Books and other media that have most impacted my life as a self-learner.
Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. If you’ve never read a self-help book before, this is a great one to start with. While being primarily focused on accumulating riches, the methods and principles in the book can be applied to attaining any goal. You can also download the free PDF here.
Unclutter Your Life in One Week by Erin R. Doland. This book is a one-week program that helps you to organize your life at home, at the office, and inside your mind. It covers everything from folding clothes to managing projects.
Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey. This book contains nearly 200 synopses of the productivity routines of world-class artists and artisans.
The Elements of Style by William Strunk & E. B. White. The most concise and practical manual I’ve come across for anyone wanting to improve his or her writing. Only 85 pages long, every page has been carefully crafted to convey the most needed writing tips, including how (not) to use dashes and semicolons, lists of commonly misused and misspelled words, active vs. passive voice, etc.
Mandarin Chinese by Pimsleur Language Programs. Mandarin Chinese is a tone-based language making it challenging to study it on your own. Pimsleur’s focus on audio alleviates this problem by taking an auditory approach. They introduce you to the language by having native speakers lead discussions, and have you take part in short dialogues based on what you’ve learned. Read my complete review and notes. (Also, check out my review and notes on Pimsleur Spanish.)
A Guide to Reading & Writing Japanese by Kenneth Hanshall, et al. A must-have reference for kanji learners. This book includes all the 1,945 characters that Japanese students are expected to learn in elementary and middle school. I used this book as a daily reference to teach myself to read and write Japanese in six months.
Below is a list of my personal favorites that may or may not be related to self-education.
- The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien.
- 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke.
- Dune by Frank Herbert.
- Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse.
- Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden.
- Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void by Mary Roach.
- Immortality: The Quest to Live Forever and How It Drives Civilization by Stephen Cave.
- The Game by Neil Strauss.
- The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Tim Ferriss.
- Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea by Barbara Demick.
- The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins.
- Vagabonding: An Uncommon Guide to the Art of Long-Term World Travel by Rolf Potts.
- Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari.
- The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins.
- Cosmos by Carl Sagan.
- A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking.
Philosophy & Religion
- Letters from a Stoic by Lucius Annaeus Seneca.
- The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle.
- The Story of English by Robert McCrum.
- Dirty Chinese: Everyday Slang from “What’s up?” to “Fuck off!” by Matt Coleman.