2022 in Review: Reading

I read a lot less than I wanted, but I still made my goal of 22 books in the year. I’ll take it!

Assumed audience: People who like reading year-in-review summaries. (I always assume that’s mostly just me, a few years in the future!)

A bit of context: For many years now, I have made it my habit to write up one of these summaries. In this case, I have tried to make it a bit more digestible by breaking into smaller chunks. You can find them all at the root of this little series’.

My reading aims for the year and my reading outcomes for the year… diverged. Just a bit. On January 2, I wrote:

Reading goals for 2022

  • Minimum: 22 books.
  • Stretch: 22 non-fiction books.
  • Gumby: 22 non-fiction books not started in 2021 or earlier.

How did I do? Well, I finished ten non-fiction books this year, along with a dozen novels. I started, but did not finish, some poetry and a couple other pieces of nonfiction. I did technically make my minimum goal. That is not nothing, and indeed is a bit better than I thought before I sat down to write this piece. I find myself a bit encouraged by that! Which is good, because when I hear that a friend read over 120 books this year, it is easy to get discouraged.

In what follows, books marked with indicate a book I had started before 2022. I set out a list of books I was planning to finish this year, so I will start by comparing what I actually read to that set of goals.


This is the area my goals and the outcomes diverged most — unsurprisingly, given that it was the area I was most ambitious.

Goals vs. reality

I’m hiding the details here behind a little toggle, since they’re mostly of historical interest to me. Feel free to open it up to see the breakdown, though!

Detailed breakdown of goals vs. actual

Goal books finished

  • Icons of Christ: A Biblical and Systematic Theology for Women’s Ordination, William G. Witt
  • The Soul of a New Machine, Tracy Kidder
  • Science and the Good: The Tragic Quest for the Foundations of Morality, James Davison Hunter and Paul Nedelisky
  • The Internet Is Not What You Think It Is: A History, a Philosophy, a Warning, Justin E. H. Smith

Goal books continued

  • The Orthodox Way, Kallistos Ware
  • The Doctrine of Scripture, Brad East
  • Confronted by Grace: Meditations of a Theologian, John Webster
  • The Printing Press as an Agent of Change, Elizabeth Eisenstein

Goal books untouched

  • The Domain of the Word, John Webster
  • We Answer to Another, David T. Koyzis
  • Holy Scripture: A Dogmatic Sketch, John Webster
  • Confessing God: Essays in Christian Dogmatics II, John Webster
  • A Companion to the Theology of John Webster, Michael Allen and R. David Nelson
  • Team Topologies: Organizing Business and Technology Teams for Fast Flow, Matthew Skelton and Manuel Pais
  • City of God, Augustine
  • Seven Languages in Seven Weeks, Bruce A. Tate
  • A Time to Keep, Ephraim Radner
  • Created in God’s Image, Anthony Hoekema
  • What It Means to Be Human: The Case for the Body in Public Bioethics, O. Carter Snead
  • The Scout Mindset: Why Some People See Things Clearly and Others Don’t,
  • The History of Science Fiction, Adam Roberts
  • Transhumanism and the Image of God, Jacob Shatzer

Non-goal books finished

  • The Halo Effect… and the Eight Other Business Delusions That Deceive Managers, Phil Rosenzweig
  • The Man from the Future: The Visionary Life of John Von Neumann, Ananyo Bhattacharya
  • Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed, James C. Scott
  • Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones, James Clear

Non-goal books started

  • What Are Christians For?: Life Together at the End of the World, Jake Meador
  • The Anglican Way: A Guidebook, Thomas McKenzie
  • The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma, Bessel van der Kolk
  • Out of the Software Crisis: Systems-Thinking for Software Projects, Baldur Bjarnason

High points and recommendations

The highlights of the year’s reading for me

  • Icons of Christ: A Biblical and Systematic Theology for Women’s Ordination, William G. Witt: Even if you disagree with Witt’s conclusions here, I think it’s fair to say that it should be the starting point for future discussion of the subject. Witt is even-handed and does not indulge in polemics (he mostly lets his interlocutors make the case against themselves!). I found myself tentatively persuaded by his argument, and I think even folks who disagree with him need to take more seriously his point that contemporary arguments from complementarians are not the same as the historical arguments.

  • The Soul of a New Machine, Tracy Kidder: Just an absolute romp of a story: about, of all things, a team building a particular computer decades ago. This is non-fiction I could fly through, and did: I devoured the whole thing in a weekend in January. Worth a read when you’re looking for a fun humans are amazing and kind of wild” kind of story.

  • The Internet Is Not What You Think It Is: A History, a Philosophy, a Warning, Justin E. H. Smith: The first half of this book was easily among best things I read all year. The second half was just very good” instead of astonishingly good.” Smith takes a tour through the philosophical background of modern computing, including the internet, and situates much of our contemporary angst about social media, networked computing, etc. against that backdrop. I expect to return to the book — at least to do a good note-taking pass on it! — in 2023 or 2024.

  • Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed, James C. Scott: This book has increasingly become a standard text among a certain subset of folks reading and thinking about late modernity, and for good reason. Scott’s treatment of legibility” — making all the infinitely variegated contours of human life comprehensible to systems and machines and computing — is the sort of thing that you cannot unsee. While his analysis was of how governments forced that work, the relevance to computing is obvious, and sobering.

  • The Halo Effect… and the Eight Other Business Delusions That Deceive Managers, Phil Rosenzweig: This one is unlike the others here, but goodness do I wish I could get every executive and manager to read it. I came across it by way of a thorough fisking of Accelerate, and its argument is extremely important for business leaders would-be and actual. Most business case studies, Rosenzweig makes clear, are completely thrown off by failure to deal with basic confounders for their analyses, most of all the halo effect”: we tend to evaluate companies’ decisions on the basis of their business success or failure, and it is very difficult to analyze decisions independent of outcomes (not least because we don’t have the data on all the competitors’ decisions!). If you have any interest in business books, you should read this.

I also picked back up Eisenstein’s magisterial The Printing Press as an Agent of Change a few days ago. The book is so large that by pushing through about 220 pages in the past few days, I have now read more of it than I read back when we discussed it on Winning Slowly. I don’t expect to finish the remaining 300 pages in the next day and a half, but I’m glad to have picked it back up, and I am confident I will finish it… eventually.


Fiction went a bit better than non-fiction: I had lower goals, and I tend to turn to fiction when I need to rest or reset. That said, it’s telling that I didn’t even do a lot of that this year: I was very often so tired at the ends of my days that I would read through a few essays saved to my Kobo and then fall asleep.

Goals vs. reality

As with non-fiction, I’m hiding the details here behind a little toggle, and as with non-fiction you should feel free to open it up to dig in as you like!

Detailed breakdown of goals vs. actual

Goal books finished

  • The Great Hunt, Robert Jordan
  • The Aleph Extraction: The Galactic Cold War, Book II, Dan Moren
  • The Nova Incident: The Galactic Cold War, Book III, Dan Moren

Goal books continued

  • Sword & Citadel: The Second Half of the Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe
  • Green Mars, Kim Stanley Robinson

Goal books untouched

  • Blue Mars, Kim Stanley Robinson

Non-goal books finished

  • The Dragon Reborn, Robert Jordan
  • Children of Time, Adrian Tchaikovsky
  • Children of Ruin, Adrian Tchaikovsky
  • Battle of the Linguist Mages, Scotto More
  • Shards of Honor, Lois McMaster Bujold
  • Shards of Earth, Adrian Tchaikovsky
  • Age of Swords: Book Two of the Legends of the First Empire, Michael J. Sullivan
  • The Hobbit, J. R. R. Tolkien (reread with my younger daughter)

High points and recommendations

The big discovery of the year here was Adrian Tchaikovsky. A number of people whose reading taste I appreciate (most notably Robin Sloan and Ben Makuh) had spoken well of his Children of Time, and they were extremely right. Neither its sequel, Children of Ruin, nor the other Tchaikovsky I read, Shards of Earth, impressed me to the same degree, but I enjoyed all of them quite a lot, and I look forward to reading more of his oeuvre.

It’s sad and telling that unlike last year’s enthusiastic recommendation of The Book of the New Sun, I don’t have anything to say about higher/more literary fiction here. I simply did not have the mental or emotional energy for hard fiction; I spent all that energy on personal things and non-fiction.

Other categories

I had hoped, at the start of the year, to make time for both poetry and at least one textbook. I made a little progress on poetry: I read about half of Tolkien’s telling of Sigurd and Gudrún. Epic poetry is its own special thing, so I don’t know how much this fits into my overall ongoing goals, but I was glad to have done some here, at least.

I also hoped to read the rest of Introduction to Applied Linear Algebra: Vectors, Matrices, and Least Squares, by Stephen Boyd — to patch up a gap from my undergrad education. Unfortunately, this was an early casualty of the year’s difficulties; I made zero progress on it whatsoever.

In sum

I had hoped, when I started this year, to make a better habit of reading:

One goal for this year: to carve out 30 minutes a day on week days for either reading or writing (alternating days). Even accounting for sick days, time off, etc., I should net out to something like 60 hours (1½ work weeks!) each of reading and writing.

As with so many other things this year, that simply did not happen. Not even close. I was glad of what I did read this year, even so. And I did read 22 books in 2022! As I said at the start: I’ll take it.