The Ultimate Self-Education Reading List

Written by on July 29, 2009 in Basics Of Self Education, Reading - 21 Comments

stockxpertcom_id5070031_jpg_ff90d24c2fc634079229804c0b663103A Bibliography for Lifelong Learning Enthusiasts

If you want to know more about self-education, your best bet is to start reading. Over the years, I’ve kept a list the best self-education books and blogs. Now I’m sharing them in the hopes that you’ll find something new and maybe add a suggestion or two of your own. Use these resources to evaluate your education, find the tools and resources you need, and learn effectively on your own.

If you know of a book or blog that should be added to the list, please leave a comment below. Note that the list is focused primarily on material that discusses adult / teen self-education or learning theories that apply to both children and adults. I left out many worthy homeschooling books because there are already many lists dedicated to that topic.

Theoretical Books on Self-Education

Theory-oriented books examine education as a whole and provide the foundation of understanding that self-education advocates share when they examine issues related to learning. If you’re still developing opinions about the nature of learning and the proper role of educational institutions, this is the place to start.

Deschooling Society (Ivan Illich) – A case for radical changes in the education system, including the disestablishment of traditionally structured schools and the development of more informal “learning webs.”

Pedagogy of the Oppressed (Paulo Freire) – An education critic argues against the theory of “banking,” claiming that a student is more than an empty vessel waiting to be filled with knowledge from a teacher.

Experience and Education (John Dewey) – Dewey contends that experience is vital to education.

How Children Learn (John Holt) – Early unschooling advocate John Holt argues that learning comes naturally and that the best education is often gained outside of the classroom.

How Children Fail (John Holt) – According to the author, “most children in school fail…in fact if not in name.” This book explores the reasons why.

Instead of Education (John Holt) – This self-education classic examines how people learn on their own, outside of traditional schools.

Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling (John Taylor Gatto) – A former New York State Teacher of the Year takes a look at the dark side of forced education.

A Different Kind of Teacher: Solving the Crisis of American Schooling (John Taylor Gatto) – A look at some of the problems of compulsory schooling and what it takes for a person to become truly educated.

Practical Books on Self-Education

When you’re ready to embark on your own self-education journey, practical books can help. Whether you want to study the classics, quit school in order to pursue a passion, or publish a scholarly paper, experienced guides can walk you through the basics of learning independently.

The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to Quit School and Get a Real Life and Education (Grace Llewellyn) – Thousands of teenagers have turned to this unschooling classic in search of guidance. Former teacher Llewellyn’s advice is aimed at teenagers but is invaluable to anyone interested in self-education.

The Art of Learning (Josh Waitzkin) – A chess champion and martial arts master shares his insights on how to learn effectively.

Self-University (Charles D. Hayes) – An in-depth autodidactic guide to giving yourself an education in all of the major disciplines.

The Independent Scholar’s Handbook (Ronald Gross) – A practical guide for self-educated learners wanting to become recognized experts without connections to academic institutions.

The Well-Educated Mind (Susan Wise Bauer) – Step-by-step directions on how to give yourself a classical education.

Self-Education Idea Blogs

Four years ago I felt rather alone. Now, a small but growing army of self-education bloggers has begun to form. Find out more about lifelong learning from conscious drop-outs, former teachers, and learning-oriented psychologists.

The Feeling of Thinking – A Psychology Today blog by successful high school drop-out and author of Buccaneer-Scholar James Bach.

The Art of Self-Education – Lifelong learning enthusiast Race Bannon shares the self-education tips he picked up from experience with dozens of exciting careers.

Wide Awake Minds – Ryan McCarl, a graduate student studying education, blogs about his thoughts on teaching, learning, and self-education.

Freedom to Learn – A Psychology Today blog about the importance of play in learning from psychology professor Peter Gray.

Buccaneer Scholar – James Bach’s personal blog about his experiences with self-education.

LiteMind – A unique blog from Luciano Passuello examines the most effective ways to use your mind.

Self-Education Resource Blogs

The internet is home to millions of educational resources, if you just know where to look. Resource blogs can help you find the best no-cost courses, websites, and learning materials.

ZaidLearn – Hundreds of lifelong learning resources, tools, and tips from e-learning manager Zaid Alsagoff.

Mission to Learn – Lifelong learning advocate Jeff Cobbs shares his education resource finds (Also, check out his packed learning resource newsletter).

Open Culture – A popular blog covering free, open-access learning material from editor Dan Colman.

21 Comments on "The Ultimate Self-Education Reading List"

  1. Michael Castro July 30, 2009 at 4:43 am · Reply

    Thanks for the list. It really helps.

  2. t July 30, 2009 at 1:07 pm · Reply

    i want to find real institutes that offers free virtual courses
    and master and ph (colleges)
    could you help me, please?

  3. Zaid July 30, 2009 at 4:49 pm · Reply

    Dear Jamie,

    Thanks for the mention 🙂

    And thanks to that (helping me discover your blog/site), I am now self-educating myself exploring your wonderful contribution to self-learning 🙂

    I especially love your free classes and resource lists! Certainly juicy!



  4. Dissertation July 31, 2009 at 1:30 am · Reply

    Self education is relatively a new approach. The basic idea behind it is to create awareness. I hope this link will help you in proceeding your list.

  5. Jeffrey Keefer July 31, 2009 at 8:56 am · Reply

    What a fascinating list; thank you for sharing it with us.


  6. Jeff Cobb August 5, 2009 at 3:41 pm · Reply

    Jamie – Thanks for the mention, but that aside – thanks for a truly first rate post! I hope readers will bookmark it and reference it again and again. – Jeff

  7. Savant August 8, 2009 at 12:04 am · Reply

    Jamie, it seems like you are the question and the answer all at the same time lol. Keep the knowledge flowing.

  8. Bev August 10, 2009 at 12:17 pm · Reply

    I’m so thrilled to find your website, and will be coming back many times over to make use of the great resources here -thanks so much!

  9. Savant August 20, 2009 at 11:10 pm · Reply

    Study Finds That Online Education Beats the Classroom? follow link for full story

  10. Jamie August 25, 2009 at 12:16 pm · Reply

    I’m glad you guys have found the list useful. Thanks for stopping by Zaid and Jeff!

  11. Parag Shah September 27, 2009 at 4:34 am · Reply

    Thanks for the list Jamie. I have recently created a website which organizes various computer science course videos and also allows discussions around the videos.

    My next aim is to show people a process for using open educational resources to give themselves a masters level (self) education.

    I am glad I found your list. I am sure I will find it very useful in my research.

  12. Flabby Brain January 8, 2010 at 8:41 pm · Reply


    I’m really enjoying your site! Another helpful link is MIT’s Open Courseware program — complete syllabi, reading lists, lecture notes, even video lectures for hundreds of courses. It’s all free and a terrific resource.

    The Teaching Company provides another good resource for self-educators: Not free, but often their courses can be found at your library.

    I’ve embarked on my own quest for self-education and am blogging about it at I’ll be back to visit!


  13. Fast Jay February 1, 2010 at 1:44 pm · Reply

    Thanks for sharing that list.
    I’ll check out some books for sure

  14. Nicholas Scalice April 19, 2010 at 8:58 am · Reply

    What a great resource! I’ve read several of these books and can say that the list was chosen with great care. My favorite of them all is Secrets of a Buccaneer Scholar, which is an all around fantastic read!

  15. Vitalij August 18, 2010 at 9:14 am · Reply

    Dear Jamie,

    I haven’t read any of those books, but i’m looking forward to read them (maybea not all of them 🙂 )
    Anyway, you may also know books such as Dale Carnegie- How to Win Friends and Influence People or Brian Tracy- 21 Secrets of Millionaires, it might be i’m writing not to the exact page, but i believe those books have a great influence on your self-educational process.

    Kind regards,


  16. study abroad September 1, 2010 at 11:21 am · Reply

    Hi Jamie,

    i read your Self-Education Idea Blogs,Self-Education Resource Blogs which are add in the list.
    I got some valuable information on this blog.This is a very nice post.

    Thanks for sharing.

  17. Jon September 17, 2010 at 7:58 am · Reply

    Interesting post. While I’ve thought on this philosophy while in school, I really began to question the purpose of educationa few years ago I had to sit out of school to pay money I owed. That when it really started to hit me how detached people were to the education process. School became more about getting a good grade than making themselves smarter people. While I imagine some of the sources you’ve listed will mention this, I’ve found that reading good book well serves as a very good start towards self education. For me I though of what areas I wanted to know more about(i.e. Investing, history, etc), and like a detective searched for good sources to expand my knowledge of subject. I also spent a lot of time reading on other basic subjects and. Create latticework between them. A lot of this is time consuming so patience is key, especially when dealing with areas you aren’t familiar with.

    In all honesty while I think there are some areas of knowledge everyone should know such as logic and rational thinking, beyond that the best each person can do is ask themselves what what they want and create a method that works best for them. I personally think our education system has done a severe injustice to young people by reducing the value of education to getting a job, and creating a creating a seemingly “factory assembly” method of putting people through highschool and college.

    Self-education is not a new concept, in fact man extremely sucessful people have used it, in fact dropping out of college because it “interfered” with the education. It’s been said that warren buffet spent 70% of his day reading. Charlie munger speaks of every person having a moral obligation to continue learning throughout their lives. Think about that. What if everyone actually spent time acquiring wisdom instead of facebook and twitted. In fact the only problem I see is that college may still be necessary as our society deems it a necessity towards getting a job. But people understanding the value of self-education and having the opportunity will find it only as a huge opportunity to further expand one’s knowledge. All that’s needed is an intellectual curiosity and an open mind. I do have one book to share with all of you: investing the last liberal art by Robert Hagstrom. This is probably for what it is the best book I’ve read.

    I know I’m late to the post but hopefully somebody will benefit from this.

    Cheers and good luck.

  18. AgentFamily September 28, 2010 at 12:43 am · Reply

    Please add the new book “Thomas Jefferson Education for Teens” while its a great
    ‘how to book’ for Teens, it provides a process by which any adult who feels overwhelmed at the prospect will help them begin. It asks pivotal questions that help the learner think deeply and open up the process of self-education.

    I have personally met Dr Shanon Brooks and I’ve also seen the results of youth using this book to help them get started on their education! It is my opinion that this book is a MUST READ for every person!

  19. Dexter Mahadeo November 8, 2010 at 4:22 pm · Reply

    Thanks for all this info. God bless…

  20. C. Quintero December 10, 2010 at 9:51 pm · Reply

    Great list….. Thank You.

  21. Paul January 16, 2011 at 9:36 pm · Reply

    The Independent scholars handbook is available online in pdf for free. Here is the link

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