From Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the world population passing eight billion, to a breakthrough in nuclear fusion, 2022 was yet another historic year. In between the many headlines that defined zeitgeist of the past twelve months, our friends across the Council on Foreign Relations found time to indulge in media beyond the hum of the news cycle.
To round out the year, we asked our colleagues what books, movies, and podcasts they enjoyed most in 2022. While some preferred a deep dive into ongoing global issues, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, others used their leisure time to explore fiction and the arts. Whatever it is you enjoy, we hope that these recommendations will help you engage with new ideas, inspire your next conversation, and give you hope for the coming year.
Our Favorite Books in 2022
Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
Recommended by Manjari Chatterjee Miller, senior fellow for India, Pakistan, and South Asia, the Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler seems "particularly prescient in the wake of Dobbs and COP27. It's beautifully written, gripping, and horrifying all at the same time."
What World Is This?: A Pandemic Phenomenology by Judith Butler
"The pandemic compels us to ask fundamental questions about our place in the world," says the publisher of Judith Butler's new book, What World Is This?. The Columbia University Press book is "ultimately a book about how COVID-19 changed the world and how we understand it," says Dominic Bocci, director, studies grant management, in the David Rockefeller Studies Program at the Council on Foreign Relations.
The Peacemaker by Will Inboden
Elliott Abrams, senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) in Washington, DC, says The Peacemaker is "the best book [he's] read on Reagan's foreign policy, and is truly balanced."
The Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson
Claire Klobucista, deputy editor at the Council on Foreign Relations, says, "The Ministry for the Future is an epic of climate fiction in which the world's struggle to halt climate change plays out over several decades. Author Kim Stanley Robinson imagines some of the possible climate disasters from the perspectives of individuals caught in the catastrophes, as well as the high-level negotiations between governments and international institutions. Although the chapters detailing climate disasters are both heart-wrenching and horrifying, this book felt like a blueprint for how the world could forge a path through."
Unmasked: COVID, Community, and the Case of Okoboji by Emily Mendenhall
"The approach to COVID is a well-known tale of global woe, but it is easy to forget that the pandemic played out uniquely in each community it impacted. In Unmasked: COVID, Community, and the Case of Okoboji, medical anthropologist Emily Mendenhall returns to her hometown of Okoboji, Iowa, to highlight the complexities wrought by COVID on a local—and personal—level," says Isabella Turilli, research associate for global health, economics, and development, at the Council on Foreign Relations.
The Great Women Artists by Katy Hessel
"When I'm not reading about, listening to, or dreaming about global health, I often tune in to art podcasts and lectures, and troll my favorite art accounts on Instagram. Katy Hessel's podcast, 'The Great Women Artists,' is a favorite—featuring interviews with artists, curators, and authors. She just came out with a book that’s on my winter holiday reading list, The Story of Art Without Men." Mary Brophy Marcus, deputy managing editor of Think Global Health, on one of her favorite listens of the year.
The Light We Carry: Overcoming in Uncertain Times by Michelle Obama
Former First Lady Michelle Obama's newest book, The Light We Carry: Overcoming in Uncertain Times, is Mary Brophy Marcus' second recommendation on the list. "Michelle Obama is a steadying voice—her wisdom, warmth, tips, and humor are a mix of the best kind of friend, colleague, sister, and mom."
Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
David P. Fidler, senior fellow for global health and cybersecurity at the Council on Foreign Relations, first recommendation is Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell--a novel that he describes as an "escape into history and magic amid a present trapped in history and anything but magical." Plus, the "law professor in [Fidler] loved a novel with footnotes!"
The Devil Never Sleeps: Learning to Live in an Age of Disasters by Juliette Kayyem
David P. Fidler says, "Given today's world, she had me at 'age of disasters.' Kayyem challenges us to think differently about preparing for disasters because, to quote Bruce Hornsby, 'look out any window.'"
Project Hail Mary by Andrew Weir
"In case you've had enough of viruses here on Earth, you might explore this engaging sci-fi adventure story about a heroic astronaut tasked with saving the world from astrophages. The latest offering by the author of The Martian, Project Hail Mary similarly delivers thrills, problem solving, and enough technical detail to satisfy even the science nerds on your gift list this year," says Tom Bollyky, director of the global health program and senior fellow for global health, economics, and development at the Council on Foreign Relations.