My Favorite Books of 2022
Reading is a big part of my life. I try to finish a book a week. I don’t always achieve this goal, but I try. In order to keep track I make a list of the books completed each year. I read thirty-two books in 2022. The year before I read thirty-seven—not huge numbers, but respectable. I use all three mediums: print, when at home, ebooks, when traveling, and audiobooks when driving between clinics and hospitals. Time is precious, I spend a lot of it reading. These are my favorites from last year.
1. The Physician, by Noah Gordon (published 1986). The story of the epic journey of Robert Cole who is orphaned in London circa 1030 AD. He survives to be apprenticed to a barber-surgeon who teaches him the art of fast-talking and swindling by selling false hope and worthless medicine as they travel around England. However, Cole has a gift, he can sense if a patient will live or die. This power ignites a passion for becoming a real doctor, leading him on a global quest to be taught by the great physician, Avicenna (Ibn Sina). Robert Cole’s ethics and compassion are traits worthy of all practitioners of the medical arts. I wish I’d read this before starting medical school.
2. Horse, by Geraldine Brooks (published 2022). A remarkable story told through three timelines. The main thread begins in 1850, focusing on Lexington, the greatest racehorse of the 19th century, and his groom/trainer, Jarret, an enslaved boy. The story then jumps back and forth to the present day where an art history PhD student, Theo, and a zoologist, Jess, the director of the Smithsonian Osteology Prep Lab, try to weave together the history of Lexington’s portrait and his skeleton. The final threads of the story occur in the 1950’s intertwining the lives of Martha Jackson and the artist, Jackson Pollock. It’s a marvelous tapestry created by a Pulitzer Prize-winning author. The amount of research that went into this book is astonishing.
3. Project Hail Mary, by Andy Weir (published 2021). I’ve been following Andy Weir’s writing career since he self-published the serialized version of his novel, The Martian. His success has been an inspiration. More importantly, his writing is awesome. Project Hail Mary is the story of a last ditch effort to save Earth and is reminiscent of Carl Sagan and H.G. Wells. Weir’s ability to tell a great story that blurs the genre lines between thriller and science fiction is unsurpassed.
Fiction Honorable Mention:
4. Five Decembers, by James Kestrel (published 2022)
5. One for the Money, by Janet Evanovich (published 1994)
1. The Empire of Pain, by Patrick Radden Keefe (published 2021). An incredibly well-researched story of the Sackler family and their contribution to the opioid crisis. I was a medical student and surgical resident when the Sacklers were gearing up their narcotic marketing machine at Purdue Pharma and recall the pressure physicians were under to ensure patients had no complaints of discomfort. The propaganda surrounding pain management and lies concerning the non-addictive properties of Oxycontin are accurately portrayed in the book. The most disturbing aspect of this story, apart from the opioid death toll, is the quid pro quo relationships between the pharmaceutical industry and various government agencies—it’s nauseating. Michael Keaton does a great job in a television version in Dopesick on Hulu. It is a jaw-dropping, mind-blowing tale that seems almost impossible to believe—except it’s not.
2. The Song of the Cell, by Siddhartha Mukherjee (published 2022). I read anything Sidd Mukherjee publishes. There isn’t a better non-fiction science writer today. His ability to teach medical science to those without formal training is a wonderful gift for all of us. He is the modern-day Lewis Thomas. The Song of the Cell is a journey into the cells of our body. He begins with the cleavage of an ovum. He follows the journey as this cell develops from a blastosphere to an embryo and eventually into a full-grown human comprised of billions of cells with a multitude of different functions. How does that happen? It’s an incredible story.
3. Leave the Gun, Take the Cannoli, by Mark Seal (published 2021). The book’s subtitle is The Epic Story of the Making of The Godfather. I’m a fan of Mario Puzo’s story of the Corleone family, but not for the reasons you might think. Sure, it’s a great book and movie. However, as an author what impresses me is Puzo’s storytelling ability. The story arc of Michael’s character is classic. He begins as a family outsider, a soldier who left to fight in WWII, and becomes transformed into what he tried to escape, the next Godfather. It’s fantastic, especially all the scenes that come in between. Puzo’s origin as a writer is fascinating. I had no idea he had a gambling addiction that almost cost him two broken legs. But that’s only part of the story. The last two-thirds are about the trials and tribulations suffered by Francis Ford Coppola, thrust upon him by Paramount, to make the film version. Hercules completed his twelve labors with less hassle. How did an untested, former porn film director and cast of nobodies (Pacino, Keaton, Duvall, and Caan) create one of the most iconic Hollywood films ever made? Read the book.
Non-fiction Honorable Mention:
4. Hot Lights and Cold Steel, by Michael Collins (published 2005)
5. The River of the Gods, by Candice Millard (published 2022)
Check out the newest release of the Mark Thurman series, Stability Island on Amazon today.
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