Self: The Path to the Satisfied Mind

Finding Out What Makes Us Happy and How to Get There

What Motivates Getting Things DoneWe’ve been listening to a lot of audios about the good life—finding out what makes us happy and how to get there. Happiness is such a moving target—which might explain why so many new personal growth audiobooks appear every year and why people who like them almost never listen to just one. Another reason for the boom in such audios is that our understanding of what makes people tick has exploded with insights from neuroscientists, social psychologists, spiritual teachers, and thoughtful writers.

The audios included here run the gamut from philosophy and memoir to hard science, but in one way or another they provide us with patterns—schemas of how the major aspects of being human fit together—and guidance on what we can adjust or change in ourselves to make life better. Read more…

Tom Walken has spent most of his professional life in clinical psychology, primarily as a psychotherapist and now as a management consultant. Reviewing audio programs for more than two decades has exposed him to some great thinkers and helped him become more effective in his work. But the biggest gift has been how listening helps him grow personally, look at himself with calmer eyes, and connect with others with a kinder heart.

Self: Can We Learn Anything Without a Good Story?

Audiobooks that inspire with learning tools and powerful stories

Life is Like a MusicalListening to these audiobooks, I was reminded of how important stories are to making them work as learning tools. Business and life lessons full of rigorous thinking and action steps appeal to me in a left-brain, problem-solving kind of way, but I’ve noticed that some deeper kind of attention becomes activated when the lesson is grounded in a human narrative—whether colorful historical vignettes or an author’s personal stories. Even more captivating are memoir-type audios that focus on one person’s burning vision and show how that passion expressed itself in the form of a complex, purpose-driven organization or a life well lived. These are the lessons that have the longest shelf life in my operating system—lessons with strong stories. They may also offer insights and advice along the way, but, ultimately, they’re more about the hero’s journey than analysis and logistics. Read more…

Tom Walken has spent most of his professional life in clinical psychology, primarily as a psychotherapist and now as a management consultant. Reviewing audio programs for more than two decades has exposed him to some great thinkers and helped him become more effective in his work. But the biggest gift has been how listening helps him grow personally, look at himself with calmer eyes, and connect with others with a kinder heart.

Self: Brain Science, Buddhism, and the Church

5 Audiobooks on Meditation, Joy, and Enlightenment

UnplugGrowing up, as I did, at a time when most people in my city practiced the same Christian faith, standard practice was to look to the church for guidance about the nature of the universe, what is right and wrong, and how to think about ourselves as we live our lives. In the late 1950s and 1960s, Freudian psychology was prominent, and the brain science we had was speculative at best. Eastern religions like Buddhism were not on my radar.

These audiobooks draw their wisdom from a larger universe than the one I grew up with, so seekers of all stripes are likely to find a perspective or path that feels right for them. Nowadays, we have so much more information than we had in the past about the mechanics of attention and belief, the connection between our bodies and our minds, and how to approach the challenge of doing what we say we want to do. Read more…

Tom Walken has spent most of his professional life in clinical psychology, primarily as a psychotherapist and now as a management consultant. Reviewing audio programs for more than two decades has exposed him to some great thinkers and helped him become more effective in his work. But the biggest gift has been how listening helps him grow personally, look at himself with calmer eyes, and connect with others with a kinder heart.

Self: The “Special Sauce” in Personal Growth Audios

Four audiobooks with stellar narrations that urge you to take steps toward a better life

From cleaning house to searching for meaning, the personal growth audios I listened to this month spoke to me as they always do: “There’s always room for improvement, Tom!” This is especially true now that I have more years behind me than in front of me and feel some urgency to do more with the blessings I’ve been given.

Gretchen Rubin, photo by Michael Weschler

What continues to impress me about personal growth audios is how they bring together the power of the human voice with insights that speak to us about our lives and opportunities. Someone speaking to us, whether in person or on a recording, offers us the speaker’s heritage and character as well as the experience and ideas that they believe have values for us. When listening to an author like Agapi Stassinopoulos, we of course hear the substance of her insights and advice. But we also get a connection with her based on what we hear in her voice, her vocal personality.

Gretchen Rubin, who is much loved by fans of her Happier podcast, narrates her latest audiobook, THE FOUR TENDENCIES, with a casual, friendly style that feels like welcome advice shared by a friend over coffee. This is what’s unique about learning from audiobooks—this “special sauce” of someone’s voice may be more powerful in some audiobooks than others, but it always gets my attention. When it’s there, something happens that awakens the desire to commit, to live more intentionally, and to take the steps needed to have a better life.

The Four Tendencies

THE FOUR TENDENCIES: The Indispensable Personality Profiles That Reveal How to Make Your Life Better (and Other People’s Lives Better, Too)
written and read by Gretchen Rubin
Random House Audio/Books On Tape

Gretchen Rubin dives into a thorough examination of how and why we make our daily choices. She conveys her well-researched, home-grown four-tendencies matrix conversationally, using changes in pitch and speed to help differentiate the many anecdotes sprinkled throughout her book. She narrates her exploration of rebels, obligers, upholders, and questioners with obvious excitement, in a welcome and engaging manner. Read more…

Tom Walken has spent most of his professional life in clinical psychology, primarily as a psychotherapist and now as a management consultant. Reviewing audio programs for more than two decades has exposed him to some great thinkers and helped him become more effective in his work. But the biggest gift has been how listening helps him grow personally, look at himself with calmer eyes, and connect with others with a kinder heart.

Self: Current Events, Critical Thinking, and You

Seeking inward and outward clarity through audiobooks

The Vanishing Middle ClassThe learning audios I heard this month are about a range of issues that people are thinking about today: the growing gap between the rich and the poor, the erosion of contract between corporations and labor, some important social science topics, and a timely lesson on the way we acquire knowledge of the world.

We’re all seeking clarity, and finding it requires a commitment—whether you’re working on understanding yourself or becoming better informed as a consumer, employee, business owner, or citizen. These audiobooks can help because once you decide to start listening, thinking more critically becomes a habit and a priority. By just making the time and paying attention, you can absorb the substance and stimulation you need to participate more fully in life.

Read more…

Tom Walken has spent most of his professional life in clinical psychology, primarily as a psychotherapist and now as a management consultant. Reviewing audio programs for more than two decades has exposed him to some great thinkers and helped him become more effective in his work. But the biggest gift has been how listening helps him grow personally, look at himself with calmer eyes, and connect with others with a kinder heart.

Self: Good Parenting—A Moving Target

14 parenting audiobooks that will awaken hope and offer attainable perspectives on the paradox of modern parenthood

boy with apple on head

Audios about parenting have done a good job of keeping up with the astounding changes we’ve seen in our culture in the past 20 years–changes in the way authority is distributed in families, changes in how boys and girls define themselves, and changes in what it takes to prepare kids for the adult challenges of work and family.

“Parenting today is incredibly hard . . . here are some audiobooks that will awaken hope and persuade parents that there is an order to the madness of raising children that we can unlock with a little listening.”

These audios offer perspectives that may help you keep your balance and improve what goes on between you and your children.

Listening for Parenting

THE GIFTS OF IMPERFECT PARENTING: Raising Children with Courage, Compassion, and Connection
by Brené Brown, read by Brené Brown (Sounds True)
Universal truths about being parents and helping kids become good people.

THE CONFIDENT PARENT
by Jane Scott, Stephanie Land, read by Susan Boyce (Dreamscape)
AudioFile Earphones Award
A pediatrician offers back-to-basics tools for helping parents relax and feel more confident about raising their children.

HAVE A HAPPY FAMILY BY FRIDAY: How to Improve Communication, Respect, & Teamwork in 5 Days
by Kevin Leman, read by Fred Stella (Brilliance Audio)
Create a safe place for families to stay connected and do the hard stuff.

ALL JOY AND NO FUN: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood
by Jennifer Senior, read by Jennifer Senior (Harper Audio)
An enlightening historical overview of how raising children has changed.

IT’S OK TO GO UP THE SLIDE
by Heather Shumaker, read by Laurel Lefkow (Dreamscape)
AudioFile Earphones Award
Not your traditional parenting advice, it’s a softly argued manifesto that shows parents how to avoid overcontrolling  risks and complying blindly with prevailing cultural norms.

RAISING HUMAN BEINGS
by Ross W.  Greene, read by Jonathan Todd Ross) Simon & Schuster Audio)
This thoughtful audio discusses helping your children become who they are while learning important life skills.

WHOA, BABY! A Guide for New Moms Who Feel Overwhelmed and Freaked Out (and Wonder What the #*$& Just Happened)
by Kelly Rowland, Tristan Bickman, with Laura Moser, read by Kelly Rowland, Tristan Bickman (Hachette Audio)
The singer/actress’s unfiltered questions, with answers from her OB/GYN.

POSITIVE DISCIPLINE PARENTING TOOLS: The 49 Most Effective Methods to Stop Power Struggles, Build Communication, and Raise Empowered, Capable Kids
by Jane Nelsen, Mary Nelsen Tamborski, Brad Ainge, read by Kimberly Farr, Kathleen McInerney, Fred Sanders (Random House Audio/ Books on Tape)
Keeping things orderly requires more than ordering kids around.

MAKE YOUR KID A MONEY GENIUS (EVEN IF YOU’RE NOT): A Parents’ Guide for Kids 3 to 23
by Beth Kobliner, read by Julia Whelan (Simon & Schuster Audio)
Help children of all ages learn how to be smart about money.

OH BOY, YOU’RE HAVING A GIRL: A Dad’s Survival Guide to Raising Daughters
by Brian Klems, read by Stephen R. Thorne (Tantor Media)
Humorous stories and reassurance for dads entering the world of daughters

THE DANISH WAY OF PARENTING
by Jessica Joelle Alexander, Iben Dissing Sandahl, read by Kim Mai Guest (Penguin Audio/Books on Tape)
The stark contrasts between Danish parenting and the overstriving practices we see in the U.S.

MOTHER & SON
by Emerson Eggerichs, read by Emerson Eggerichs (Thomas Nelson Publishers)
The message in this helpful audio is that male children have more pride issues and doubts about their worth than most mothers realize.

1-2-3 MAGIC TEEN: Communicate, Connect, and Guide Your Teen to Adulthood
by Thomas W. Phelan, read by Paul Costanzo (Tantor Media)
Accessible advice on handling what’s normal and not normal in your teen

IT’S OK NOT TO SHARE AND OTHER RENEGADE RULES FOR RAISING COMPETENT AND COMPASSIONATE KIDS
by Heather Shumaker, read by Laura Lefkow (Dreamscape)
Children learn best through their experiences rather than being told.

Browse personal growth audiobooks in  Contemporary Culture on our site.

Tom Walken has spent most of his professional life in clinical psychology, primarily as a psychotherapist and now as a management consultant. Reviewing audio programs for more than two decades has exposed him to some great thinkers and helped him become more effective in his work. But the biggest gift has been how listening helps him grow personally, look at himself with calmer eyes, and connect with others with a kinder heart.

Self: Women Work

12 audiobooks on how women actualize their talents and balance their lives

Women Work

Women work to overcome cultural and internal barriers. Listeners will think about the abundance of career options for women today, the stubborn persistence of workplace insults and obstacles, and the empowerment women feel to break through and correct these barriers as they explore these audios. All written and performed by women, they focus on women’s continuing struggle to actualize their talents, balance their lives, and contribute in the public arena as respected, capable players.

THE BITCH IS BACK by Cathi Hanauer, read by Teri Schnaubelt, Harper Audio

DARING: My Passages by Gail Sheehy, read by Bernadette Dunn, Harper Audio/ Blackstone Audio

EARNING IT: Hard-Won Lessons from Trailblazing Women at the Top of the Business World, by Joann S. Lublin, read by Kirsten Potter, Harper Audio

FEMINIST FIGHT CLUB: An Office Survival Manual for a Sexist Workplace, by  Jessica Bennett, read by  Bahni Turpin, Harper Audio

#GIRLBOSS: How to Write Your Own Rules While Turning Heads and Turning Profits, Sophia Amoruso, read by Sara Jes Austell, Penguin Audio / Books on Tape

HOW TO WIN AT FEMINISM: The Definitive Guide to Having It All–and Then Some!, by Beth Newell,Sarah Pappalardo, read by Anna Drezen, Nicole Silverberg, Harper Audio

LEAN IN: Woman, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg with Nell Scovell, read by Elisa Donovan, Random House Audio/ Books on Tape

LEAP: Leaving a Job with No Plan B to Find the Career and Life You Really Want, by Tess Vigeland, read by Tess Vigeland, Blackstone Audio

SHRILL: Notes from a Loud Woman, by Lindy West, read by Lindy West, Hachette Audio

WHAT I TOLD MY DAUGHTER: Lessons from Leaders on Raising the Next Generation of Empowered Women, by Nina Tassler, Cynthia Littleton [Eds.], read by Madeleine Maby, Janina Edwards, Fiona Hardingham, Amanda Carlin, Joy Osmanski, Simon & Schuster Audio

YEAR OF YES: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person, by Shonda Rhimes, read by Shonda Rhimes, Simon & Schuster Audio

YOU ARE A BADASS: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Live an Awesome Life, Jen Sincero, read by Jen Sincero, Tantor Media

A few of the writers are accomplished female executives, like television producer Nina Tassler (WHAT I TOLD MY DAUGHTER), screenwriter Shonda Rhimes (YEAR OF YES), and Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg (LEAN IN). Some are by younger authors whose snappy writing and counter-culture tone make their messages sound revolutionary, energizing, impossible to ignore. Combining such messages with the distinctive power of the human voice creates audiobooks that go beyond intellectual stimulation; they’ll help a lot of women take notice, take names, and take on anyone who gets in their way.

What makes the audio productions of these books so arresting is that the stories they tell are not only personal but also delivered by voices that sound engaged and empowered by what they are sharing. These voices make the audiobooks sound as authentic as they are enlightening.

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Tom Walken has spent most of his professional life in clinical psychology, primarily as a psychotherapist and now as a management consultant. Reviewing audio programs for more than two decades has exposed him to some great thinkers and helped him become more effective in his work. But the biggest gift has been how listening helps him grow personally, look at himself with calmer eyes, and connect with others with a kinder heart.

Self: Come In, We’re Open

Opening up to possibilities in life and work—part 2

We’re included more listening titles on the topic of exploring how we think, make decisions, and impact the world around us. Heather Havrilesky’s subtitle “…Guide Through the Paradoxes of Modern Life” seems to sum up our choices nicely.

Live Happy
LIVE HAPPY: TEN PRACTICES FOR CHOOSING JOY

Deborah K. Heisz, read by Karen White
Harper Audio
Intuitive, well-crafted advice for making your life more joyous

How To Be A Person In The World
HOW TO BE A PERSON IN THE WORLD: ASK POLLY’S GUIDE THROUGH THE PARADOXES OF MODERN LIFE

Heather Havrilesky, read by Heather Havrilesky
Random House Audio
Advice on becoming a good person, partner, worker, and citizen

The Power Of Paradox
THE POWER PARADOX: HOW WE GAIN AND LOSE INFLUENCE

Dacher Keltner, read by Kaleo Griffith
Penguin Audio
How empathy and collaboration can increase the difference you make in life

Old Age: A Beginner's Guide
OLD AGE: A BEGINNER’S GUIDE

Michael Kinsley, read by Danny Campbell
Random House Audio
Earphones Award Winner
Thinking about your life, getting ready for death—in a good way

Meet The New You
 MEET THE NEW YOU: A 21-DAY PLAN FOR EMBRACING FRESH ATTITUDES AND FOCUSED HABITS FOR REAL LIFE CHANGE
Elisa Pulliam, read by Renee Ertl
Oasis Audio
A Christian coach shows how to find your value and purpose.

For more SELF recommendations, browse AudioFile’s newest personal growth reviews!

Tom Walken has spent most of his professional life in clinical psychology, primarily as a psychotherapist and now as a management consultant. Reviewing audio programs for more than two decades has exposed him to some great thinkers and helped him become more effective in his work. But the biggest gift has been how listening helps him grow personally, look at himself with calmer eyes, and connect with others with a kinder heart.

Self: Opening up to Possibilities

Effective living suggestions—evidence-based and actionable

The personal growth sector of the audiobook catalog is alive and well. I started reviewing self-help tapes (yes, tapes) in the 1990s and am blown away at how sophisticated and varied today’s audios have become. A lot of today’s offerings are written by experts such as psychologists, social scientists, and behavioral science journalists, along with a variety of public speaking luminaries. Each with its own mix of insights, inspiration, and advice, these audios are gaining popularity with people who are fascinated with the human condition, fascinated with the possibility that their lives could be better.

Pre-SuasionPRE-SUASION
by Robert Cialdini, read by John Bedford Lloyd
Simon & Schuster Audio

INVISIBLE INFLUENCE and PRE-SUASION are good examples of how a behavioral scientist can put together an enlightening audio lesson on what makes people tick. These authors teach effective living with evidence-based suggestions for improving the way we think, make decisions, and impact our worlds.

Pathways to PossibilityPATHWAYS TO POSSIBILITY
written and narrated by Rosamund Stone Zander
Penguin Audio/Books On Tape

I’ve also learned to be more open to the softer messages embodied in an audio like PATHWAYS TO POSSIBILITIES, Rosamund Stone Zander’s touching meditation on how to step out of our isolated comfort zone and explore the joy of connecting with others. Her message alone is powerful enough, but what opened my heart as well as my brain was how the author’s kind voice was an ever-present messenger for her humanitarian worldview.

Bon courage!

Want to make be sure your next audiobook choice is evidence-based?
Browse AudioFile’s newest personal growth reviews!

This post has been edited from its original longer form in the print issue of AudioFile Magazine, October/November 2016.

Tom Walken has spent most of his professional life in clinical psychology, primarily as a psychotherapist and now as a management consultant. Reviewing audio programs for more than two decades has exposed him to some great thinkers and helped him become more effective in his work. But the biggest gift has been how listening helps him grow personally, look at himself with calmer eyes, and connect with others with a kinder heart.

Self: Parenting Advice

Who said you have to be a perfect parent?

Though my children are both grown, listening to these audios had the curious effect of taking some pressure off of me, as well as reminding me of a few things I could adjust in my approach to my children and grandchildren.

The Happy Kid Handbook THE HAPPY KID HANDBOOK: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World
Katie Hurley, read by Kate Rudd
Lessons to help parents become more laid-back and confident.

American Girls AMERICAN GIRLS: Social Media and the Secret Lives of Teenagers
Nancy Jo Sales, read by Therese Plummer
Frightening research into how digital connections shape our daughters’ lives.

Becoming the Kind Father BECOMING THE KIND FATHER: A Son’s Journey
Calvin Sandborn, read by Michael Puttonen
Moving account of how one man broke the cycle of paternal abuse.

How To Ruin Your Child in 7 Easy StepsHOW TO RUIN YOUR CHILD IN 7 EASY STEPS: Tame Your Vices, Nurture Their Virtues
Patrick M. Quinn, Ken Roach, read by Tom Hatting
AudioFile Earphones Award
Pointed advice based on the Seven Deadly Sins and the Seven Virtues.

Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids PEACEFUL PARENT, HAPPY KIDS: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting
Laura Markham, read by Xe Sands
A message of quiet empowerment.

Good listening and bon courage!

Want to make be sure your next audiobook has all the right advice?
Browse AudioFile’s newest personal growth reviews!

This post has been edited from its original longer form in the print issue of AudioFile Magazine, June/July 2016.

Tom Walken has spent most of his professional life in clinical psychology, primarily as a psychotherapist and now as a management consultant. Reviewing audio programs for more than two decades has exposed him to some great thinkers and helped him become more effective in his work. But the biggest gift has been how listening helps him grow personally, look at himself with calmer eyes, and connect with others with a kinder heart.