7 Unique Reads to Get You Away From Work

Wall of books in bookcase

Too busy to take a vacation? Yup, I’ve been there. The company’s insistence to take time off is an idle threat, there’s always a loophole where — with your manager’s permission — you can carry vacation over to next year. Don’t do it. Reading the books below changed my outlook of work / life balance and my priorities in life. The ideas were a catalyst to pursuing my dream of travel. Would it be a waste of your time to take a few days off work and read one?

1) The Art of Non-Conformity by Chris Guillebeau. I was comfortable with my lifestyle but not satisfied. This book — a manifesto actually — made me seriously think about my career lifestyle. Guillebeau is a serial entrepreneur and starts the book with a conclusion, “the typical path to success is a deferred life, and it was designed to make you embrace safety and mediocrity.” This book is for people open to change, and challenges the sanity of deferring all the fun stuff in your life until retirement. The author believes in helping others to help themselves, and his personal website The Art of Non-Conformity is worth checking out.

2) Tales of a Female Nomad by Rita Golden Gelman. This memoir was my first introduction to a life of full-time travel and I now consider myself a full-time traveller; I was definitely influenced. Gelman was 48 years old when she felt her life falling apart and decided to hit the road and, without any fixed address, she made a living writing children’s books. She followed her passion, and rather than traveling to destinations or famous buildings, her goal was to meet women from other cultures and learn to cook with them. The memoir — and her still active website — is a bit dated but inspiring. If you feel stuck in your work and want proof that things can change, I’d recommend finding this book.

3) Monk who sold his Ferrari by Robin Sharma. This book is a fable about a high powered lawyer with a fast-paced life, who survives a heart attack and drops out of the law game. And then comes back as a freakin zen guru. Written by leadership coaching expert Robin Sharma the fable style of writing is fun for a self-improvement guide, but not enjoyable in the same way a fiction novel is. Find some time to absorb this book and you will understand how to achieve your work / life balance.

4) Denial of Death by Ernest Becker. For something everybody does (dying) we sure don’t discuss it much. A Pulitzer Prize winner, this book on psychoanalysis comes highly rated as Becker goes head-to-head with Freud with the idea that death — not sexuality — is our primary repression. Becker wins. His analysis shows why people devotedly embrace their families, careers, homes, wars, and — as Becker calls them — immortality projects. The book shows you why immortality projects are necessary and how to accept yours for what it is. For a book about psychoanalysis it’s an easy read, but don’t expect to finish in a day. The concepts hit home and inspire reflecting on life. If you plan to wait until next year to finally take that vacation, I’d recommend this book.

5) Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. I didn’t play many sports as a kid, but now — as a fully grown man-child — I love the exhilaration of physical games. Csikszentmihalyi’s concept of ‘flow’ describes the state often experienced during sports when you’re immersed and challenged by an experience; you’re ‘in the zone’ (for me skiing is a great example). Understanding flow is the recipe for a natural high, and the concept is popular with studies that deal with happiness. If you’d like to understand why work is sometimes more enjoyable then free time, and how you can enjoy more of your life in general, you should get the book.

6) The 4-Hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss. With a title that reads like a get rich quick scam, the book is just the opposite and has huge readership for a reason. Ferris left his job to become an entrepreneur and hated it, then he started applying the 80/20 rule and things got interesting. Sometimes the advice sounds like bragging — actually, it is bragging — but get past that and Ferris has some winning ideas. As a reader you will have some ‘holy shit how did I not realize that’ moments that will make you more efficient; and efficiency at work will allow you to take that personal time you’ve worked so hard for.

7) The Dream Manager by Matthew Kelly. With the time spent on my career I didn’t complete much of my bucket list, blaming it on poor work / life balance. This book confirmed what I suspected: that I was lazy. The book describes a fictional janitorial company suffering from employee turnover. Not surprisingly, the people cleaning toilets have poor work motivation. The subtext of the book not the story, is where the magic happens, showing that dreams need plans. The reason my bucket list was stagnant wasn’t my career, it was my lack of planning. What’s your dream?

You are a workaholic, and you’ve worked so hard you’ve received the ‘award’ for most overtime. Maybe you heard that’s what it takes to get to the top, and if that’s your dream go for it. But maybe you’ve also heard the term grinder, someone who chews through work and doesn’t advance. Either way, you deserve time off work to recharge. Don’t know where to start? Planning Your Next Vacation is Easy.

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