Ever since I can remember I have always enjoyed stories but I’ve never been an avid reader. I have just struggled to sit still and get into a book without my mind wondering all over the place. I would constantly find myself having to go back and re-read pages as I just couldn’t remember what I had just read!
I suspect that I am not alone when it comes to this and find that a lot of creative people also battle like I do, albeit probably not to the same level.
Occasionally I would come across a book, usually a biography or autobiography, that captured my attention in a way that most others didn’t, and I would be captivated by the person’s trials and tribulations. There was always a takeaway from the book that would make me think about my own circumstances and how I could either improve them or count my blessings. These books also give me a glimpse into what I am missing by not reading more, but I was just not sure how I could improve my concentration to a point where I could get the same benefit out of other books, both fiction and non-fiction.
A few years ago I attended a talk by Brett Florens who mentioned, almost as an aside, that he had started listening to audiobooks whilst travelling around. He was able to listen to them whilst flying, driving, or even when there was a quiet moment. This immediately piqued my interest as I have never had the same trouble listening to other people speak, and found that half the battle was won if I just listened in class……..to a point!
Audiobooks by Audible
I dipped my toe into the world of audiobooks by taking out an Audible subscription. First on the list of books was a book by Malcolm Gladwell called Outliers that Brett had recommended. I was hooked! A book that would have taken me days, if not weeks to read, I got through in no time at all. It was amazing! I immediately started looking for other books to listen to and couldn’t wait for my credits to be loaded every month so that I could get my next book.
I did learn fairly early on that there are two things that can make it break an audiobook. Firstly, and this is pretty obvious, is it has to be well written. There are some books that just aren’t, or perhaps they are but just aren’t in a style that I enjoy. Amazon is pretty good at making recommendations once you have a few books under your belt, so don’t be afraid to try out some of their recommendations, but the best recommendations still come from family, friends, and other creatives who I know to have similar interests to mine. The second deal breaker is that a book needs to be well narrated. Some authors narrate their own books and go an amazing job – Malcolm Gladwell is a good example of this. Others do a terrible job of narrating their books and really should get someone to do it for them. No matter how good the content of a book is if it isn’t narrated well it can really kill it for the listener. Luckily you can listen to a ‘teaser’ of the book before buying it and this often gives you a pretty good idea if you will enjoy listening to the book.
An alternative to audiobooks is to subscribe to podcasts. These, along with YouTube, have become my favourite way to consume content. They are full of up to date content by some incredibly knowledgeable people. I particularly enjoy the longer form podcasts which are often in the form of an informal chat/interview.
Some podcasts are debates between two or more people – I’m not a huge fan of these. Nine times out of ten if it is a debate you are better off trying to find the video of the debate rather than only listening to the audio. There is something that is lost in only listening to the debate and not being able to see either sides body language.
Whilst I do listen to a few photography related podcasts I have found the ones I enjoy the most are those that cover a wide range of topics. As an example, Rob Reid hosts a podcast called After On. On his website he describes the podcast as follows, “This is a series of unhurried conversations with thinkers, founders, and scientists.” He also tries to take you to a ” top 1% level of understanding” on any subjects that are discussed, and I love this. There have been talks about AI, psychology, science, biology, and many others, all of which help to broaden your outlook on the world – and that can’t be bad, right?
If you are looking to start with either podcasts or audiobooks I would highly recommend the below. I have listened to them all and can vouch for each one. They all offer something a little different which means there are some that I prefer to listen to at certain times. Waking Up, by Sam Harris, is one where I need to be able to listen to it without any outside distractions. These are often fairly intense discussions by very smart people and if I’m doing anything whilst trying to listen to the podcast I just can’t keep up. Actually, sometimes I battle to keep up even when I do give it my undivided attention, but that hasn’t stopped me yet! Others, like The Way I Heard It, by Mike Rowe, are amazing stories which don’t require any mental gymnastics to listen to. They are beautifully narrated, wonderfully thought out, easy listening. However, they often have a little twist at the end that makes me a smile every time.
So, here is a starting point. Give them a listen and let me know in the comments below what you think or if there are any others that you recommend. I can always do with finding new content.
- Outliers – Malcolm Gladwell (Audiobook)
- Revisionist History – Malcolm Gladwell (Podcast)
- After on – Rob Reid (Podcast)
- The Tim Ferris Show – Tim Ferris (Podcast)
- Masters of Scale – Reid Hoffman (Podcast)
- Waking Up – Sam Harris (Podcast)
- The Way I Heard It – Mike Rowe (Podcast)
- Stuff You Should Know (Podcast)
- Blink – Malcolm Gladwell (Audiobook)
- Enders Game – Orson Scott Card (Audiobook)
- Bad Science – Dr. Ben Goldacre (Audiobook)
- Bad Pharma – Dr. Ben Goldacre (Audiobook)
- Superintelligence – Nick Bostrom (Audiobook)
- The 4-Hour Work Week – Tom Ferris (Audiobook)
- The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything – Ken Robinson (Ted) – I couldn’t find the link to this Audiobook so have included a link to his profile on Ted.com. Some of what he discusses in his Ted videos is what is covered in the book and they are well worth watching.
- Zero to One – Peter Thiel (Audiobook)
- Unmarketing – Scott Stratten (Audiobook) – This is a link to the second edition which I have not read. I have read the first edition which whilst being brilliant is slightly dated. Such is the fast-paced world of social media. I have absolutely no hesitation in recommending the second edition based on my listening of the first.
I thought it would be remiss of me to not mention YouTube. With it being so widely consumed and not really a secret I will just post a few videos from channels I enjoy following.
The Art of Photography
Ted Forbes is one of the most authentic photography reviewers/commentators on YouTube. I enjoy watching his content immensely and find the content to be well thought out and wide-ranging, covering everything from camera reviews to darkroom techniques.
Another great content producer Peter is as authentic as Ted Forbes. I enjoy watching his videos for tips and tricks with regards to video production. I have often thought of putting out video content myself and his tips and tricks have helped me to better understand this whole new world.
I am a car guy and this is a car guy channel, but the videos are so well filmed and the stories wonderfully told that I use them as an example of the video content I would love to produce some day.
Marques Brownlee (MKBHD)
This is my go-to channel for tech reviews. Wonderfully filmed with great insight and advice. If ever you are looking for a new gadget it is well worth checking to see if MKBHD has reviewed it first.