Favorite Reads of 2022: Books, Magazine and Newspaper Articles
December has been my favorite month since I was a kid. Although it rarely snowed in December back at home, there was still the delightful sense of expectation. Also, even though Turkey is a predominantly muslim country where Christmas is not celebrated, half of the teachers in my high school were French. That meant that we got long Christmas breaks. On top of that, we always celebrated the new year in all its glory with a very big family reunion at my grandmothers house.
The December this year has been, almost brutally, cold in Tokyo but, unfortunately, without the visual warmth of snow. And I am yet to find my usual December groove.
To be able to get into that festive December mood, I wanted to take a look back at 2022 and see what I enjoyed the most in this year, which was full of ups and downs, as usual. The result is a series of three posts listing some of my favorite reads from this year, favorite movies and TV shows (yes, I am also a big White Lotus fan) and travel destinations. These are some of my favorite books and articles from this year.
Favorite Reads in 2022
There are two things in life that always work to ease my manufactured and real worries – walking and reading. I am very happy to be living in a very walking and hiking friendly country. In terms of reading, I feel lucky that we live in the age of digital publishing and easier distribution. I do not say it in the sense that we no longer need to buy physical copies of books (I am not a kindle user and i still buy physical copies of each book that I read). It is more about the variety of the content that we have access to – quicker and easier to access opinion columns, newsletters by our favorite journalists and long articles that may not be ideal for a print copy of a magazine but still find a home on the webpages.
Favorite Online Reads in 2022
There are few publications that I check on a daily basis. The Outside Online`s long reads section is my favorite go to place when I start my morning in a good mood while enjoying my coffee. My favorite long read of this year from Outside Online was Kiss My Ass: I Am Going to the River by Florence Williams. A story of heartbreak that Williams tried to get over by paddling solo on Utah`s Green River in the United States. This was such an engaging read. She really manages to make the reader truly care about her heartbreak without sounding soppy. And her journey speaks to our ever lasting, and I think rightful, desire to find healing in nature.
For opinion pieces, I very much love the Atlantic. I truly enjoyed this piece by Cole Arthur Riley titled You Don`t Need to Post About Every Tragedy discussing how we always feel compelled to post about all social and humanitarian tragedies even when we have very little knowledge of the matter and therefore have nothing constructive or meaningful to say.
This wonderful hiking story from Brendan Leonard is from 2020 but I read this in 2022. In his article – Walking the Knife Edge of Switzerland`s Hardergrat – he is in a very compelling way telling the story of a group hike that they did traversing one of the most beautiful yet dangerous sections of Swiss Alps. Some outdoors writers are so good that they really give us the readers the sense of almost being outdoors and doing the hike alongside them.
This one is a strange but was easily one of the best reads of my year – the complaint filed by the lawyers of Twitter against Elon Musk to legally force him to buy Twitter as he contractually agreed to. Well the saga ended with him buying Twitter under the original terms without the court order (likely because he was going to lose the lawsuit and his extremely fragile and uncontrollable ego could not take the embarrassment). He agreed to proceed with the sale right before he was required to give testimony at the court. I have always been a fan of petitions and complaints penned by American lawyers. And I promise this one is not boring even for non-lawyers as the complaint wonderfully highlights how Elon Musk operates in the business world and shocks you even further how he got this far without facing any consequences.
Favorite Books in 2022
The book that I most enjoyed this year was the Afterparties by late Anthony Vaesna So (lost his life in December 2020 at the very young age of 28). The book is a collection of short stories reflecting – not in a direct biographical way – So`s experience living in Northern California as a child of Cambodian refugees. I found his writing style and approach to the issues faced by the children of first generation immigrants so refreshing. It was such a delightful read that I could not get enough of. One of those books that you do not want to finish quickly so that you still have more pages to enjoy. Even more so in this case as the author will – very sadly – no longer deliver new stories.
I have never been to Las Vegas but I really want to spend a day or two in this open enigma. Not for gambling, not for the shows and definitely not for the pool parties. The idea of building an entertainment heaven in the middle of nowhere and the story behind it has always fascinated me. After watching the old Scorsese movie the Casino – I picked up Super Casino: Inside the New Las Vegas by Pete Earley. It was a very captivating read delving into the history of Las Vegas and how it transformed itself from the era of Rat Pack featuring late Frank Sinatra to an almost family friendly resort destination. If I need to name one book that really met the need for mental escapism this year, it was this book by Pete Earley.
As you may have noticed by now, my reading habits are quite strange and is all over the place. Another topic that I have always been curious about is the Lance Armstrong`s doping scandal. It is a story of athletic dishonesty, journalistic efforts (and the importance of it) and honestly the institutions that enabled it. I have read many books on the topic but I wish I read Juliet Macur`s book first – Cycle of Lies: The Fall of Lance Armstrong. She tells the story from many different angles, something that I think some other books on the subject fail to achieve (like Seven Deadly Sins).
Another read this year that really made me happy for my choice was Mr. China by British author Tim Clissold. Clissold wrote about this experience in the 1990s trying to set up a business introducing western investors to the investment opportunities in China. I found his writing – to my surprise – strangely humble and miles away from the cliche approaches that we often come across in this genre. I bought his second book – Chinese Rules – but I have yet to read it.
Speaking of China, this year I also re-read, for the third time, the Lost Japan by Alex Kerr – which is probably one of the best essay style books written about Japan. I think both Clissold and Kerr come from the same place of deep affection and appreciation for the countries that they write about (and do not get me wrong, they also criticize these two countries) and they both highlight the experiences and the countries rather than centering the stories around themselves.
Another Japan related book that I re-visited this year was by my not-favorite Japanese writer Haruki Murakami, who is, however, responsible for one of my favorite books – the Norwegian Wood. I read it the first time ten years ago and it sure aged well. I probably enjoyed it even more this time now that I live in Japan and know little better about Japanese culture. A few years ago, I wrote a post listing my favorite books on Japan that I regularly update.
In March, I took a two weeks long trip to Nagasaki and Goto Islands visiting the sites related to the Hidden Christians of Japan (luckily followed by a work trip to Amakusa Island, which also hosts many sites related to this particular period of Japan`s history – just a few weeks later). John Dougill`s book – In Search of Hidden Christians of Japan – kept me in wonderful company. I am definitely not someone who is well informed about Christianity and the history of it. So his rather easy writing style and ability to find coherence between the historical facts and his own travels in the region really worked for me. If you are in the same camp with me, I highly recommend this book for any trip to Nagasaki, Goto Islands or Amakusa. Dougill`s book truly enhanced the experience for me.
I sometimes get obsessed with a particular topic and this year, my obsession was the books about start-up culture in Silicon Valley in San Francisco. I enjoyed both the historical accounts pertaining to some of the biggest tech companies of today and the books about the overall culture. The Google Story by David A. Wise was a good read that I tried to get my hands on for some time now (it is an old book first published in 2005 that to a great extent ran out of print I think). But I enjoyed That Will Never Work: The Birth of Netflix by Marc Randolph, the co-founder of Netflix, even more. The idea started with the intention of starting an e-commerce business built around low delivery costs by finding a product light enough to mail. It was the very early phase of the DVD area, which much lighter than VHS tapes. So Netflix story was an amazing example of how new technologies give rise to so many other endeavors that in return shake entire established industries. The book does not go into Netflix`s transition to the streaming platform as Randolph left the company before that but when someone writes about it, I will be among the first to read. I also wrote a separate post listing some of my other favorite books on Silicon Valley Start-Ups.
I have been somehow struggling with the same book all through November and December but I am looking forward to many more reads in 2023.