Best Reads of 2022

Jānis Lanka
6 min readJan 21, 2023

2022 packed quite a punch for me — from living like a digital nomad, bouncing from one AirBnB to another every other week, to facing incredible highs and lows at work. Being fully invested in what I do and diving deep into it also meant that I had very little time for other things, such as reading. In fact, my friends even commented on how they had noticed that I hadn’t been posting much on Instagram or anywhere else. While the past two years have been filled with an ridiculous amount of work, they’ve also been packed with an amazing amount of enjoyment doing that. However, I’ll admit that it was slightly unhealthy. But that’s a whole another post, maybe in some near future.

This is also why I never posted about my top readings from the 2021 because out of my usual goal of 20 books per year, I was able to complete only 5 books. But I have to call out one amazing read — Born a Crime by Trevor Noah. Pick up the audiobook format to enjoy Trevor’s narration! Moving on to 2021, my taste in books as usual tends to switch between fiction, self-help, biographies, and what my friends call “business books.” And 2022 wasn’t an exception (see my Goodreads history), but here are three books that I truly enjoyed and highly recommend anyone to pick up, too.

Ready Player Two

by Ernest Cline

“My friend Kira always said that life is like an extremely difficult, horribly unbalanced videogame. When you’re born, you’re given a randomly generated character, with a randomly determined name, race, face, and social class. Your body is your avatar, and you spawn in a random geographic location, at a random moment in human history, surrounded by a random group of people, and then you have to try to survive for as long as you can.”

To those who haven’t read the first book, Ready Player One takes us to 2045 — a world where people use virtual reality as a means of escape from their mundane lives, but also do regular life stuff — attend school, parties, work. Also in this sequel, the author packs references to current and past celebrities, brands, historic moments, wraps it in a similar nostalgia of 1980s, and takes the lead characters on a new journey. The story picks up a few days after the first book ended and explores the future of what happens when an AI goes rogue. Right now where ChatGPT brings up AI conversations to the top of our feeds again, it’s always fascinating to read how creative minds imagine the possible future to unfold. Well, this time it’s not about getting access to riches, but rather a survival for the main characters and all those connected to the Oasis.

As I read the book, it drew parallels to our current world a bit too close to my liking. One example being that no matter how bad the world is getting, people will seek refuge in other “worlds” — be that virtual, movies, or fantasies. We usually think that we’ll change our behavior once it gets really bad, well, pandemic happened…and did we really change anything? I do hope, however, that in our real world, we will not seek escape and ignore the peril and destruction around us.

No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention

by Reed Hastings

“If you give employees more freedom instead of developing processes to prevent them from exercising their own judgment, they will make better decisions and it’s easier to hold them accountable.”

I can’t say that that there has been a book about a company culture that had me check out the company’s Career website. But this one did. In fact, while reading this book, I found myself wanting to proclaim that if my company’s culture does not align with what Reed Hastings writes there, then I don’t want it! This book truly drew a lot of emotions from me as my previous work experiences resonated throughout the pages of this book. Essentially, it delves into what made Netflix’s successful, which is partly attributed to its unique culture that was consciously and diligently created. And while not ground breaking ideas, the key ideas are of high talent density, a lot of honesty, and not many useless policies.

Of course, there is a public view that is written and blogged about, and then the real view that is truly practiced. Netflix is no exception to this. Similar to Spotify’s tribe model that they are known for in Product Management, the reality is different and they have changed their team models several times since. But even though Netflix may not currently be practicing all the ideas mentioned in this book, the principles provided should help you stop and think for a while and see how such ideas can be contextualized better in your own company. I can even make a challenge and say that every single company’s senior leadership would benefit from a “book club” discussion about the ideas expressed there.

Surrounded by Idiots

by Thomas Erikson

“But the most important lesson that you can walk away with is that the idiots who surround you are, in fact, not idiots at all. Instead, they are individuals worthy of respect, understanding, and being valued.”

With its eye-catching title, it made several interesting remarks when I mentioned it among some of my recent book titles. This book is just another addition to the already long list of personality type frameworks. But too many people kept referencing color personality types to me in the past few years, asking if I’m green, red, yellow, etc. and I didn’t know how to respond. So, I embarked on a journey of categorizing people from my family or work into those four colors. It was truly insightful and enjoyable! Perhaps the enjoyable part was partly due to the author’s voice and writing style.

This framework puts everyone in four color groups that have different communication techniques. But what makes this framework different is that an individual could belong to two or even three colors. So, you’re not just one thing, but several ha! And, just like any personality type framework, it it doesn’t provide scientific accuracy, but it does provide a common framework for communication and understanding, which in turn allows us to effectively get our points across and not get frustrated that the way “they” do things is not how we would do them.

One book gives us clues into how the world could look in the near future, and the other two provide us with better frameworks on how to shape the future in a better way. Happiness and contentment can only be achieved if we’re able to shape our environments, which in turn can only be done if we better understand why other people are different. So, I hope you’ll enjoy these books as much as I did, and will try your best to shape your future both at home and at work.

And as always, if you have any good recommendations on books that I should add to my reading list, feel free to send them via Goodreads or comment here.

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Jānis Lanka

Building a better internet, one digital brick at a time.