The Best Audiobooks I Have Listened to Over the Last Year

Best audiobooks on Audible

Best Non-Fiction Books on Audible

A successful New Year’s resolution

As mentioned in my last post, one of my goals last year was around getting through a good non-fiction book every month.  So, at the recommendation of a friend, I signed up to Audible.

I have really enjoyed using Audible, so much so that I am continuing with the service. Here are the Audible books I have most enjoyed this past year and I would recommend for 2019:

Books for personal effectiveness

More Time to Think by Nancy Kline

Nancy Kline’s book ‘Time to Think’ is probably the book I have recommended most to people over the past year as it has had a profound effect on not just my coaching but the way I approach all my interactions.  More Time to Think is a less a sequel, more a development of her earlier writing so they are complementary books, but can be read separately.  Nancy Kline narrates the book herself and her voice has a calming, soothing nature which is a reason to listen to this book all of its own!

Kline, through a powerful belief in people’s innate ability to reason powerfully and effectively, has developed an approach that creates the best environment for people to be able to think about the challenges they face.  Kline takes active and empathetic listening to a whole new level.  It is incredibly liberating and challenges the way we do so much of our communication.  You may never run a meeting in quite the same way again after listening to this!

Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker

Excuse the pun, but this book really opened my eyes to the importance of sleep.  I have long believed in the importance of proper rest and trying to get 7-8 good hours of sleep per night (which is often a challenge) but I had not realised the growing body of evidence that shows the harm we are doing ourselves, physically and mentally, if we fail to get a good night’s kip. This book is not just important in terms of individual wellbeing; it highlights a huge challenge we have culturally. This book has already changed some of my sleeping habits for the better and I am feeling the benefit, I hope it can do the same for you.

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

This is the best book I have come across about the psychology and practice of how to change habits.  Duhigg gives very practical but evidence based advice on how to analyse negative behaviours and then adapt them.  This is primarily through looking at the cue (the stimulus), the routine (our action) and the reward (the pay off).  By correctly identifying these three components we can work back and experiment with new rewards that replace unhelpful ones in order to change our behaviour.

There is of course a lot more to the book and I found the application into a corporate section very helpful.  Change within an organisation is about changing the ways we do things, as work culture is largely a collection of work habits.  Therefore this book is a really good companion to Leading Change (J Kotter).

Money: Know More, Make More, Give More by Rob Moore

I did not agree with the overall philosophy of the book (as my prime motivator is not money) but I did find it challenging in a good way.  At a time when I was thinking through my own personal finances and my approach to business, I found it exposed to different paradigms of wealth. One interesting theme in the book is around the importance of the flow of money (rather than just accumulation) which is a helpful concept.  It is also inspiring to hear how other people (such as Rob Moore) have grown significant businesses (and wealth) from fairly humble beginnings.


Best books for organisational effectiveness

Leading Change by John P Kotter

I have been involved with project and change management projects for many years and I strongly recommend this book.  The overall drive of the book demonstrates that you cannot have change management without change leadership.  As well as the evidence in the book experience has shown me that this is true; you cannot manage change effectively without the leadership.   It is a leader that sets the overall vision and direction when constructing a new culture.  Leading figures of organisations of all sizes should take note of the lessons in this book.

Start with Why by Simon Sinek

Having been an advocate of using interrogative words for coaching, strategy development and planning for many years (hence the creation of ‘The Right Questions’) it perhaps comes as no surprise that I am a fan of this book.   I originally came across Simon Sinek through his incredibly popular TED Talk, and had previously read Start with Why but had wanted to remind myself of the key themes and stories.  It was a real pleasure re-visiting this book.  Whether you are starting a business, or having a personal existential crisis, this book can really help you!  Digging down into ‘why’ we do things reveals our motivations, values and beliefs.  Understanding these can help unlock direction and decision making, and take us closer towards success and fulfilment.   A great listen.

Best books on effective decision-making

Thinking: The New Science of Decision Making by John Brockman

This book is actually a collection of talks and discussions, by different authors and speakers, on the psychology of thinking and decision making. John Brockman, editor and founder of the Edge Foundation, has managed to compile a varied authorship that demonstrate the many facets and points of view in this burgeoning area of science. Some of the big names in this field such as Daniel Kahneman, Gary Klein and Nassim Nicholas Taleb all get chapters in the book.  Because much of the content of this book comes from transcripts from speeches at conferences it translates well into being an audiobook.  The breadth of the material also provides a good introduction to this field of psychology as a whole.

Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

If anyone asks me what is the one book they should read on decision making, this is the one I recommend. It is a meaty tome, packed with scientific discovery, but Kahneman’s humble and humorous style makes it easy to consume. Kahneman coined the helpful terms of System 1 (intuitive) and System 2 (logical) thought.  He then demonstrates that although both types of thought are very important, we often believe that we are more rational than we really are.  His research, predominantly on cognitive biases, proves that our intuitive thinking, amazing as it is, has its limits; especially when in comes to dealing with statistics.  Having one’s fallacies laid bare is a sobering experience but as essential one if you are going to think productively and make effective decisions. Highly recommended.

The Chimp Paradox by Prof. Steve Peters

I have previously read the Chimp Paradox but wanted to go through it again, especially in the light of listening to Thinking Fast and Slow.  The Chimp Paradox presents a very different model of the brain to the one used by Kahnemann but it has proved to be very popular as Peters is very much focussed on improving the way we think and act.  I have a fundamental issue with the model as I do not believe that to be human is to be logical, and to be emotional is to be primal.  I know this is a simplification of the book but the model used in the book is also an over simplification of the psychology so it is worth consuming alongside Kahneman’s book.

The metaphor of the chimp is useful though as it helps us to practically identify overly emotional or irrational reactions and to learn very practical ways of controlling your responses. It is one of the best books on reasoning as it has simple but effective ways to understand our reactions to situations and overcome the fight, flight or freeze responses.

The Chimp Paradox, in conjunction with Thinking Fast and Slow and The Power of Habit provide an excellent trilogy to help you understand how you think and act along with strategies for positive change.

Best books on history and ways of thinking

The Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan

I love history and geography and this books does a wonderful job of blending the two in a narrative that flows like a novel.  I had been recommended this book so many times, and seen so many people reading it, that it had to be on my list for this year, even if it does not seem to fit with the business and psychology themes shared by most of the books on this list.

That is a good thing though as I strongly believe that if we want to think more productively and creatively then we should draw on a broad range of inspiration.

The themes of east meeting west, and how trade can pull us together or push us apart, feel very contemporary.

The History of Western Philosophy by Bertrand Russell

This is an epic book. So epic in fact, that despite having a copy for over 20 years (I won a copy as a prize at college) and being interested in philosophy, I have never managed to read all the way through it. Even on Audible it is over 32 hours of narration (at normal speed).  But this is also the joy of an audiobook for me too.  It is giving me the chance to get through some more books like this that I have failed to manage in the past.

This book is very much Bertrand Russell’s Magnum Opus.  The book provides a sweeping yet well connected overview of philosophy from the Western standpoint.  It has to be selective and relatively brief on each individual and philosophical school and yet there is plenty of detail and depth to get your teeth into. Similarly to the Silk Road, I enjoy a book that looks at history of large scope but studied through a particular lens.  That being the case this book is quite a good (although very different) counterpoint to something like the Silk Road.

The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare by Giles Milton

This is a much easier read (or listen) than the other two books in this section.  I know a fair amount of military history but this book brought to light a whole set of stories that I have either never heard or had connected in this way.  The books covers the invention of unconventional weapons such as the ‘limpet’ mine and the ‘sticky bomb’ through to the execution of SOE (Special Operations Executive) missions to destroy the heavy water plant in Telemark and the creation of Jedburgh teams.

It is not only incredibly inspiring to hear these stories, of men and women who helped defeat the Nazis, it is also a fascinating lesson in how creativity and entrepreneurial thinking can work (and fail) within an institutional setting.

How do I sign up to Audible?

If you would like to sign up to Audible here is a link you can follow.  There is a 30 day free trial that I would recommend if you want to just try it out. If you decide to continue then you pay £7.99 month but can cancel any time.

If you would like access to some bonus content and get updates then please do sign up for my email list.

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