We’ll tell it to you straight: This list of good summer reads is here to smash through some summer reading cliches. These aren’t inspirational stories about characters who follow their dreams, overcome adversity, and find true love. Not that we have anything against those. We just prefer to leave that list to someone else.
Instead, we’ll stick to what we’re best at — inspiring you in practical, actionable, maybe at times a little unconventional, ways.
From positive psychology to self-help, poetry to picture books (just trust us), this list of good summer reads not only has all your road trips and beach days covered, but it’ll also get you back to work refreshed and inspired to live a better life.
Let’s dive into some seriously good summer reads.
9 Good Summer Reads to Reignite Your Passion
In this book, Dan Pink proves that there’s science behind the saying timing is everything. Learn how timing influences the outcomes of our decisions (like did you know that you should schedule surgery for the morning because that’s when fewer mistakes happen?), as well as how to work with your own biology to be more efficient.
Much like Pink’s previous books, When is entertaining and informative, with points backed up by anecdotes, case studies, and statistics.
Why it will inspire you: Armed with new information about when to take breaks, how to nap efficiently, the best times of day to make decisions, and more, you’ll be ready for a mega productivity boost.
Summer is a perfect time to start building healthier habits. Because when winter rolls around, with its demotivating temperatures, you won’t have to use so much willpower. Your healthy habits will be automatic.
If you’re not sure where to start, give James Clear’s Atomic Habits a read. Clear’s approach is all about making small, incremental improvements, which snowball into staggering cumulative effects. And he delves into the psychology of habits in a way that anyone can understand and relate to.
Why it will inspire you: Atomic Habits teaches you to focus on the start rather than the end goal. By doing this, you’ll achieve small wins, build confidence, and create systems and habits that will get you to where you want to be.
HR tells Death to take some time off. What’s a workaholic to do with a whole year of accrued leave?
Books about death might not usually make your summer reading list but take our word for it — this one is short, humorous, heartwarming, and profound. Follow Death’s adventures as he goes on dates, rides jet-skis, and discovers what it is to be alive.
Why it will inspire you: An illustrated allegory for busy grown-ups, this book is the reminder we all need that work isn’t everything, downtime is important, and there’s no time like the present to get out there and live.
Can happiness be distilled down into a simple formula? Short answer: no! That would be too easy. But nonetheless, Scott Galloway’s latest book does a thought-provoking and entertaining job of exploring “the formula for a life well lived”.
In his humorous and self-reflective way, Galloway highlights why relationships work the same as compound interest, why luck equals courage, and why experiences are greater than things.
Why it will inspire you: We’re all on a quest to find what brings us happiness. There’s no one easy answer, but we can start by asking the right questions. The Algebra of Happiness encourages you to look at your own life to determine if you’re focusing on what’s really important.
We’re all about healthy morning routines as a path to a focused and successful day. That’s why The Morning Mind makes our list of good summer reads: It’s all about improving your life, one morning at a time.
Based on findings from neuroscience and medicine, the book looks at how to activate your brain through exercise, meditation, diet, sleep, and more. The end result? Calmer mornings, a boost in mental performance, less stress, more creativity… you get the idea. Basically, all the good things.
Why it will inspire you: This book not only gives advice on what you should be doing, it explains the underlying why. Learning how our brains tick helps the ideas to stick and gives you the motivation to create a life-improving morning routine.
Do negative emotions have an evolutionary purpose? Randolph Nesse thinks so. He proposes that feelings like anxiety and low mood exist to help us in certain situations. At the same time, they often overwhelm us in a way that’s not so helpful — a fact which Nesse acknowledges and works to address.
Using insights from evolutionary biology, Nesse shines a light on the dark side of human emotions.
Why it will inspire you: Often our happiness has less to do with the good things that happen in our lives and more to do with how we cope with the bad. This book inspires because the better we understand our negative emotions, the more empowered we are to deal with them.
You might have spied 10% Happier With Dan Harris on our list of the best happiness podcasts; or maybe you’ve already read his first, wildly successful, 10% Happier book. If not, that’s totally fine. His most recent effort stands alone as an excellent guide for both new and veteran meditators.
In Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics, Harris and co-author Jeff Warren delve into all the typical excuses and issues that keep people from meditating — and offer up science-based hacks to get around them.
Why it will inspire you: Meditation has so many proven benefits. The hard part is actually being dedicated enough to practice it. This book can help: It’s practical, accessible, encouraging, and illuminating. It’s kind of like having your very own personal meditation coach to give you tips and keep you on track.
No man is an island, said poet John Donne all the way back in 1624. Famous as his words would become, we nonetheless lost touch with their truth: that human beings need to be connected with each other to thrive.
Shawn Achor, positive psychology advocate and author of the bestseller The Happiness Advantage, goes back to this idea in his latest book Big Potential. The premise? That “success and happiness depend almost entirely on how well we connect with, relate to, and learn from each other”.
Why it will inspire you: Achor’s book not only drives home the importance of fostering genuine human bonds, it will also inspire you to act. Achor offers a five-stage path you can follow to build connections and find your big potential in both your career and personal life.
+ Get our full review of Big Potential and what we learned from it here
Sometimes the really good summer reads are the ones you can revisit over and over again. For an oldie but a goodie, grab a copy of Pablo Neruda’s Odes to Common Things and keep it on hand for spare moments that beg to be filled with poetry (instead of, you know, digital distractions).
In this collection, the famed Chilean poet revels in the extraordinary beauty of ordinary things: The “pure delight” of a bar of soap; the pleasure in pulling on two knitted socks, “soft as rabbits”; the beauty of an onion, “clear as a planet and destined to shine”. It’s a journey of gratitude, reflection, and wonder, and it’s worth going along for the ride.
Why it will inspire you: Not only are Neruda’s odes perfectly lovely, they also brim with irresistible enthusiasm. They’ll remind you to look for the hidden beauty in everything — and that’s something that can brighten any day, no matter how ordinary.
Your turn: What books have inspired you lately? We’d love to know your recommendations for good summer reads in the comments below.
For more titles that inspire, check out our list of productivity books.
rltee saysJuly 11, 2019 at 10:45 am
Not a single woman-authored book in this list?? Some of us care about these things and know they are relevant.
Chelsey Taylor saysJuly 12, 2019 at 1:20 pm
Excellent point and thanks so much for bringing it up! You’re absolutely right, and we’ll be sure to update it in the future to add women authors. We’re so sorry for the oversight.