Audiobooks – a secret weapon of a busy software developer

I have blogged about my road to productivity recently. I received a comment there from one of my readers asking me if I have a secret weapon that helped me be so productive. While I don’t have a secret weapon strictly for productivity, I realised that I have a secret weapon (or two) for learning. That weapon is simply… Audiobooks!

Why Audiobooks?

Why would you get an audiobook? What is so magical about them, when you can simply read a book (a paper version) or an eBook (on your Kindle or something similar?

It is all about the freedom they give you! I listen to audiobooks:

  • During my commute. Living in London, you often have to stand on the train, change platforms and have all sort of situations which will make reading more difficult.
  • When I run or do exercise. It makes running less boring and the time goes by much quicker! (I also really recommend running- it is fun once you get into it!).
  • When I walk somewhere. You can listen to an Audiobook instead of music.

This is basically a time where I would before be listening to music, or just enjoying the silence (or the noise of a commuter train!). That means, that I get that time for free. I don’t have to sacrifice anything to listen to books! How great is that? You get to keep all your free time, but you somehow learn all the things you can from many amazing books?

Where to get Audiobooks?

I am using Audible, as it works for me. It is a subscription service by Amazon that gives you one book a month for a specified subscription fee. You can also buy Audiobooks on their own, but they are a bit pricey…

The good news is- there are many other places you can get Audiobooks. Scribd is quite popular, although I haven’t used it much. I am sure that if you google around you will find even more.

What Audiobooks are good for developers?

Ok, so you like the idea of listening to Audiobooks on the go, but where do you get started? What works well? I will share with you a shortlist of my so far favorite developer oriented Audiobooks:

  • “Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions” (Brian Christian, Tom Griffiths) – Absolutely blew my mind! An amazing book about algorithms and everyday life. I can’t recommend it highly enough if you want to learn about algorithms that influence everyday’s life decisions.
  • “Hello World: How to Be Human in the Age of the Machine” (Hannah Fry) – This one was released in September 2018, so pretty much fresh off the press! Once again, about algorithms, with a focus on the algorithms impact on the modern world. Very interesting and highly recommended.
  • “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change” (Stephen R. Covey) – It is a book about becoming more effective at life so to speak. Hard to really give it justice in a paragraph. I highly recommend it, even though it does not have a developer focus.
  • “The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses” (Eric Ries) – This is an absolute classic. If you are thinking about starting a software-oriented venture, this should be your mandatory reading. Really eye opening and full of practical advice. Easy to listen to!
  • “Ready Player One” (Ernest Cline) – Ok, let’s be honest here- you don’t have to only listen to software related material and books about working on yourself. Sometimes a fascinating novel makes for a good break between the more taxing lecture.

I could go on here, there are really plenty of books that are great to listen to on the go… Not everything makes for a good audiobook though!

If you want to read more code-oriented material such as “Clean Architecture” (my review), “Effective Java” (my review) or “Cracking the Coding Interview” (my review), Audiobook will not work well (or may not even be available).

So is there anything that you can do for learning programming on the go? Without a paper book or a laptop?

Beyond Audiobooks – learning programming on the go

Of course, there is! The answer is with online courses. I use Pluralsight (free trial) on the go and I am currently using it to refresh my JavaScrip knowledge.

I have written previously about learning programming with Pluralsight and I really recommend it! This is my second secret productivity weapon.


Audiobooks are great for busy developers, who have to spend many hours every week commuting, walking or even (more positively) exercising! If there are many books that you always wanted to read, but you never had time… now you have the solution! Enjoy your listening!