Audiobooks have been my secret weapon for many years, but last year saw my listening go into overdrive. I'm not the only one. New York Times reporter Amy Chozick, who's covering the presidential campaign, wrote about how audiobooks break up her long driving trips and offer insights useful in her coverage:
I try to choose books thematically. Events focused on race and criminal justice in the South, for instance, called for Mr. Coates’s “Between the World and Me,” which he reads himself. His deep voice delivered a punch to the gut and a perspective that stayed with me. Hours later, when Black Lives Matter protesters interrupted one of Mrs. Clinton’s events, Mr. Coates’s musings to his son still echoed in my head: “This is your country, this is your world, this is your body.”You might start asking reporters you work with whether audio formats are more useful to them.
As a blogger, audiobooks make it possible for me to easily do more in-depth research and find a wider range of inspiration. Being able to dive into a book in this way means I get to hear many more bits of data, anecdotes, facts, and perspectives that translate into dozens of posts. My audiobooks of choice are from Audible, and you can use this link to try Audible and get two free audiobooks. You can even return audiobooks you don't find to your liking--a great deal. As a blogger, I do sometimes want to refer to written text, particularly if I need to quote a long passage. In those instances, I get the Kindle version of the book and it syncs automatically with the Audible version, a huge advantage.
Here are some of the books I turned to in 2015, and how they helped me:
- Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness is a great place to start if you want to meditate and don't know how or think you don't have the time to do it. Jon Kabat-Zinn's intro to meditation is a book I re-listen to at least annually, and I use his guided meditation series to meditate while I walk, take the bus, or wait in waiting rooms or for the rest of the passengers to board the plane. This is my real secret weapon for all purposes. On The Eloquent Woman blog, I used it as a starting point for a post on what meditation can do for public speakers.
- The Wright Brothers by David McCullough surprised me with anecdotes I'd never heard before of the brothers' mixed relationship with the news media of the day, a little journalism history that lends perspective to today's media relations. And it's a stunning history of two truly original minds. In audiobook form, I sailed through this very long biography in no time, and it inspired this post on the don't get caught Facebook page--you are following, aren't you?
- Poetry for the Winter Season is going back into rotation this January. The collection of poems about winter, from many perspectives, is a great accompaniment when I'm striding around the city with the subject matter illustrated before me--it helps me "see" winter differently, and that inspired this post on playing the winter games in social media on this blog.
- Sisters in Law: How Sandra Day O'Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World gave me the background I needed about a famous public speaking turn by Ginsburg for a post on my blog, The Eloquent Woman...and gave me a great path through modern feminist and legal history at the same time. I found inspiration for many more posts in its pages.
- Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person by mega-producer Shonda Rhimes could have been a satisfying read in an ebook or hardcover edition. But because so much of what she said "yes" to in that year involved speeches, the audiobook includes actual audio of her delivering the speeches, so I could hear verbal nuances and audience reactions--perfect for a public-speaking blogger. Her "You are not alone" speech to the Human Rights Campaign Fund was featured on The Eloquent Woman, and now I have her perspective on that turn. In addition, I found that enough of the book dealt with public speaking to warrant another post, Is 2016 your public speaking 'year of yes?'
- Rising Strong, the latest book from Brené Brown, is read by the author and, as Brown likes to share stories about her own public speaking, from her TED talks to everyday lectures, it's another rich source for my public speaking blog. In this case, I chose a new anecdote about her first TEDx talk to write Happily ever after? Why you shouldn't neaten up personal failure stories.
- The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food by chef Dan Barber shows a master storyteller in action. Bonus for media relations types: There's a disastrous dinner he served to a table full of editors from Gourmet, and their disgusted reactions put him on a path to exploring sustainable seafood. It's a truly vulnerable moment, one that not many famous leaders could pull off. This is a compelling listen, and I was sorry to reach the end. It's also a book that taught me to look differently at food, a subject I think I know a few things about...and that's a great lesson. Haven't featured this on the blogs, but I use it and the TED talk based on it when I'm coaching speakers.
- Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming is a natural for a blog called don't get caught. I'm listening to sharpen what Hemingway called a "bullshit detector," in our age of trolls and falsehoods on the Interwebs. This is pure background for me, but if you're a communications pro, or you work in a controversial area, it should be a must-read.
- Whole Body Barefoot: Transitioning Well to Minimal Footwear isn't just helping me change my footwear, but my walking, so it's a natural for listening when I'm trying out my minimal shoes, which is most of the time these days. Katy Bowman's a great guide to moving more and better. Look for me and my Vibram five-finger shoes in the airport or downtown Washington, DC. I'll have my earbuds in, listening.