YUTOPIA’s Favorite Books – 2022

In what has become an annual tradition, every December I review the books I read in the past year and pick out my favorites to share with other avid readers. 

This is not a comprehensive list of all the books I read, nor is this a ranking of these books as the “best” of anything. Instead, I prefer to share the books I enjoyed reading the most in the hopes that maybe someone will find and enjoy something they otherwise might not have encountered. Enjoyment does not imply agreement with or an endorsement of their arguments, only that I found their content stimulating and engaging.

I’ve said the above before, but I’d like to stress a point for clarification. Last year I received a comment that my list didn’t include enough representation. What I read on an annual basis depends on a variety of factors and can include a range of authors. However, just because I read these books doesn’t mean I enjoyed them, or at least not to the extent I feel like spreading the word about them. 

I should also mention that this past April, my wife and I welcome the birth of our first child which unsurprisingly affected my reading (along with everything else in my life). The 59 books I read in 2022 include several books related to children that I most likely would never have encountered including a wider range of authors. That’s just how it goes some years.

With all that said, on with the list!

Honorable Mentions:

Yitz Greenberg and Modern Orthodoxy: The Road Not Taken ed. Adam Ferziger
This book provides useful insight into how certain elements on Modern Orthodox’s left flank see themselves and those who had the temerity to disagree.

Fossil Future: Why Global Human Flourishing Requires More Oil, Coal, and Natural Gas–Not Less – Alex Epstein
Fossil Future is just as much about epistemology and moral philosophy as it is about energy policy. I’m not qualified or learned enough to address the policy claims and data in the book (which is why it’s an honorable mention), but it’s a worthwhile read for how to make an argument.

Winners (Ordered by when I read them):

Strong Towns: A Bottom-Up Revolution to Rebuild American Prosperity – Charles L. Marohn Jr.
I’m not sure why YouTube once recommended a video on the channel NotJustBikes channel, but I’m thrilled that they did because it’s one of the best and most accessible channels I’ve found on the complexities of urban design. It’s because of his series of videos that I found the book Strong Towns which I highly recommend in addition to the channel. Strong Towns deftly describes common economic mistakes made by municipalities, their long-term consequences, and offers sensible alternatives. I don’t know how many readers are in positions to effect civic changes, but Strong Towns should get people thinking differently about community politics.

Finite and Infinite Games: A Vision of Life as Play and Possibility – James P. Carse
I added Finite and Infinite Games to the queue when I saw it cited in Strong Towns. I bumped it up in priority after learning my CEO relied on this book for the company’s vision. This is one of those books I wish I read earlier in my life because it would have had a more profound influence on my general worldview.

Thinking in Systems: A Primer – Donella H. Meadows
It’s not uncommon to find discourse related to “systemic” problems, but it’s rare to find articulations of what systems are, how they operate, and how people respond to the systems in which they find themselves. Thinking in Systems does a wonderful job explaining the concept of “systems” that so many people take for granted.

Nuclear Physics for Babies
Astrophysics for Babies
Optical Physics for Babies
Statistical Physics for Babies
– Chris Ferrie

Someone shared one of these books on Twitter and it turns out they are part of a larger series called “Baby University.” I got these books as a set in part to start teaching my baby important things and in part because many baby books are painful especially on repeated reads. I can say that my baby has enjoyed these very much so far as have I. We purchased a few other books in the series but were disappointed with those. If you’re in the market, stick with these.

The Lessons of History – Will Durant, Ariel Durant
This was a quick and fun read with some remarkable insights. Better than it has any right to be for such a short book.

Code: The Hidden Language of Computer Hardware and Software – Charles Petzold
Here’s a book I wish I had when I was a computer science major in college. Code somehow manages to tell a story about fundamental unifying principles behind most of the technologies in use today. It’s an absolute must-read for anyone in a technical profession but I think there’s enough in here for non-techies to appreciate (even if some chapters might go over people’s heads). 

Hunt, Gather, Parent: What Ancient Cultures Can Teach Us About the Lost Art of Raising Happy, Helpful Little Humans – Michaeleen Doucleff
Like many new parents, I don’t have a set idea about what I’m doing. Not that I’ve been panicking either, but Hunt, Gather, Parent, provides a nice corrective to alternative strategies of parenting that have been successfully practiced in cultures all over the world. 

This brings me to the next entry (also cited in Hunt, Gather, Parent)…

Dream Babies: Childcare Advice From John Locke to Gina Ford – Christina Hardyment
Dream Babies can best be described as an intellectual history of childcare advice and how, for the most part, “experts” had absolutely no idea what they were talking about. It’s also amusing to see how ideas that were once popular come back into vogue 50-100 years later. 

Understanding Jurisprudence: An Introduction to Legal Theory – Raymond Wacks
The final book on the list is also another one I wish I had read earlier. Understanding Jurisprudence is by no means an easy read, but that’s mostly due to the complexity of the subject. Wacks provides an excellent survey and summary of key ideas and scholars. If nothing else, I’d say it’s shelf-worthy for reference.

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