My Audible picks of 2018

I wouldn’t say I’m into extreme working-parenting but I wrote a revision guide in the cinema car park this week while my son watched Spider-Man, and I’m writing this blog one-handed on my phone while I dry my hair. You do have to look after your minutes if you want to get things done at work and have quality time with your family, and I enjoy the challenge. Audiobooks in the car are one of the ways I get the most out of my time, so here are my favourites from my listening this year.

1. First You Write A Sentence by Joe Moran

This is like a style guide but with philosophy and a very moving, personal element. I found this book compelling and it gave me a lot to think about for my own writing. Absolutely wonderful.

2. The Courage To Be Disliked by Ichiro Kishimi, Fumitake Koga

I was attracted by the title of this book but found it was about something very different to what I had expected. This book is a fascinating and challenging introduction to Adlerian psychology, told through a master-apprentice dialogue that skillfully deals with the many objections I had as I listened. The essential idea is that we interpret things, and experience emotions, in a certain way according to what we unconsciously want as an outcome. It’s like the opposite of Freud: instead of stuff in your past influencing your psychology, what you unconsciously want from the future influences you instead. Reflecting on this made me analyse my subconscious motivations for doing things like getting annoyed by people, and actually empowered me to think more carefully about my motivations and change them to better ones. Paradigm shifting!

3. Thanks For The Feedback by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen

I listened to this after reading a recommendation by Jo Facer and she was right- it’s really great. I would choose this and TLAC as my two books I asked every member of staff at my school to read, if I was in charge of that sort of thing. It’s full of really helpful advice for leaders, such as identifying the three types of feedback (evaluative, appreciative and coaching) and observing that issues arrive when there is not a match between which type of feedback the donor and recipient are expecting, as well as an overarching message that feedback is vital for a productive workplace and should be prized.

4. Knowledge And Decisions by Thomas Sowell

I haven’t listened to all of this as it is LONG but the bit I’ve listened to contained a very striking piece of wisdom: defining things by their goals is stupid as goals are very often not attained. Many “for-profit” businesses make a loss. Political systems with the aim of improving the lives of all often make life terrible for most. Much better to define things by their outcome. How many things come under this category in schools? How many teachers are being made to do things because the intention is to meet the needs of all groups/ engage boys/ tackle underachievement? And how many children are queuing for intellectual bread as a result of this trust in the power of good intentions?

5. Productivity Ninja by Graham Alcott

I loved this book both because it legitimised several of the techniques I already used to be productive, and because it had some extra practical suggestions that I hadn’t used before. So good I bought a paper copy to refer to after listening.

6. Lean in by Sheryl Sandberg

I’m not sure I agree with everything in this book but I like it a lot. The author strikes a great balance between not victim-blaming women for workplace inequality but giving practical advice on what we can do ourselves to change it, without waiting around for the system to change. That’s my new year’s resolution right there.

7. Just William by Richmal Crompton

If you haven’t read or listened to these before then please be aware that you will wet yourself laughing. These are the funniest things in the universe and I never tire of them. Martin Jarvis is the perfect narrator for these tales of reasonably-well intentioned mayhem caused by an eleven-year-old boy from a hundred years ago. The characters, the elaborate language, the misunderstandings, all are just pure gold. It’s interesting actually how easy it is to feel warm about some really very poor behaviour: William and his friends frequently engage in fights in the street that leave them with black eyes – can you imagine if that really happened in your own street? It would be appalling! I do think this easy-warmness has something instructive to tell us about the various campaigns to be lenient on poor behaviour in schools – for whatever reason, something in our psychology tells us to love these rogues. William, I do love you very, very much, but if you tried any of these high-jinks in my school I would not hesitate to put you in isolation!

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