After the success of my article about my 5-star reads of 2023, I decided to create this: my 5-star reads of 2022!
I read a tonne of books every year, and track all of my reads, from 5-star to 1-star, on Goodreads (check out my profile and reading lists here.)
And because I religiously track what I’ve read, I’m always asked for recommendations by friends and colleagues. So, I thought, “Why not put them all in one place?”
Herewith, my lists of 5-star reads of 2022, split into non-fiction and fiction. If you’d like the plain-text version, with no links, images, or reviews, check it out here.
Non-fiction 5-star reads of 2022
Dare to Lead by Brené Brown
This is one of my top go-to leadership books. Based on decades of research on the power and meaning of belonging, shame, and whole-heartedness, Brown brings many of the threads of her previous work together in this book.
She shows us how it is possible to create humanised workplaces, where people know that they belong and they matter, and they can do their best work. And this leads to enviable outcomes – when people are no longer wasting their energy fighting for even a scrap of dignity, they can produce incredible results while maintaining their wellbeing and sense of self.
Effortless: Make It Easier to Do What Matters Most by Greg McKeown
This book is an antidote to the tunnel-visioned mindset of “no pain, no gain”, showing us that there is another pathway to achieving our dreams and that easy or effortless doesn’t mean value-less.
Weaving together research, stories, and examples of how this approach can be applied in myriad ways, this book is an effortless read. And it’s one that I will be coming back to over and over again for inspiration, encouragement and motivation to seek smarter, kinder ways to pursue my dreams and achieve my goals.
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
This is a vitally-important but challenging read, not because of the language or structure, but the subject matter.
So many people unfairly sentenced to life imprisonment or death for crimes they didn’t commit, or where mitigating circumstances (like abuse or disability) were not taken into account. Every justice system around the world can, and must, do better.
Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity by Kim Malone Scott
An excellent framework for improving relationships and results. As a newbie manager twenty-something years ago, I made every mistake the author cites. I wish the book had been around back then, because it would have saved me, and more importantly, my team members, a great deal of angst and anger!
Rich Enough? A Laid-Back Guide For Every Kiwi by Mary Holm
Simple, straightforward financial advice in one easy to read book. The author uses real-life examples, as well as plenty of tables and illustrations to demonstrate the principles in different ways. Highly recommended reading for anyone, no matter their life stage or income level.
Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative by Austin Kleon
Thought-provoking, encouraging, inspiring.
Ten Steps to Nanette by Hannah Gadsby
By turns painful and funny, the story behind the show Nanette isn’t a comfortable or easy read, but it is well-worth the time to read and absorb.
The Art of Insubordination: How to Dissent and Defy Effectively by Todd B Kashdan
This is a bloody marvellous book. It’s not merely a theoretical treatise on the importance of questioning the status quo and standing up for your principles – instead, it’s a thoroughly research-based set of practicable, actionable strategies for supporting ourselves and others to dissent without alienating everyone around us.
I love the concept of the “principled rebel”, and am looking forward to dialling up my inner rebel to change the world for good, while helping others to do the same.
The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women Killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold
A deeply-researched, thorough, and compassionate exploration of the lives of the women – Polly, Annie, Elizabeth, Catherine and Mary-Jane – who have so often and so long been pushed into the shadows of their own stories.
The Rag and Bone Shop: How We Make Memories and Memories Make Us by Veronica O’Keane
A thoroughly fascinating romp through what we know about the brain and memory, illustrated with client stories from the author’s work in mental health.
The stories are shared with sensitivity, allowing the reader to empathise with those who face mental health issues, and illustrate how complex and finely-balanced our neutral circuitry is.
Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know by Adam M. Grant
This book should be required reading, on repeat, for everyone, especially whenever we feel like we don’t need to be rethinking things.
It’s encouraged me to look at where I’m feeling really certain, and then to dig into what is leading me to feel certain, and what I perceive I gain from certainty that I might lose if I make room for doubt.
Fiction 5-star reads of 2022
Code Name Hélène by Ariel Lawhon
Wow! A riveting tale, based on the (allegedly)* true story of an iconic figure in the Second World War. I loved the interwoven storyline, fleshing out the backstory of Nancy and Henri as we follow their path through the war.
* According to some sources, the real Nancy may have embellished aspects of her story. I can’t say for sure either way, but this was a fun and engaging read.
Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman
I listened to the BBC full cast dramatisation of this and LOVED it. So much wry humour and commentary on humanity, especially our desire to know (and therefore control) the future, and reading all kinds of interpretations into things to try to justify ourselves and our choices.
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
An intriguing tale, with plenty of pathos, twists and turns, and humour, plus a decent smattering of historical events and figures.
I listened to the audiobook and highly recommend it – the narrator has a beautiful voice that I could listen to for hours on end.
The Library of Unfinished Business by Patricia Bell
A charming and intriguing tale about the afterlife – there was so much to love about this book!
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
I loved the premise of this book right from the outset, and was genuinely sad that it wasn’t twice the length! I loved the writing, the ideas, and the quirky twists and links throughout.
The Once and Future Witches by Alix E. Harrow
A wonderful tale, mixing folklore, feminism, and fierceness. I couldn’t read it fast enough, and never wanted it to end!
Woman World by Aminder Dhaliwal
Quirky humour blended with some pretty deep truths about female experiences. I absolutely loved this book and will be recommending it far and wide!
In 2022, I read 155 books, and rated 18 of them as 5-star reads – that’s 11.6% of ’em, and I’m pretty happy with that ratio.
I have a high bar for rating something as a 5-star read. It has to be something I would happily read again (preferably multiple times), that I would be proud to have on my bookshelf (and for most of the non-fiction titles, I actually do have them on my physical or virtual bookshelf), and that I would recommend to others.
And to keep myself honest, I have a personal policy that, if I’m going to give a book five stars (or,at the other end of the spectrum, one star), I have to place a review on Goodreads. I generally don’t place a review for two, three, or four-star books, unless something in particular stood out for me as the reason for that rating.
P.S. A note on links: Goodreads links are non-affiliate. Amazon links are affiliate – that means that if you purchase something after clicking an Amazon link, I may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you.