Get More Done!

I’m lucky. I know that. Most people don’t get to be their own boss, immerse themselves in a field they love and are interested in, or work with their friends. So I know that working as an independent publisher and a cofounder of Libro.fm is unlike most careers.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t find myself stuck, unmotivated, and, on occasion, more likely to go for a run or plan my next vacation than to answer emails or set up business meetings. And in that, I know I’m not alone. Like most people, I ask my friends and colleagues what they do when they get into a rut. The following are some of my and the rest of the Libro.fm team’s favorite books to help us get more done.

We are, after all, going to die someday, as Todd Henry points out in the first few pages of Die Empty. Henry then proceeds to take that stomach-churning, animal anxiety that we have at hearing those words and turn it into a positive, a powerful motivator. To die empty, Henry says, is to die with your best work out there in the world, rather than unrealized.

After feeling the need to create, do, or share, many people are still stuck, feeling exposed, asking, “but can I?” That’s where You Are Now Less Dumb by David McRaney comes into play. McRaney shares tips to beat your own brain, circumventing your own logical fallacies and building up happiness.

Drive and confidence are only part of the equation. If you really want to maximize time, sloughing off hours of labor, take advice from Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Work Week. Ferriss offers solid advice for delegating tasks, negotiating with confidence and authority, and minimizing actual work. Ferriss is not a psychologist or an economist. He’s a real person, who has managed to turn his life around, going from, as he says “14-hour days and $40,000 per year to 4-hour weeks and $40,000 per month.” Four hours of work may be too extreme for some people. After all, there is more to work than just money, and some of us, myself included, love what we do. But there’s no denying that Ferriss’s techniques are worth exploring.

Speaking of efficiency, The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande demonstrates the power of putting pen to paper and getting more done through simple checklists. The Economist described it as “both a meditation on the growing complexity of the world and a how-to book on coping with that complexity.” Drawing from his background as an endocrine and general surgeon, Gawande shows how something as simple as a checklist can break down any intensive and overwhelming task. In compelling prose, he shares stories of pilots, doctors, chefs and more, using these tricks to deconstruct what would otherwise be tasks too intricate for the human brain to tackle. Checklists are even more important in many of these stories because so often people in these situations are working in vast teams.

I don’t know about you, but I’m actually excited to get back to work already. I’m going to make a list in Simplenote right now.


What books help you fight procrastination? Let us know in the comments or link to your own review. Sign up for our newsletter to hear more about these great authors.

Indie Picks: April 2015

At Libro.fm, we are big fans of independent bookstores. When browsing their shelves, I always stop and take a look at the staff recommendations, most often hand written, on a shelf-talker. There’s something enchanting about a slip of paper (the shelf-talker) coming from a knowledgeable and passionate bookseller that no algorithm will ever replace. These booksellers are the best book curators out there so each month we’re going to highlight what they are reading (and listening to). Here’s what Robert, Alex, Lizzie, Emily, Pete, Kevin and Elaine are recommending right now:


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Third Place Books

Seattle, Washington

The-DinnerThe Dinner

By Herman Koch

“This is the kind of book you are ashamed of for liking so much. You should be outraged, disgusted, and horrified by this family and their awful behavior. And you are at times. But you also end up reading along with a devilish smile as you cheer on the narrator in a story that surprises over and over again.”

Robert
Third Place Books


The-Girl-With-All-The-GiftsThe Girl With All the Gifts

By M. R. Carey

“It’s April but your favorite holiday is Halloween and you’ve a pressing need to be scared: look no further than The Girl With All The Gifts. The adults have plans for the children, but Melanie has plans of her own. Transitioning from writing graphic novels (Hellblazer, Lucifer) Carey’s debut novel is a refreshing thriller you simply need to read.”

Alex
Third Place Books


A-Tree-Grows-In-BrooklynA Tree Grows in Brooklyn

By Betty Smith

“A bittersweet tale of an impoverished girl, Francie, coming of age in an unforgiving world set at the turn of the 19th century, this novel explores the harsh realities of women in society, work, and family as seen through Francie’s eyes. Simultaneously heart wrenching, hopeful, and beautiful.”

Lizzie
Third Place Books


DelancyDelancey: A Man, a Woman, a Restaurant, a Marriage

By Molly Wizenberg

“The author’s passion for food shines through in her personal and fun style, and all of the recipes sound delicious. I love the introductions to the recipes, which lean heavily on what’s on hand or in season. This isn’t just a book about food, though; her marriage and internal life carry equal weight with the development of the titular Seattle pizzeria.”

Emily
Third Place Books


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Green Apple Books

San Francisco, California

NudgeNudge

By Richard H. Thaler & Cass R. Sunstein

“Nudge is a terrific book for anyone interested in how we make choices, public policy, politics and behavioral science. The way that governments and companies frame choices affects our behavior and well-being, often on a subtle level. A ‘nudge’: if Americans defaulted to donating organs upon death (with an option to opt out, of course) thousands of lives would be saved annually.”

Pete
Green Apple Books


I-ShudderI Shudder: And Other Reactions to Life, Death, and New Jersey

By Paul Rudnick

“This warm and witty memoir/fiction hits my comic sweet spot. I laughed out loud—OUT LOUD!—at least every three pages. Screenwriter, playwrite, and former film critic Rudnick, charmingly recalls detailed anecdotes from his childhood in Piscataway, off-Broadway productions, and showbiz personalities. One warning—some of these pieces appeared in  The New Yorker first.”

Kevin
Green Apple Books


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Book Passage

San Francisco, California

The-Secret-Wisdom-Of-The-EarthThe Secret Wisdom of the Earth

By Christopher Scotton

“Medger, Kentucky is a town that has been supported and then ruined by coal. Kevin and his mother are devastated. Kevin’s baby brother has died and his father blames Kevin. Fortunately, Kevin’s grandfather takes Kevin under his wing and shows him that he can be strong. Scotton brings us wonderful, complex characters including a brave hair dresser who stands up against the coal company’s removal of the mountaintops. You’ll be thinking about this book for a long time.”

Elaine
Book Passage


A-Fine-Summers-DayA Fine Summer’s Day

By Charles Todd

“It’s 1914, but Inspector Rutledge isn’t thinking about the war that is about to begin. He’s just become engaged and now he’s investigating the murder of a Dorset furniture maker with no known enemies who has been found hanging from a staircase. Soon there are more deaths. As this thriller unfolds, Rutledge has to choose between his duties to Scotland Yard and his patriotism. Charles Todd is a mother and son team who write with such clarity that it’s impossible to know who wrote which parts of their novels.”

Elaine
Book Passage


The-WhitesThe Whites

By S. M. Hulse

“Billy Graves’ problems as a detective with the NYPD got him assigned to the Night Watch. Invariably, each time his crew discovers something important, it gets referred to the day shift. Many cops speak of killers they know are guilty—yet can’t catch—as ‘whites’ after the elusive white whale in Moby Dick. When several ‘whites’ turn up dead, Billy suspects his former colleagues. Price/Brandt never hits a false note, as he balances Billy’s cop world with that of his family and old friends. I don’t know why Price has a different name here, but under either name, this guy writes a whale of a story.”

Elaine
Book Passage


What are you reading and listening to right now? Let us know in the comment section. To get more recommendations and audiobook news delivered to your inbox, sign up for the Libro.fm newsletter.

The Alchemist

In the Spanish port town of Tarifa, a king dressed in rags appears to a shepherd, telling him the Personal Legend, a sort of quest the universe pushes each individual towards. This sets the shepherd, Santiago, on a cross-continental trek, from Morocco to Egypt, in search of his treasure. The Alchemist is an allegorical retelling of a tale told by Jorge Luis Borges and Rumi, and found in Arab and Jewish folkloric traditions. With that in mind, the reader knows that journey is at least as important as the destination and treasure, and full of twists and turns.

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Listen to a clip as the King of far away Salem tells Santiago to seek the treasure of his Personal Legend.

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7 Books for a Stimulating Book Club Discussion

I was recently talking to some friends who are in wine clubs (read: book clubs) about the books that make the best book club picks. People’s tastes in books are all different, but that’s OK; each person’s pick doesn’t have cater to everyone. Rather, the best selections generate a lively debate, either because their controversy provokes discussion, their topic sheds light on a part of the world or lifestyle unknown to us, or their prose is layered with meaning and everyone’s individual views enrich the conversation.

Here are a few books that everyone agreed created a lively atmosphere in any book club and go well with a malbec. Not every book was universally loved, but each had something to offer.


I Am Malala

by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb

Not even the bullet of a Taliban member’s gun could stop Malala Yousafzai from completing her education. Determined to fulfill her dreams, and with the encouragement of her parents, she fought for the right to go to school in the Swat Valley, Pakistan. She has since become the youngest person to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Why it makes a great book club pick: So often we watch the news, and see faceless violence, statistics, and fear. This book demonstrates the complexity of life in a war-torn country.


A Call to Conscience: The Landmark Speeches of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., edited by Clayborne Carson, and Kris Shepard

Twelve of Dr. King’s most famous, most moving, most thought-provoking speeches are gathered here, and bonus material includes commentaries by theologians and leaders. While the book is great, the audio edition includes the original recordings, and narration from the likes of Rosa Parks, Yolanda King, Ambassador George McGovern, and Senator Edward Kennedy.

Why it makes a great book club pick: King’s speeches, like his work, don’t just cover racial inequality, but social and economic inequality too. Everyone will leave with difficult thoughts, but it’s hard not to feel hopeful after listening to Dr. King.

And for fun, watch Dr. King tell a joke on The Tonight Show.


Brief Interviews with Hideous Men

by David Foster Wallace

At moments licentious, at others tender hearted, and often both, the bulk of these short stories revolve around DFW’s imaginings of men’s relationships with and ideas about women. These meticulously crafted stories are like a trip through the labyrinth of David Foster Wallace’s brain. If you aren’t familiar with him, take a minute to read one of my favorite DFW pieces on Roger Federer in The New York Times: Federer as Religious Experience.

Why it makes a great book club pick: Much shorter and more digestible than Infinite Jest, this collection still oozes postmodernist longing while managing to be uproariously funny.


Have a Nice Guilt Trip

by Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella

Dozens of pithy stories make up this fourth collection by mother-and-daughter team Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella. Tackling everything from jury duty, to dog-grooming, to the benefits of central air, nothing is too ridiculous, too taboo, or too mundane for these ladies.

Why it makes a great book club book: Laugh-out-loud funny, everyone will have a different favorite. The best jokes and anecdotes will be flying all night.


Killing Lincoln

by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard

Love him or hate him, there’s no denying Bill O’Reilly’s presence on our cultural map. Here we meet him on neutral ground, discussing the assassination of President Lincoln. More like a fast-paced thriller than historical treatise, this book captures the imagination.

Why it makes a good book club pick: No doubt about it, this book is riveting. The conversation might stop there, but it also might go deeper, into the responsibility an author has to fact-check every small detail versus the author’s commitment to entertain, or whether or not the author has a broader agenda outside the narrative.


The Heretic’s Daughter

by Kathleen Kent

Kathleen Kent, a tenth-generation-descendant of the figures in this story, recounts the horrors of the Salem witch trials. This sweeping family saga, told through the eyes of a ten-year-old girl, brings new life to an oft-told American tale.

Why it makes a good book club pick: With prose that’s gritty yet luscious, it’s easy to mark this one as the best book-club books you’ll read this year. But the dynamic characters and attention to detail are what will really hold the conversation.


The Betrayers

by David Bezmogis

Part high literature, part political thriller, The Betrayers covers one pivotal day in the life of Israeli politician Baruch Kotler. When he fails to back down over the policies regarding the West Bank, his political enemies expose his affair, forcing him to flee to Yalta, where he runs into the man who sent him to the Gulag 40 years ago.

Why it makes a good book club pick: Baruch Kotler’s staunch principles are the stuff book club discussions feast upon. Everyone will be asking “Do you think he should have?” and “Why wouldn’t they?” and “Were you surprised when?”


Have a favorite book from your book club? Leave a suggestion or link to your review in the comments below.

Discover Something New in Audiobooks

You’re sitting in your car, bumper-to-bumper traffic.

The radio is playing the same songs you heard on your commute this morning. You switch to your local public radio station, but their quarterly funding campaign is in full effect and you really don’t want to be pleaded with since you’ve already donated. This traffic is moving so slowly, it probably wouldn’t be too dangerous to pick your book from your messenger bag, and read, just until the pace picks up again. And you are dying to see how this chapter ends. You could read a sentence, look up, read another sentence, look up, and so on . . .

STOP! This is a terrible idea. Just like texting and driving is dangerous, reading and driving is even worse. Traffic could start going at any moment, and you’re just one really engrossing paragraph away from a fender-bender. Besides, pausing after each sentence will prohibit you from fully engaging with your book.

This is why you need audiobooks.

You need Nicholas Sparks to lift you out of your daily driving drudgery. You need to bring Tina Fey along to groove with you on the elliptical at the gym. You need to invite Donna Tartt into your kitchen while you make dinner.

Because if you don’t, you’ll wind up in a car wreck, seasick on the elliptical, and eating frozen pizza while you lose yourself in reading.

Trust us. We’ve been there.

That’s why we’ve brought thousands of the best audiobooks together at Libro.fm. Book nerds at heart, we found that our busy lives blocked us from doing what we love, namely, reading. But now we are happy to report that we are free from book-related accidents, and even productive, functioning contributors to society. In fact, we think that this is our best contribution yet.

Libro.fm is a new online bookstore for audiobooks, launching this spring. If you are new to audio, it’s never been easier to get started. Among our titles we’re sure you’ll find something to interest you. Classics? Thrillers? Business? We have you covered.

Sign up for the Libro.fm newsletter and you’ll be the first to know when we launch. Be sure to check our blog frequently, as we’ll bring you all sorts of listening ideas for every taste and curiosity.

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