The Ultimate Self-Education Reading List

self education reading list

Self-education is becoming more and more of a necessity in today’s world.

College tuition has skyrocketed, leaving people with massive debt for most of their adult lives.

Technology makes everything change rapidly, so learning new things and staying abreast of those changes are important for both your personal life and your professional life.

But most importantly, lifelong learning enables you to think differently and see things in a different way, enabling you to make better decisions.

And the more you know, the more interesting you are, and the more people want to hang around you and have conversations with you.

Use this self-education reading list, whether you’re learning something new or just catching up on things you once knew but have long since forgotten.

General Knowledge and Culture

  • An Incomplete Education by Judy Jones and William Wilson

    This is an excellent book for becoming updated and knowledgeable on a lot of different topics. I read the 1987 version, but a new, updated version was published in 2006, and that one’s even better. The 2006 version has 706 pages, and it covers topics from global affairs, popular culture, economic trends, scientific principles, to modern arts. It’s not dry and boring, either. It’s witty and easy to read.

  • The Knowledge Book: Everything You Need to Know to Get by in the 21st Century by National Geographic

    This 2009 book is a compendium of useful facts. It doesn’t go into depth on any one topic, but it gives you a good overview of many different topics. Then when you want to delve deeper into something you read about, you can go research it further on your own. The nice thing about the book is that it’s full of color pictures which makes learning the topics easy and interesting.

  • The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know (2002)

    This book helps fill you in on the people, places, ideas, and events that shape our cultural conversation. The book includes over 6900 entries covering topics such as Wireless technology, gene therapy, NAFTA, world history and politics, American literature, and science and technology.

  • The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had by Susan Wise Bauer

    This book offers classical readings in science, history and literature. She offers practical tips on educating yourself, too, such as how to set aside time for reading on a regular basis, how to master complicated arguments, and how to make personal and literary judgments about what you read.

Money & Finances

There are so many financial books written by famous “money gurus”, and I think I’ve read them all! Finance is one of my interests, and I’ve definitely read over 100 personal finance books.

Finance covers such a broad range of topics, from saving and getting out of debt to investing to Forex and a million other topics, as well.  So, for this list, I will include only the books that I believe will make a huge difference in your life.

  • The Millionaire Fastlane by MJ DeMarco

    This book tells it like it is, and that is refreshing and very helpful.  It cuts through all the crap and gives you a blueprint for creating a financially successful life. It does NOT spout all the same tenets that a hundred financial gurus are all spouting.

  • Unscripted by MJ DeMarco

    This is MJ DeMarco’s second book. It starts off covering some of the same concepts from his first book (but in a bit more detail). The end of the book, however, is awesome.  This book lays out a lot of truths about the financial world, debunks many of the common myths that millions of people believe, and provides direction for creating your own successful financial plan.

  • If you’re interested in getting out of debt, Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover is a good book that lays out the basics.

  • I have to add a website to this reading list because it’s free to use and is extremely helpful if you want a workable plan to get out of debt. It’s located at undebt.it. There is a pro version, but that costs a mere $12/year. And most of the valuable content on the website is free, so there isn’t a dire need to sign up for the pro plan anyway.

Books About Self Education

  • Hacking Your Education: Ditch the Lectures, Save Tens of Thousands, and Learn More Than Your Peers Ever Will by Dale J. Stephens

    This book gives examples of how the author and dozens of others have created their education instead of spending thousands on college tuition, and how you can, too. The author shows that you don’t need to be a genius or especially motivated to succeed outside school. The real requirements are much simpler: curiosity, confidence, and grit.

    Amazon sellers are selling the book at a high price (more than $50) https://www.amazon.com/Hacking-Your-Education-Lectures-Thousands/dp/B00KHZ68OU, but you can find it elsewhere online for much cheaper, like at barnesandnoble.com ($13.12).

  • Secrets of a Buccaneer-Scholar: How Self-Education and the Pursuit of Passion Can Lead to a Lifetime of Success by James Marcus Bach

    This is another story of how the author ditched formal education for self-education. He also provides tips on how to find resources to educate yourself.

  • Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling by John Taylor Gatto

    The author was a teacher in the New York school system for 30 years, and he explains why public education squashes kids’ natural curiosity and, instead, teaches them to simply obey and follow orders likes cogs in a machine. He encourages people to take charge of their own education and become a lifelong self-directed learner.

  • Self-University: The Price of Tuition Is the Desire to Learn: Your Degree Is a Better Life by Charles D. Hayes

    This inspiring book teaches you to empower yourself, question your ingrained beliefs, and adopt a path of self-education. It offers a lot of references where you can go to find more information, although the book itself is more inspirational than  offering advice on what to do and how to do it.

  • Peak Learning: How to Create Your Own Lifelong Education Program for Personal Enlightenment and Professional Success by Ronald Gross

    This book talks about the reasons, the rewards, and the best methods for designing your own education. It includes a lot of references, as well, so you can explore and get more information on your own. It includes information on some accelerated learning techniques, too.

Communication

There’s no doubt that words can change the world and move millions. These days, we casually write using abbreviations like LOL, OMG, BRB, etc. The more command you have over language and the more expanded your vocabulary, the more you can reach people, touch people, and share your message in effective ways that others cannot.

On average, the size of a typical adult American’s vocabulary ranges from 27,000 words to 52,000. A college-educated American can have a vocabulary around 80,000 words. If you want your listener to fully understand what you’re trying to convey, it’s imperative that you use the right words (and it helps to tell a story, as well!).

Here are some great resources to help you improve your vocabulary, grammar, story-telling, and communication skills. Get them, study them, then create a message that impacts millions!

Storytelling

There’s no better way to engage a listener and draw them in so that they pay attention to what you’re trying to say than using the art of storytelling. Storytelling also helps people to retain and remember the information longer. A good story evokes emotion, which creates a connection between you and your listener.

  • Expert Secrets by Russel Brunson

  • This is not a book about storytelling, per se, but there are excellent tips on storytelling in the book. It’s awesome because he writes it with explanations of why, but also, he lays out step-by-step how to craft a great story along with what elements to include and in what order.

  • Improving Your Storytelling: Beyond the Basics for All Who Tell Stories in Work and Play (American Storytelling) by Doug Lipman

    This book goes beyond the basics and teaches you how to tell great stories in any environment and for various types of audiences. There is some great advice here.

  • Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger

    Marketing professor Jonah Berger takes storytelling into today’s digital world and explains why some stories go viral and spread like wildfire while others don’t. It includes principles beyond storytelling (like advertising messages, etc), but it is a valuable resource. He even turned his book into a course which available on Coursera, in case you’d rather watch videos than read a book.

Speaking

  • Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds by Carmine Gallo

    This book dissects some of the best TED Talk presenters and gives actionable advice on the best methods and techniques to give a powerful presentation.

  • Confessions of a Public Speaker by Scott Berkun

    Professional speaker Scott Berkun lays out tips and techniques of the best speakers and tells you how to implement them, as well. He talks about his own experience, and the book is funny, too, which keeps you enrapt until the very end.

  • The Quick and Easy Way to Effective Speaking by Dale Carnegie

    Dale Carnegie taught public speaking for over 40 years, and he outlines basic tips and strategies in this classic book. Even though it was written long ago, it was updated in 1990 and still contains some valuable, effective gems.

Vocabulary, Grammar, and Writing

  • Word Power Made Easy: The Complete Handbook for Building a Superior Vocabulary by Norman Lewis

    This book is a great resource to help you build your vocabulary and use words more effectively. It is arranged from “how to flatter friends and insult enemies” to “how to talk precisely about science and medicine”. It delves into etymology, too, so you can easily understand unfamiliar words and understand their true meanings.

  • The Yahoo! Style Guide: The Ultimate Sourcebook for Writing, Editing, and Creating Content for the Digital World

    Most grammar books are, well, BORING. I really like this one, though, because it’s geared toward writing for the Internet and other digital mediums, like email and mobile-friendly content. And, it’s not boring. It covers the basics, like punctuation, word choice, sentence structure, grammar, and spelling. It even has a section about the legality concerning online content, like trademarks, defamation, copyrights, etc.

  • Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content by Ann Handley

    This book is geared to writing content for websites, blogs, social media, and online marketing purposes, but the tips and techniques can be applied for any writing endeavor. She covers how to keep your writing clear and focused, crafting proper form and structure, as well as a section on grammar and word usage.

Critical Thinking

  • Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

    This book, written by a psychologist, talks about how we think and how to think better.

  • Critical Thinking: Learn the Tools the Best Thinkers Use by Richard Paul and Linda Elder

    This book is less theory and more practical how-to applications to think more critically. He also talks about the power of the human mind, and how can we reach our potential.

  • Brain Power: Learn to Improve Your Thinking Skills by Karl Albrecht

    This book offers a lot of tips and techniques and exercises to improve your thinking skills. Also includes a recommended reading list so you can learn more about the ideas presented here.

  • Asking the Right Questions by Browne M. Neil et al.

    This book teaches you how to assess the strength of arguments and figure out what to accept and what to reject. It teaches critical analysis and synthesis.

Liberal Arts

Science

Science is such a broad field that it’s hard to list the best books and resources. If I included the most useful ones, I’d have a list with 100 books! So as a compromise, I’ve included some of my favorites, but just know that this is certainly not an all-inclusive list.

What books do you think should be added to this list? Share your favorite books in the comments…

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Michele Swensen is a writer and web designer who loves learning, animals, writing, reading, and playing the piano. She’s a member of Mensa and a college graduate.

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Michele Swensen is a writer and web designer who loves learning, animals, writing, reading, and playing the piano. She’s a member of Mensa and a college graduate.
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