Getting Smart During Your Daily Commute

The average American spends a good 100 minutes per day commuting to and from work. (More on that here.) That amounts to about 433 hours per year! Now imagine using that time to learn something new -- to read a great book, to take a class from a top university, to learn a new language. To make a sharper you. Below, we highlight our free audio resources that will maximize your drive time. Before getting started, make sure you have a big mp3 player and a way to listen to your mp3 player over your car speakers. Unless you commute by subway or bus, using earbuds is generally unsafe, and often illegal.

Free Resources:

Free Audio Books: What better way to spend your drive time than listening to some of the greatest books ever written? This page contains a vast number of free audio books, including works by Arthur Conan Doyle, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, Jane Austen, Edgar Allan Poe, George Orwell and many more. You can download these classic books straight to your mp3 player, then listen as you drive.

Free Courses: This list brings together over 275 free courses from leading universities, including Stanford, Yale, MIT, UC Berkeley, Oxford and beyond. These full-fledged courses range across all disciplines. As you drive, you can immerse yourself in free courses in history, physics, philosophy, psychology and beyond. All of these courses are available in audio.

Free Language Lessons: Perhaps learning a new language is high on your personal check list. Well, here is a great way to do it. Take your pick of 37 languages, including Spanish, French, Italian, Mandarin, English, Russian, Dutch, even Finnish and Esperanto. These lessons are all free and ready for your drive. You'll start speaking that new language in no time.

Ideas & Culture Programs: In this audio collection, we have gathered some of the most intellectually stimulating programs, covering the worlds of thought, film, music, books, etc. These programs will keep you thinking and culturally up-to-date. Most programs feature new daily episodes.

Science Podcasts: Maybe you're already steeped in the liberal arts and want to get more comfortable with the world of science. Here's a good place to start. This page includes a long list of entertaining science programs. Neuroscience, astronomy, medicine, Einstein, National Geographic. They're all here, waiting for you.

Open Culture iPhone App: A little something special for iPhone users. When you download our free iPhone app, you can take with you, wherever you go, the items listed above. Just connect to Wi-Fi (Apple says so), download as many audio files as you want, then take them on the road, and you're good to go.


Paid Resources: We love all things free. You know that. But sometimes paid resources deliver the goods. Here are two paid resources that I frequently end up using during my travels.

Audible.com: If you're into contemporary books, then give Audible a visit. They have the widest collection of new books on the market, and they make it easy to download books to your mp3 player. In fact, they support iPod, iPhone, Blackberry and 500 other devices. Books can be bought a la carte, or through an annual subscription. If you start a free trial with Audible.com, you can download a free audio book of your choice. At the end of the free trial, you can decide whether to stick with the subscription plan or not. Regardless of your decision, you can keep the free audio book. It's a no risk way of trying out Audible's service.

This post was inspired by Lifehacker's piece from earlier today: Top 10 Tips and Tools for Commuters.


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  • Shelley says:

    These are all wonderful suggestions. If the freeways were full of people doing the above, I’m convinced that the incidents of road rage and unsafe driving would drop dramatically. May I add the idea that driving is a fine time to listen to/support your local classical music station.

    Thanks for the ideas!

  • theman says:

    I disagree. This it is very bad to encourage this behavior. It is proven that multitasking in any way while operating a vehicle, such as a bicycle or a car is as bad as boozing on the road. Even pedestrians should be paying attention while crossing roads, railroads & navigating sidewalks on foot.

    Please remove the article. It is encouraging people to be irresponsible drivers, and to behave in a way that may cause a deadly accident.

  • Carolyn says:

    I’m trying to find a history textbook as an audio book. Any suggestions?

  • NightSky says:

    I agree that texting, applying make-up, shaving, etc while driving is dangerous. However, I don’t believe listening to educational audio is the same “multi-tasking” you’re referring to. Actually, listening to a Sports Game, or Talk radio increases alertness and prevents falling asleep at the wheel. This type of audio would do the same!

  • Alex Navarro says:

    As a truck driver I can tell you I bought three sets of audio cds to learn french, I listened to them for about three months daily; went to france and belgium and had no problem getting around there without a tour guide. While I drove and learned, never had a ticket, accident, incident or close call. Give it a try! It works!

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