Audiobooks to help you understand yourself, and others, better

How well do you really understand yourself? Humans are complicated beings, and sometimes even our own behaviour can be a puzzle.

These seven audiobooks will help you understand why we are the way we are, particularly during some of life's biggest challenges.

The Language of Kindness by Christie Watson (2018)

Christie Watson was a nurse in the NHS for 20 years before retiring; in light of the Covid-19 crisis she's rejoined the nursing register and returned to work. In The Language of Kindness, Watson gives an insightful look into the world of nursing.

Watson shares stories from her career, including the time she nursed a premature baby through the night, and washed the hair of a child killed in a fire, hoping to remove the smell of smoke before the grieving family arrives.

Hearing Watson’s stories in her own words and voice is affecting, and her assertion that nursing is a profession defined by care, compassion and kindness is a reminder of the things that we can offer not just to others in times of strife and trouble, but also to ourselves. 

Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell (2019)

In Talking to Strangers, Malcolm Gladwell explores why we so often get people wrong, misjudge their actions, fail to detect a lie or read their face accurately. Using a series of encounters and misunderstandings from history as examples, Gladwell looks at our strategies for dealing with the unknown, and how we need to rethink our thinking on strangers. Read by Gladwell and containing original interviews and musical scoring, the audiobook is the perfect way to learn how to talk to strangers, or perhaps why we shouldn't.

The Chimp Paradox by Prof Steve Peters (2012)

We all behave irrationally or impulsively at times, or are consumed by self-doubt even when we know we can do something. But why do we do that? And more importantly, how can we stop those behaviours?

In The Chimp Paradox, consultant psychiatrist Professor Steve Peters takes a look at how various behaviours can have a negative impact on our personal and professional lives, and arms listeners with the tools to manage our mind so we have better control and focus, and more confidence. Through understanding our own behaviour, Peters hopes to help us reach our full potential.

Daring Greatly by Brené Brown (2015)

Perfection is something many of us strive for, and that's only increased in a world where social media has seen us all trying to display the best versions of our day to day lives. That need to appear perfect is often because we don't want to appear vulnerable.

But in Daring Greatly, Dr Brené Brown challenges our views on vulnerability, arguing that it's a strength rather than a weakness. When we shut ourselves off from being vulnerable, says Brown, what we're really doing is hiding our true selves, and that means we distance ourselves from experiences that bring meaning and purpose to our lives.

Daring Greatly has been turned into a Netflix show titled The Call to Courage, but you know you want to listen to the book first.

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (2011)

There are two systems that drive the way we think: one is fast, intuitive and emotional while the other is slower and more logical. In Thinking, Fast and Slow – read by actor Patrick Egan – Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman explains how these two systems work, and work together. 

Kahneman reveals where we can and cannot trust our intuitions and how we can tap into the benefits of slow thinking, and offers tips on how to guard against mental glitches that might get us in trouble.

This Too Shall Pass by Julia Samuel (2020)

Change can be daunting, however big or small, but we can learn to adapt and thrive through new experiences, says psychologist Julia Samuel. In This Too Shall Pass, Samuel uses hours of conversations with her patients and the latest social and psychological research to show how to deal with hard times in family, love, work, health and identity. The intimate stories, including those of a woman deciding whether to leave her husband for a younger lover to a young man dealing with the aftermath of coming out, Samuels tells will help you understand your own responses to change, and how to approach challenges in life.

Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari (2014)

What makes us human? That's the question at the centre of Yuval Noah Harari's Sapiens, which tells the story of humankind. Harari explores who we are, what makes us brilliant, and what has led to us becoming the species that has conquered Earth. 

Starting with the origin of species and ending with post-humans, this might sound like an epic undertaking, but Yuval's book – read by Derek Perkins – will fly by.

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