Trey Hunner

programming, teaching, open source

My Favorite Audiobooks of 2016

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I set a goal of listening to 40 audiobooks in 2016. I met that goal, but just barely. I finished exactly 40 books and one of them I actually read the old fashioned way… as an e-book! (Philip Morgan really needs to record an audiobook of The Positioning Manual.)

I try to listen to a diverse set of books every year: I want to end my year having read books from different categories and genres and from authors with different backgrounds and writing styles.

I wrote about my favorite audiobooks I read in 2015 and 2014. Now I’m going to attempt the same thing for 2016. This task is always difficult because many of these books are very different from each other so I’m not comparing apples to apples. But I’m going to try my best to pick my top 6.

The full list of books I read in 2016 is available on my Goodreads page.

1. Success and Luck

This book was written by an economist, but you don’t need to know anything at all about economics to appreciate most of it. The book is strangely (though conveniently) split into two parts: the first two-thirds of the book are very different from the last one-third.

During the first two-thirds of the book, Robert Frank describes the role of luck in our lives. I believe the world view he describes can result in increased humility and happiness; it’s a mental model of the world which encourages gratitude for your life’s path.

The last one-third of the book describes a tax policy that makes quite a bit of sense once you’ve embraced this world view. If not you’re into economics, feel free to skim or skip this part. I found it pretty interesting and quite worthwhile considering it’s only one-third of a fairly short book.

I’m skeptical of meritocracies, self-made people, and the idea that “you can make it if you try”. If you do not share this particular brand of skepticism but you’re curious about the reasons behind my views, read this book. It does a great job of coherently expressing certain thoughts I’ve had, but never been able to verbalize.

Success and Luck by Robert H. Frank

DRM-free audiobook read by the author, Robert H. Frank

2. Make it Stick

My biggest career transition so far has been moving from consultant to trainer: as of mid-2015, I teach for a living. I used to solve business problems that involved writing code, but now I focus on solving business problems that involve teaching others to write code. I picked up Make it Stick in an effort to improve my teaching style.

This is one of the first books I’ve read on pedagogy. The book covered a lot of ground. The authors consist of a writer (Peter C. Brown) and two cognitive scientists (Henry L. Roediger III and Mark A. McDaniel). Together, they’ve made a coherent book consisting of actionable advice based in research. That’s the big distinguishing feature of this book: it’s research summed up for the masses.

This book covers the growth mindset, active retrieval, interleaved practice, spaced practice, elaboration, and other topics I’ve forgotten the names of. While reading this book, I frequently had ideas about how I could improve my training style. I plan to reread this book again in 2017 as I actively incorporate ideas from this book into my training courses.

Make it Stick by Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III, Mark A. McDaniel

DRM-free audiobook read by Qarie Marshall

3. The Brain Audit

I believe this is the first audiobook I’ve listened to twice. I listened to it early in the year while on a family vacation and then listened to it a few months later while struggling to apply some of the ideas from this book to my business.

This is not just a business book. I’ve found this book valuable when promoting my Python chats, tweeting about charitable and non-profit events, and even writing blog posts.

The Brain Audit really changed the way I look at my business, my writing, and sales & marketing in general. Most importantly, it included a ton of actionable advice. Sean D’Souza does give some general advice but he definitely gets very specific with some of his advice, which I really appreciated.

The Brain Audit by Sean D’Souza

DRM-free audiobook read by the author, Sean D’Souza

4. How to Be Black

I read this book before realizing that I’ve seen Baratunde participating in the CodeNewbies Twitter chats.

I did not know what this book was about when I picked it up and the book started as a satirical instruction manual of sorts which both confused and amused me. The majority of the book was a memoir punctuated by life lessons and questions answered by a panel of “experts”.

The book pokes fun at the notion of categorizing people by blackness, but it does so while staying grounded in the reality of our race-aware world. The asides between Baratunde’s story included groan-worthy truths, ideas pushed to ridiculous ends, and a lot of humor wrapped around both light and heavy subjects.

How to Be Black by Baratunde Thurston

DRM-free audiobook read by the author, Baratunde Thurston

5. The Art of Asking

I’m likely biased in my enjoyment for this book by the fact that I like Amanda Palmer’s music and I appreciated watching interviews and talks from her before reading her book.

This is not a self help book: this is really more of a themed memoir. I really enjoyed hearing Amanda Palmer’s story and I especially enjoyed hearing her read her own work. She narrates very well and the occasional musical interludes made the book even more special to me.

The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer

DRM-free audiobook read by the author, Amanda Palmer

6. The Beautiful Struggle

This is non-fiction, but the scenes stuck with me like it was fiction. Ta-Nehisi Coates’ told the story of his childhood beautifully. This was very well-written and the audiobook was well-narrated.

The Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehisi Coates

DRM-free audiobook read by J.D. Jackson

More books

After compiling this list I realized a few interesting things:

  • All of the books are available DRM-free (this wasn’t true for my 2014 and 2015 lists)
  • Most of the books are narrated by the authors, which is slightly uncommon
  • All of these books are non-fiction

Usually I mix in some fiction, so I’ll recommend some of the fiction I read now.

If you’re looking for historical fiction try A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Wild Ginger, or Half of a Yellow Sun. If you’re looking for science fiction or fantasy try Overclocked, Neverwhere, or Ready Player One.

Now for this year’s reading goal! I’m going to be a little less ambitious this year. I plan to listen to more long audiobooks, so I’ve lowered my reading goal drastically. In 2017 I plan to read 24 books, all of them likely audiobooks. Feel free to follow me on Goodreads if you’d like to keep up with my reading habits.

What good audiobooks have you listened to? Have any recommendations for me? Please share them with me on Goodreads, tweet at me, email me, or comment below!

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