If there’s an area in your life that could do with some improvement, a good audio book might be able to steer you in the right direction. Best of all, they can be readily absorbed while multitasking, which makes them perfect for people with busy schedules. We asked Amazon’s digital audio-book arm Audible to share some of its popular self-improvement titles. Here are their picks.
We published this article last year but it’s so relevant in our current climate that we’re bringing it back so you can feel inspired.
The following audio books cover a wide gamut of topics, from mastering creative thinking to maneuvering the corporate ladder as a woman. All 16 titles share two things in common: they aim to improve the listener in some way, and have been well received by critics. We haven’t personally reviewed these products so the usual caveats apply.
“Intuition is not some magical property that arises unbidden from the depths of our mind. It is a product of long hours and intelligent design, of meaningful work environments, and particular rules and principles. This audiobook shows us how we can hone our instinctive ability to know in an instant, helping us to bring out the best in our thinking and become better decision-makers in our homes, offices, and in everyday life.”
“What did Charles Darwin, middling schoolboy and underachieving second son, do to become one of the earliest and greatest naturalists the world has known? What were the similar choices made by Mozart and by Caesar Rodriguez, the U.S. Air Force’s last ace fighter pilot? In Mastery, Robert Greene’s fifth book, he mines the biographies of great historical figures for clues about gaining control over our own lives and destinies. Picking up where The 48 Laws of Power left off, Greene culls years of research and original interviews to blend historical anecdote and psychological insight, distilling the universal ingredients of the world’s masters.
“Temple Grandin, Martha Graham, Henry Ford, Buckminster Fuller – all have lessons to offer about how the love for doing one thing exceptionally well can lead to mastery. Yet the secret, Greene maintains, is already in our heads. Debunking long-held cultural myths, he demonstrates just how we, as humans, are hardwired for achievement and supremacy. Fans of Greene’s earlier work and Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers will eagerly devour this canny and erudite explanation of just what it takes to be great.”
“The Art of Creative Thinking reveals how we can transform ourselves, our businesses, and our society through a deeper understanding of human creativity. Rod Judkins, of the world-famous St. Martin’s College of Art, has studied successful creative thinkers from every walk of life throughout history. Drawing on an extraordinary range of reference points – from the Dada manifesto to Nobel Prize-winning economists, from Andy Warhol’s studio to Einstein’s desk – he distills a lifetime’s expertise into a succinct, surprising book that will inspire you to think more confidently and creatively.
“You’ll realise why you should be happy when your train is cancelled; meet the most successful class in educational history (in which every single student won a Nobel prize); discover why graphic nudity during public speaking can be both a hindrance and surprisingly persuasive; and learn why, in the 21st century, it’s technically illegal to be as good as Michelangelo. Be stubborn about compromise. Plan to have more accidents. Be mature enough to be childish. Contradict yourself more often. Discover the art of creative thinking.”
“Simon & Schuster Audio is proud to present one of the best-selling books of all time, Dale Carnegie’s perennial classic How to Win Friends and Influence People, presented here in its entirety. For over 60 years the rock-solid, time-tested advice in this audiobook has carried thousands of now-famous people up the ladder of success in their business and personal lives.
With this truly phenomenal audiobook, learn: The six ways to make people like you, the twelve ways to win people to your way of thinking, the nine ways to change people without arousing resentment, and much, much more! There is room at the top, when you know. how to win friends and influence people.”
“Following the success of Lean In and Why Women Should Rule the World, the authors of the best-selling Womenomics provide an informative and practical guide to understanding the importance of confidence — and learning how to achieve it — for women of all ages and at all stages of their career. Working women today are better educated and more well-qualified than ever before. Yet men still predominate in the corporate world. In The Confidence Code, Claire Shipman and Katty Kay argue that the key reason is confidence.
“Combining cutting-edge research in genetics, gender, behavior, and cognition — with examples from their own lives and those of other successful women in politics, media, and business — Kay and Shipman go beyond admonishing women to “lean in”. Instead, they offer the inspiration and practical advice women need to close the gap and achieve the careers they want and deserve.”
“For the millions of people who want spirituality without religion, Sam Harris’ new book is a guide to meditation as a rational spiritual practice informed by neuroscience and psychology. From best-selling author, neuroscientist, and “new atheist” Sam Harris, Waking Up is for the increasingly large numbers of people who follow no religion, but who suspect that Jesus, Buddha, Lao Tzu, Rumi, and the other saints and sages of history could not have all been epileptics, schizophrenics, or frauds.
“Throughout the audio book, Harris argues that there are important truths to be found in the experiences of such contemplatives — and, therefore, that there is more to understanding reality than science and secular culture generally allow. Waking Up is part seeker’s memoir and part exploration of the scientific underpinnings of spirituality. No other book marries contemplative wisdom and modern science in this way, and no author other than Sam Harris — a scientist, philosopher and famous sceptic — could write it.”
“In The Power of Habit, award-winning New York Times business reporter Charles Duhigg takes us to the thrilling edge of scientific discoveries that explain why habits exist and how they can be changed. With penetrating intelligence and an ability to distill vast amounts of information into engrossing narratives, Duhigg brings to life a whole new understanding of human nature and its potential for transformation in this audio book.
“Along the way we learn why some people and companies struggle to change, despite years of trying, while others seem to remake themselves overnight. We visit laboratories where neuroscientists explore how habits work and where, exactly, they reside in our brains. We discover how the right habits were crucial to the success of Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, and civil-rights hero Martin Luther King, Jr. We go inside Procter & Gamble, Target superstores, Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church, NFL locker rooms, and the nation’s largest hospitals and see how implementing so-called keystone habits can earn billions and mean the difference between failure and success, life and death.
“At its core, The Power of Habit contains an exhilarating argument: The key to exercising regularly, losing weight, raising exceptional children, becoming more productive, building revolutionary companies and social movements, and achieving success is understanding how habits work. Habits aren’t destiny. As Charles Duhigg shows, by harnessing this new science, we can transform our businesses, our communities, and our lives.”
“On average, people squander forty days annually trying to remember things they’ve forgotten. Joshua Foer used to be one of those people. But after a year of training, he found himself in the finals of the U.S. Memory Championship. He also discovered a truth we too often forget: In every way, we are the sum of our memories. In Moonwalking with Einstein Foer draws on cutting-edge research, the cultural history of memory and the techniques of ‘mental atheletes’ to transform our understanding of human remembering. He learns the ancient methods used by Cicero and Medieval scholars.
“He meets amnesiacs, neuroscientists and savants – including a man who claims to have memorized more than nine thousand books. In doing so, he reveals the hidden impact of memory on our lives, and shows how we can all dramatically improve our memories. At a time when electronic devices have all but rendered our individual memories obsolete, Foer’s book is a quest to resurrect the gift we all possess, but that too often slips our minds.”
“In today’s world of exponentially increased communication and responsibility, yesterday’s methods for staying on top just don’t work. Veteran management consultant and trainer David Allen’s premise is simple: our ability to be productive is directly proportional to our ability to relax. Only when our minds are clear and our thoughts are organized can we achieve stress-free productivity and unleash our creative potential.
“He teaches us how to: Apply the “do it, delegate it, defer it, drop it” rule to get your in-box empty, reassess goals and stay focused in changing situations, overcome feelings of confusion, anxiety, and being overwhelmed and feel fine about what you’re not doing. From core principles to proven tricks, Getting Things Done has the potential to transform the way you work — and the way you experience work. At any level of implementation, David Allen’s entertaining and thought-provoking advice shows you how to pick up the pace without wearing yourself down.”
“A groundbreaking and fascinating investigation into the transformative effects of exercise on the brain, from the bestselling author and renowned psychiatrist John J. Ratey, MD. Did you know you can beat stress, lift your mood, fight memory loss, sharpen your intellect and function better than ever simply by elevating your heart rate and breaking a sweat? The evidence is incontrovertible: Aerobic exercise physically remodels our brains for peak performance.
“In Spark, John J. Ratey, M.D., embarks upon a fascinating and entertaining journey through the mind-body connection, presenting startling research to prove that exercise is truly our best defense against everything from depression to ADD to addiction to aggression to menopause to Alzheimer’s. Filled with amazing case studies (such as the revolutionary fitness program in Naperville, Illinois, which has put this school district of 19,000 kids first in the world of science test scores), Spark is the first book to explore comprehensively the connection between exercise and the brain. It will change forever the way you think about your morning run—or, for that matter, simply the way you think.”
“Most of us have no idea what’s really going on inside our heads. Yet scientists have uncovered details every business leader, parent, and teacher should know — like the need for physical activity to get your brain working its best. How do we learn? What exactly do sleep and stress do to our brains? Why is multi-tasking a myth? Why is it so easy to forget and so important to repeat new knowledge? In the New York Times bestseller Brain Rules, Dr. John Medina, a molecular biologist, shares his lifelong interest in how the brain sciences might influence the way we teach our children and the way we work.
“In each chapter, he describes a brain rule — what scientists know for sure about how our brains work — and then offers transformative ideas for our daily lives. Medina’s fascinating stories and infectious sense of humor breathe life into brain science. You’ll learn why Michael Jordan was no good at baseball. You’ll peer over a surgeon’s shoulder as he proves that most of us have a Jennifer Aniston neuron. You’ll meet a boy who has an amazing memory for music but can’t tie his own shoes. You will discover how: Every brain is wired differently. Exercise improves cognition. We are designed to never stop learning and exploring. Memories are volatile. Sleep is powerfully linked with the ability to learn. Vision trumps all of the other senses. Stress changes the way we learn. In the end, you’ll understand how your brain really works – and how to get the most out of it.”
“The New York Times bestseller, which for 10 years has been a must-have for women in business, is now completely revised and updated. In this new edition, internationally recognized executive coach Lois P. Frankel reveals a distinctive set of behaviors — over 130 in all — that women learn in girlhood that ultimately sabotage them as adults. She teaches you how to eliminate these unconscious mistakes that could be holding you back and offers invaluable coaching tips that can easily be incorporated into your social and business skills.”
“Single people today have more romantic options than at any point in human history. With technology, our abilities to connect with and sort through these options are staggering. So why are so many people frustrated? For years Aziz Ansari has been aiming his comic insight at modern romance, but for Modern Romance the book, he decided he needed to take things to another level. He teamed up with NYU sociologist Eric Klinenberg and designed a massive research project, including hundreds of interviews and focus groups conducted everywhere from Tokyo to Buenos Aires to Wichita.
“They analysed behavioural data and surveys and created their own online research forum on Reddit, which drew thousands of messages. They enlisted the world’s leading social scientists, including Eli Finkel, Helen Fisher, Sheena Iyengar, Barry Schwartz, Sherry Turkle, and Robb Willer. The result is unlike any social science or humour book we’ve seen before.”
“The Sound of General Ignorance brings you all the best bits of the number one bestseller The Book of General Ignorance in handy audio form. Allow yourself to wallow in the misconceptions, mistakes and misunderstandings in ‘common knowledge’.
“Your new-found wisdom will help you to impress your friends, frustrate your enemies and win every argument. Henry VIII had six wives – WRONG! Everest is the highest mountain in the world – WRONG! Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone – WRONG! Everything you think you know is WRONG!”
“There’s an old saying: if you eat a live frog first thing each morning, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that it’s probably the worst thing you’ll do all day. Using “eat that frog” as a metaphor for tackling the most challenging task of your day, the one you are most likely to procrastinate on, but also the one that might have the greatest positive impact on your life, Eat That Frog! shows you how to zero in on these critical tasks and organize your day. You’ll not only get more done faster, but get the right things done.
“In his trademark high-energy style, acclaimed speaker and best-selling author Brian Tracy cuts to the core of what is vital to effective personal time management: decision, discipline, and determination. He reminds us: “The purpose of time-management skills, of eating that frog, and getting more done in less time, is to enable you to spend more ‘face time’ with the people you care about, doing the things that give you the greatest amount of joy in life.”
“The key to living a happier, healthier life is inside us. Our gut is almost as important to us as our brain or our heart, yet we know very little about how it works. In Gut, Giulia Enders shows that rather than the utilitarian and — let’s be honest — somewhat embarrassing body part we imagine it to be, it is one of the most complex, important and even miraculous parts of our anatomy. And scientists are only just discovering quite how much it has to offer; new research shows that gut bacteria can play a role in everything from obesity and allergies to Alzheimer’s.
“Beginning with the personal experience of illness that inspired her research and going on to explain everything from the basics of nutrient absorption to the latest science linking bowel bacteria with depression, Enders has written an entertaining, informative health handbook.”
This story has been updated since its original publication.