Audiobook Review: The Checklist Manifesto – Atul Gawande

checklistmanifestoTitle: The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right
Author: Charles Montgomery
ISBN: 9781427208989
Pages: 240 / 6 hours (listening time)
Release Date: January 5, 2010
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Genre: Nonfiction
Source: Library
Rating: 4.5 out of 5


Surgeon Atul Gawande expounds on the age-old tool of the checklist in this book, detailing how checklists can help in complex everyday tasks and make them more efficient.

Snapshot Review:

Told through the prism of creating hospital checklists for the WHO, Gawande explores the usefulness of the checklist in various settings. The stories he relates are interesting and the audio production, with narrator John Bedford Lloyd at the helm, is well done. Overall, this is a fascinating book that nonfiction fans (and especially checklist fans) should absolutely pick up.


Because of my ridiculous, detail-oriented personality, I’m a huge fan of to do lists. I’m a person who will add something I’ve already done to a list, only to have the satisfaction of checking it off immediately. It’s crazy, but I know there are a lot of other people out there who are just like me. That’s why I was intrigued by Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right. I was a little worried this book would be a little too self-help for my tastes, but I thought to myself: A manifesto about the usefulness of checklists? Count me in!

I was thrilled to learn that not only was The Checklist Manifesto most decidedly not a self-help book, but that it was absolutely fascinating. Gawande takes the reader through the ins and outs of checklists—where they’ve been used every day for years (airplane cockpits) to the difficulties of introducing checklists into a surgeon’s operating theater. He posits that some daily tasks—such as surgery—have gotten so complicated and have so many steps that checklists can streamline things and make it much easier to accomplish what you need to correctly the first time. He offers statistics to back up his claims and they’re pretty staggering. But in case you think this is a boring book full of dry facts, think again. Gawande offers accounts, stories, and anecdotes to flesh out his narrative. It’s incredibly well done and very interesting.

The Checklist Manifesto was the first audiobook I’ve listened to in a long time—years, really. While I enjoy audiobooks, I often have trouble following the story because I tune out too often. The Checklist Manifesto was great for that. It’s got enough details that it kept me interested the whole time, and if my attention wandered, it was easy to pick up the story when I started paying attention again. Not only that, but it was a happily short read for my correspondingly short attention span—the unabridged edition was just 6 hours long, and the narrator, John Bedford Lloyd, had a confident voice that was easy to listen to.

If you’re a checklist nerd, then The Checklist Manifesto should absolutely be on your list (ha!). While I didn’t really need to be inspired to make more lists, it’s good to know that they’re measurably useful. Not only that, but this narrative was jam packed with interesting stories that I won’t soon forget. I’m looking forward to going back and reading Gawande’s backlist (probably on audio, as I enjoyed this one in that format so much!) while I wait for his next book.

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  1. I love making lists. I am impressed there is a great book out there about lists. It is going on my wish list now!

  2. Sounds very interesting. It reminds me of an article I read recently about Marissa Mayer (she’s the CEO of Yahoo). She says that it’s better to have a list and not finish it than not having it. She puts her most important tasks at the top of the list and celebrates the fact that she didn’t get to the bottom of it because it means she didn’t spend any time doing things that are not important. I’m not a to-do list person myself but it seemed like a very cool way to look at it. 🙂 Anyway, great review!


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