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Great Books, Audiobooks and Podcasts

All Our Favorite Books, Podcasts and Audiobooks

FROM WENDY:

Much of my recent reading has been on the topic of homeschooling…

…as that has been my most recent endeavor. My top reads came highly recommended by multiple homeschooling friends and podcasts:

Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakeable Peace
This is an absolute must-read if you have been or are starting homeschooling. Sarah Mackenzie has six children and understands the stresses associated with raising and educating kids! She offers so much wisdom and practical insight into bringing peace into your homeschool.

Mere Motherhood
This one’s by Cindy Rollins, another mom of many. Cindy has nine grown children whom she homeschooled. Her book is more of a memoir than a how-to, but it so encouraging to hear the ups and downs they experienced together and the wisdom she gained along the way.

Educating the Whole-Hearted Child
I must say that I have had really mixed feelings about this book. The authors, Clay and Sally Clarkson, are far more dogmatic about homeschooling than I am comfortable with. I skipped over a lot of the philosophy section of their book because I couldn’t keep my eyes from rolling. However, I do really like and use many of their practices. Their approach to educating out of real-life and real-language experiences makes homeschooling simple and engaging.

Books Not About Homeschooling

You and Me Forever
Francis and Lisa Chan talk about marriage and family in light of eternity. They offer great perspective on the impact that having a eternal outlook can have on your relationships family culture.

Captivating by John and Stasi Eldridge
John Eldridge is the author of Wild at Heart, and Captivating is the female counterpart. They address the lies that we tell ourselves as women, and the things we believe about ourselves, challenging women to see themselves through Jesus’ eyes. I am grateful that I read this during a pivotal time in my young adulthood.

Books I Can’t Wait to Read to My Kids

Little Women
I sometimes feel as if I live in this book. The way my children play and imagine together, the on-going elaborate productions they put on in my living room, and the sweet, relationships they’ve formed with one another is so reminiscent of this story of four sisters and their friends.

Anne of Green Gables
We named one of our daughters after this book, sooo….
This book and the seven others in the series were hands-down my childhood favorite. I read the series several times through, and can’t wait to read it with any of my children that are willing to listen.

Pride and Prejudice
I just really love this book. Anything by Jane Austen, really. I’ve read this one so many times my copy is in pieces, and have written a ridiculous number of college essays on it. However, I think we’re probably more than a few years away from being ready for this as a read aloud. And I’m pretty sure I’m going to have a hard time selling it to the boys. 😉

Podcasts

Like my reading, my podcasting is pretty much all homeschool stuff right now. In fact, homeschooling was what got me in to podcasting. This isn’t the complete list, just the ones that have stuck in my list for a good long time.

Homeschool Snapshots
This was the first podcast I listened to when we made the decision to homeschool. Pam Barnhill does a superb job of introducing homeschoolers to all the best homeschool blogs and resources on the internet.

Read Aloud Revival
This is Sarah Mackenzie’s podcast, and is just as awesome as her book. Sarah and her many guests discuss the values of reading aloud, share amazing book lists, and address many of the practicalities of reading aloud with children of all ages.

Homeschooling in Real Life
Kendra and Andy Fletcher talk about topics that other homeschoolers may not cover. I appreciate their super honest approach to real life concerns and topics. What I really love about the Fletchers is their consistent reminders not to put your hope for your children in homeschooling or specific methodologies or parenting approaches, but instead to put your hope in Jesus!

JAMIN RESPONDS: Have I mentioned how much I love Pam Barnhill? 🙂 I’m glad you’re into the things you are and I hope we help some others as much as they have helped us through you.

FROM JAMIN:

tldr: Neurology. Religion. Libertarianism. Read the show notes for podcasts, bibliographies for books.

Finally! My wheelhouse! It’s not uncommon for me to listen to 10 hours or more of podcasts (I listen on double speed) and audiobooks (2.5 speed) in a day. My list of favorites is long and ever-changing, so I’ll try to not include any recent reads and just include my favorites that have endured from the past (in no particular order):

Authors Who I Read Everything They Write:

Oliver Sacks: Dead now. He’s an amazing story-teller whose profession happened to be in medicine, especially neurology. But I have a feeling whatever line of work he ended up in I would have read it. He’s the doctor played by Robin Williams in Awakenings (no, that’s not the same as Patch Adams). Entertaining, and perspective-changing as a bonus, since a lot of it is about how the brain works.
Specific recommendationsThe Man Who Mistook His Wife For A HatMusicophilia, An Anthropologist On Mars

Sam Harris: Just because I know a lot of our audience is Christian, I want to point out that this guy is one of the leading evangelistic (preachy) atheists of the past decade or so. Not a set of books you’ll be happy you read with your kids or shared with your fellow congregants.  Not vulgar, just very anti-religious. That said, he is one of the most practical and reasonable thinkers I consume, and his insights have made this religious person a better man.  As a quick example: he has an entire book about how free will is an illusion. I read it and couldn’t disagree more, but considering his perspective has made me a more compassionate person and shifted my views away from certain types of punishments.

By education, he’s a neuroscientist, but then he had some success as an author, and then real success as a podcaster. I wouldn’t want to hang out with him, and I’ll never be as smart as him. He’s a leading force against Islamism from a practical standpoint, and has been in the middle of those controversies for years now, so that comes up a lot, but Sam Harris on nearly any topic is going to expand your mind.  His single fault may be his obsession with hating the current occupant of the Oval Office.
Specific recommendations: End of Faith, Free Will

Penn Jillette: Also super atheist and super Libertarian, but less evangelistic, more vulgar, and way more entertaining. In fact, only entertaining. But I feel like I’d really get along with him. I don’t agree with a lot of what he says, but I love how he says it!
Specific recommendationsEvery Day Is an Atheist HolidayGod, No!: Signs You May Already Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales

Christopher Hitchens: Also dead; also another evangelistic atheist. And every one of his books has significantly altered the way I thought about the topic. His views on Libertarian-ism are extremely thorough, as are his thoughts on nearly any topic. His essay on how bad a person Mother Theresa was will expand the mind of even a non-religious person.
Specific recommendationsLetters to a Young ContrarianHitch-22: A Memoir

Timothy Keller: Perfect Presbyterian apologist (God defender) for the kind of person who likes to listen to mostly atheists. I’ve re-read most of his stuff. A little dry sometimes, but he doesn’t overstate his position very often, so I appreciate his straight-forward positions. I get the feeling he’d like a lot of the same people I like.
Specific recommendations: The Reason For God, The Prodigal God, The Meaning Of Marriage

Malcolm Gladwell: Great books, stupid podcast. I don’t get into the podcast later, so let me do that here: Dear Mr. Gladwell, First, thank you so much for reading my blog. Second, there’s no way you can outrun LeBron James in any race. You’re delusional. Third, great books! Lots of great perspectives! Even if not all the facts totally check out, it’s valuable to consider a different take on familiar topics. Fourth, not everything has to do with the current president. I understand you can’t blow your nose without it somehow reinforcing your disdain for the sitting POTUS, but the rest of us just want to hear your interesting stories. Do your podcast like your books and just wait a couple years until the next act of this stupid American play where we pretend the R’s and D’s aren’t on the same team, and we once again elect the other side to be in charge of increasing the waste of my hard-earned tax dollars. Also, I would love an autographed copy of Tipping Point.
Specific recommendations: Outliers, Blink, Tipping Point

Scott Adams: Yes, that Scott Adams. Unexpectedly insightful! And not just ‘insightful for a cartoonist‘, but more like ‘I’m glad this cartoonist got successful enough to be able to pursue writing, because he’s really insightful.’ Like Sam Harris, he’s pretty dry. I don’t think I’d want to hang out on a regular basis, but I’ll definitely buy anything he creates, although I’ve never read more than a frame or two of Dilbert, even though it was the focus of an episode of the best show ever created.
Specific recommendationsHow to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big, The Dilbert Principle

Jon Ronson: Purely entertaining. I don’t think I’ve learned much of anything practical from any of his books, really. He’s just really entertaining and puts himself in crazy awesome situations. Plus, if you get the audiobook, he’s got a cool accent that will grow on you.
Specific recommendations: Lost At Sea, So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed

C. S. Lewis: Dead. (Why do I feel the need to include that? Koran: Muhammad – dead. That’s funny! I hope I remember to include that in the audio portion.) Lewis is one of the most significant Christian apologists. Also, he wrote the Chronicles of Narnia. Several times I’m not sure that I agree with him, but this is really what endeared me to him: in one of his books he pretty much states (paraphrased) “This may not be true, but you don’t know what’s true on this topic either, so as long as my ideas challenge you and knock you off your high horse, I’ve gotten you closer to the truth.” Anyone who put s*** like that in one of their books has a fan for life right here! It’s a similar take as Penn Jillette, which is also why I find him so endearing.
Specific recommendations: Screwtape Letters, The Great Divorce, Mere Christianity

Milton Freidman: I mostly like him because I’m supposed to. He is the intellectual hero of so many of my intellectual heroes. Most of it is extremely dry, and also life changing if you can get your head around what he’s trying to say.  His videos on YouTube easier to take than his books, although they miss a lot of the nuance of his positions.  If you like him, you’ll also want to check out Thomas Sowell‘s stuff. Great minds!
Specific recommendations: Capitalism and Freedom, Free To Choose

– Anything about Scientology: I know, all the kids are doing it now, but I was here before it was cool! Scientology is fascinating as a modern phenomenon! The more recent documentaries are cool too as far as exposing the more tantalizing details about abuse and tax evasion, but what is most interesting to me is the history. It didn’t get where it was without a crazy, crazy past. Plus, as a Christian I love looking at the aspects of other religions I think are insane and realizing that people think the same about me, and then examining to what degree my beliefs are similar or different from the what seems crazy at first glance to me.
Specific recommendationsBeyond Belief, Going Clear, Ruthless

Podcasts I’ve stuck with over time:

I listen to all these on double speed because the iTunes app doesn’t offer 2.5x or 3x speed yet. Thankfully, Audible does. It’s weird at first, but once you get used to focusing, normal speed just sounds like a bunch of drunken rambling.

Armstrong and Getty: I’ve listened to every minute that these guys have aired (about 20,000 hours), and some of it twice. That’s crazy. You won’t like them that much. But they are definitely unique and just irreverent enough to keep my attention. These are the guys who started me down the path of Libertarianism (although I don’t call myself one because our candidates have been insane and so are a lot of our biggest proponents. It’s a crazy family with some great ideas. So I call myself a ‘classical liberal’ because no one knows what that means, so I get to explain what I actually believe.)

Common Sense: Check out the old episodes. Great middle-of-the-road politics from 30,000 feet without the normal current-events-24hr-news-cycle mania.

Startup: It’s from Gimlet Media, about the Gimlet Media, as Gimlet Media was starting up. The founder decided, “I want to start a podcast company. My first podcast should be about me starting up my podcast company.” That was GREAT, especially for self-employed people. Then it fizzled after the first season.

Waking Up: Sam Harris. You already know I have a man crush on him, so it’s not surprising I’m taken in by every episode of his podcast.

Reply All: Another show from Gimlet Media about all things internet. This show is a tech show for non-tech-y people. It’s not very informative, but very entertaining.

Criminal: Again, first season and a few scattered awesome episodes, and the host takes herself WAY too seriously, but she’s a great story-teller.

EconTalk: The Sahara is practically a tropical rain forest compared to the dryness you’ll find here. Hard core capitalists and Libertarians only. On a positive note, this guy is MUCH more likable as a human being than the other economists or libertarians out there. He’s probably a fantastic grandpa and just an all-around great guy.

Serial: Great story-telling. No information, just entertainment

RadioLab: I can’t be friends with anyone who wouldn’t find at least one of these episodes absolutely fascinating. Crazy awesome stories told crazy awesome well.

Hardcore History: From the same guy as Common Sense, Dan Carlin. The most recent story was 23 hours. So he’s…thorough. But he’s so passionate about history. He’s great. And he’s so overly dramatic, he’s fun to listen to as a caricature.

Timothy Keller: Random, periodic sermons from the dude I already fawned over in the author section above.

The important part: Book and podcast hacks

I didn’t include any business podcasts here (even though I’ve spent hundreds of hours on them) because listening is for entertainment and story telling. I didn’t list any of the business/entrepreneur audiobooks and podcasts here because they’re all stupid! If you find a good business book, buy the hard copy so you can mark it up and bookmark the important sections.

In school I learned: If you have to write a paper for school, just summarize Wikipedia and then cite the books and articles in the ‘References’ section at the bottom. It will look like you’ve really done your research. Likewise, all the really important parts of the business podcasts are in the show notes. The rest of the podcast is just filler. Unless that filler is particularly entertaining (like I find Tim Ferris’s podcast to be), just subscribe to the podcast, don’t listen to it, click on “view full description”, visit the links that seem relevant and then delete the episode.

Similarly for books, if you end up liking a book, go check out the bibliography and the bibliography of those books for book recommendations.  Just be aware you might lose yourself in a tiny subsection of a tiny world if you just read the books referenced in other books you love.  They will all reference each other and you’ll feel confident you’re reading all the best materials since they all talk about how much they love and respect each other, and you’ll feel like your ideas must be right since it seems like everyone is reinforcing the same things.  I used to take it as an indication that I was on the right path when a favorite content creator would reference another of my favorite content creators, but now I see it as a warning.  That referenced person might be fun to listen to, but these two people are probably not giving me a diverse perspective.   When too many of them know each other or line up, I’m probably perspective-deprived.

That’s why I started reading fiction.  I have hated fiction for 34 years. It’s stupid.  Why waste your time on stuff that isn’t real!?  Because the best answers often come from the least likely contributor.  When someone from an unrelated field looks at a problem, their attempt to solve it is not inhibited by the ‘rules’ of that field.  Reading fiction temporarily breaks my brain.  Anything is possible in fiction.  No rules apply.  Fiction is brain practice for not ruling out possibilities and for considering more solutions in life.

WENDY RESPONDS:
And you say you hate to read. That is a really long, really diverse list! And pretty much the opposite of my list, lol.


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