Audiobooks are books too.
I wasn’t a big reader growing up. That was until my 5th-grade teacher Mrs. Belmonte told our class at Campbell Elementary School about the Reading Olympics. The Reading Olympics is a program designed to encourage children to read more by helping them discover the joy and excitement of reading books. The way it worked was students competed against each other to see who could read the most books in a month. There may or may not have been a prize involved. I’m not sure, to be honest. I didn’t really care. I was a competitive kid, so the fact that I was going up against my classmates was enough for me.
For the next month, I tore into every book I could find. I was no dummy. I picked credible books to legitimize my list but not long enough to eat up all my time. No The Lord of the Rings books here. There were Hardy Boys Mysteries, Matt Christopher’s Sports Books, Choose Your Own Adventures, Judy Blume, and Roald Dahl Books, to name a few of the titles on my list. When the month was over, I’d read 60 books. I know what you’re thinking—sixty books in thirty days; that’s two books a day. But, I was committed. How many of those books I actually remembered was another subject.
The day came to announce the winners of the Reading Olympics. The 4th graders went first. The top reader finished with maybe 20 books. I was feeling good, but those were little kids. Then, the principal, Mr. Vandersheer, came to the 5th graders. He read off third place—28 books. Second place—32 books. First place—35 books. Hold the phone! Thirty-five books were barely half of what I read. I went up to Mrs. Belmonte and said, “I read way more books than so-and-so.” She replied in her teacherly voice, “Go sit down, Jason. We’ll talk about this later.”
I was inconsolable. I went back to my uncomfortable folding chair in the gym and stewed as the 6th-grade winners were read. The top student read a measly 39 books. By this point, I was ticked off.
I sat with my arms crossed, fighting back the tears with a scowl on my face as Mr. Vandersheer began closing the assembly. He said, “We have one more very special student to recognize. This year’s top reader at Campbell Elementary with a school-record 60 books read is Jason Piasecki.”
I got up, wiped away my tears, and claimed my certificate to the applause of my peers. I did it. I’d won. For one glorious month in the spring of 1985, I was a reader.
I’d like to say I kept up the momentum of the Reading Olympics, but nowadays, I read half a dozen books for pleasure, usually sports biographies, and another half a dozen business books a year. Audiobooks, however, have become my jam. Purists might say audiobooks aren’t reading (stop judging me, Mom), but I contend that listening to audiobooks has as much legitimacy as reading the same book. Listening to audiobooks can help to improve concentration and memory retention. When you listen to an audiobook, you must focus on the words and the story, which helps to increase concentration and focus. Alright, that might be me rationalizing listening to books instead of reading them, but as I’ve told my mom, who’s a voracious reader, I’m still assimilating the information, just in a different way.
Audiobooks are my default entertainment for my morning walks and long car rides. I’ve listened to 461 since I downloaded my first one, The World Is Flat by Thomas Friedman, in 2005. When Revel’s VP of Account Services, Sarah Powers, asked me for an audiobook recommendation last week, I jumped at the opportunity.
I combed my Audible library and came up with a solid list of books for her to choose from. That got me thinking about the best business audiobooks I’ve listened to so far.
Let’s be honest here. Business books can be a little dry sometimes. Listening, rather than reading a book, is a great way to get the information without nodding off repeatedly during the process.
The following is a list of my favorite business-related audiobooks:
1. Atomic Habits by James Clear
This is the audiobook that got me hooked on James Clear. Clear shares the challenges he faced as a college baseball player while dishing out practical advice to help the listener get 1% better every day.
2. Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
Isaacson’s down-and-dirty biography about one of the world’s most visionary business leaders isn’t all peaches and gravy. The author tells it like it is when it comes to recounting Jobs’ life and times.
3. Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis
Baseball is big business. Lewis gives a glimpse into Oakland A’s general manager Billy Bean’s revolutionary approach to building a winning team by valuing modern analytics over mainstream stats.
4. Getting Things Done by David Allen
David Allen’s productivity system has been crushing busy people’s to-do lists for two decades. His philosophy is simple: When presented with a task, you either do it, delegate it, or defer it.
5. The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together by Heather McGhee
McGhee’s memoir explores how racism, poverty, and economic inequality have created a divide in our society and argues for a better way forward. The book is an insightful DEI primer for business leaders.
6. Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight
Shoe Dog is a candid tale of a good but not great University of Oregon middle-distance runner who built one of the world’s most iconic, game-changing, and profitable brands.
7. The Long Tail by Chris Anderson
Wired Magazine editor-in-chief Chris Anderson introduces the “long tail” concept of selling low volumes of hard-to-find items to many customers used by internet pioneers like Amazon and Netflix.
8. Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell
This book made me think about those split-second decisions we make about products and businesses daily without even knowing what we’re thinking.
9. American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind Behind the Silk Road by Nick Bilton
One part dotcom startup tell-all. One part true crime story. American Kingpin chronicles the rise and fall of the Silk Road—a website that sold everything from drugs to guns to human organs.
10. Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
In Freakonomics, Levitt and Dubner challenge conventional wisdom by proposing new ways of interpreting the world using economic tools.
Although I’ll never be considered a prodigious reader, I do consume a fair amount of knowledge through my audiobooks. Most importantly, I experience the joy of books almost every day. Mrs. Belmonte would be proud.