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40 Short Books To Read That Will Make Your Commuting Meaningful

40 Short Books To Read That Will Make Your Commuting Meaningful

“A book is like a garden carried in the pocket.” -Chinese proverb

On days we’re filled with dread, or even apathy, we need hope, a little bit of a nudge, maybe some comfort, or a dose of courage, to go conquer the world, if only for a day. Pocket one of these short books to read on your commute, or pop in a book-cd to listen on your drive – for some quiet words of wisdom, or a kick in the pants to help you drive in the direction of your dreams.

These are a few of my favorites that helped me on my journeys. They range from spiritual to self-help, fiction to poetry, in no particular order. See how many of these short books (200 pages or less) you read, and I’d love to know what your favorites are in the comments below.

1. Gift from the Sea, by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

gift from the sea

    Wise, soothing, and graceful. Words that every woman (and man) can relate to, contemplate upon, and learn from. One of my favorites of all time.

     

    2. The War of Art, by Steven Pressfield

    war of art

      For anyone who ever felt a creative crisis, a writer’s block, or struggles to follow a calling, the author helps us see the power of “Resistance” and how to overcome it.

      3. Code Name: God, by Mani Bhaumik

      code name god

        This one is 225 pages but I thought it deserved a chance on this list. An autobiographical rags to riches story of a Bengali boy who became a Bel Air millionaire. When he inevitably crashes into a midlife crisis, he goes back to his spiritual roots that were planted during his barefoot days, and ties them with the scientific knowledge he gained over the years. Fascinating read.

        4. Letters to a Young Poet, by Rainer Maria Rilke

        letters to a young poet

          Beautifully written in lyrical prose, by Rilke to a young aspiring poet who asks for his insight. Soulful advice that speaks to the aspiring poet (or writers, painters, anyone who feels a calling) in us all.

          5. Gandhi the Man, by Eknath Easwaran

          gandhi the man

            This is a spiritual look into the actions and teachings of Gandhi who inspired a nation to act out of nonviolence and love. Eknath Easwaran, who is himself a spiritual seeker, and teacher, provides the perfect voice. Truly inspirational.

            6. The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran

            the prophet

              A collection of philosophical and spiritual poems about love and marriage, work and worship, joy and sorrow, pain and passion, religion, and self-knowledge, and many other topics. A masterpiece.

              7. The Untethered Soul, by Michael A Singer

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              untethered soul

                Simply written, yet profound. No esoteric words, or confusing concepts. Just practical spirituality. If you haven’t read it, don’t miss it!

                8. One Hundred Days of Solitude, by Jane Dobisz

                one hundred days of solitude

                  This may not be for everyone, but I loved Zen teacher Jane Dobisz’s solitary meditation retreat into the woods in Upstate New York, for one hundred days of winter. Sitting, walking, chanting, bowing, chopping, Repeat. It’s warm, funny at times, completely candid, and glowing with zen-gems thrown in now and then.

                  9. The Stranger, by Albert Camus

                  the stranger

                    This is a strange book to put on this list about an “accidental” murderer who remains detached, disengaged and dispassionate throughout the story as the jailers, judges and lawyers are talking around him. The reason I put it on here is because it makes us think and look at ourselves from an outside perspective. Are we strangers to ourselves?

                    10. 84 Charing Cross Rd, Helene Hanff

                    84 charing cross road

                      I know – I’m a romantic to put this on the list. It’s a true story – a book of letters in fact – of an American writer’s correspondence with a London bookseller. Not exactly life-changing, but sweet, subtle, and a reminder that we all need a touch of romance in our lives.

                      11. Brave New World, Aldous Huxley

                      brave new world

                        This is Aldous Huxley’s description of a future Utopia, where the inhabitants are programmed to be content, conditioned to a class system, and are offered psychedelic drugs to fight off depression. What could possibly be wrong with this Dystopia? I mean Utopia? A classic science fiction that’s completely relevant even today.

                        12. How to be an Adult, by David Richo

                        how to be an adult

                          When you read the definition of an Adult according to David Richo, it makes perfect sense. What’s sad is when we realize that most of us are not adults – yet. This is a short book, but full of wisdom and guidance. You won’t regret reading it.

                          13. Peace Is Every Step, by Thich Nhat Hanh

                          peace is every step

                            We know this already: peace is not somewhere out there; we need to create it within ourselves. In our walk, in our talk, in our every choice. Peace is in every step we take and this little book shows you how, subtly, yet simply. It is written by a peace activist who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Don’t miss it.

                            14. The One Straw Revolution, by Masanobu Fukuoka

                            one straw revolution

                              This book is fondly referred to as the “Zen and the Art of Farming”, and even though most of us are not farmers in real life, I’m adding it on this list because of Fukioka’s revolutionary approach to food and farming. It’s not a how-to book, but a thoughtful book, and the gardeners at heart may learn something from it.

                              15. Walden, by Henry David Thoreau

                              walden

                                This is another one of my favorite books ever. It’s truly life changing. Read it in small doses so you can savor the depth of Thoreau’s thoughts.

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                                16. Siddhartha, by Herman Hesse

                                siddhartha

                                  This is a novel about a boy named Siddhartha (not the story of the Buddha), set in India. It follows Siddhartha on his journey as a seeker of enlightenment. The ending of the story might come as a surprise, but not unwelcome. An enlightening read.

                                  17. Night, by Elie Wiesel

                                  night

                                    An autobiographical narration of a Nazi death camp survivor. Heart-breakingly poignant. The author agonizes over a God who can allow such horrors, and yet remains hopeful in humanity – to ask the questions, to act when necessary, and to remember so we will never forget. No happy endings, but important questions for all of us. Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.

                                    18. Silas Marner, by George Eliot

                                    silas marner

                                      This is the portrait of a simple weaver who was betrayed and accused of a crime he didn’t commit. He becomes a loner and a recluse, but what’s fascinating to read is the story of how he slowly softens with the arrival of an abandoned child. An old masterpiece, but a touching tale of the human spirit.

                                      19. Meditation and Its Methods, by Swami Vivekananda

                                      meditation and its methods

                                        This is an introduction to meditation from the famous Swami who brought Vedanta and Yoga to the Western world. This book is born out of a compilation of several writings and speeches, and even though it’s not a manual for meditation, it’s a good read for those of us who want to be inspired. Vivekananda’s voice carries command and common sense.

                                        20. Tuesdays with Morrie, by Mitch Albom

                                        tuesdays with morrie

                                          This is a series of Tuesday conversations – warm, intimate, and sometimes funny – between a dying mentor and his student. And what we get from these conversations is Morrie’s deep wisdom, his faith in life and people, and his dignity even in dying. Morrie touched so many of us with his wisdom, and continues to inspire us to live a life of meaning.

                                          21. Franny and Zooey, by J. D. Salinger

                                          franny and zooey

                                            Franny and Zooey are two of the children in the Glass family, an intellectual, neurotic New York family who rail at the world for not behaving reasonably. The brilliance of this book is in Salinger’s fast paced, unpretentious dialogue, even though the dialogue is about an existential, ethical crisis. This book makes us all think about those profound questions of life and living.

                                            22. The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald

                                            great gatsby

                                              This is a portrait of America in the Twenties, an age when excess and greed was a national obsession. Fitzgerald’s writing is brilliant and poetic, and even though the story was set in the Jazz Age, it is just as relevant in today’s world of excess and greed.

                                              23. Man’s Search for Meaning, by Viktor E. Frankl

                                              mans search for meaning

                                                Dr. Frankl, a psychiatrist who survived Nazi concentration camps, writes a psychological perspective of the prisoners of Auschwitz. In opposition to Freud’s belief that man’s primary drive is pleasure, Dr Frankl’s theory is that each person thrives to find the meaning of his life, and that’s what keeps him going, especially when hit by a tragedy. This is a must read.

                                                24. The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss

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                                                the lorax

                                                  Can you believe this beloved children’s book was once banned? It’s a story of the devastating consequences of consumption when trees are cut down to satisfy a bottomless pit of greed. Written in the seventies, the Lorax is just as relevant now, in the days of global warming and environmental pollution. Read it to your children, but it’s just as whimsical and inspiring reading it to yourself.

                                                  25. The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein

                                                  the giving tree

                                                    Another beloved children’s classic based on friendship between a boy and a tree, not much different than a relationship between a mother and her child. A spiritual reader cannot fail to see the lessons of giving, love, and acceptance. A tender and touching story.

                                                    26. Food Rules, by Michael Pollan

                                                    food rules

                                                      A practical “manual” of food rules to help figure out what to eat, what kind of food to eat, and how to eat. A simple, slim volume that includes chapters like “Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food.”

                                                      27. American Primitive, by Mary Oliver

                                                      american primitive

                                                        An exquisite collection of poems that won Mary Oliver a Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Wild and primitive, yet tender and transcendental, you’ll feel alive when you read this book of poems.

                                                        28. Jonathan Livingston Seagull, by Richard Bach

                                                        jonathan livingston seagull

                                                          This is a little story about a lone seagull who loves to fly (instead of eat), but faces ridicule and rejection by the rest of the seagull community for his love of soaring to great heights. There’s a powerful message in it for anyone who wants to give up, to have faith in themselves.

                                                          29. Of Mice and Men, by John Steinbeck

                                                          of mice and men

                                                            This is the story of an unlikely friendship between George and Lennie who plan to buy a little land, grow all their food, build a shack of their own, and live happily ever after. But their American dream goes horribly wrong. Their own fears, insecurities and miseries bind them tighter and tighter until the dream shatters and leads to a strangely satisfying ending.

                                                            30. 1984, by George Orwell

                                                            1984

                                                              We all feel it in the air – Big Brother is not too far away. George Orwell’s last novel is a chilling classic and is still entirely relevant even after 1984 has come and gone.

                                                              31. The Great Divorce, by C. S. Lewis

                                                              great divorce

                                                                A powerful little book that gets to the core of human beliefs and choices. Anyone who reads it will glean many little and large truths about good and evil, heaven and hell, sin and temptation. The writing is eloquent, imaginative and fantastical, in a way only Lewis can write.

                                                                32. Thou art that, by Joseph Campbell

                                                                thou art that

                                                                  This is a sampling of Campbell’s writings which can serve as a short, introductory book to his other weightier works. As always, thoughtful, thought provoking ideas and interpretations of religions and rituals, myths and metaphors are offered from the man who urged us to “follow your bliss.”

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                                                                  33. Strengths Finder 2.0, by Tom Rath

                                                                  strengths finder

                                                                    This is version 2.0 of what used to be Gallup’s Now Discover Your Strengths. I love the premise of this book to find our strengths and pour our attention into making them work for us, rather than trying to improve upon our weaknesses.

                                                                    34. The Four Agreements, by Don Miguel Ruiz

                                                                    four agreements

                                                                      Profound but practical. Four simple agreements with ourselves: to Be Impeccable With Our Words, to Not Take Anything Personally, to Not Make Assumptions, and to Always Do Our Best. This book really prompts us to take a deeper look at our every thought and word. Powerful advice.

                                                                      35. Practicing the Power of Now, by Eckhart Tolle

                                                                      practicing power of now

                                                                        This is an extension of the original Power of Now for those who are looking for practical guidance on how to practice the Power of Now. Perfect for carrying in your pocket on your commutes. If you haven’t read the original though, I’d recommend reading that first.

                                                                        36. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum

                                                                        wizard of oz

                                                                          Imaginative characters, unique settings, endless adventures, lots of lessons for the soul, and a happy ending. What more would we want? No wonder this book became the American fairy tale.

                                                                          37. Who Moved My Cheese, by Spencer Johnson

                                                                          who moved my cheese

                                                                            This is a simple story with a big message. Change is something we all have to deal with, and yet we are not usually comfortable about it. A little over-dramatized but a quick read. Give it a try, especially if you work in a corporate environment.

                                                                            38. Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, by Shunryu Suzuki

                                                                            zen mind

                                                                              A collection of talks by Shunryu Suzuki who was one of the original Zen teachers in America. I love the depth and intensity of each sentence in the book. I do have to add this warning though: this is not exactly a beginner’s Zen book (if you’re very new to Zen teachings, you should probably start off with a different book).

                                                                              39. The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery

                                                                              little prince

                                                                                A whimsical, witty, inter-planetary story of a conversation between a pilot and a prince. While they become friends, we learn lessons of love, truth and friendship. Poignant and tender. It is suitable for children and the child in all of us.

                                                                                40. Leaves of Grass, by Walt Whitman

                                                                                leaves of grass

                                                                                  This short book gives a great taste of Whitman’s poems. Powerful, profound, panoramic. Even as you’re making your way to your glass buildings you’ll feel the leaves of grass dancing in the wind. An American masterpiece.

                                                                                  Featured photo credit: Saiisha via NestInTheForest.com

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                                                                                  Last Updated on October 28, 2020

                                                                                  How to Take Time for Yourself and Restore Your Energy

                                                                                  How to Take Time for Yourself and Restore Your Energy

                                                                                  Do you ever find yourself longing to take time for yourself? Many of us are so busy with work, school, and home life that often there is no time left over to do something that you enjoy. What follows are some ways to carve out that essential time you need to slow down, enjoy life, and rejuvenate your mental and physical health.

                                                                                  The Importance of Self-Care

                                                                                  In today’s on-the-go society, taking time for yourself is often looked upon as being selfish or unproductive. You have a job to do, kids to take care of, meals to cook, bills to pay, and the list goes on. How can you possibly justify taking time out for self-care without feeling guilty[1]?

                                                                                  The truth is that without self-care, you’re not giving yourself a fighting chance to give your best to each aspect of your life. If you don’t take care of your own needs first, you’ll find yourself burnt out and struggling in everyday life before you know it[2].

                                                                                  Take time for yourself with self-care

                                                                                    Shift your perspective and accept that taking time for self-care is key if you truly want to live a productive, happy, and successful life.

                                                                                    Simple Ways to Take Time for Yourself

                                                                                    Finding time to focus on self-care can be difficult, especially with the demands of work and family life. Often, scheduling time before you need it can be a great to way to ensure you don’t skimp on the all-important personal time. Here are a few simple ways to take time for yourself.

                                                                                    Evenings With Yourself

                                                                                    Try to save certain weeknights just for you. If others ask you to do things those nights, just tell them you have plans. Use the time for gardening, reading, exercise, thinking, or the ultimate luxury of doing nothing!

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                                                                                    Monthly Treat

                                                                                    Schedule a treat for yourself once a month. It could be on your lunch break, a weekend, or it could be leaving work early. Maybe you get a spa treatment, go see a movie, a haircut, play golf, or whatever treat you’re always thinking about but rarely get to do.

                                                                                    Schedule it in at least a month before to ensure that nothing gets in the way of that time.

                                                                                    Buy Tickets in Advance

                                                                                    Buy tickets for a baseball game, theater production, concert, or any other event you would enjoy. Having the tickets already in hand will force you to make it happen!

                                                                                    Leave Work on Time

                                                                                    This is one of the simplest things you can do when you’re craving personal time. Many of us stay at work late on a regular basis. If this is you, make it a point to leave work exactly on time at least once a week, if not more[3]. And then enjoy that time by participating in your favorite hobby or spending time with a friend you rarely see.

                                                                                    Join a Group

                                                                                    Joining a group can be a great way to include socializing when you take time for yourself. Find a group or club that revolves around an interest or passion of yours or something you’ve been wanting to try. You can find a book club, photography club, or bird watching group. It can be anything that helps you feel rejuvenated.

                                                                                    Take an Adult Education Class

                                                                                    Have you been wanting to learn something new or brush up on something you learned a while back? There are tons of free online classes, and many community colleges also offer free or cheap classes.

                                                                                    You can learn a foreign language, try yoga, or brush up on your painting skills.

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                                                                                    Exercise

                                                                                    For busy people it can be difficult to make time for this, but it’s important to do so. A new habit is started with just one step.

                                                                                    For example, you can walk for 20 minutes in the morning, and then build on that success daily. Vary how you spend that time. On some days use the time for thinking and daydreaming. Other days you can listen to motivational audio, and on days you want a real boost, listen to your favorite music!

                                                                                    However, if you’ve been exercising for a while and usually listen to music, try go without any input for a change. Instead, let your mind wander and expand.

                                                                                    Here are some ways to find time for exercise in your busy life.

                                                                                    Taking Time for Yourself on the Go

                                                                                    Some of us spend hours commuting to and from work. This can be a great chance to take time for yourself!

                                                                                    Commute Via Public Transportation

                                                                                    If you can, ditch your car and let someone else do the driving. Use that time to plan your day or do some reading, writing, creative thinking, or even meditation.

                                                                                    Driving in Your Car

                                                                                    Make the most of this time, and vary how you spend it. If you always listen to music, perhaps also try educational radio (NPR), audio books, or even quiet time.

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                                                                                    Use that quiet time for brainstorming. Either think in your head or even talk your ideas out loud. Bring a voice recorder. You could write a book via voice recorder over time.

                                                                                    Waiting in the Car

                                                                                    If you find that you have a certain amount of “waiting time” in your life, change how you perceive it. Instead of “waiting time,” you can instantly change it into “free time” by reading a book, writing a to-do list, or practicing meditation.

                                                                                    Two Birds With One Stone

                                                                                    Look for ideas where you can fit in time for you within things you need to do already or that will have multiple benefits. See the ideas below to give you an idea.

                                                                                    Walk to Work

                                                                                    This is a a great one because you’re accomplishing many things at once. You’re getting exercise, you have time to think or enjoy music/audio, and you’re helping to save the environment.

                                                                                    Arrive Early

                                                                                    Any appointment that you have, plan to arrive 15-30 minutes early. Then use this time to sit back and relax with a book or magazine.

                                                                                    Volunteer

                                                                                    There are so many benefits with this. You make a difference for others, escape work and personal worries, and grow as a person. This about what kind of volunteering interests you and find a group to join. It could be environmental, educational, or anything that brings you a sense of purpose.

                                                                                    Eat Lunch Alone

                                                                                    Try sneaking away for a quiet lunch alone on a park bench or even in your car. Enjoy some quiet time with no one to talk to and no distracting noises.

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                                                                                    Time Away From Kids

                                                                                    You love your kids, but sometimes you just need a break from parent life. Here are some ideas to help you step away from that role for a bit.

                                                                                    Organize a “Mom’s/Dad’s Morning Out” Circle

                                                                                    If you have a friend or group of friends, you could arrange to share babysitting services a few times a month so that others in the group get some time alone.

                                                                                    Hire a Babysitter

                                                                                    Make a plan to have a babysitter that you trust watch your children once a month or once a week so that you can take time for yourself. Take it a step further and make that a date night or a night you participate in a class or hobby.

                                                                                    Find a Gym With a Babysitting Service

                                                                                    Find a gym that offers childcare so that you can take a yoga class, do some strength training, or even work out with a personal trainer. Make sure you fully research the safety of their childcare program first, though, and get some references if possible.

                                                                                    The Bottom Line

                                                                                    If you feel like you need to take time for yourself and relieve stress, there are many ways to do it. Even if you have a chaotic life where there seems to be only seconds to spare on any given day, it’s possible to carve out time for yourself by simply planning ahead. Make this a monthly occurrence to begin a healthy self-care habit.

                                                                                    More Tips on Self-Care

                                                                                    Featured photo credit: Erwann Letue via unsplash.com

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