9 Beach Reads For Ambitious People

Instead of bringing a trashy romance novel to the beach this summer, stuff your beach bag with the following productivity books to reenergize before your return to the office.


Yes, you go to the beach to get away from work. But a bit of distance from normal life could be just what you need to think about your big goals, and how you intend to get there.


These nine productivity books aren’t typical beach reads. Nor is this an exhaustive list of the “best” productivity books out there–while other books may have more transformative and dense messages; they won’t leave your bag if the latest John Grisham novel is in there. These books hit a sweet spot with interesting tips in page after page, and they will hold your attention while you soak up the sun.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

by Stephen Covey

Stephen Covey’s classic is still the productivity tome all are judged against. Though some examples sound increasingly dated 25 years post-publication, the advice to take control of your life, and focus on the important, not urgent, continues to resonate. Covey’s conversational tone makes the disciplined life seem doable as well as worthwhile.


The Creative Habit

by Twyla Tharp

Choreographer Twyla Tharp can turn the raw material of a few bodies into a mesmerizing scene. It looks like magic, but none of it is. In this slim and swift-moving handbook, she teaches readers how to be structured enough about creativity to summon it on command.

The 4-Hour Workweek

by Tim Ferris


You probably aren’t going to create a passive income stream and retire to Tahiti at age 36. But, removed from the literal aspect, Tim Ferriss’s 2007 manifesto is good for making people ask what kind of adventures they’d like to try, and how to make those happen. Anyone can make more money, but no one can make more time. People with lots of time are the truly rich among us.

Finding Your Own North Star

by Martha Beck

Martha Beck is Oprah’s favorite life coach. With her self-deprecating humor, she guides readers toward figuring out what their essential selves want in life. It doesn’t matter how productive you are if you’re heading in the wrong direction, Beck advises. This book provides plenty of practical tips for building the life you want, rather than what the mythical “everybody” has in store.


The Happiness Project

by Gretchen Rubin

Research increasingly finds that happy people are productive people. Gretchen Rubin’s 2010 memoir of her own attempts to become happier zips along while simultaneously showing readers the steps they need to take. Yes, happiness will require work. But if you want a productive life, it’s worth a shot.

Manage Your Day-to-Day

by Jocelyn K. Glei


This compilation of essays from 99U looks at how to structure your life to make meaningful work possible. With varied voices, you can dip in and dip out as you contemplate how to spend less time on email and more on what matters.

The Power of Habit

by Charles Duhigg

We are often slaves to our routines. In his 2012 bestseller, Charles Duhigg examines the research on how to replace bad habits with good ones, so you can get more done–or at least stop noshing on chocolate chip cookies.



by Chip and Dan Heath

Chip and Dan Heath describe how change happens in people and organizations. If you read a lot of productivity literature, then you’ll be familiar with all the major studies referenced. The anecdotes are entertaining enough to give this one a place ocean-side.

Getting Things Done

by David Allen


David Allen’s perennial best-seller does not tell stories of successful companies, or inspirations from executives who turned companies around. While Allen lacks a narrative compared with the beach reads above, his book is practical in figuring out how to get more done on Monday morning. It’s a nice balance to a lot of the big picture books on this list–something to flip through before you head out to the waves.

Which productivity books would you bring to the beach?

About the author

Laura Vanderkam is the author of several time management and productivity books, including I Know How She Does It: How Successful Women Make the Most of Their Time (Portfolio, June 9, 2015), What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast (Portfolio, 2013), and 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think (Portfolio, 2010). She blogs at