Reading List

A list of books teaching you to be a better learner

books

“Employ your time in improving yourself by other men’s writings so that you shall come easily by what others have labored hard for.”

Socrates

There are a tone of books out there talking about learning strategies, deliberate practice, self-awareness or how our brain works. Since we don’t have the time to read them all, I curated some of the ones I read in the recent years and I’d strongly recommend.

I’ve organized them in categories:

  1. Self-Directed Learning
  2. Deliberate Practice
  3. Self-Awareness
  4. Mindset
  5. Brainiac
  6. Learning strategies & tools
  7. Learning Design for Learning Designers

Last updates: March 2019

1. Self-Directed Learning

Self-Directed Learning, by Malcolm Knowles – Malcolm Knowles is well known for his learning theories. One of them was about Self-Directed Learning. His book covers the learning process both for teachers and for learners. He goes through why is important to become a Self-Directed Learner, how to identify learning needs, measure readiness for learning, and why and how to build learning contracts. Weather you’re a teacher looking to improve your methods, or a learner willing to grow healthy learning habits, I strongly recommend Self-Directed Learning.

2. Deliberate Practice

Peak, by Anders Ericson – “Peak” destroys myths as talent. Makes the difference between purposeful practice and other types of practices we engage in. He explains what deliberate practice is and it’s characteristics. These are the core of the book: Purposeful practice has well-defined, specific goals; Purposeful practice is focused; It involves feedback; Purposeful practice requires getting out of one’s comfort zone. Along the way, he gives examples on how London taxi drivers, master chess players, athletes and musicians make use of these characteristics and how it affects their performance.

3. Self-Awareness

Emotional Intelligence, by Daniel Goleman – A proof that IQ is not all it takes to succeed. Daniel Goleman talks in this book about the 5 pillars of emotional intelligence: self-awareness, self-regulation, social skills, empathy, and motivation. You’ll go through a rollercoaster of psychology and neuroscience theories & concrete examples of how the right and the left brain work together to shape who we are.

Finding Your Element, Sir Ken Robinson – Your brain is prone to take in information that’s significant to you. Discovering what’s significant for you it’s a journey, and in this book Sir Ken Robinson doesn’t give answers, he just puts the right questions so you can start figuring out What are you good at? What do you love? What makes you happy? Where are you now? Maybe you won’t find your element just by reading it, but its a great conversation starter with yourself.

The Element, Sir Ken Robinson – Stories of well-known people who found their element and how it changed their life. The Element lies between what you love, what you’re good at and what the world needs. If you find that center piece, you might have found your way.

4. Mindset

Mindset, Carol Dweck – I don’t know how to do it. I’m not good at it. I give up. I’m either good at it or I’m not. I’m not talented enough. These are examples of internal conversations that might keep you from fulfilling your potential. Or how Carol Dweck describes it – fixed mindset. Mindset does not teach you how to go from fixed mindset to growth mindset, but it gave me an awareness punch. My internal conversation has changed since I’ve read this book to – I don’t know how to do it yet. I’m not good at it yet. I won’t give up, I’ll just learn if I fail. I’m not good at it, but I have to put work into it and I’ll get better. There’s no such thing as talent.

Grit, Angela Duckworth – One of the questions this book answers is how gritty are you. You’ll take a test, answering some questions on a scale from 1 to 5. Depending on the results, you’ll be filled with joy or cry in a pillow, deciding next day you’ll be more passionate and you won’t step back from challenges any time soon! Angela Duckworth researched as Anders Ericsson did, what makes the greatest, great. She came up with the formula Passion + Perseverance = Grit, what takes you through obstacles and makes you succeed. Angela Duckworth studied those who attended West Point Military Academy and started determining who will last until the end based on her scale. She used it while she was a teacher not only to assess the grit level but also in helping kids grow it.

5. Brainiac

How we learn, by Benedict Carey – If you want to unlearn everything you know about learning, Benedict Carey is a good way to start with. It goes through every stereotype you know about this process, deconstructs it and explains better ways to approach it.

Essentialism: The disciplined pursuit of less – I think saying no to learning things is just as important as in any other field of life. Most of the time we pick up trends just because, without having a strong why. Although it broadens our understanding of the world, spending time on things that don’t really matter to us might become counter-productive. Essentialism is a way of life, it’s not a theory, there are no tool. It’s just a way of doing things so in the end you’ll get to spend more time on what’s important to you.

6. Learning strategies & tools

The art of learning, by Josh Waitzkin – Josh Waitzkin is an American chess player. Martial Arts competitor. Author. And he did everything by developing an amazing discipline and solid learning habits. I’ll share with you some of my learning from this book. Internalizing fundamentals as building blocks makes complex knowledge more achievable. Be present. Be curious, as a child. Push yourself. Love the challenge. It’s a nice autobiography of an amazing learner, but not all lessons are right in front of you, so be present when you read it.

Learning contracts: A practical guide, by Geoff Anderson – Ever since I’ve started to show some interest in learning, I knew there’s a better way to structure the learning process. A learning contract is a tool to do exactly that. Moreover, it puts the responsibility back to the learner’s hands and helps him follow-up all the way to achieving learning goals. This book is super practical and with lots of examples on how to implement this tool either for yourself or in your organization.

Make it stick, by Peter C. Brown – “Make it stick” had a real impact on me due to its power to destroy the beliefs I had about learning methods. After leaving school, I always thought tests are a lousy way to measure my knowledge. Mostly because of the pressure that comes with them. Guess what? Research has proven tests help you build long-term memory. After reading and re-reading the first chapter of the book, “To learn, retrieve”, I had a change of hearts. This book shows you practical ways to build long term memory such as spaced repetition, retrieval, varied practice and shows you how to avoid illusions of knowing.

7. Learning design for learning designers

Design for how people learn, by Julie Dirksen – Julie Dirksen gives the best tips and tricks on design learning in this book. From how to get to know your learners better, to setting goals, designing journeys rather than learning events, and speak to your learners’ elephants. It’s a nice combination of theory and theory and examples on how to become both a learning designer and a better learner.

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