The Books I Read in 2022

Published in books on December 27, 2022 last edited on January 5, 2023

I love reading and I love writing so this kind of article should come natural to me. Somehow, it is the first time I ever write something like this. I’m not even sure why. Hopefully, I’ll be able to do this every year from now on.

Since it is the first time I do this, the article is broken down in two parts. First I go over each book and share a few words. It is a long list of books because this was a good reading year.

The second part is a quick description of how I extracted the data from goodreads and played around with it to create this skeleton of the article.

The books #

At first, I thought I’d cluster the books for ease of access but any grouping I could think of had flaws so I’m presenting the books in the order I read them.

I also decided against sharing a rating for each book because there would be too many 5-star ratings. I tend to rate my books quite high: my average rating on goodreads is 4.1 (out of 547 read books). This is a consequence of spending a lot of time researching what to read next. I enjoy the process very much; bookshops are my happy place. OK, all set. Let’s go.

How to Stop Time

How to Stop Time

I had high expectations for this. I loved the midnight library and the plot intrigued me very much. It has strong Highlander vibes, a movie I loved as a kid.

And yet, I couldn’t connect with the book. The story is fascinating, the writing is good but there’s genuinely nothing going on. Time moves forward but the story seems stuck. I hoped for a great ending but that also didn’t happen.

The World Without Us

The World Without Us

I read this book as research for a writing project (now stalled by another writing project ๐Ÿ™ƒ).

The writing was really boring to me and I struggled to finish it. The content is very interesting though.

Zoe's Tale

Zoe's Tale

The fourth book (out of six) in the Old man’s war saga. One of my favourite sci-fi sagas ever. I’m sure I will reread all of it soon enough.

Moreover, John Scalzi is one of my favourite writers in general. His writing style is very engaging and entertaining.

Despite all this I waited a while before reading the second part of the saga. Somehow I didn’t find the premise of “Zoe’s Tale” intriguing. It tells a story you already know through the eyes of a teen.

I was wrong! I loved the book. Zoe’s voice is believable (I’m a man though… so take that with a grain of salt) and the new angle on the story is refreshing. It does indeed answer some questions I didn’t know I wanted answers for. Highly recommended.

The Human Division

The Human Division
Average John Scalzi book: extremely entertaining, highly recommended.

The End of All Things

The End of All Things

Average John Scalzi book: extremely entertaining, highly recommended.

Read the whole saga!

The Ministry for the Future

The Ministry for the Future

One of the strangest book I have ever read.

I hated the writing style and really struggled to finish it. It felt like I was reading the first draft of a masterpiece. Infuriating.

On the other hand, I loved some ideas and a few scenes from the book stayed with me for months. So, mixed feelings… I guess?

Speed & Scale

Speed & Scale

The most important book I read in 2022, hands down. As soon as I finished, I started to recommend it to everyone I know.

It’s well written and makes a compelling argument to “solve” climate change with the same capitalistic tools that got us here.

What I think about the plan would need its own article so I spare you that. Do read it though. Also, get a physical copy of this book. It’s really beautiful.

Kafka in Action

Kafka in Action

I’m very interested in Kafka so it’s only natural I read “all the Kafka books”.

I had bought this one long before it was published. In fact, when I got it I had forgot about it completely :)

It’s a good book and it will teach you the basics of Kafka. I remember finding the examples in the book a little annoying but nothing major.

If I had to recommend only one book to get started with Kafka, it wouldn’t be this one though. If you’re looking for THE book, you want to read “Kafka: the definitive guide”.

Atomic Kotlin

Atomic Kotlin

When I’m learning a new language, the first thing I do is reading a book about it. So when I started researching Kotlin I was very pleased to find this book. I loved “Thinking in Java” back at Uni. Bruce Eckel knows how to write.

The book did not disappoint. Very good writing, thoughtful examples. Recommended.

The Manager's Path

The Manager's Path

It is a little painful to say I didn’t love this book. I look up to Camille Fourier. I read many of her blog posts while furiously nodding.

Maybe the problem is that my expectations were too high. Also, I think I had the wrong expectations: I though I’d find more useful information to me personally.

Having said all of this, I think you should read it if you care about engineering management. It’s well written. It’s a solid book.

Become an Effective Software Engineering Manager

Become an Effective Software Engineering Manager

I confess I went into this book very sceptical about it. Pragmatic programmers books give a tech bro vibe I’m not really fond of anymore. The title of this book is in line with that vibe.

So I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the writing and the actionable advice. A great first engineering management book. It reads like a guide so it’s perfect for people that have no experience with the job.

The Making of a Manager

The Making of a Manager

Julie Zhuo is an incredible writer. If you’re not subscribed to her newsletter, you’re missing out on great content.

Since I know what an amazing writer Zhuo is, I’m not surprised I loved her book.

It’s a personal take on engineering management and reads more like a novel than a technical book (I mean this as a strong compliment).

Zhuo’s writing is elegant, the stories she tells are engaging. I hope she writes more books.

Highly recommended.

Building Event-driven microservices

Building Event-driven microservices

If I hadn’t known upfront what this book was about, I’m sure I’d never read it. What I’m trying to say is that the title is a little off.

It’s more abut streaming platforms than “microservices”. It’s a good overview of the subject and it’s well written.

To me, it’s a “read if you care about the subject” kind of book.

The Calculating Stars

The Calculating Stars

I’ve always found alternate history sci-fi to be an intriguing sub-genre but, for no reason in particular, I read very little of it. Not sure why. Anyway.

The “Lady astronaut Universe” series (three books so far, a fourth on the way) is set into an alternate history where, in 1952, a huge meteorite destroys much of the east coast of the United States. The event speeds up the race to space.

I loved the whole series. I binge-read all of them in the span of two weeks. I grew very fond of Elma York (main character in the first two books) and Nicole Wargin (main character in the third one).

I genuinely can’t wait for the next book in the series.

The Fated Sky

The Fated Sky
See previous review.

The Relentless Moon

The Relentless Moon
See previous review.

Who Fears Death

Who Fears Death

Nnedi Okorafor is such a spectacular writer. This book doesn’t read like a novel to me. It’s poetry. The words don’t just bring the story forward. There’s a beauty to her writing that is hard to explain.

I often find myself thinking about Onyesonwu, the main character, months after I read it.

Incredible read.

Of Ants and Dinosaurs

Of Ants and Dinosaurs

Cixin Liu is my favourite sci-fi writer. His imagination is immense, he finds new ways to surprises me all time. The remembrance of earth’s past is by a significant margin the most profound sci-fi saga I have ever read.

This book is on par with the rest of his writing. The story is about the evolution and coexistence of two intelligent species (yes… ants and dinosaurs) at the same time. Liu imagination is on fire in this book. The implications, the allegoric meaning of the plot. Incredible writing.

The Girl with the Louding Voice

The Girl with the Louding Voice

I loved this book. The journey Adunni goes through is as hard as it’s unforgettable.

The writing is as good as it gets. The story is though. Adunni wants to study, she wants to find her “louding voice” and she has to get past immense obstacles to get something so many of us give for granted.

I read this book months ago but the whole story is vivid in my head as I read it yesterday. A masterpiece.

Pandora's Star

Pandora's Star

First book in the “Commonwealth saga”.

British author Peter Hamilton has the most incredible writing style I have ever come across:

  • The amount of detail in each “scene” he narrates is astonishing.
  • He drives the plot forward with many concurrent storylines involving some 50 people or so.

I say scene because the best way I can describe his writing style is: “you’re literally reading a movie”. That’s how detailed his writing is.

If it’d be only technique though, I think I’d lose interest (the book is very long and I’m sure it lost some readers along the way). But the story itself is as good as the writing is.

Space opera at its best.

A Philosophy of Software Design

A Philosophy of Software Design

Difficult subject so I appreciate the effort of trying to write about “how to design software”.

The book is interesting and worth reading if you’re a programmer.

Judas Unchained

Judas Unchained

Second, and last, book of the “Commonwealth saga”. It’s as good as the first one. Incredible journey.

Be aware: the series seems short because it’s just two books but they’re more than 1k pages each so it’s more a 7 book series. Worth the time investment if you ask me.

The Forever War

The Forever War
It’s a classic for a reason: the plot is great, the character development is deep, the ending is perfect. A must-read for any sci-fi aficionado.

Forever Free

Forever Free
The sequel to “the forever war” took quite a turn from the themes of the first book. I found its ideas intriguing and liked the book. But I understand why some hated it.

Forever Peace

Forever Peace

I’m not entirely sure how much this book should be considered part of “the forever war saga”. To be honest I don’t care. I loved the story.

It would be a perfect “action sci-fi” movie. But I’d have to do the casting :)

Distributed Systems For Fun and Profit

Distributed Systems For Fun and Profit
Available for free at http://book.mixu.net/distsys/. A good introduction to the basic (in the true sense of the word) concepts in the distributed systems space. A bit dated maybe. But hey it’s free, don’t complain too much about it.

Great North Road

Great North Road

Another 1k pages book by Peter Hamilton. Same incredible writing technique as the “commonwealth” saga and a few themes in common. I think some people may consider this a downside but I don’t because both the writing and the themes developed in Hamilton’s books are very good.

Bonus point for me: it’s a murder mystery and the plot is developed perfectly.

Upgrade

Upgrade

Blake Crouch doesn’t know how to write bad books. As his previous books (recursion and dark matter), this is an absolute page-turner. In the best sense possible: I just couldn’t put it down. I may have read it in a day or two.

The ending is really profound. I find myself thinking about it often since I finished it.

Hourly Billing is Nuts

Hourly Billing is Nuts
Worth it if you’re a freelancer.

Learn Your Lines

Learn Your Lines
Worth it if you’re a freelancer.

The City in the Middle of the Night

The City in the Middle of the Night

They say “don’t judge a book by its cover” but I’m pretty sure I bought this one because I liked the cover (and the blue cloth covering!).

I found the story a little slow at times but overall I’m very happy I picked it up. Sophie is a fantastic main character. The author has an incredible imagination. It’s hard not to be fascinated by the world she created.

The Kaiju Preservation Society

The Kaiju Preservation Society

This book embarrassed me.

And with that I mean people gave me strange looks in the bus while I was reading it. I could not stop laughing out loud!

The story is so hilarious I can’t wait to forget more of it so that I can read it again.

Scalzi never misses.

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars

Engaging book but also felt a little long. I still consider it an amazing book because of its conclusion. It took me by surprise and made me smile. Lovely.

Also, it gave so much meaning to its title.

How to Take Smart Notes

How to Take Smart Notes

I had tried to read this book once already a couple of years ago but didn’t finish it then. I decided to give it another try and I’m happy I read it.

I have not integrated the technique described into my reading yet but, to be fair, I’m reading mostly fiction at the moment and the whole “how to take notes” idea is more apt for research.

I plan to buy a physical copy in a few months and use it as a playground for “how to take smart notes”. Yeah, it’s too meta, I agree.

Terraform in Action

Terraform in Action
I was looking to refresh my memory on terraform. The book served the purpose but I found some examples a little out of place.

Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain

Seven and a Half Lessons About the Brain

Engaging writing which is not a given for science related books.

It’s quite short so it’s packed with interesting information. I want to re-read soon-ish so I can take “smart notes” about it.

Born a Crime

Born a Crime

A few people recommended me this book over the past few years so it was only a matter of time before I found the right moment to read it.

Quite glad I did so. It’s a great book despite the writing isn’t always as good. Trevor Noah’s life experiences are too interesting and his perspective often surprised me.

Distributed Services with Go

Distributed Services with Go

I’m not a big fun of books where you have to build something along with the author. Nothing intrinsically wrong with the approach though, just a personal preference.

Having said that, I liked the book despite it was heavy on this idea of building something together with the reader.

The topics covered are intriguing, the order in which they are presented is very thoughtful.

The Peripheral

The Peripheral

Most painful read of 2022. I read it in anticipation of the TV series that came out in October.

I enjoyed the TV series very much. I really, and I can’t stress really enough, hated the book.

The ideas are quite profound but the writing style ruined everything for me. Most chapters go on for pages before the author reveals the name of the person is talking about. I really don’t get this approach.

A Memory Called Empire

A Memory Called Empire

First book of the “Teixcalaan duology”.

I loved everything about this book. The ideas, the characters, the writing, the plot.

Arkady Martine is an incredible writer and I can’t wait to read more from her.

Crafting Interpreters

Crafting Interpreters

If you’re a programmer, chances are you toyed with the idea of building your own language. Even just to understand how they work. It turns out they’re “just” computer programs. Some bits are easier than you think, others no so much.

Bob Nystrom did an incredible job at guiding you through building a programming language from scratch. He did it twice in the same book: first with Java and then with C so you can really grok the difference between an interpreted language and a bytecode, compiled one.

Together with “designing data intensive applications” and “programming pearls”, the best technical book I have ever read.

A Desolation Called Peace

A Desolation Called Peace

Second book in the “Teixcalaan duology”.

I didn’t think I would like it as much as the first one. I was like “nah, the first one is a masterpiece. No chance this one is as good”.

I was wrong. Arkady Martine is way too good.

Transition

Transition

My first Iain M. Banks book.

It took me a bit to get used to the writing style but then I got completely lost into this universe of parallel worlds. Profoundly interesting story.

It would make an amazing 10-episode “TV mini series”. But, hey, can I do the casting?

On Writing

On Writing

A few weeks ago, I updated one of my favourite writings also called On writing. When I shared the updated version, plaindocs recommended this. A definitive sign I should read my first Stephen King book, right?

Very glad I did so. The best book on writing I have ever read. By far.

Effective Kotlin

Effective Kotlin
I was looking to deepen my understanding of Kotlin. I picked this one up because it’s written in the spirit of “Effective Java”. Not even remotely in the same league but worth a read.

Effective Software Testing

Effective Software Testing

I’m just now realising I read two books in a row starting with the same word and I wonder if that ever happened before ๐Ÿค”

Anyway, this wasn’t a planned read but I went from checking it out to reading it without really realising. A good sign.

I liked it. Especially because it gave names to concepts I run into over the course of my career. Definitely worth a read if you’re a programmer.

Engineering Management for the Rest of Us

Engineering Management for the Rest of Us

A magnificent book on engineering management. In terms of quality of ideas, the best I read about the topic. The writing is good, a little fun too which doesn’t hurt.

Highly recommended if you’re an engineering manager or aspire to be one.

The Spare Man

The Spare Man

I really want to say I loved this book but can’t. I had very high expectations and that may have played a role. But c’mon, a sci-fi murder mystery written by Mary Robinette Kowal? Also, there’s a dog? I couldn’t be more excited.

Not trying to say it’s a bad book. It’s not. But I missed the suspense, the pace, the intricacies I expect from a murder mystery.

How I extracted the data #

I store the books I read on goodreads. I’m not particularly happy about it because it feels like the website is barely alive. After going through the experience I’m about to share, I decided I’ll move somewhere in 2023.

My plan for this blog post was this:

  • Get the title, the date read, the cover image of each book I read in 2022.
  • Convert the data into prefilled paragraphs (one for each book) so I can focus on the writing.

A trivial problem which I had to hack through because goodreads doesn’t provide a public API (๐Ÿ™„).

Naturally, I wrote a “script” to export the data from my year in book page.

I quoted script because here’s what I mean:

copy(
  [...document.querySelector("div.bookCovers").querySelectorAll("a")]
    .map((e) => {
      const img = e.querySelector("img");
      return `${e.href.match(/\d+/)[0]},${img.src}`;
    })
    .join("\n")
);

I run this “developer console CSV export” and pasted the clipboard into an images.csv file. Yikes. But hey, don’t blame me. They don’t provide an API ๐Ÿคทโ€โ™‚๏ธ.

Since this page doesn’t provide the date read (๐Ÿ™„), I requested an export of all my books and downloaded a CSV. Then I imported the two CSV into sqlite with the wonderful sqlite-utils:

sqlite-utils insert books.db images images.csv --csv
sqlite-utils insert books.db books goodreads_library_export.csv --csv

Wonderful tool (yes I know I just said that. But it’s that good you know?).

I had a quick look at the data with datasette to make sure I had the data right. You can see it in action.

Then I exported the subset of data I needed to stub this blog post and wrote a quick Ruby script to create the markdown file and download the cover images. Finally, I used imagemagick to create an image with all the covers:

montage *.jpg -tile 8x -geometry '300x+1-1' cover.jpg

I really don’t want to do this next year :) so I’ll be looking for an alternative way of storing my reading (unless goodreads magically ships an API before end of 2023).