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. 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, 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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Comments (5)
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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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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.