I did a lot of reading in 2022. (If you’re interested in seeing all of what I read and/or discussing them, I invite you to follow me on Goodreads.) While I didn’t read as much in 2022 as I did in 2021, I still read enough to encounter books that were excellent, books that were so-so, and books that were, well, terrible. I wanted to share the books that stood out to me this year. If you're interested in seeing hwich fictions books I enjoyed, please check out my Top 10 Fiction Books of 2022.
Without further ado, here are my Top 5 Nonfiction Books of 2022!
#1 - Do Hard Things: Why We Get Resilience Wrong and the Surprising Science of Real Toughness
I’ve long rebelled against our society’s definition of “tough.” I personally don’t think that toughness is grinding things out and never giving up at all costs. (In fact, I honestly think that this type of mindset is a mask for fear and a lack of confidence.) I’ve seen first-hand what this approach does to people, and it’s not good over the long haul. It often looks and feels good in the short-term and is extremely costly over the long-term. This is true in athletics and in life.
Do Hard Things completely redefines toughness, and in true Steve Magness/The Growth Equation fashion, uses an abundance of science to back it up. Much of what is presented in this book was “familiar” to me; I’ve worked with hundreds of individual athletes over the years and I’ve anecdotally observed a lot of what Mr. Magness presents over the course of my life as coach. However, it was really great to see how science and research is backing up those observations I’ve had. (It gives me more substance to draw on when I give advice to athletes now. :) )
Do you think you’re tough? Give Do Hard Things a read and see if you’re really tough.
#2 - ROAR: How to Match Your Food and Fitness to Your Unique Female Physiology for Optimum Performance, Great Health, and a Strong, Lean Body for Life
This book was published in 2016, but I finally read it in 2022. Most research surrounding athletics has been conducted on men; that’s where the funding is, and so that’s what most doctors, researchers, and academics focus on. Dr. Sims aims to break this pattern by conducting research into what is best for women in all phases of their lives. This book is a deep dive into a lot of that research, with a focus on female athletes and how they can optimize their training and racing through nutrition and training strategies.
A woman who is of childbearing age is not even close to the same as a woman who has been through menopause. Acknowledging and embracing this distinction is important, especially for coaches of female athletes.
I coach athletes of all ages, genders, and backgrounds. That being said, though I never set out for it to be the case, a majority of my coaching clients over the years have been female. Almost all of them have shared with me that they were purposefully seeking a female coach because they felt that a female coach would understand them better. In other words, female athletes have long recognized that there wasn’t enough attention and care being given to their unique physiology in the endurance sports world.
All coaches - male and female - should read this book. And truly, all athletes can benefit from reading it as well. I’ve referenced it time and time again since reading it, and expect that I will continue to do so.
#3 - The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company
I’ve been a big fan of Mr. Iger for a long time (and no, not just because he’s a fellow Ithaca College alumni, though that certainly doesn’t hurt him ;) ). I have long been interested in media; my undergraduate degree is in Communications/Television-Radio. Mr. Iger became CEO of The Walt Disney Company when I was in the middle of earning that degree. To see how the company evolved over his time as CEO and how much positive influence the company has had has been really interesting to me.
Yes, it’s easy to hate on Disney because it’s one of the biggest and commercially successful companies in the history of the world. However, its influence on worldwide culture cannot be denied. Mr. Iger’s style of leadership - and the resulting changes in the company itself - were overall incredibly positive. (If you don’t believe me, look no further than how poorly the company fared when he left; it’s the entire reason the Disney Board brought him back.)
This is a great, engaging read that clearly outlines Mr. Iger’s principles of leadership and also recounts an interesting history of The Walt Disney Company itself. I definitely recommend giving it a read.
#4 - The Science of Storytelling: Why Stories Make Us Human and How to Tell Them Better
I found this book via The Growth Equation (seriously, those guys are curators of really great content) and I’m glad that I decided to give it a read. As someone who really loves both stories and psychology, this book was a very interesting and engaging exploration of how human psychology drives how we tell stories.
As I mentioned earlier, I studied storytelling in school (all the way through undergraduate), but I still learned a lot from this book and it made me think analytically about a lot of the stories I've encountered in my life. Mr. Storr uses a lot of psychological research and neuroscience to demonstrate how and why we tell the stories we do, and takes it a step further by showing how we can leverage those tools to tell stories even better.
Overall, a great read that presents real science and ideas in an easy-to-understand format.
#5 - The Extended Mind: The Power of Thinking Outside the Brain
The Extended Mind: The Power of Thinking Outside the Brain by Annie Murphy Paul was a deep, dense read that took me a long time to weave through, but it was very worth it. There is a TON of information in this book. I found I couldn't read more than a bit at a time; I would read a bit, then process it, and then come back to it.
How many times did your mother tell you to “use your head?” Or how many times have you heard that phrase said when instructing someone on how to work through a difficult task or project? The Extended Mind presents the (very compelling) science behind how we can leverage the “extra-neural” resources around us - such as our bodies, collaborative thinking with others, and the physical spaces we occupy - to think deeply, problem-solve with more efficacy, and be more creative and imaginative.
I really liked the examples given and the research presented in the book. It made me think a bit differently about how I want to conduct my business moving forward; as a sole proprietor, I often am too much in my own head. While I know that collaboration is useful, this gave me some "juice" to really make sure I have a solid environment and good mentors and collaborative partnerships moving forward if I want to get the best work and insights out of myself and the business.
If you’re feeling stuck in the “same old slog”, I definitely think that this worth reading.
Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Thank you for your support!
Coach Laura Henry
Laura Henry is a Syracuse, NY-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Long Course and Level II Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, VFS Certified Bike Fitter, and has successfully completed NASM's Certified Personal Trainer course. Coach Laura is passionate about helping athletes of all ability levels reach their goals and has coached many athletes to success.