I just finished listening to The Marshmallow Test yesterday, and it was great. It was easily one of the most practical, readable, applicable, and insightful books I’ve ever read.
But in finishing this one on Audible, I decided to finally make good on something I’ve been planning to do for several months. I decided to order gently used physical copies of the best psychology audiobooks I’ve listened to in recent years.
Once they arrive in 4-8 days, they will thereafter reside on our physical bookshelves instead of only in my Audible library. And now the books will be there if my wife or children are walking by and get a notion to pick one of them up. Now also I can loan them out to any friends or family who might be interested. And when I reference one of them in conversation – which I often do – I can hand a physical copy to the person I’m talking with. That way they have a point of reference beyond just my explanation, and don’t have to take my word for it.
And so, verily, it didst come to pass that I just ordered eight titles in a similar vein from ThriftBooks.com – a great resource for buying physical books for less. If you’ve never checked it out, I highly recommend it.
Moreover, I figured I would share with you, the reader, this list of eight books. All of them have to do with increasing our practical understanding of the way our minds work. Understanding our own minds helps us to manage ourselves better. And once we’ve accomplished that feat, we can experience greater success in our relationships with other people.
My recommendations follow, along with brief explanations of each book’s subject, focus, and purpose.
Psychological Audiobook Recommendations
1. The Marshmallow Test: Understanding Self-Control and How to Master It, by Walter Mischel
What is self-control, and how does it work? If it’s a skill or habit, how can we go about cultivating it in ourselves? And as a father – particularly to my six boys – I was especially interested in reading this with a view to helping my sons develop self-control.
Self-control is without a doubt essential to success in life, love, and work. Walter Mischel has spent a lifetime studying the topic. This book encapsulates his research on why self-control is so difficult sometimes; more importantly, however, Mischel shares proven strategies and insight for maximizing our own efforts to be disciplined.
2. Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, by Malcolm Gladwell
Which is better, going with your gut, or taking a long time to think before making a decision? In Blink, Malcolm Gladwell discusses the difference between intuition and systematic analysis. Both are ways of thinking, and whether one is preferable to the other really depends on the situation. Taking longer to make a decision does not always make the final outcome better or wiser. On the contrary, sometimes our initial impressions of a person, situation, opportunity, or threat are the most accurate; sometimes we talk ourselves out of the correct view the longer we assess.
In any event, the question is not so much which kind of thinking we should employ. Both kinds of thinking have their merits and place, and it’s important to recognize that.
3. Outliers: The Story of Success, by Malcolm Gladwell
In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell looks at what highly successful people have in common. What attitudes do they embrace, and what strategies do they employ? Moreover, how much of standing out in your field depends on being in the right place at the right time? How much is a matter of having the right connections? And how much has to do with innate skill or hard work?
It turns out there isn’t just one ingredient to the recipe of success; rather, Providence, hard work, beneficial connections, and a positive attitude all come together to play their part.
4. Mastery, by Robert Greene
What does it take to become a master at a given subject? Robert Greene examines masters of various disciplines and fields from history, and derives from their examples a list of rules.
Alternating between anecdotes and interpretation, Mastery explains what to do and what not to do. More importantly, Greene shows that mastery depends mostly on how we think.
5. Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High, by Kerry Patterson
In every walk of life, there is the presence of and potential for conflict. How can we respectfully disagree with someone in authority over us? How should we suggest behavioral or attitude changes to someone we care about without offending them? Perhaps we inadvertently upset and offend others and cause them to feel unsafe when discussing difficult subjects. If so, Crucial Conversations has practical advice for how to change that.
In short, successful navigation of disagreement and potential conflict requires rejecting the false choice of either honesty or peace. On the contrary, we can and should be honest in our disagreement. But we should give an answer for our reasons with gentleness and respect.
6. Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change, by Kerry Patterson
Do you want to change the world? Some people do just that, and this book tells their story. Culture is a tricky thing to tackle. You might win over individuals to a better way of thinking or interacting. If the culture around them is pulling them in the opposite direction, however, your success will be fleeting.
The trick is to figure out what motivates and demotivates individuals and groups. Find ways to highlight the appeal of positive change. It’s also critical that your goals are clear. Keep your message simple and easily digestible in bite-size chunks, and persuade by the power of example and positive reinforcement of good choices.
7. The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything, by Stephen M.R. Covey
Trust makes relationships more enjoyable and productive, no matter what walk of life those relationships occupy. Trust also makes groups and organizations more cohesive and efficient. In The Speed of Trust, Stephen Covey examines the benefits of trust, as well as the sometimes hidden cost of its absence.
With trust, dialog can afford to be simpler and more direct. And with trust, buy-in and follow-through increase because it’s just easier for everyone to adopt the same vision and goal. And in adopting the same vision and goal, individuals in the group also adopt behaviors which ensure the success of that vision and goal.
Whether in our personal or professional life, trust is indispensable to success.
8. The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups, by Daniel Coyle
What do highly successful organizations have in common? And are there certain universal principles which can be derived from considering examples of particularly happy, healthy, and productive cultures? In The Culture Code, anecdotes alternate with practical insight into how good leaders go about developing good cultures.
For starters, good culture doesn’t form accidentally. Rather, concerted and consistent effort and attention is required to knit a group of people together into a cohesive team. And while that may sound like a tall order, there are very simple behaviors, habits, and attitudes we can employ and cultivate in ourselves to increase the odds that we will be successful in helping our families, churches, workplaces, and society become happier, healthier, and more durable.