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.

Master Your Time Master Your Life

MASTER YOUR TIME, MASTER YOUR LIFE: The Breakthrough System to Get More Results, Faster, in Every Area of Your Life
written and read by Brian Tracy
Gildan Media, LLC

Brian Tracy has written an narrated dozens of audiobooks over 25 with an infectious speaking style that is fresh and engaging. This latest audiobook focuses on timing, reminding us that we can get more done if we recognize the differences between times set aside for goal setting, relating, and achieving. Tracy keeps listeners glued to their earphones by breaking up sentences and phrases in unusual places, conveying his energy and wisdom to help listeners learn how to get more out of our lives.

Wake Up To The Joy Of You

WAKE UP TO THE JOY OF YOU: 52 Meditations and Practices for a Calmer, Happier Life
written and read by by Agapi Stassinopoulos
Random House Audio/Books On Tape

Agapi Stassinopoulos is supremely skilled at connecting with her listeners, both through her ideas and her grounded, authentic vocal delivery. While listeners will notice she isn’t a polished professional narrator, she has a way of speaking plainly that validates her listeners’ experiences no matter where they are on their journey to resolve universal problems such as relationship woes, money problems, or low self-esteem. Through her 52 chapters she discusses problems that plague so many of us, following each segment with well-crafted meditations recited over music.

Unf-ck Your Habitat

UNF-CK YOUR HABITAT: You’re Better Than Your Mess
by Rachel Hoffman, read by Emily Woo Zeller
Tantor Media

Rachel Hoffman wants to overturn everything you know about home management. Emily Woo Zeller uses her sweet voice to narrate the author’s salty language, which ultimately makes the audiobook experience more likable and approachable. Hoffman wants us to resist rigid ideas about keeping our homes museum-neat and clean through debunking cultural gender-role prescriptions and reminding us to live in our own skins. Make your household management ideals conform to your own sense of self, rather than letting perfectionist ideas rule your life.

You can find more great personal growth audiobooks on our website!

This post has been adapted from the original Learning By Ear column published in the February/March 2017 issue of AudioFile Magazine.

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.

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