A quick question, and please answer honestly: how well do you know other people? And while we're at it: how well do you know yourself? Assuming you’re not a psychology professor or professional psychiatrist, the answer is probably 'not as well as you'd like to think'.

The human mind, of course, is full of contradictions and flaws, hidden powers and secret doors. It's as easily fooled as it can fool others, it fights itself as much as it helps you out, and overall is the most beautiful, versatile and complex organic blob of flesh we own.

With that in mind (pun fully intended), here are 10 horizon-expanding audiobooks that can help you get a better grip of your own psyche, and those of others.  
 

Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don't Know by Malcolm Gladwell (2019)

Talking to strangers is one of the most important things we do, and it can have the most profound effect on our successes and failures in life.  The trouble is, according to Malcolm Gladwell, most of us are terrible at it. It’s why we’re so easily deceived. It’s why charm usually trumps honesty. And it’s certainly why Neville Chamberlain thought he could trust Hitler, and why we so readily believed Amanda Knox was a cold-blooded killer.

Using these fascinating examples from history - and many more -  Gladwell, in his inimitable way, takes us on an adventure through the history and psychology of human misunderstanding. Partially compromised of clips from the interviews he conducted, the audiobook also makes full use of the author's brilliance as a podcast host. 

 

Atomic Habits: An Easy and Proven Way to Build Good Habits and Break Bad Ones (Unabridged) by James Clear (2018)

We all know the past is alive in the present; that we are the sum of all our choices. But it’s easy to forget that the future is alive in the present, too. It’s not someplace we’re travelling to, but an idea in our heads, right now. Nothing is fixed, everything is fluid, and we can shape the future however we like.

That's the slightly mind-bending starting point for James Clear’s Atomic Habits which actually goes on to present a highly practical formula for life: making small changes, day to day, that add up to huge results year on year. He calls it building a system for getting 1% ‘better’ every day, and it'll help you understand how habits - good and bad - are formed by yourself and others.

Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams (Unabridged) by Matthew Walker (2017)

Breaking news: scientists have discovered a radical wonder drug that will make you cleverer, more attractive, slimmer, happier, healthier and better at fighting off colds and cancer. And the best part is you don’t have to swallow it, inject it, run 30 miles a day for it, or even pay for it. You only have to find time.

Sleep, argues the neuroscientist Pr. Matthew Walker, is one of the most powerful drivers of physical and mental wellbeing in our lives – more so than exercise or diet. The trouble is, most of us don’t get anywhere near enough of it. So if you’d like to save yourself from an existence of exhaustion and misery, capped by an early death, this is a highly-recommended place to start.
 

The Chimp Paradox: The Acclaimed Mind Management Programme to Help You Achieve Success, Confidence and Happiness (Unabridged) by Professor Steve Peters (2012)

You are not who you think you are, and the sooner you realise that the happier you’ll be. That’s the first thing psychiatrist Pr. Steve Peters wants you to understand. The second is that your brain consists of two decision-making parts: the human in you and your inner chimp. The human uses thoughtful logic and the chimp uses irrational emotion, and both like to compete for your attention. Usually, the chimp wins.

That’s why we get angry in traffic jams, feel intimidated by large crowds, break promises, or take stupid risks. It can lead to that nagging self-doubt that too easily can bleed into our personal and professional lives. Peters will teach you – both entertainingly and refreshingly without psychobabble – how to ‘train’ your chimp and better understand your brain for a more successful life.
 

Thinking, Fast and Slow (Unabridged) by Daniel Kahneman (2011)

If you want to take a tour of your own mind, a Nobel Prize-winning psychologist is probably a good guide. Nobody is better placed to explain the machinery of the human brain than Daniel Kahneman. He is, as author Steven Pinker described him, ‘the world’s most influential living psychologist’. First published in 2011, Thinking, Fast and Slow revolutionised what we think when we think about how we think.

It tells the story of ‘two systems’ of thought. The first is automatic and impulsive. The second is conscious, aware and considerate. The trouble is, System Two is lazy and often puts its feet up while System One runs riot. This breeds error, bias and prejudice. Stuffed with actionable insights and advice, it is as illuminating and intelligent an audiobook as you could ever hope to listen to about the mechanics of the mind.
 

12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos (Unabridged) by Jordan B. Peterson  (2018)

Let Jordan B. Peterson take you by the ears and hoist you onto his lifeboat built to survive the biggest problems facing people today. Narrated by the man himself, 12 Rules For Life: An Antidote To Chaos deploys the Canadian psychology professor’s unique blend of ancient wisdom, modern psychoanalysis and no-nonsense philosophical reasoning to make a case for individual responsibility as the best way to navigate the choppy waters of modern life. You may not agree with all he says, but as 'the most influential public intellectual in the Western world right now' (so said the New York Times), he is a man worth hearing out.

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do, and How to Change (Unabridged) by Charles Duhigg (2012)

Old habits die hard, and while they are around they can do a lot of damange to our lives and dreams. Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit uses cutting-edge science to prove that all habits can be changed by focusing on the patterns behind them replacing them with good ones. What do swimmer Michael Phelps, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, and civil-rights hero Martin Luther King, Jr. have in common? They all harnessed the power of habit for success.

This is not a self-help book conveying one author’s homespun remedies, but a serious and exhilarating look at the science of habit formation and change. His message, really, is: if you want to win at life – be it as a parent, an entrepreneur, a social do-gooder or someone who just wants to live a long time – understanding how habits work is key.
 

21 Lessons for the 21st Century (Unabridged) by Yuval Noah Harari (2018)

He gazed into the distant past in Sapiens and into the far future in Homo Deus. In 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, Israeli historian Yuval Noah Harari has trained his microscope on here and now. Why is freedom, in fact, a myth? How do stories build nations? Why are humans a ‘post-truth’ species? And – probably his main question – ‘How do you live in an age of bewilderment, when the old stories have collapsed, and no new story has yet emerged to replace them?’ He has, of course, most of the answers. Bold, broad and breezy, this is a truly mind-expanding book that will echo between your ears long after you’ve put down your headphones.
 

How to Be Right… in a World Gone Wrong by James O’Brien (2018)

To James O’Brien, ignorance is an inflatable dartboard and his words are… no need for a bad metaphor – it’s easier to tell it straight, just like O’Brien would do. The LBC talk-show host has made a glittering career of puncturing blunt assumptions and putting prejudice in its place. Every morning, he listens to puce-faced callers foaming over benefits cheats, the EU, Muslims, feminists and immigrants, then he calmly and carefully bulldozes their arguments into the Thames. Read by O’Brien himself, How To Be Right… builds each chapter hilariously around transcripts of his phone-ins, burning issue by burning issue, in his mission to push back the tide of misinformed opinion. Let him teach you the subtle art of talking truth to bloody-minded ignorance.
 

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