Dig in your heels or know when to quit?
Grit by Angela Duckworth
Angela Duckworth’s best seller Grit made big waves last year, and they are still carrying her across the nation for speaking engagements, consultations, and research. Her work resonated particularly strongly in the education sector, where teacher’s now want to know how to measure grit, which she argues is the determining character trait of the successful. It’s a great message, and one that is definitely worth a closer listen especially if you’ve already heard her TED talk. You can tell by her inspired performance that she cares about the material, and that there is real substance behind her impressive credentials.
Mastering the Art of Quitting by Peg Streep, Alan B. Bernstein
Perseverance and passion are important, but how to you know when to give up the grit and quit? It’s a simple fact that not everything is worth following through, and sometimes you just can’t tell if that’s the case without giving it a shot first. In fact, for many of us it is a whole lot more difficult to quit – to let go of a job, relationship, or situation – than it is to just keep going and pretend like nothing is wrong. Quitting is an art not easily mastered, and it takes practice. Peg Streep and Alan Bernstein offer an expertly researched account of practical approaches we can all take to letting go, and moving forward.
At one with everything or one thing at a time?
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Tim O'Brien
If you’ve never read Mark Manson’s blog, we suggest you give it a gander the next time you’re around his neck of the internet. His writing is a wonderful blend of cheeky spins on current affairs and self-improvement, synthesized with a solid foundation of thought-provoking content. Maybe that’s what has kept his book towards the top of our bestseller list for so long. What his book’s popularity proves, to some degree, is that life can be stressful and sometimes there are too many things to give a … darn about. We all need a rubric to help us decide when and where to care about any one of life’s hurdles. Here Roger Wayne’s authentic voice matches Mason’s sarcastic and cutting tone well, and the two will leave you pondering your own approach to problems in ways you wouldn't expect.
Little Things by Viet Thanh Nguyen
Andy Andrews, who The New York Times calls a “modern day Will-Rogers”, on the other hand argues that working diligently to understand the impact of the details and peculiarities of our everyday lives has a more profound effect than just disregarding them once we deem them inconsequential. The distinction goes beyond that of the generalist and the specialist. He wants us to pay homage and give respect to nuance, and to acknowledge that incremental change is the most stable and thus most valuable. His is a wholesome message and he has built a reputation as something of a straight shooter, so if you like your self-dev a little more pure then Andrews is a reliable voice.
Are you unconditionally compassionate or judiciously caring?
The Science of Compassion by Kelly McGonigal
Compassion. Mindfulness. Empathy. The reason these normal interpersonal skills have become hot-button topics may be because they are in such short supply. It could be a side effect of all of the technology, globalization, or just a sign of the times, but it’s not hard to argue that we are getting more selfish. Even the most selfless among us needs the occasional reminder that we aren’t the center of the universe. The Science of Compassion is a great starting point, because it illustrates the necessity for empathy from a practical standpoint. Founded on extensive research delivered through relatable anecdotes, Kelly McGonigal’s inspirational proposal is a favorite among Audible customers for its clarity and effect.
Against Empathy by Paul Bloom
How could you be against empathy? Is what everyone ever thinks/says when they read the title to this book. But it’s got more than just a good hook – it makes a good point. While empathy is often spouted as a cure-all from people who only talk big picture, from a practical standpoint it is more complicated than many of us seem to realize. Bloom argues that using compassion inappropriately leads us to overvalue our intentions and undervalue our actions. Ultimately, it’s for you to decide if Bloom drives the point home, but for anyone looking to be more compassionate to a productive end, this one is a must.
Honor what's on the inside or become strategically expressive?
Quiet by Susan Cain
Kathe Mazur is precisely the type of narrator you would want for Susan Cain’s influential call to arms: calm, poised, and persuasive. Cain argues that introverts used to be seen this same way (calm and poised), before the “culture of personality” took its probably unwarranted hold on the American imagination. When Quiet came out it rode a strong pulse of relevant discourse on personality diversity in the workplace and beyond. And Cain has harnessed that momentum, guiding her fellow introverts through a series of passionate reality checks as a means of equipping them to more accurately approach and understand their roles as employees, lovers, and friends.
Captivate by Vanessa Van Edwards
As valuable as the introvert may already be, there are certain extroverted personality traits that just can’t be ignored. That’s probably because we have to experience them all day, but if you can’t beat them – you might have to join them. Vanessa Van Edwards brings her bold style and voice to the science of bold style and voice in Captivate. The common interpersonal interactions that so frighten and intimidate introverts, boil down to rote and formulaic methods Edwards says. And in knowing the formula as Edwards does, it won’t be so overwhelming the next time you go to a "luncheon".
Life under Big Brother or seen through a smokescreen?
1984 by George Orwell
Constant monitoring, manufactured news and propaganda, widespread moral ambiguity, and social isolation – sometimes it sounds all too familiar. But beyond 1984’s reoccurring position in the cultural zeitgeist, it is simply a very well-written book; one that draws on intricate characterizations to make adept social commentary. More than anything, it is Orwell’s sense of aesthetic that gives 1984 such emotional gravitas, and Simon Prebble’s grave, straightforward diction that makes his performance so fitting.
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Where Orwell delivers a dystopia driven by a strict and aggressive totalitarian regime, one that more closely resembles fascism, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World shows a false utopia at the other end of the spectrum. A dictatorship operating under the cloak of progressivism manipulates the masses with a smokescreen of sensual pleasure, consumerism, and pop culture. It is, maybe more so than 1984, a novel of discussion that lends itself to thought-provoking dialogue on the nature and role of happiness and freedom. That dialogue is where narrator Michael York shines, offering versatile voices that represent ideas both big and small, civilized and perverted, and savage yet natural.
Work to live or live to work?
The 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss
The 4-Hour Workweek put Tim Ferris on the map, and has remained a bestselling business/self-help book for almost 4 years. Ferris takes a strictly practical approach to coaching, and his material is generally jam-packed with definitive guides and specific action items that make a difference. While you may not be able to quit your day job the moment you stop listening, you will learn some particularly unique and useful techniques for being more productive. His methodology focuses on making more use of the time you spend being productive, and Ray Porter’s emphatic narration makes the most of this persuasive audiobook.
Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg
While not exactly the opposite of Tim Ferris 4-hour ethos, Sherryl Sandberg’s Lean In definitely has a unique rallying cry. Her call is for women in the workplace to lean in to their rightful positions as leaders, even in the face of rampant sexism and seemingly insurmountable odds. It has reverberated mightily. While it is less about the methodology of productivity, it is perhaps even more useful for those wage and corporate warriors working diligently to explore increasingly intricate workplace politics. But in the end these two books are similar in that they both make an informed case for giving it your all, whether tactically or strategically.