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My 2022 Favorites

At some point this year, I had the idea of writing up a list of my ‘favorites of 2022.’ These aren’t necessarily works that came out this year (though some of them did), but just things I enjoyed and would like to talk about.

There is no particular order or ranking. Also this post contains affiliate links, so if you purchase something I link to on Amazon, I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.

Without further ado…

My 2022 Favorites

Yukio Mishima

One of the best things to happen to a reader is discovering an author with a large body of work you cannot get enough of. This year, Yukio Mishima was one such author for me.

One of the most significant Japanese writers of the 20th century, Mishima nearly won the Nobel Prize for Literature but was passed over because of his outspoken politics. Deeply critical of Japan’s modernization and the encroachment of Western materialism, Mishima lamented that he would die in peacetime since he considered a warrior’s death the ideal end.

At the age of forty-five, Mishima finished his final novel a day before leading a failed coup attempt. Mishima and his compatriots sought the restoration of emperor-worship and the undoing of Japan’s constitution—but the coup failed, and Mishima committed ritual suicide after shouting, “Long live the Emperor!”

Yukio Mishima - El Último Samurai que se hizo el Harakiri

It’s debatable whether Mishima truly thought they had a chance at success or whether he simply longed for a theater where he could claim the warrior’s death he always longed for, but either way, it’s hard to find another writer with such a dramatic finale to his life.

Mishima’s writing pulses with deep aesthetic awareness of tragedy, death, and beauty—and the ways they intertwine. Sometimes his art seems prophetic of his eventual demise. His metaphors and imagery are rich and extravagant, yet somehow never come across as overwrought. His characters have a psychological depth and darkness reminiscent of Dostoevsky.

I’ll constrain myself to recommending three of his books as starting points, but I read more and intend to read more still in the future.

Sun and Steel 

“The cynicism that regards all hero worship as comical is always shadowed by a sense of physical inferiority.”

This is one of precious few books I’ve read multiple times. An essay (Mishima calls it a ‘confession’) on the consequences of embodiment for the intellectual. Mishima recounts how he changed from a sensitive and weak-bodied youth into a strong and integrated adult through a regimen of sun and steel.

Mishima makes the case that a life of words (the intellectual life) is incomplete as it neglects the body—but when the physical life is cultivated, it brings one to the absolute edge of human thought and experience. Sun and Steel is also full of philosophical reflections on literature, art, and what it means to live and die well (that is for Mishima, with beauty and glory).

Valuable reading for anyone who has ever been the pale nerd; it also helps one grasp the ideas Mishima explores in his fiction.

The Sailor Who Fell From Grace with the Sea 

“He hadn’t been able to explain his ideas of glory and death, or the longing and the melancholy pent up in his chest, or the other dark passions choking in the ocean’s swell.”

With one of the best titles I’ve ever encountered, The Sailor Who Fell From Grace with the Sea grabbed me from the cover. It tells the story of three characters—a sailor (surprise surprise), a widow, and her young son. The story is a romance between the sailor and the widow, but it is also much more.

Under and inside the romance is an exploration of masculinity, heroism, and maturation. This book is brief but powerful and evocative. I recommended it to a friend who later texted me, “Okay, I want to be a sailor now.” (I wonder if he thought the same by the end though…)

Spring Snow

“I’ve known supreme happiness, and I’m not greedy enough to want what I have to go on forever. Every dream ends. But…if eternity existed, it would be this moment.”

Perhaps my favorite of everything I’ve read from Mishima so far, this book is the first in his magnum opus The Sea of Fertility, a four book series that tells the story (stories?) of one character’s successive reincarnations throughout the twentieth century.

Spring Snow is a tragic romance with an unusual quality—the protagonist Kiyoaki chooses to make his love a tragic one. He refuses courtship with Satoko, the woman he loves, until she becomes engaged to a prince and their lives (and families’ reputations) are on the line.

What happens is, in some sense, predictable, yet the ending still managed to shock me. Mishima is incisive in examining the decay of Japan’s aristocratic and warrior classes. The whole book is worth reading if only for one scene where Kiyoaki’s grandmother—after discovering his sin—laughs and commends him for bringing back the virile and violent spirit of an age she had thought lost to effete modern frailty.


“A guy told me one time, don’t let yourself get attached to anything you are not willing to walk out on in thirty seconds flat if you feel the heat round the corner.”

I love crime movies, but for some reason I don’t seek them out often. After watching Heat, I wonder whether I need to watch another one ever again, because that’s time I could spend rewatching Heat.

Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro star opposite one another as an unhinged detective and elite bank robber, respectively. DeNiro and his crew are preparing for one last big score, while Pacino closes in like a rabid dog.

Not a single scene is wasted. This is one of my favorite praises to offer a story, especially one as long as this film (the runtime is nearly three hours). The plot builds and builds, developing character and themes throughout. Every thread and subthread come together by the end.

The essence of the movie is the famous diner scene where the two men discuss their mutual inability to do anything but what they are doing and how this will inevitably put them on a lethal collision course. You can’t help but get the sense these characters could have been friends if they had met in other circumstances, and it seems they realize that too.

The final act is taut, suspenseful, a masterclass in the genre. I won’t give anything away, but I’ll say it’s pretty much perfect.

Also as a bit of trivia, a friend told me the bank robbery scene is so well done it’s used to train law enforcement.


“Papa is a huge liar… but he’s a cool liar.”

Contrary to what my previous picks might suggest, I don’t only enjoy tragic stories. Case in point, Spy Family (excuse me, SPY x FAMILY). My friends and I got together many an evening this year to stream the antics of the Forger family.

The premise is straightforward. In an analogue for Cold War Germany, a spy codenamed Twilight goes undercover as psychiatrist Loid Forger. His mission is to get close to a reclusive political figure and influence him to prevent war from breaking out again. The only surefire way to get at the target is a social event held at his children’s elite private school, so Loid adopts a child and finds a wife in record time.

Except his daughter Anya is a telepath, his wife Yor is an assassin, and he knows neither of these things. Anya, being able to read minds, does know her adoptive parents are a spy and assassin, and she also has the presence of mind to realize that letting either of them in on this would have bad consequences for their home life and world peace.

SPY x FAMILY is just fun. The plots range from light-hearted (the Forgers adopt a dog) to high stakes (stopping a terrorist plot to reignite the war). In fact, those two plots are intertwined because SPY x FAMILY does a stellar job blending comedy and drama, moving between the two with ease.

The show keeps things fresh and exciting while also looping back to how this pretend family has come to love and care for one another despite the pragmatic needs that initially brought them together. Comedic, action-packed, heart-warming—there are plenty of worse shows out there these days, but not many better.

Electra by Euripides

“Give thou to me—peace from my father’s blood!”

All right, back to tragedies. Set in the aftermath of the Trojan War, this play tells the story of the princess Electra and her quest to avenge her father Agamemnon, murdered by his wife and her lover when he returned from Troy.

Part of what makes tragic stories so powerful is the sense of inevitability. Knowing what is going to happen—at least in broad strokes—heightens the tension and eventual catharsis. Euripides executes this flawlessly in this fifth century BC work of art. Even in so short a production, he manages to characterize the cast well, not to mention ask some pressing questions about the nature of prophecy and destiny. The resolution is a bit forced by contemporary standards, but I wonder if it would have been avant-garde or shocking for the time.

Monster by Urasawa Naoki

“Look at me. Look at me. Look at how large the monster inside me has become.”

I mentioned above how I love crime stories. I think the serial killer subgenre may be the most potent within that umbrella. Not all stories go to the absolute limits of the human experience, but these often do. Urasawa Naoki’s Monster asks a perennial question about evil—how far should one go to stop it?

Monster tells the story of one Doctor Tenma, a Japanese neurosurgeon practicing in a West German hospital. Tenma has a bright future ahead of him, on track to become the top in his field while engaged to the hospital director’s daughter.

One night, a young boy named Johan is brought in with a gunshot wound to the head. Immediately after, the mayor is brought in, suffering from a stroke. In a moment of moral crisis, Tenma disregards the hospital director’s instructions to prioritize the mayor, choosing instead to operate on the boy.

The mayor dies, and Tenma’s career trajectory with him. He will likely never climb past his current position and his fiancée returns the ring—but at least he saved the boy, right?

The boy Johan is grateful to Tenma for saving his life—so grateful that he kills everyone at the hospital who punished the doctor. Johan vanishes, only to resurface years later to thank Tenma for saving his life—a life that he has dedicated to murder.

Now the police are on Tenma’s trail, thinking they have the evidence to prove it was Tenma who committed the murders. The doctor goes on the run, chasing after Johan in a desperate bid to stop him before he kills again.

Johan is often regarded as one of the greatest antagonists in manga, and it’s plain to see why. When he is off-page, his presence is felt like a haunting shadow. When he is on the page, he exudes a chilling aura. People call him the devil and speculate whether he is the antichrist (an association reinforced by numerous biblical allusions throughout the text). As the story progresses and it becomes clear how Johan became what he is—and what he intends to do—things only darken.

All the while, Tenma wrestles with the moral dilemma of whether he can take the life he once saved. He becomes known across Europe as a mysterious vagabond doctor, helping people who need it for nothing in return. Yet all the while he struggles with the responsibility of enabling so much bloodshed. Was it the right thing to do to save Johan? Is it right to kill Johan now that he has done so much evil?

With an intricate plot, a compelling cast of characters, and a shocking yet inevitable conclusion, Monster is a brilliant take on the serial killer genre.

The I Used To Think… Podcast

The only podcast on this list, I Used To Think… is run by my friend Pat Lee, but I’m not recommending it because I have a bias or anything.

Every show, Pat brings on a guest who has changed their mind on some topic. The subjects range from faith to politics to self-image, and in every case Pat asks insightful questions to draw out an interesting narrative. I’ve listened to every episode of I Used To Think… and constantly harangue Pat as to when the next episode is coming out.

(Rumor has it that an episode with yours truly will come out soon, so make sure you’re subscribed to my newsletter to be notified when that drops.)

Blade Runner 2049

“To be born is to have a soul, I guess.”

Every artist has “I wish I thought of that” moments. Times where we smack our foreheads and imagine we could rewrite reality to slap our names on someone else’s creation. I felt like that watching Blade Runner 2049, especially the brilliant baseline test scenes (language warning).

The protagonist ‘K’ played by Ryan Gosling has been the subject of countless “He’s literally me” memes, and when I finally watched this movie I understood why. I don’t often feel particularly powerful emotions when I watch a movie, but this one got me.

Blade Runner 2049 feels, in many ways, like a story for my generation: increasingly alone in an increasingly technological world. This movie sets up a classic Hero’s Journey—the pattern that teaches us we are the protagonist, the special one, the one who matters, the one who will change the world—and then subverts it. Yet it does not do so in the cynical deconstructive mode so common today, but rather as a melancholic reflection. Blade Runner 2049 does not tear down the notion of the hero, but it does shift the frame—what if the protagonist (and therefore us, the viewer) is the one who enables the hero, rather than the hero?

Blade Runner 2049 is visually gorgeous and atmospheric. Gosling does phenomenal as ‘K.’ Harrison Ford is compelling in his reprisal of Deckard. Ana de Armas twists the emotional knife in her role as AI companion Joi.

This movie also manages the rare achievement of being a sequel that outdoes the original (no mean feat given Blade Runner’s status as a sci-fi classic). Director Denis Villeneuve clearly has great respect and honor for the material he is building upon—something Hollywood could use more of these days.

If you’ve read all this way, my thanks! This was my first year as a published author, and it brought plenty of ups and downs. I look forward to publishing more in the next year, both books and on this blog.

And if you think I have good taste and haven’t yet given my fiction a try, consider my debut novel The Empire’s Lion, an epic military fantasy set in a Mediterranean world of magic, action, and intrigue.

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