End-of-year book lists are subjective, by nature. There are so many genres, authors, formats and other options to choose from in any given year, and there’s only so much time in any given day to read.
So when asked “what was your favorite book this year,” naturally a group of publishers had a difficult time choosing just one. We opened up the list of potential books to anything that they read in 2022 -- whether or not it was published this past year, no matter the publisher, and eliminated other qualifiers.
The list they offered us represents a diverse range of perspectives, themes and more. They took company leaders on a “rich, compelling journey”, offered insight on how to develop internal startup initiatives, reflected on the impact of sleep and more. Check out some of Macmillan Learning leaders’ favorite books this year.
The debut novel (2016) by Ghanian-American author Yaa Gyasi explores the multi-generational experience and ramifications of the Atlantic Slave Trade exposing the brutality and generational consequences that marked popluations and cultures in Ghana and the United States for centuries to come. The story is told through two branches of a family tree descending from daughters of an Asante woman, one daughter enslaved at Cape Coast Castle in Ghana and the other arranged for marriage to an English Captain at the same outpost. The story explores how this outcome affects the family trajectory, geographies, trades, and ultimately the choices of individuals from each daughter's families generation after generation.
The arresting imagery was made ever-more vivid as I read the novel a week after my wife and I returned from our first visit to Ghana in September 2022, having had stepped foot in the same dungeons at Cape Coast Castle depicted in the novel where thousands of enslaved Africans awaited departure for the treacherous Atlantic Crossing under the most harrowing of conditions. In ways that only a novel can do, Homegoing adds depth and imagery that shines light on the intergenerational effect of decisions made long before us and despite all its anguish and torment showcases that all of our stories are richer and more complex than we ever give credit.
An easy to read insight into the inner workings of Dave's stream of consciousness, you will be reminded that even rock stars have low moments through life. But by staying humble, chasing your passion, and remaining dedicated to hard work it’s still possible to wake up each morning in awe thinking "How on earth did I get here"? The connections he's made along his journey are interesting for sure, but for music lovers, will spark the need to turn to your vinyl or music collection to reminisce about those tunes that mark your own memories over the years.
I hadn’t read Lahiri’s debut novel, so I picked it up but worried it might be a bit depressing based on the description. Instead, I found it to be a rich, compelling journey through two generations of family and their lived experience in India before emigrating to the United States. Disappointment seemed the initial theme, but it was Lahiri’s detailed exploration of what it means to be an outsider, of the painful desire to belong without ever really feeling a part of something, and the impact of abandoning your identity that gave this story such emotional depth.
One of the characters notes: “...Being a foreigner…''is a sort of lifelong pregnancy -- a perpetual wait, a constant burden, a continuous feeling out of sorts. It is an ongoing responsibility, a parentheses in what had once been an ordinary life, only to discover that previous life has vanished, replaced by something more complicated and demanding.'' I ended up moving next to Nikolai Gogol’s, The Overcoat given how important it was to the theme of the story. Also, a fascinating read!
The accomplished researcher & doctor delineates chronological age from physiological age, dives into epigenetics, and then covers broad ground in what current science says about numerous factors that affect longevity. It's an empowering book that claims 80% of aging is in our control. I also appreciated the wake-up call on how endemic and problematic ageism is in society, it has foundationally changed my thinking.
The Unicorn Within by Linda K. Yates provides a working model for large organizations to develop internal startup initiatives that target new innovative growth of current models and the development of not yet discovered products and business models that expand the breadth and depth of their market. Linda launched Mach49 as the first Silicon Valley Incubator / Accelerator focused on helping global enterprises obtain meaningful growth.
I had a lot of favorite books this year, and one ongoing theme for me in 2022 was neuroscience. I read eight books in this category. My two favorites were Daniel Levitin's This is Your Brain on Music (Penguin) and Matthew Walker's Why We Sleep (Simon & Schuster). I can honestly say that I now better understand how and why I learn to play new cello pieces, and have changed when I practice and what I do during practice. Why We Sleep taught me how profoundly impacted our modern society is by inadequate sleep -- everything from increased auto accidents to learning and memory loss. And at company events and dinners when my colleagues are asking for my zodiac sign, I’m going to ask them how many hours of sleep they get per night.
My favorite non-fiction book this year was 52 ways to walk by Annabel Streets. I started walking for exercise in earnest during the pandemic to clear my head after work until a friend convinced me to start the day with a walk. This book has so many ideas that have made me appreciate living just one block from Central Park where I can “ Walk, Smile, Greet, Repeat” (week 3) or “Walk as Meditation” (week 51). There are endless benefits to walking—psychological and physical—and the author brings these facts into each suggested walk from a variety of research. (And, if you’ve started Dave Myers How Do We Know Ourselves, this author also fits the phenomenon of surname-occupation matching!)