Each year, I set a goal of reading 15 books (I’m currently at 14.) My favorite subjects tend to be business, negotiation, psychology, comedy, and sports. My 2021 favorites were Sapiens, The Ride of a Lifetime, and Never Split the Difference. Of the books I read in 2022, the following three stand out as the most exceptional.
The Nineties by Chuck Klosterman. 5 Stars
I’m not aware of another author that can break down modern pop culture with as much wit and entertainment value as Klosterman does. Klosterman defines the Nineties as the now seemingly carefree period of time between Nirvana dropping Nevermind and the horrific events of 9/11. He recounts the defining events of the decade in a fresh, unpredictable way that avoids nostalgia and easy generalizations. The book brought me back to my formative college years, an innocent time where Zima was hailed as a break-through adult beverage, Pauly Shore was a legitimate celebrity (how is that possible?), and Seinfeld was the top show in the country, changing the cultural language, and boasting higher viewership than the 2019 Game of Thrones finale for any random episode.
I first became aware of Klosterman when he was writing for the ESPN Grantland website, and have since devoured all his other books, most notably, ‘Eating the Dinosaur’ and ‘Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs.”
Memorable Quote – “Now the 1990s seem like a period when the world was starting to go crazy, but not so crazy that it was unmanageable or irreparable. It was the end of the twentieth century, but also the end to an age when we controlled technology more than technology controlled us.”
The World Changing Order by Ray Dalio. 4 Stars
Many of the events of the past few years might appear to be unprecedented (e.g. global pandemic + runaway inflation + rising interest rates + civil unrest + emerging populism on the left and right), especially as all are playing out concurrently in real-time. However, when Dalio zooms out and looks at these events within the broader context of the past 500 years of world history, we see that we are following a familiar pattern, previously evidenced by the rise and fall of the Dutch and British empires. These past events foreshadow potential complications stemming from the increasingly challenging relationship between the US and China. Dalio augments his perspective with a healthy dose of well-laid out, easy to comprehend charts. I consider this book a must read for anyone interested in world history, geopolitics, and investing. Dalio has also created a simple yet practical YouTube video explaining how the economy works, which should be required curricula for all high school students.
Memorable Quote: “No system of government, no economic system, no currency, and no empire lasts forever, yet almost everyone is surprised and ruined when they fail.”
The Breaks of the Game by David Halberstam 5 Stars
I have been hearing for years that this is one of the best sports books ever written and now I know why! Halberstam received carte blanche access as a beat writer covering the Portland Trail Blazers’ during their difficult 1979-1980 season. Led by Bill Walton, the Blazers won the 1977 NBA Championship, but were struggling for relevancy by 1979. In this book, the author not only illustrates the challenges the Blazers faced that season, but also takes a deep dive into a range of issues affecting the broader NBA in the late 1970’s. The issues include race, team chemistry, the business side of pro basketball, drugs, uncomfortable travel (back- to-back road games, flying commercial and sharing hotel rooms!), trade and contract rumors, important but unsung players, television and television advertising, the relationship of college basketball to the pro game, and the emergence of superstars Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, who ultimately saved the NBA. I had no idea that the 1980 finals between the Lakers and 76ers was shown on TV on tape-delay, which just shows how far the league has come over the past 40 years to its current status as a global phenomenon. A must read for anybody remotely interested in the NBA.
Memorable Quote: “The big redhead [Walton] anchored the perfect team in college, then spent his professional career wondering if it would ever happen again. Slowly, he watched the right nucleus form around him, quick guards and heady players who intrinsically understood where to go and what to do. The entire team became an extension of him – his mind, his skills, his passing, his rebounding, his unselfishness, his enthusiasm, his everything. When his fragile feet betrayed him while they were defending their first title, a member of the team’s medical staff convinced him to try a painkiller injection for the playoffs. Didn’t work. He blamed the organization and signed with another franchise for a ton of money, obliterating the perfect team and suffering an especially painful divorce with his coach. What he didn’t know was that basketball wouldn’t make him happy again for another seven years. Eventually, you could say he was haunted.”
What were your great reads of 2022, and what are you looking forward to reading in 2023?