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: Romantic Partnerships

For better or for worse, a few ways to listen, and look at love

Many listeners are grateful to be  part of a long-term romantic partnership. We have so many listening choices on ways to look at love: from stand-up comic Aziz Ansari’s look at romantic love, MODERN ROMANCE,  or Ann Patchett’s THIS IS THE STORY OF A HAPPY MARRIAGE, to the how-to-be-a-grown-up-in-your-marriage primer, SCREAMFREE MARRIAGE, and film director Dana Adam Shapiro’s insights and advice in YOU CAN BE RIGHT (OR YOU CAN BE MARRIED). The authors themselves present many of these audiobooks, joined by talented narrators who reflect the different styles of the authors. Listen for love!

MODERN ROMANCE
by Aziz Ansari, Eric Klinenberg, read by Aziz Ansari
Penguin Audio
AudioFile Earphones Award, 2017 Audies Finalist

THIS IS THE STORY OF A HAPPY MARRIAGE
by Ann Patchett, read by Ann Patchett
Harper Audio
AudioFile Earphones Award

SCREAMFREE MARRIAGE
by Hal Edward Runkel, Jenny Runkel, read by Hal Edward Runkel
Random House Audio/ Books on Tape
AudioFile Earphones Award

THE THREE MARRIAGES
by David Whyte, read by David Whyte
Brilliance Audio
AudioFile Earphones Award

MARRIED AND STILL LOVING IT
by Gary Chapman, Harold Myra, read by Peter Berkrot
Oasis Audio

YOU CAN BE RIGHT (OR YOU CAN BE MARRIED)
by Dana Adam Shapiro, read by Daniel Maté
Post Hypnotic Press

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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: On Living

A true celebration of living—remember what really matters

Kerry Egan offers listeners the gifts of love, courage, kindness, and laughter in ON LIVING, her memoir about serving as a hospice chaplain.

On LivingON LIVING
written and narrated by Kerry Egan
Penguin Audio/Books on Tape
AudioFile Earphones Award

Bringing a light and listenable touch to the reading of her much-praised memoir, Egan shares her story and those of many clients, and finds joy and hope amid the phase of life called “dying”.  Don’t be put off by this audiobook’s mention of hospice. Our Contributing Editor, Aurelia C. Scott, not only gave the audiobook an AudioFile Earphones Award, she also put it among her personal “best listening” of the year.

Interested in more books like ON LIVING?  Check out Atul Gawande’s BEING MORTAL.

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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.

Self: Simplify September

AudioFile is Listening to Learn this month with personal growth, business, and inspirational titles that give us advice and help us improve

If clutter is the common cold of American life, here are some audiobook ideas for a cure.

MESSMESS: One Man’s Struggle to Clean Up His House and His Act
Barry Yourgrau, read by Peter Brook
A personal journey and broad survey of how people tackle clutter.

SPARK JOYSPARK JOY: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying up
Marie Kondo, read by Sumalee Montano
A category system and Zen-like wisdom to keep your home organized. 

THE HAPPINESS PROJECTTHE HAPPINESS PROJECT
Gretchen Rubin, read by Gretchen Rubin
Inspiring memoir on creating space for happiness in your life.

THE ART OF GRACETHE ART OF GRACE: On Moving Well Through Life
Sarah L. Kaufman, read by Christina Delaine
Sublime reflections on bringing grace and order back into your life.

More Listens To Simplify Your Life

THROW OUT FIFTY THINGS: Clear the Clutter, Find Your Life
Gail Blanke, read by Gail Blanke
How all that clutter keeps you from your best life.

7: AN EXPERIMENTAL MUTINY AGAINST EXCESS
Jen Hatmaker, read by Rebecca Gallagher
Bold steps to help you shed the stuff you don’t really need.

LIVE HAPPY: Ten Practices for Choosing Joy
Deborah K. Heisz, read by Karen White
How everyday practices can clear the way for lasting happiness.

LIGHTEN UP: Love What You Have, Have What You Need, Be Happier With Less
Peter Walsh, read by John Lee
People are happiest when they simplify their lives.

100 WAYS TO SIMPLIFY YOUR LIFE
Joyce Meyer, read by Sandra McCollom
Clutter and confusion are conditions that can be fixed.

Want to make be sure your next personal growth listen is credit-worthy?
Browse AudioFile‘s newest reviews to get our latest recommendations!

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: Making Space to Have a Life

Audiobook suggestions from Contributing Editor Tom Walken for finding the joy in less stuff.

If your life is anything like mine, you’ve probably had the experience of spending time in someone’s beautifully neat home and then returning to your own place, which, to make an unfair comparison, looks more like a construction site. I always feel good when I’m prodded for whatever reason to clean and organize my living space. It’s “show work” in psychological terms—an immediate visual reward, but too often not one that becomes part of a sustainable pattern of behavior. For me, throwing things out and properly stowing what I keep is soothing. It creates a lovely physical and mental space that promotes happiness and creative energy. But such good habits are elusive for most of us. It’s easier to do that sort of organizing on impulse than to commit to a routine that provides benefits day after day.

JUNK by Alison Stewart, read by the Author
A travelogue of observations on our overstuffed American homes.

THE JOY OF LESS by Francine Jay, read by Teri Schnaubelt
A collection of intuitive strategies for less stuff.

The Joy Of Less

UNSTUFFED by Ruth Soukup, read by Windy Lanzel
Managing overstuffed lives.

Unstuffed

JOY ON DEMAND by Chade-Meng Tan, read by Telly Leung
A conversational guide to inner joy, and an AudioFile Earphones Award winner.

Joy On Demand

THE MORE OF LESS by Joshua Becker, read by the Author
A handbook for getting rid of the stuff that keeps you from pursuing your dreams.

The More Of Less

Many of the audios we highlight here help us accept the reality that clutter is truly the common cold of American life and that dealing with it is not a one-time project. For you, me, and everybody, it’s a mental commitment to minimize what we bring home in the first place and put away the things we already have—every day. Over the hours we allow these audios into our lives, they help us develop that commitment because they grab and hold our attention with the primitive power of the human voice. Combined with the emotional sensibilities and thinking of these authors, the narrators’ performances create the connection we need to be uncomfortable with the status quo and more optimistic about our capacity to do what we say we want to do.

This Learning by Ear has been edited from its original longer form in the print issue of AudioFile Magazine, August/September 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.