Social distancing and lockdowns getting you down? Of course they are. Bookstack on your nightstand collecting dust? So is mine.
Since diving into the world of audiobooks a few years ago, I’ve consumed a lot of nonfiction books that have helped expand my worldview and improve my life. Below I’ve compiled a list of some of my all-time favs, many of which I’ve listened to more than once. Whether your goals this year include improving your finances, being a better activist or ally, or prioritizing your mental health, check out this list for some A+ recos. In no particular order:
The Year of Less: How I Stopped Shopping, Gave Away My Belongings, and Discovered Life Is Worth More Than Anything You Can Buy in a Store
Author and narrator: Cait Flanders
Many of us spent 2020 spending a lot more time with all of our stuff than we ever had before. Noticing the seldom-worn clothes, the plethora of shoes, the barely touched lipstick collection, the unread books. All taking up space, energy, and often guilt in our lives. If you’ve considered decluttering, consuming less, and saving money, Cait Flanders’ The Year of Less is a must read.
The Year of Less takes us through a year of Flanders’ life, in which she gave herself a 365-day shopping ban. Throughout the intimate memoir we learn about Flanders’ family life, including her complicated relationship with her father, how she fell into a depression, relied on her closest friends, and ended a rocky relationship. Flanders discusses the many and complicated emotions that drove her to turn to shopping and overspending, and the buried emotions that came up when she had to sit in her feelings rather than swipe her credit card as a distraction.
Now a minimalist and a nomad, Flanders’ approach to life is gentle, non-preachy, and curious. The Year of Less is about how making relatively simple changes, and literally making more space, can teach us more about ourselves than we ever thought possible.
Author and narrator: Reni Eddo-Lodge
Based on her viral article of the same name, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Renny Edo-Lodge is an essential piece of work, which explores and dismantles fallacies such as colour-blindness, meritocracy, and equality illustrating them to be exactly what they are: systems constructed to protect whiteness and white feelings, while oppressing people of colour world wide.
Eddo-Lodge focuses on racism in Great Britain specifically, illustrating the deep racism and inequality that Britain’s history is based on, while outlining modern racism and giving voice to the day-to-day experiences of BIPOC people around the world.
This vital work is a must-read for people with privilege. It’s an essential part of our toolkit to continuously unlearn the racist constructs we were raised under, and an important step to take toward becoming a better ally.
Author and narrator: Shannon Lee Simmons
I’ve read quite a few personal finance books, and Worry-Free Money by Shannon Lee Simmons is by far my favourite for so many reasons. A major draw for this book is that it is written by a Canadian and from a Canadian perspective, while the majority of popular personal finance books are American. Simmons offers various budgeting scenarios based on a variety of financial situations, but all based on the real experiences of Canadian clients. All of this makes for an incredibly relatable story and practical guide, especially for Canadians, that’s written in an entertaining way to hold your attention.
Not only does Simmons discuss the emotions, guilt and confusion that can so often surround every financial decision, she offers a practical, easy-to-follow blueprint for managing day-to-day spending. It’s so refreshing to read a personal finance book that spends a lot of time offering tips on money management for the present, rather than only talking about saving for the future.
This book is perfect for people who are just getting used to making a predictable income, such as a salary, but aren’t sure what financial goals they should focus on or how they should budget. I listened to the audiobook twice after reading the print version and I get more value out of it every time I dive in.
Author: Lori Gottleib
Narrator: Brittany Pressley
Lori Gottleib’s, Maybe You Should Talk to Someone was my favourite book of 2020. Over 14 hours long, it was one of the longest books I listened to last year, but I didn’t want it to end. Gottleib takes you through her world as a therapist, introducing you to her eclectic cast of patients: a conceited television executive with a tragic past, a suicidal woman who is estranged from her children, a woman in her thirties with terminal cancer, and many more. We follow Gottleib as she uses all of the tools in her toolkit to help her patients: compassion, care, boundary building and an abundance of empathy.
Meanwhile, we get to know Gottleib as the patient, and meet her own therapist Wendell. After a breakup, Gottleib is struck with debilitating grief and seeks out a therapist to help her through it. The result is an expertly woven narrative that reads like a novel, weaving in and out of patient stories, while navigating Gottleib’s grief right alongside with her. This book will make you laugh, cry and will captivate your soul, and if you’ve ever been curious about what goes on in therapy, this book is a great way to peak behind the curtain.
Author and narrator: James Clear
It’s no secret that I like self help books, and this is not the first habit-related book that I’ve recommended, so James Clear’s Atomic Habits is a perfect example of a book that is, to put it bluntly, extremely my shit.
A short listen at just over five hours, Atomic Habits breaks down the stages of habit formation, offering practical tools to gradually but consistently change behaviour over time. What I love about this book is that Clear emphasizes that change is often imperceptible and can take a long time, but can also appear sudden to outside observers, making much of the work that goes into self-improvement almost invisible.
If there’s something you want to change about your life this year, have a look at your habits. Let Clear help you understand why you do what you do, and you’ll find yourself equipped with practical tips to take an atomic approach to your tiniest habits, eventually leading to major changes.
Let me know on Instagram if you check out any of the books above, and send me your own book recos while you’re at it! Happy listening!