Narain Jashanmal


Source: Benedict Evans Newsletter No. 472

My preferred order for reading books is audio > ebook > paperback > hardback.

(Except for art and photography books, in which the order is hardback > ebook > paperback.)

Reading an audiobook of course means listening to it and debates abound whether we retain information better or worse if one reads a text or listens to it being read (examples here and here).

But, as ChatGPT says, learning styles vary and, like with many things, practice and repetition build optimal habits to get the most out of an experience.

In 2022 I read 45 audiobooks (full list at the bottom of this post).

The number of books isn’t the thing to anchor on here – listening to articles vs reading them will have a similar effect – rather the habit I’ve found most effective to both parse and retain information is reading several books on the same topic in clusters.

This has two benefits:

  1. You listen to variations of the same data, research and anecdotes.

  2. You hear different points of view on a given topic.

Several distinct topic clusters emerge in the list of books:

  1. Financial speculation and the irrational behavior that drives it. This was a timely topic to go deep on, following the crypto and NFT collapse. Spoiler alert: it’s predictable human behavior that causes these endlessly repeated cycles of boom and bust, divorced from the underlying asset class, which in many cases (see: Beanie Babies, NFTs) have no intrinsic value.

  2. Inclusive product design. An important and under invested in area.

  3. Product management and design at Apple. For a company that has a reputation for secrecy there’s more information available on this topic about Apple than pretty much any other company.

  4. Financial (mis)adventures of ultra high net worth individuals and the structures that enable them. An evergreen topic.

  5. Frameworks for thinking. Mental models on how to approach problem solving.

The main way I find subsequent books is via references in a current book. In most cases it leads to books that go deeper into a topic, like branching roots, but sometimes it takes you to whole new tree.

This was the case with Strangers to Ourselves, by Rachel Aviv, which was referred to by Tom Vanderbilt in You May Also Like. It’s not a book I would’ve otherwise found my way to but I’m very glad Tom led me to it as it’s a powerful and moving book.

Looking at this list, another thing that stands out is that there’s only one novel (Red Pill by Hari Kunzru, which is excellent).

Novels are almost never read by their authors. Red Pill is and it’s all the better for it. Voiceover actors tend to act out novels, altering their voices for different characters and I find it very distracting. Hari doesn’t do this (or at least I don’t remember him doing it).

While not all non-fiction books are read by their authors, there’s a greater prevalence and the voiceover actors who read non-fiction books either don’t act them out or when they do, do so subtly.

This is one thing that makes Apple’s announcement about AI audiobooks interesting. Will these AI readers act? If so, will it be subtle? What models were used to train the voices? How do they handle non-Western/Anglo-Saxon names and words? Can an author train an AI to read their books so that it sounds like them?

I’m intrigued to try audiobooks read by AI readers and also think this is bridges a valuable gap by potentially creating audiobooks of the many books that previous didn’t have audio editions, which is a very welcome development.

Full list of books in reverse chronological order (links go to Apple Books or

  1. Strangers to Ourselves by Rachel Aviv

  2. You May Also Like by Tom Vanderbilt

  3. A Short History of Financial Euphoria by J.K. Galbraith

  4. Money Mania by Bob Swarup

  5. Irrational Exuberance by Robert J. Shiller

  6. The Great Beanie Baby Bubble by Zac Bissonnette

  7. Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neil Postman

  8. Move Fast and Break Things by Jonathan Taplin

  9. Cinema Speculation by Quentin Tarantino

  10. When Women Lead by Julia Boorstin

  11. Like, Comment, Subscribe by Mark Bergen

  12. Status and Culture by W. David Marx

  13. The Laws of Simplicity by John Maeda

  14. Weapons of Math Destruction by Cathy O’Neil

  15. Dark Horse by Todd Rose & Ogi Ogas

  16. Technically Wrong by Sara Wachter-Boettcher

  17. Mismatch by Kat Holmes

  18. Imaginable by Jane McGonigal

  19. How Design Makes the World by Scott Berkun

  20. The Paradox of Choice by Barry Schwartz

  21. The New Breed by Kate Darling

  22. Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely

  23. Loved by Martina Lauchengco

  24. Change by Design by Tim Brown

  25. Sprint by Jake Knapp, John Zeratsky & Braden Kowitz

  26. User Story Mapping by Jeff Patton & Peter Economy

  27. Start with Why by Simon Sinek

  28. After Steve by Tripp Mickle

  29. Inspired by Marty Cagan

  30. Insanely Simple by Ken Segall

  31. Creative Selection by Ken Kocienda

  32. Red Pill by Hari Kunzru

  33. Build by Tony Fadell

  34. Lucifer’s Banker Uncensored by Bradley C. Birkenfeld

  35. Butler to the World by Oliver Bullough

  36. Moneyland by Oliver Bullough

  37. Don’t Believe a Word by David Shariatmadari

  38. Reality+ by David J. Chalmers

  39. Thinking in Bets by Annie Duke

  40. Thinking in Systems by Donella Meadows

  41. The Scout Mindset by Julia Galef

  42. How to Turn Down a Billion Dollars by Billy Gallagher

  43. Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman

  44. The Precipice by Toby Ord

  45. The Alignment Problem by Brian Christian

#reading #amazon #books #apple #ideas #ai