 Cent’s life. The book comes in leather like a bible. I know it sounds crazy, but just trust me on this one :)
Those are my top 10 books for 2022. I hope that you find them valuable. My wish for all of you is that you find time to do more reading during 2023 — it will help you break your social media addiction, it will help you become smarter, and it will force you to be more interesting.
Note: Make sure you are subscribed to receive all of my future notes on the books that I read during 2023.