Happy New Year! I hope you have found time to rest and recharge with family and friends during the holiday season. 2022 is sure to be a busy one!
A warm welcome to you new readers who are getting this for the first time. Thank you for letting me be a small part of your week. As a reminder, Tippets is where I share my thoughts on topics I find interesting, usually centered around technology and psychology, with some fun pieces here and there to mix it up!
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If 2020 was "the Craziest Year Ever," what is the appropriate superlative for 2021? One survey suggested 50% of Americans have dubbed the last twelve months "the worst year ever." For millions, 2021 was the year of the "Great Resignation." A time to transition out of jobs that weren't fulfilling or values aligned in search of something new. It was a year full of loss, grief, and mourning. We’ve seen both a surging stock market, and a surging mental health crisis (particularly among young people). An unequivocally challenging year that felt eerily similar to the one prior.
Yet, regardless of how much 2021 rhymed with 2020, my 2021 superlative is "The Year of New Beginnings".
I feel very fortunate that there existed a sense of ‘newness’ across my life’s pillars - Family, Work, Physical Health, Mental Health, and Friendships - during a time that has felt incredibly repetitive. My wife and I welcomed our baby girl, the brightest light of my year. I went full-time on a new business. I renewed my focus on physical and mental health, with a new, more deliberate routine. New friendships formed despite the challenges COVID has presented.
I enter 2022 much as I did in 2021 - full of gratitude and hope. Believing that a return to normal is on the horizon. That the whiplash caused by ever changing government mandates, travel restrictions, and testing policies subsides, and we can lower our baseline levels of stress. That we, as a society, find a way to move forward together.
And that I can get some more time to read.
Just like my year in books 2020, last year was not my most active year of reading by a long shot. I worked my way through 13 books during the year. Mostly non-fiction, I read largely without intention. Instead, I tried on various books for size. Those that that fit, I kept reading. Those that didn't, I put away. Let me tell you, as someone who has historically hate-read books just to finish them, this new approach has meaningfully upgraded my reading experience!
My biggest signal of books that fit? Not falling asleep! And, given all the sleep training this year, that was a higher bar than typical!
Below is the list with quick thoughts on each. I haven't done any Taps' Notes reviews yet, but they will come soon. Oh, and as I pull together my reading list for 2022, please click the link below and send me your book recommendations (particularly historical fiction or detective/spy novels)!
Note: * indicates a strong recommendation
2034: A Novel of the Next World War by Elliot Ackerman *
I devoured this terrifyingly plausible account of how the next world war unfolds. I found myself nodding most of the way through, thinking to myself, “Yep, that could happen”, “That makes sense”, “Wow, I can see it.” A worthwhile read, but be warned: if you’re anything like me, you will spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about how society might avoid running the exact playbook outlined here.
Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill
A quick read that explores love and marriage through the eyes of a character simply named “wife”. Written in a very distinctive ‘fragmentary style’ — the story doesn’t run together as a consistent narrative, but instead as fragments of thoughts — it presents a very real portrait of how feelings in marriage change over time.
The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho
The story of Andalusian shepherd boy Santiago on a his hero’s journey, needing to overcome unique obstacles on his path to treasure. It has some excellent passages, but wasn’t so memorable for me to call it a book of mine for 2021.
The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson *
This was my most gifted book of the year. An incredibly well researched read, it set in a near future when the world begins to feel the true impact of the climate crisis and the various ways the global community tries to avert major planetary disaster.
A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders *
This was an exceptional read, my favorite book of the year. George Saunders, author and literature teacher, has turned his world-renowned writing class syllabus into a book. He explores what makes a good story through in depth readings of seven short stories from Russian greats Tolstoy, Checkov, Turgenev, and Gogol. Through the book you are forced to connect with the reading a deeper level, asking both the heart and the mind, "Why did I like that? Why didn't I like that? Why am I feeling this way?" If you tell stories for a living (see: founders and sales leaders), write (casually or formally), or just enjoy reading, this is a must read. Also, I’d highly recommend Saunders’ Substack, Story Club, where he follows the same teaching techniques in the book en masse.
On Reading: Provocations, consolations and suggestions for reading more freely by Nick Parker
I recently discovered Nick Parker’s online work and his short book. It is a quick and easy read with some helpful tips on how to get back to enjoying reading. One of my favorites:
Have lots of interesting books around. To help with this: always buy the book. In the scheme of things, books cost nothing…If you’re feeling like ‘Hmm, I’m not sure whether I should or not…’ Yes, you should. Buy the damn book. My sense is that we prevaricate about buying books, not because of the cost, but because the feeling of having ‘too many’ unread books around weighs on us in some way.
Now I just need to convince my wife that's the right thing to do 🙂
The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel
I’m a big fan of Morgan Housel’s online writing. When I heard he was writing a book, I immediately pre-ordered. Like his blog, it is an insightful read that explores and explains in straightforward terms why we humans make so many irrational decisions, particularly when it comes to money.
The Great Mental Models: General Thinking Concepts by Shane Parrish
Another person I've followed online for years (and one of the inspirations behind Tippets), when Shane Parrish writes a book, I'm going to be reading it. Reflecting his work at Farnam Street, this first of four installment goes through nine mental models, and offers actionable suggestions on how to apply them to one’s everyday life. I'll be reading the second installment this year.
Think Again by Adam Grant
Adam Grant has a very easy and approachable writing style that I enjoy. He mixes together academic research with tremendous storytelling to drive home the point he is making. The point of Think Again? Stay curious, and be open to questioning your beliefs. A valuable read, particularly considering the times we are living in.
What Does It All Mean?: A Very Short Introduction to Philosophy by Thomas Nagel *
A quick read, the book is Thomas Nagel's excellent, thought-provoking attempt to introduce the casual reader to philosophy. He looks at questions that philosophers have been debating for millennia, asking the reader to consider them herself. How do we know anything? Is right and wrong the same for everyone? Do we have control of what choices we make? I plan on digging into more philosophy this year, and Nagel was a great on-ramp.
An important note: I listened to the audio book versions of each of these. I find listening to autobiographies read by the author an awesome experience. They become guests, invited into my home or on a road trip, and offering an hours long answer to the question, “So what’s your story?” I highly recommend pairing the audiobook to the book itself.
A Promised Land by Barack Obama *
I will start by saying I am a huge fan of Barack Obama, including his writing and oratorical style. A Promised Land, the first of two books 44 plans on writing about his presidency (he admits himself he was trying his best to get it into one but couldn't 😅) did not disappoint. Getting the chance to view the world from the vantage point, however biased, of an exceptionally talented person who happens to be in the most powerful job in the world is a treat I very much enjoyed.
Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey
Matthew McConaughey is hilarious. And a surprisingly good story teller. I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about his life’s journey - a wild and whacky one to be sure! Being able to hear him tell it in his distinct, Texas drawl made it that much better. Alright, alright, alright.
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
I hadn't heard of Joan Didion until after she died last month, when I read about her life and career. I quickly understood why she was such a revered literary figure after reading this, a book describing the year immediately following her husband's death due to a heart attack. The way she navigates big, heavy concepts - death, grief, marriage - is something special.
Tippets from Around the Web:
Some fun to end:
This one hit home way too hard 😅
For all of you with so many browser tabs open you don’t know when or why you opened them know that you’re not alone.
Poem I’m thinking about:
Look at it, cold and wet like a newborn
calf. I want to tell it everything—how we
struggled, how we tore out our hair and
thumbed through rusted nails just to
stand for its birth. I want to say: look how
far we’ve come. Promise our resolutions.
But what does a baby care for oaths and
pledges? It only wants to live.
- Kate Baer
Please share what you’re reading! If you have insight on anything mentioned above or have any interesting links/papers/books that you think would be worth sharing in future issues of Tippets, please reach out! Click here, reply to this email, or DM me on Twitter at @taps.
How did you like this week’s Tippets? Your feedback helps me make this better every issue.
I always look forward to reading your recap of the books you’ve read the past year. With 2 small kids I am impressed you still have found the time to read so many!