Listen very carefully

For the past couple of years I've become a regular podcast listener as I walk each day to close my Apple Watch rings.[1] This style of learning works really well for me because it feels like killing 2 birds with 1 stone. It means I'm willing to invest the time in getting outside every day which is great for my physical and mental health. I'm pretty sure I would (wrongly) feel I was taking too much time away from work if I just listened to music so this is exactly the kind of behavioural nudge that "just works" for my brain.


  1. Yes, I'm that guy ↩︎

This uptick in podcast consumption has co-incided with a broader learning renaissance in my life. As I found myself listening to a stream of smart people talking about about a variety of topics on podcasts (I'm looking at you Tyler Cowen 👀) I realised that my own learning journey from my twenties to my forties had been very narrow - essentially all around technology and computing. It felt a bit humbling to listen to people talk about subjects which I didn't have any background context for. I'm not talking about academic-level discourse (which I generally can't abide) – just intelligent conversation on interesting subjects. I wanted to be able to keep up!

So a little over a year ago I decided to try out an Audible trial to see if listening to subject-specific audiobooks would work for me and help me fill the gap in some of these areas. Turns out it did. In 2020 I've managed to read 28 books across Audible and the fantastic local library app Libby. If you haven't tried Libby I'd highly recomend it. It gives you access to a selection of ebooks and audiobooks that your local library has paid for. Inevitably popular books will have a waiting list but you can place up to 10 holds at a time so that after a few weeks you should have a steady stream of books becoming available. Once you are at the front of the queue you can delay your borrowing by a couple of weeks in case you are already in the middle of something else. I tend to prioritise Libby over Audible so that I'm always reading a Libby book if one on my holds list is available. You get 21 days for a loan and some of the books I've read are >20 hours so you really have to commit once you borrow a book!

I'm not going to review the books but for interests sake I've listed them below, roughly ordered by how much I enjoyed them, along with the source of them so you can get a sense of what's available in Libby. These books have covered fiction as well as non-fiction as I found my appetite for large works of fiction is greatly increased by the medium. In fact most of these books would never have been 'read' by me in the traditional sense. I'm an avid learner but a bit of a reluctant reader. I've stopped beating myself up about why that might be and to be honest, with audiobooks its become a non-issue. If you hear me say I've read a book, you can pretty much assume I've listened to it.

2020 Non-Fiction

  1. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman [libby]
  2. A Guide to the Good Life by William B. Irvine  [audible]
  3. The Black Swan By Nassim Nicholas Taleb [audible]
  4. The World According to Physics By Jim Al-Khalili [audible]
  5. The Biggest Bluff by Maria Konnikova [audible]
  6. Can't Hurt Me by David Goggins [audible]
  7. Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Nicholas Taleb  [scribd]
  8. Steve Jobs By Walter Isaacson [audible]
  9. Thinking in Bets by Annie Duke  [audible]
  10. Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance  [audible]
  11. The Elephant in the Brain by Kevin Simler, Robin Hanson [audible]
  12. Talking to My Daughter About the Economy by Yanis Varafoukis [libby]
  13. How Not to Be a Boy by Robert Webb [audible]
  14. 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari [libby]
  15. The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell  [libby]
  16. The Power of Showing Up by Daniel J. Siegel, Tina Payne Bryson [libby]
  17. Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell [libby]
  18. 12 Rules for Life by Jordan B. Peterson [libby]
  19. Blink by Malcolm Gladwell [libby]
  20. Nudge by Richard H. Thaler [libby]
  21. Basic Economics By Thomas Sowell  [audible]
  22. Sacrifice By René Girard [audible]
  23. The Little Book of Hygge by Meik Wiking [libby]

2020 Fiction

  1. Death's End by Cixin Liu [audible]
  2. The Dark Forest by Cixin Liu [audible]
  3. The Three Body Problem By Cixin Liu [audible]
  4. Dune by Frank Herbert [libby]
  5. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood [libby]