Great Stuff I Read in 2022
by Jihad Esmail on December 18, 2022
Table of Contents
I asked Fardeem for his favorite reads of the year, which of course means I had to reciprocate. 2022 was very much not a book year. Honestly, I consumed significantly less productive media this year than any of the previous five (a lot more Twitter, though lol). That's going to need to change in 2023.
Regardless, there was definitely some good stuff, but I'll have to expand away from just books.
Let's dive in...
Human as Media: the emancipation of authorship by Andrey Miroshnichenko. This was probably the best book I read this year. It's one of those books that is just niche and academic enough that it's packed with original thought, but just relevant enough that the ideas were immeditaley applicable to my work. The book centers around the thesis that anything that is made frictionless on the internet becomes inevitable. "I publish, therefore I am. Publishing is turning from an opportunity into an obligation. And the further we go, the truer this becomes. This is only logical, because publishing has become a means of socialisation." Deep implications for anyone doing work in media, especially legacy institutions that are quickly being disrupted.
Status and Culture by W. David Marx. This was a good one, but that might've been because I never took a sociology class. The book breaks down status and power throughout society, and how culture is shaped by status-seeking. Culture, through that lens, is simply the context surrounding status. Definitely an interesting read.
Exponential by Azeem Azhar. I've been reading Azeem's newsletter for the better part of 5 years, so this book was much anticipated. He explains how "exponential technologies" like AI, renewable energy, biotech, and more are fundamentally shifting the sociopolitical bedrock of the world, and how society must shift to accomodate. The book takes an optimistic view, but isn't naive in its analysis, one of the many reasons Azeem is always a great read.
Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman. I thought this was going to be a corny self-help book, but man was I wrong. The book is an indictment of daily productivity and "life hacks" that seemingly make us get more done throughout a day or week. Instead, the author frames productivity through a lifetime lens: what do you want to do with your four thousand weeks? I'm not doing it justice, but it was truly an eye-opening read.
There were also a few essays that I either read or re-read this year that had a profound impact on how I'm thinking about work and life.
Definite Optimism as Human Capital by Dan Wang. I'm really not sure how to summarize this essay – just read it. It's long, but if you're interested at all in the intersection of economics, tech, and politics, you won't be able to stop reading.
Life After Lifestyle by Toby Shorin. This was, hands down, the best essay I have read in a long, long time. Toby manages to synthesize the last ten years of cultural production through both an economic and technological lens, and sets the stage for its future. "If people could unironically like brands now, maybe in the near future they would be comfortable opting into a culture premised on collectivity, rather than individualism. Perhaps they would be ok letting someone convince them of what is good, what a right way of life is. Perhaps they would no longer feel the urge to become unique. Perhaps they would find home and belonging in sameness, or even, I thought, faith." Read this damn essay.
The Onchain Era by Yancey Strickler. For those looking for a non-financial use case for crypto, look no further. This has quickly become a manifesto for why I do the work that I do.
Financing Kindness as a Society: The Rise & Fall of Waqfs by Khalil Abdur-Rashid. I didn't know what a waqf was until this year, and I left the year writing a full (unpublished) essay on their history and promise in the internet era. I'll hopefully publish it in 2023, but this was a great overview of the history of the waqf that sent me down the rabbithole.
And finally, a quote that has kept my attention:
"Attention, taken to its highest degree, is the same thing as prayer. It presupposes love and faith. Absolutely unmixed attention is prayer." – Simone Weil
I'm excited for the new year. There's so much more to explore. Hit my line if you want to take me down a rabbithole with you.