Best reads of 2022

As per tradition, here is the list of the most interesting things I read this year1. I don’t necessarily agree with all the arguments put forward but they made me think and encouraged a lot of valuable reflection. My aim for 2023 is to read more statistics and philosophy of science as politics dominated my non-fiction reading this year. What were the best things you read in 2022? Please let me know as I’m always keen for more suggestions.

Anti-racism

Resistance as Sacrifice: Toward an Ascetic Antiracism (Musa al-Gharbi) – The most coherent philosophy of anti-racism I have read and the one I try to practice.

People of Color Have Agency (Freddie deBoer) – Linking all historical crimes to white power centres whiteness, makes white people the only meaningful figures in history, and casts people of colour as permanent victims without agency.

The Perils of Trauma Feminism (Yasmin Nair) – centring calls for change around stories of trauma places a large burden on those who have to share their stories and undermines the ability to make systemic changes.

Tema Okun’s “White Supremacy Culture” work is bad (Matthew Yglesias) – the characteristics identified as part of white supremacy culture are largely not related to race.

Culture

‘After lockdown, things exploded’ – how TikTok triggered a books revolution (Claire Armitstead) – TikTok has created a large force within the book publishing industry.

‘They want toys to get their children into Harvard’: have we been getting playthings all wrong? (Alex Blasdel) – Designing toys to optimise learning has undermined the ability of toys to be educational.

west elm caleb and the feminist panopticon (rayne fisher-quann) – the gleeful public shaming of a random asshole not only lets corporations profit off supposed social justice but also distracts from the core issues.

unthinkable thoughts: call out culture in the age of covid-19 (adrienne maree brown) – A call for solidarity and hope against the hopelessness of knee-jerk callouts.

Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Showbusiness (Neil Postman) – The advent of television not only changed how we spend our time but the nature of entertainment, the news, politics, culture, truth, and history.

It’s not just ignorance that stops us having babies. It’s also poor relationships (Sonia Sodha) – One of the reasons why the birth rate is falling in the U.K.

What Moneyball-for-Everything Has Done to American Culture (Derek Thompson) – The emphasis on statistical maximisation has robbed the beauty and fun from many aspects of life.

Economics

Why Do We Really Have Taxes? (Luke Burgess) – Paying for public services, including roads etc., is only a small part as to why governments tax us.

Britain’s winter of discontent is the inevitable result of austerity (John Burn-Murdoch) – Political decisions made by the government have led to the chronic problems seen in the UK’s National Health Service (NHS).

The wealthiest 1% has taken $50 trillion from working Americans and redistributed it, a new study finds. Here’s what that means. (Paul Constant) – Several policies have led to an enormous amount of wealth each year being taken from the working and middle class and cycled up to the ultra wealthy.

The Intellectual Incoherence of Cryptoassets (Stephen Diehl) – Why cryptocurrency does not work (except as speculative assets to gamble on or scams).

Bullshit Jobs: A Theory (David Graeber) – How and why so many meaningless jobs have been created, as well as the increase in non-useful work in many jobs.

The Death of “Econ 101” (Unlearning Economics) – Fundamentals ideas within economics are contradicted by the evidence.

Fiction

Pachinko (Min Jin Lee) – A portrait of a Korean family surviving in Japan.

Ohio (Stephen Markley) – The paths of four estranged high-school friends cross in the forgotten Ohio town they grew up in.

Wizard of the Crow (Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o) – An exploration of life in an African dictatorship through the lives of some of its citizens.

Politics

Seizing the Means of Knowledge Production (Musa al-Gharbi) – Whilst many believe we are in an unprecedented time of social change, such calls for change date back decades and the cultural battle has already been won.

“The Only Moral Abortion is My Abortion” (Joyce Arthur) – What happens when a pro-life advocate does not want to be pregnant?

Why I Am Not A Liberal (Liam Kofi Bright) – The founding principles of liberalism do not function well enough in a more diverse and connected society.

The Case Against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money (Bryan Caplan) – Education (especially higher education) is primarily about signalling personality traits rather than teaching skills so should be stripped back, along with more options for technical courses and play in school.

Pushing Everyone Into College was a Policy Response to Other Policy (Freddie deBoer) – How and why the US came to the point where college was seen as the only path to financial freedom.

The Gentrification of Disability (Freddie deBoer) – Focusing on those with the most palatable forms of mental illness flattens the discussion and excludes those with more challenging presentations.

What’s going on inside Putin’s mind? His own words give us a disturbing clue (Michel Eltchaninoff) – A historical and sociological perspective on Putin’s views towards Ukraine.

Cutting tuition fees in England wouldn’t be good news for universities – or students (Lorna Finlayson) – Why treating attending university as a market good does not work.

Elephant in the Zoom (Ryan Grim) – How activist groups are organised and run in modern American politics can make it harder to support those who they are supposed to be helping.

Liberals Read, Conservatives Watch TV (Richard Hanania) – Differences in how Republicans and Democrats consume media reflect and explain differences between the politics of the two.

Rituals of Childhood (Kieran Healy) – The US has made preparing for and rationalising mass shootings a core tenant of American culture.

Of Course the Constitution Has Nothing to Say About Abortion (Jill Lepore) – Basing present decisions on the sexist history of US law perpetuates inequality.

Elite Capture: How the Powerful Took Over Identity Politics (Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò) – How elite groups co-opt progressive ideals and language to strengthen their position.

The Third Web (tante) – What the core ideas within Web3 are and why they are a problem.

Have we got it wrong on dysphoria? Abigail Thorn discusses trans healthcare (Abigail Thorn) – Gender dysphoria does not exist and the UK’s NHS should move to an autonomy-based system for trans healthcare.

Science

The crimes against dopamine (Mark Humphries) – Most people don’t understand what dopamine is or does.

The science of terrible men (Kathryn Paige Harden) – Why cannot cede research on difficult scientific questions to those with heinous views.

Ugh fields (Roko) – Our brains undermine our ability to make informed decisions by subconsciously avoiding topics we find unpleasant or challenging.

[104] Meaningless Means: Some Fundamental Problems With Meta-Analytic Averages (Uri Simonsohn, Leif Nelson, & Joe Simmons) – Two flaws with meta-analyses that threaten to invalidate any conclusions drawn.

Why autism therapies have an evidence problem (Rachel Zamzow) – A historical analysis of the difficulties in conducting high-quality ethical trials on autistic children to identify effective support.

Writing

Origins and Forms of Writing (Denise Schmandt-Besserat & Michael Erard) – Where and how writing developed in the world.

against character vapor (Brandon Taylor) – Many modern authors write characters as though they are disembodied thoughts or give pointless physical descriptions.

1 They didn’t have to be from this year though many are.

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