Tuesday, January 03, 2023

2022 in Books

Covers of 54 books
2022 Goodreads Challenge
Like many things of 2022 my reading didn't go to plan. It went different in a completely unexpected way. 

My initial plan was to read about 18 books, which is a bit more than I manage in a normal year. I wanted to read a mix of fiction and non-fiction, and planned to alternate between one of each. I had a queue already on Goodreads and was all set.

It went well the first two months, but then I came across some non-fiction books that were so exhausting or boring that I gave up on them (I list them below in a separate section).

I also was not happy with other parts of my life, which led me to binge read two easy to read guilty pleasure thriller series. That's the reason I ended up with 54 books read in the year.   

One thing I kept from last year is the use of Readwise to retain knowledge from the books. This led me to take highlighting and taking notes much more serious.

This year I'll start with a goal of 24 books, which seems reasonable. But if I learned something over the last few years, then nothing goes according to plan. 


A quick read about how to structure your work and life for more focus. I didn't agree with a lot of this book. I think it is suited for a certain person who isn't me. The stuff I agree with is the usual: focus on fewer things, remove distractions, and have a life. 

I was seeking a book about hiring and behavioural interviews and this
mostly fit the bill.
It goes into the different stages of hiring: preparation, screening, interviews,
deciding & offering and on-boarding.
I liked the focus on looking for reasons to say "no" through the whole
I would have liked to have more about behavioural interviews, but the section
was at least a good introduction.
The suggested entire interview process with every interviewer repeating the same
questions seems a bit tedious. I am sure the results are great. I wonder what
effect this has on the interviewees.
In general, the book assumes a buyer's market with the attitude towards the
applicants only switching in the offer phase.
The on-boarding section is short and punchy. This appears to be a bit of an

I heard about this through a podcast interview with the author.

It was still not what I expected, but in a good way.

It is about how we deal with the limited amount of time we have on earth, and about good or bad ways to deal with it.

A lot of it will sound familiar, and he quotes many authors who have written about related topics.

My quick summary would be:

  • enjoy everything you do at that moment for what it is
  • choose a few things to focus on 
  •  don't worry about missing out on opportunities, you can't avoid it anyway
  • just don't worry so much
  • everybody is winging it

I think this book could have been a lot shorter, but probably because I am still optimizing for time and sometimes things just take as long as they take. 

 I really enjoyed this book, as with many of this kind of books, it is about a simple idea that most likely could have explained in a few blog posts.
That being said, the change from carrot/stick management to something more meaningful is something important, especially in the knowledge industry.
The book could do with an updated version. A lot of the examples are out of day and feel a bit dusty.  

I am now using the framework of autonomy, purpose, and mastery when working with a team, but also when I evaluate my job and motivation. 

This is a great book about product management. I have seen many companies falling into the build trap by focusing on delivering more and more features to the users, while not thinking about the outcomes. It also goes into the details of the structure of product organizations, POs vs. PMs and how the product organization relates to the rest of the company.  

More product people and leaders should read this.

My Hygge Home: How to Make Home Your Happy Place

I love the idea of Hygge. Creating a home for cosiness and togetherness should be the goal. Balancing this with the real world, with its messiness and pack of dogs that is keen on destroying everything, is another matter. 

But occasionally, I have my Hygge moments and I aim to create the environment to have these more often. 

A Philosophy of Software Design 

We read this in our book club at work. There are many things I like about this book, but also a lot I disagree with. One thing that stuck in mind was his preference for big functions and classes.  

Thinking in Systems: A Primer 

I didn't like it as much as I should have. I can't put my finger on it, it might just be the writing style.
Even all the references to the environment or general leftism didn't help!
The chapters I enjoyed most were the zoo and the last two chapters. I guess they were the most practical ones.  

Radical Focus: Achieving Your Most Important Goals with Objectives and Key Results 

This is basically a brief intro to OKRs. It consists of an explanation, a fable, and some real life examples.
It didn't tell me anything new, but it is well written, and you get through it in a day.

Given up or paused non-fiction

Who: The A Method for Hiring

I disagreed with most of the premises of this book and gave up about halfway through.

I think this is probably a great book. Something about the language makes it super hard for me to read. Ideally, I would like an executive summary.  

For now, I pause this and come I will come back to it when I feel up to it. 

This is a good book, and it helped me to move away a bit from my thinking of the ideal team being stable.

It also has good strategies for managing changing teams, which will happen, regardless of what you want because of organizational growth or people leaving.  

Planning for swapping people around is also a good idea if you have the organization size to be able to support it.  

And to actively include the teams if you are doing some kind of restructuring (splitting teams, for example). 

What I don't buy is the idea that reteaming is the solution to everything and everybody can be just learning all the required languages and technologies to be able to constantly swap teams. 

The whole book could also been a few blog posts.


Millennium Series

I have seen the Swedish film a couple of times, which was great.
I also saw the US remake, which wasn't.
And unsurprisingly, the book is also great, even if you know the story already.
I loved the writing, the people, and the setting.
While the films only touch the surface, the book can easily dive into the characters, relationships and small details.
I am a bit of a Nordic Noir fan and this is probably one of the best. 

I enjoyed the second book even more than the first one. It is also a much better story than the film, which focused mostly on the action.
I liked how we go into details of the characters and back-story of the protagonist.
Because the story involves the characters I like a lot more instead of solving some random crime, I was also a lot more engaged.

The House in the Woods (Atticus Priest #1)
A Place To Bury Strangers (Atticus Priest #2)

I basically buy everything from Mark Dawson. These are two independent detective books. Atticus Priest is another one of the broken lone detectives that I enjoy. Both books are set in the UK, with a very different approach to policing than the usual US setting.

Some chapters are playing in court, which are a bit slow.

Michael Connelly is another author I read everything from, this time focusing on the FBI. 

The Vault  

Another one from Mark Dawson. I prefer thrillers set in the present, but this trip back to Berlin with the wall is still fun. 


Mark Dawson again, looking at the past of Group 15, involving travel to Ukraine and Russia and reimagining some events from the 80s.  

Legends & Lattes 

A lovely book. I don't read much fantasy, but this would have worked in any setting.
It reads like a cup of tea (or latte) and a biscuit next to a fireplace feels. The Hygge of fantasy books. Nice and cosy.
The characters and setting are fun. It is a bit like when all the characters of Lord of the Rings would have proper jobs. 

The Avenger 

Mark Dawson, continuing the story of Isabella Rose. She is the younger replacement of one of his previous heroines. 

With the TV series being released, I thought I better give the book a go.  This is better than the TV adaptation. Explaining the large spans of times is just much easier in writing. 

I am uncertain if I will continue the book series. Maybe this is enough?

Another one of my guilty pleasures. I read the series mostly because of the places in Sweden. It just feels relaxing … except of the occasional murder.

I found that I had to work hard to suspend my disbelief. It was a bit too much magic technology and abilities bordering superheroes for my taste.

As I mentioned above, I don't read much fantasy. In this book series, there are two parallel worlds, one is sci-fi, the other one fantasy.  

Initially, I really hated the fantasy chapters. There was just too much magic and the hero too unbelievable. But as the two world interwove it made more sense and I ended up enjoying the whole series. 

The end was hard work to make sure that all the different stories came together. 

There is also a lot of sex … a lot … more than necessary for the story.

One of the binged series I mentioned in the introduction. Again, I enjoy the slightly broken hero. There is a lot of unnecessary killing, which calms down a bit in the later books.

Desert Star (Renée Ballard, #5; Harry Bosch Universe, #36)

As Harry is getting a bit old and will probably not last much longer, Renee seems to be his replacement for the future. Another reliable book by Connally. 

The Sandman (John Milton #21)

Mark Dawson's main protagonist coming back for another book.  Annoyingly, this ends with a cliffhanger. 

DJ Slaughter Series (#1 - #6)

The second binged series. This really isn't that good.  The hero is a bit of a present time gun slinger, who has a group of typecast sidekicks. There is a lot of killing and countless guns. How many versions of the M16 are there? And who even cares?

I hope this series doesn't continue. I might be compelled to read the next episode too.


Lazarus: Risen #7 

I guess this concludes the series? I liked the art and backstory. It never went really deep. I think this deserves a normal novel. 

Mark Dawson's Beatrix Rose: Vigilante (#1 - #5) 

This is OK, I guess.  I prefer the books.

Another volume! I was quite lucky to even notice that this came out. Amazon/Comixology has to do some work on discoverability or subscriptions.  

I don't enjoy it as much any more since some main characters left or changed. It would be great to have this conclude soon.


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