Books I Read in 2022 That Had the Biggest Impact in My Life

Top 2 out of 11 books, and 4 honorable mentions.

Robert M. Vunabandi
11 min readJan 3, 2023

This past year I read a total of 11 books. While it’s not many, I only read books that I actually wanted to read, and I chose books that would help me learn something new and useful in my life.

So, I asked myself, amongst those books if I could only read two, which ones would I read (and in a way, which ones would I recommend reading)?

All the books I read this year, photo taken by the author

There are two books that clearly stand out. They stand out because of how much of my life’s perspective has shifted as a result of reading them and because of how action inducing they have been.

#1 — The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt

from the Amazon link

The Happiness Hypothesis touched on two existential questions that I’ve often asked myself: how can I be happier, and what is my life’s purpose? Back in April 17th, I came up with an answer for myself in What’s Your Life’s Purpose?, yet The Happiness Hypothesis gave me so much clarity on what influences happiness and fulfillment.

The key ideas that that I remember from this book are:

  • The rider/elephant model: The rider is the rational self. It’s the voice in your head, and it’s the one with logic and reason. Then, there’s the elephant, which is sort of like our animalistic whims, instincts, and desires. According to the book, we like to think of the rider as the one in charge, but truly it’s the elephant, and one key quote about this from the book was: “an emotionally intelligent person has a skilled rider who knows how to distract and coax the elephant without having to engage in a direct contest of wills.”
  • People need love and work: A lot about what makes people happy is (1) being with other people they love (and that love them) and (2) working. For each of these, however, there are specific ways to do them right and many ways to do them wrong. In particular, you need to build a secure attachment type in your relationships, and you want to do work that align with your strengths and in which, ideally, you can get into states of flow and gratification (see next point).
  • Increase pleasures and gratifications: To be happy, it pays to have more “pleasures” and more “gratifications”. Similar to love and work, these terms mean very specific things and must be done in specific ways. In terms of pleasures, moderation is of utmost necessity, and in terms of gratification—defined as “activities that engage you fully, draw on your strengths, and allow you to lose self-consciousness”—you should align them with your strengths. The book suggests taking the test on to figure out your strengths.
  • Constraints lead to happiness: The U.S. is a culture that is highly individualistic, and it pushes people to do everything by and for themselves. However, the book suggests that having constraints in your life is beneficial to happiness. A classic example I can think of are family reunions: that’s a constraints that most families have—to meet up every year usually around thanksgiving and Christmas. There are many other forms of constraints, such as religion or other kinds of beliefs. The point is not to constraint your life to the maximum but to realize that the less constraints you have in your life, the less happy you tend to get.
  • Meditation: The section about meditation opened in this way: “Suppose you read about a pill that you could take once a day to reduce anxiety and increase your contentment. … Suppose further that the pill has a great variety of side effects, all of them good: increased self-esteem, empathy, and trust; it even improves memory. Suppose, finally, that the pill is all natural and costs nothing. Now would you take it?” This “pill” in question is meditation, and phrased like that, it’s a no brainer for me to start meditating. In addition, there was a lot of evidence that meditation can help “tame” the elephant in the aforementioned rider/elephant model.

Besides that, I’ve already written something about The Happiness Hypothesis:

All in all, there are many ways I plan to change my life in the upcoming year, and this book has helped me make decisions about how I want to navigate my future which I’m greatly thankful for.

#2 — The Rational Male by Rollo Tomassi

I’ll say right off the bat that the ideas presented in The Rational Male are controversial. However, this book has been a positive in my life because it has helped me approach the dating world with a new and different perspective.

from the Amazon link

My approach to reading a book like this is to take everything it says as hypothesis and then both see whether these hypotheses have applied to my life so far and test out these hypotheses moving forward. The book introduces the concept of “red pill”, which, to my understanding, uses the analogy from the Matrix movie to say that by taking this “red pill” content from the book (and other “red pill” content on the internet), you learn that you’re living in a matrix in which all your thought patterns and actions are manipulated in specific ways (specifically in the dating world and how it is painted for men). With that, the premise is that “taking the red pill” allows you to see the truth for what it is. There’s many different messages that is said from the red pill community, but the fundamental actions that it encourages are:

  • Workout
  • Make money
  • Learn to be confident in yourself

I’ve always been an active person, and in terms of money, I’m still early in my career (though I’m actively educating myself through books and self-driven learning). I’d say that 2022 was the year of “confidence” for me because I’ve become the most confident I’ve ever been (though there’s always more to go), and this book played a role in that. At a fundamental level, I believe that encouraging men to do improve in these 3 areas (working out, making more money, and being confidence) is a good thing. Besides that, I want to list out a sample of quotes from the book that were particularly striking for me (and from these, you’ll see what I mean by this book being “controversial”):

  • “While sifting through some of my past posts on the SoSuave forum it hit me; over 90% of what I advocate there can be reduced to overcome a fear of rejection”: Reflecting on this, at the time I had realized that in the past I’ve put myself in situations just to avoid getting rejected when, as the title of the chapter in this passage says, “Rejection is better than Regret”.
  • “Essentially a shit-test is used by women to determine one, or a combination of these factors: Confidence — first and foremost, Options—is this guy really into me because I’m ‘special’ or am I his only option?, [and] Security—is this guy capable of providing me with long term security?”: Understanding this has helped me navigate situations in which I can get shit-tested.
  • “Women don’t want a man who’ll ‘do everything she says’ because this sends the message that this man can be bought with even the prospect of a sexual encounter”: This is self-explanatory, and I think it makes sense. The guy who’ll “do everything she says” is pretty much the “nice guy”.
  • “I think what most men uniquely deceive themselves of is that they will ultimately be appreciated by women for their sacrifices”: I have yet to validate whether this is true in my experience, but if it is, it paints quite a somber picture. At the same time, I feel like it’s a matter of perspective. In the same way that I, as a man, have difficulty understanding the female experience, the reverse also has to be true. I also think that the lack of understanding comes from the two sexes not living each other’s experience—especially for those who consider themselves “traditional”. It simply is hard to understand someone else’s perspective when you have never walked in their shoes.
  • “What do women want? Maximized hypergamy with a man blissfully unaware of hypergamy. The perfect union of emotional investment, parental investment and provisional investment with her hypergamous nature”: This introduced the concept of “hypergamy”, which is simply that women want the best options that they could possibly get. Where hypergamy gets controversial is that it claims that women are unrealistic in this pursuit. Personally, the way I approach this is that if I’m dating someone that demands for things that I can’t offer or that is disrespectful in any way, I will stop seeing them and move onto the next person. The other part claim of hypergamy is that a woman would leave you if she finds a much better option. I’m sure this happens, but I’m also sure that it happens on both sides. The solution to this, for me, is (1) to have a lot of experience, (2) know my worth (through experiences), and (3) be with someone that I know I’m fully happy with so that I’m not swayed to leave when another option presents itself. Similarly, I want to gage that from the person I’m dating (which admittedly can be difficult).
  • “It’s a mistake (and sometimes a fatal one) to ignore what you know is just under the surface. It’s comforting to believe that you’ve got a special connection, and while the conditions are right, you’ll preserve a relationship based on mutual trust and shared affinity. The flaw is in believing that trust, and kinship is unconditional”: In my personal life, I do believe this to be true in general. Besides perhaps family and really close friends, I don’t fool myself in believing in unconditional love. Just because the conditions haven’t been stated explicitly doesn’t mean that they aren’t there. With that said, the longer I am with someone, the more I will trust in the bond we share. I believe that it’s a matter of not rushing things.
  • “Genuine desire cannot be negotiated”: This has been very true in my personal experience—but with caveats. I find that it depends on the kind of relationship you’re looking for. Some people wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to have sex with anyone no matter how much desire they have for them while others would. With that said, knowing this helps me personally know when to move on: if things start to feel like a negotiation, then the desire isn’t there and it’s time to move on (as I believe that attraction and desire is indeed an important component of a relationship).

That’s a lot of quotes (and trust me there’s much more), some of which you might agree with and some you might disagree. Overall, I think a book that makes you think and question the ideas you have about the world is one of the best books to read. I want to be reading things that I either disagree with or that I find hard to believe so much so that I want to test them out in real life. The Rationale Male definitely was that for me, and as a result it has expanded how I view and analyze things when it comes to dating.

Honorable Mentions

I wrote a similar blog last year:

This blog post is pretty much the same but for 2022. Similarly, I want to highlight other books that I thought were fascinating:

  • The Millionaire Fastlane by M. J. De Marco: This is actually one that I plan to re-read. The biggest concept shift I had from The Millionaire Fastlane is in how it debunked the model of investing into your 401k/retirement and hoping to live off of that. This book showed how that’s a terrible model that’s likely to fail or not be fulfilling, and it provided an alternative path it calls the “Fastlane”. I honestly think that this would be the #1 book, but the reason it’s here is because for my specific situation, this is not very actionable unfortunately.
  • The Laws of Human Nature by Robert Greene: The realization I made in What’s Your Life’s Purpose? was as a result of reading The Laws of Human Nature, and I can say easily that that has been the most beautiful change that has happened to me in 2022. For over 4 months, I kept wondering, over and over, what the purpose of my life was, and though I haven’t found the answer (honestly, who has?!), I found something that I’m deeply satisfied with to this day. Besides that, Robert Greene highlighted so many concepts about human nature, such as Character Formation Layers: Childhood that I wrote about. This is another book that I plan to re-read.
  • The Gene by Siddhartha Mukherjee: I wrote two blogs based off of this book: How Genes Work and Evolution and Survival of the Fittest. Overall, the Gene was a delight of a read. It’s not super actionable—I’m not going to turn into a biological researcher as a result of reading this book; however, it’s fascinating—the most fascinating book I’ve ever read. Biology is life, and Mukherjee explains the concepts so beautifully and simply that it does make me want to quit my software engineering job to become a biological researcher. I highly recommend this book.
  • Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday: Finally, Ego is the Enemy is the last honorable mention. This book is basically all the ways one’s ego can make them fail and lose sight of the important things in life. Though reading it wasn’t a cure for my ego, it deepened my awareness on just how much my ego has a hold of me. I would put this book in the category of “lifetime” reading material: something that I consider worth re-reading every couple of years because I believe the ego battle is a lifelong one.

That’s all for now! This upcoming year I hope to read a lot more books than the past two years (11 and 14 books respectively)—perhaps double that in the 20–30s. However, I’m not putting pressure on myself with any specific number. I love reading, but I hate anything that makes it feel like a chore. I want it to be OK, as I have done this year when reading either Ego is the Enemy or The Happiness Hypothesis, to re-read the same set of pages multiple times until I’ve grasped the concept. I don’t want to pressure myself to finish any given book by any given time, and that’s how I will continue to operate this upcoming year. Cheers!



Robert M. Vunabandi

Learning through life experiences and books, I share my ever-evolving understanding of the world and the niche-sphere of life that I live in.