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Best Books on Learning: 70 Great Books on How to Learn Faster (2020)

Best Books on Learning How to Learn
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Best Books on Learning How to Learn

Learning is a skill – one you can greatly improve. And whether you’re an athlete, student, hobbyist, employee or entrepreneur; whether you want to accelerate your learning and unlock your potential or you just want to read more this year, the 70 books below are an amazing place to start uncovering the secrets of getting better at getting better.

In the coming years, I’ll be reading every book on this list and passing on the best ideas in articles and summaries. If that sounds like something you’d like more of click here to sign up for free updates and I’ll send my latest posts and learning tips right to your inbox.

One last thing! I actively update this list every few months to include new discoveries. I LOVE recommendations. If there’s a book you love but can’t see below, leave a comment. I’ll add it to my long-list and you may find it in the next round of updates.

Any questions, let me know!

But for now, without further ado – here’s the list…

70 Great Books on How to Learn Anything Faster

The books below are ranked by a combination of Goodreads rating, the number of Goodreads reviews and first publication date. The goal is to give a good balance of what’s most loved, what’s most popular and what’s delivered timelessly relevant advice.

Where should you start? Look at this list of books on learning like a menu. Start at the top, work your way down and begin with the first couple of titles that jump out at you. Remember, you can always come back for more later. Enjoy!

  1. Mastery (1991), George Leonard (Summary)
    The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment
    176 pages. Rated 4.2 over 6,200 reviews on Goodreads.
  2. How to Read a Book (1940), Mortimer J. Adler (FREE Summary)
    The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading
    THE classic guide to reading faster, deeper and more effectively than you ever realised was possible – by deep-thinkers, philosophers and life-long learners, M. Adler and C. van Doren.
    426 pages. Rated 4.0 over 16,300 reviews on Goodreads.
  3. The Art of Memory (1966), Frances A. Yates
    464 pages. Rated 4.2 over 1,300 reviews on Goodreads.
  4. The Brain That Changes Itself (2007), Norman Doidge (FREE Summary)
    Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science
    An informative and readable journey into the history, science and consequences of recent research in neuroplasticity – the brain’s incredible ability to change and reorganise itself – by psychiatrist, psychoanalyst and researcher, Norman Doidge.
    427 pages. Rated 4.2 over 29,400 reviews on Goodreads.
  5. Seeking Wisdom (2003), Peter Bevelin
    From Darwin To Munger
    318 pages. Rated 4.4 over 2,700 reviews on Goodreads.
  6. Outliers (2008), Malcolm Gladwell (FREE Summary)
    The Story of Success
    A systematic debunking of the myth that success is mostly determined by talent and hard-work – with quantitative and qualitative evidence from medicine, sport, business, history, music, science and more – by journalist and author, Malcolm Gladwell.
    309 pages. Rated 4.2 over 529,600 reviews on Goodreads.
  7. Thinking in Systems (2008), Donella H. Meadows (Summary)
    A Primer
    240 pages. Rated 4.3 over 7,400 reviews on Goodreads.
  8. Neuroscience (1995), Mark F. Bear
    Exploring the Brain
    This amazing neurophysiology textbook was my go-to text when I studied Psychology at Oxford. You’ll find much more in here than just a beautifully illustrated guide to learning and memory in the brain.
    928 pages. Rated 4.3 over 1,100 reviews on Goodreads.
  9. Effortless Mastery (1996), Kenny Werner (FREE Summary)
    Liberating the Master Musician Within, Book & CD
    An inspirational and practical guide for advanced and expert practitioners in any field on finding mastery by getting out of your head and surrendering to your art – by jazz pianist and composer, Kenny Werner.
    191 pages. Rated 4.2 over 1,700 reviews on Goodreads.
  10. The Pyramid Principle (1987), Barbara Minto (Summary)
    Logic in Writing, Thinking, & Problem Solving
    254 pages. Rated 4.1 over 1,800 reviews on Goodreads.
  11. Mastery (2012), Robert Greene (FREE Summary)
    An exploration of Mastery – its benefits, principles and strategies – enriched with instructive and inspirational biographies of historical and contemporary masters – by modern-day Machiavelli and author Robert Greene.
    318 pages. Rated 4.3 over 25,500 reviews on Goodreads.
  12. Thinking, Fast and Slow (2011), Daniel Kahneman (Summary)
    499 pages. Rated 4.2 over 287,100 reviews on Goodreads.
  13. The Mind of a Mnemonist (1965), Jerome S. Bruner by Alexander R. Luria
    A Little Book about a Vast Memory, with a New Foreword
    192 pages. Rated 4.0 over 1,500 reviews on Goodreads.
  14. How to Become a Straight-A Student (2006), Cal Newport (Summary)
    217 pages. Rated 4.2 over 5,500 reviews on Goodreads.
  15. Mindset (2006), Carol S. Dweck (FREE Summary)
    The New Psychology of Success
    A research-grounded dive into the self-fulfilling nature and impact of Fixed- and Growth-Mindset beliefs in personal development – by social and developmental psychology professor, Carol Dweck.
    276 pages. Rated 4.1 over 80,400 reviews on Goodreads.
  16. The Fifth Discipline (1990), Peter M. Senge
    The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization
    464 pages. Rated 3.9 over 32,700 reviews on Goodreads.
  17. On Intelligence (2004), Jeff Hawkins (Summary)
    261 pages. Rated 4.1 over 6,100 reviews on Goodreads.
  18. The Complete Problem Solver (1981), John R. Hayes
    376 pages. Rated 4.5 over <100 reviews on Goodreads.
  19. The Feldman Method (1980), Andrew H. Thomson
    204 pages. Rated 4.3 over <100 reviews on Goodreads.
  20. The Art of Learning (2007), Josh Waitzkin (Summary)
    A Journey in the Pursuit of Excellence
    265 pages. Rated 4.1 over 14,100 reviews on Goodreads.
  21. How the Mind Works (1997), Steven Pinker
    660 pages. Rated 4.0 over 18,100 reviews on Goodreads.
  22. Atomic Habits (2018), James Clear (FREE Summary)
    An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones
    A powerful and practical guide to transforming your habits, making change stick and achieving remarkable results – by author and habit-guru, James Clear.
    319 pages. Rated 4.4 over 93,800 reviews on Goodreads.
  23. The Memory Book (1974), Harry Lorayne (FREE Summary)
    The Classic Guide to Improving Your Memory at Work, at School, and at Play
    A practical guide to remembering anything, faster, with simple, millennia-old mnemonics and proven memory boosting techniques – by memory masters, Harry Lorayne and Jerry Lucas.
    224 pages. Rated 4.0 over 1,900 reviews on Goodreads.
  24. The Master and His Emissary (2009), Iain McGilchrist
    The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World
    608 pages. Rated 4.3 over 1,400 reviews on Goodreads.
  25. In Search of Memory (2006), Eric R. Kandel
    The Emergence of a New Science of Mind
    430 pages. Rated 4.1 over 4,500 reviews on Goodreads.
  26. The Nurture Assumption (1998), Judith Rich Harris (Summary)
    Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do
    462 pages. Rated 4.1 over 1,400 reviews on Goodreads.
  27. Super Memory – Super Student (1972), Harry Lorayne
    How to Raise Your Grades in 30 Days
    180 pages. Rated 4.1 over 200 reviews on Goodreads.
  28. How to Develop a Perfect Memory (1993), Dominic O’Brien (FREE Summary)
    The perfect manual for anyone wanting to effortlessly retain names, faces, facts, figures, speeches and languages. All the tools you need to develop a perfect memory – by 8-time World Memory Champion, Dominic O’Brien.
    288 pages. Rated 4.2 over 300 reviews on Goodreads.
  29. The Power of Habit (2012), Charles Duhigg (FREE Summary)
    Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business
    A page-turning dive into the power and ubiquity of unconscious habits in shaping our decisions and destinies (plus a practical guide to changing them) – by Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Charles Duhigg.
    375 pages. Rated 4.1 over 322,800 reviews on Goodreads.
  30. The Talent Code (2009), Daniel Coyle (Summary)
    Unlocking the Secret of Skill in Sports, Art, Music, Math, and Just About Everything Else
    288 pages. Rated 4.1 over 18,300 reviews on Goodreads.
  31. Brain Rules (2008), John Medina (Summary)
    12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School
    301 pages. Rated 4.0 over 29,300 reviews on Goodreads.
  32. Black Box Thinking (2015), Matthew Syed (FREE Summary)
    Why Some People Never Learn from Their Mistakes – But Some Do
    A fascinating account of how cognitive biases and fixed mindsets cause individuals and institutions to fail to learn from their mistakes (and what to do about it) – by athlete and author, Matthew Syed.
    320 pages. Rated 4.3 over 6,800 reviews on Goodreads.
  33. A Mind for Numbers (2014), Barbara Oakley (FREE Summary)
    How to Excel at Math and Science
    A practical, research-based guide to unlocking the power of your brain to learn math, or anything else you put your mind to, even if you think you’re hopeless – by professor Barbara Oakley.
    322 pages. Rated 4.3 over 12,100 reviews on Goodreads.
  34. Deep Work (2016), Cal Newport (FREE Summary)
    Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World
    A timely reminder of the value of deep, focussed work and the dangers of losing yourself in the shallows of entertainment and distraction – by author and associate professor, Cal Newport.
    296 pages. Rated 4.2 over 65,600 reviews on Goodreads.
  35. Pragmatic Thinking and Learning (2008), Andy Hunt (FREE Summary)
    Refactor Your Wetware
    A practical and extensive collection of ideas, frameworks, tools and tips to supercharge your learning at school, at home and at work – by programmer and life-long learner, Andy Hunt of Pragmatic Programmers.
    251 pages. Rated 4.1 over 3,800 reviews on Goodreads.
  36. So Good They Can’t Ignore You (2012), Cal Newport (Summary)
    Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love
    288 pages. Rated 4.1 over 25,300 reviews on Goodreads.
  37. Antifragile (2012), Nassim Nicholas Taleb
    Things That Gain from Disorder
    426 pages. Rated 4.1 over 32,300 reviews on Goodreads.
  38. Science of Sports Training (1991), Thomas Kurz
    How to Plan and Control Training for Peak Performance
    478 pages. Rated 4.3 over <100 reviews on Goodreads.
  39. Learning How to Learn (1992), L. Ron Hubbard
    202 pages. Rated 4.3 over <100 reviews on Goodreads.
  40. Make It Stick (2014), Peter C. Brown (FREE Summary)
    The Science of Successful Learning
    Tools, strategies and stories to help students, teachers and trainers learn more effectively based on 10 years of collaboration between 11 cognitive psychologists – collected and synthesised by author Peter Brown and psychology researchers Henry Roediger and Mark McDaniel.
    313 pages. Rated 4.2 over 9,400 reviews on Goodreads.
  41. How the Brain Learns (1998), David A. Sousa
    309 pages. Rated 4.1 over 400 reviews on Goodreads.
  42. Attention And Effort (1973), Daniel Kahneman
    246 pages. Rated 4.0 over 500 reviews on Goodreads.
  43. Rhetorica ad Herennium (-50), Marcus Tullius Cicero
    496 pages. Rated 4.0 over 500 reviews on Goodreads.
  44. Peak (2016), K. Anders Ericsson (FREE Summary)
    Secrets from the New Science of Expertise
    A practical, fact-based primer on the primacy of purposeful and deliberate practice in expert performance – by psychologist and scientist, Anders Ericsson, and science writer, Robert Pool.
    304 pages. Rated 4.3 over 10,100 reviews on Goodreads.
  45. The Rise of Superman (1990), Steven Kotler (Summary)
    Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance
    256 pages. Rated 3.9 over 3,700 reviews on Goodreads.
  46. Fluent Forever (2014), Gabriel Wyner (Summary)
    How to Learn Any Language Fast and Never Forget It
    326 pages. Rated 4.2 over 6,400 reviews on Goodreads.
  47. The Practicing Mind (2006), Thomas M. Sterner (Summary)
    Bringing Discipline and Focus into Your Life
    170 pages. Rated 4.0 over 5,600 reviews on Goodreads.
  48. Synaptic Self (2002), Joseph E. LeDoux
    How Our Brains Become Who We Are
    416 pages. Rated 4.0 over 4,900 reviews on Goodreads.
  49. Music, Language, and the Brain (2007), Aniruddh D. Patel
    528 pages. Rated 4.1 over 700 reviews on Goodreads.
  50. The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance (2006), K. Anders Ericsson
    901 pages. Rated 4.3 over 100 reviews on Goodreads.
  51. Bounce (2010), Matthew Syed (FREE Summary)
    Mozart, Federer, Picasso, Beckham, and the Science of Success
    A thoughtful investigation into the primacy of practice and mindset over talent when learning and mastering new skills – by top-ranked table tennis champion and journalist, Matthew Syed.
    320 pages. Rated 4.1 over 6,600 reviews on Goodreads.
  52. Writing to Learn (1988), William Zinsser
    How to Write–And Think–Clearly about Any Subject at All
    272 pages. Rated 4.0 over 800 reviews on Goodreads.
  53. Developing Talent in Young People (1985), Benjamin S. Bloom
    572 pages. Rated 4.1 over <100 reviews on Goodreads.
  54. Tools of Titans (2016), Timothy Ferriss (FREE Summary)
    The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers
    A curated collection of interview notes on health, wealth and wisdom from over 100 conversations with top performers and curious characters – by author, podcaster and life-hacker Tim Ferriss.
    707 pages. Rated 4.1 over 26,500 reviews on Goodreads.
  55. 10 Steps to Earning Awesome Grades (2015), Thomas Frank (FREE Summary)
    A short, practical guide for students on being more productive and studying more effectively – by veteran student-success writer, Thomas Frank of College Info Geek.
    83 pages. Rated 4.3 over 2,700 reviews on Goodreads.
  56. Talent is Overrated (2008), Geoff Colvin (Summary)
    What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else
    240 pages. Rated 4.0 over 16,500 reviews on Goodreads.
  57. Range (2019), David Epstein (Summary)
    Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World
    352 pages. Rated 4.2 over 18,500 reviews on Goodreads.
  58. From Novice to Expert (1984), Patricia E. Benner
    Excellence and Power in Clinical Nursing Practice, Commemorative Edition
    336 pages. Rated 4.1 over 100 reviews on Goodreads.
  59. Design for How People Learn (2011), Julie Dirksen
    259 pages. Rated 4.2 over 1,100 reviews on Goodreads.
  60. Teaching at Its Best (1998), Linda B. Nilson
    A Research-Based Resource for College Instructors
    375 pages. Rated 4.1 over 200 reviews on Goodreads.
  61. How To Pass Exams (1995), Dominic O’Brien
    Accelerate Your Learning, Memorise Key Facts, Revise Effectively
    256 pages. Rated 4.1 over 300 reviews on Goodreads.
  62. High Performance Habits (2017), Brendon Burchard (Summary)
    How Extraordinary People Become That Way
    393 pages. Rated 4.2 over 5,800 reviews on Goodreads.
  63. The Little Book of Talent (2012), Daniel Coyle (FREE Summary)
    52 Tips for Improving Your Skills
    52 short, immediate and practical tips to kick-off your learning, improve your skills and sustain your progress at school, at work, at home and at play – by journalist and author, Daniel Coyle.
    160 pages. Rated 4.1 over 5,800 reviews on Goodreads.
  64. The Smartest Kids in the World (2013), Amanda Ripley (Summary)
    And How They Got That Way
    306 pages. Rated 4.1 over 12,200 reviews on Goodreads.
  65. Why Don’t Students Like School? (2009), Daniel T. Willingham (Summary)
    A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom
    180 pages. Rated 4.0 over 3,800 reviews on Goodreads.
  66. Reasoning (1976), Michael Scriven
    272 pages. Rated 4.1 over <100 reviews on Goodreads.
  67. Designing Brain-Compatible Learning (1999), Gayle H. Gregory
    287 pages. Rated 4.3 over <100 reviews on Goodreads.
  68. How Learning Works (2010), Susan A. Ambrose
    Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching
    301 pages. Rated 4.1 over 1,000 reviews on Goodreads.
  69. How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci (1998), Michael J. Gelb
    Seven Steps to Genius Every Day
    321 pages. Rated 3.9 over 4,400 reviews on Goodreads.
  70. Searching for Memory (1996), Daniel L. Schacter
    The Brain, the Mind, and the Past
    416 pages. Rated 4.0 over 400 reviews on Goodreads.

II. Best Books Of All Time

These are the overall best books to read (by type).

III. Best Nonfiction Books (A-Z)

These are the best nonfiction books to read (by topic).

IV. Best Fiction Books (A-Z)

These are the best fiction books to read (by genre).

Or, you can read all my book recommendations.
Arthur Worsley
Arthur Worsley
Arthur is a productivity coach and writer who helps top young execs and entrepreneurs be more productive, find more balance and live more meaningfully. Want to know more? Take this 2-minute quiz to discover your Productivity Quotient (PQ) and learn how to get BIG things done. Take the Quiz →

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  1. Punit Vara says:

    Impressive curation of books. You are way ahead than me. I have just realised these questions now and you have already listed answers way back. 🙂

  2. osman says:

    Hi Arthur,

    I would be nice if you can add the list speed reading tool kits too. Even avid readers can pick up one or two tricks to sharpen

    Great job,
    Thanks

    • Arthur says:

      Hey Osman, hope you’re well! I thought about adding some resources on speed reading but to be honest, they’re mostly all scams or focussed on the wrong metrics (e.g. words read per minute) or fairly superficial techniques (e.g., reducing eye movements, forcing faster page turns).

      The best resource I’ve come across by far is Adler and van Doren’s excellent How to Read a Book.

      Here’s a summary I wrote of it and you can download my synthesised checklist at the top of this post.

      Hope that helps! A

  3. Adam says:

    Hi, can you recommend me please up to 5 books that are the best for me? I need a book that teaches me how to learn things faster (not only school, I mean I need it to learn effectively no matter what it is :D), mostly outside of school or learning languages, but it would be helpful too 🙂
    Thanks in advance 🙂 😀

    • Arthur says:

      Hey! This is a great question – but the answer really depends on you. Who are you and what are you trying to achieve?

      The top 5 books for a student will be different to those for a language learner or someone trying to master a new skill or their memory.

      You certainly don’t have to read the list in order. If in doubt, start at the top and pick the first book you come to that you think answers your problem. Skim read it, decide whether to read it or not, then repeat!

  4. TheGritZone says:

    Great list. I’ve been trying to become more productive and use technology less so this list is great for me.

    One book I really want to read is Deep Work, by Cal Newport. Thanks for sharing.

    • Arthur says:

      Thanks, GritZone! Deep Work is a superb book. I don’t know what I’d do without my 4 – 6 hours of it daily. Keep up the great work and go well.

  5. Kevin Kelly says:

    Great list, Arthur! Also check out The New Science of Learning by Doyle and Zakrajsek

    • Arthur says:

      Great suggestion, Kevin. I’ve got this on the long-list but it missed the short-list due to its current review count (<200 reviews) and rating scores (~3.7). That said, there are always some misunderstood jewels that slip through the Goodreads net so I'll take a peak!

  6. Marybeth Herald says:

    Although it is specific to law students, Your Brain and Law School focuses on both learning theory (and practical applications to study) as well as dealing with cognitive biases that might interfere with the learning process. Let me know if you need more information from the author…

    • Arthur says:

      Hi Marybeth – looks great (and well done on the strong early reviews). I’ll check it out!

  7. Arthur says:

    BONUS: “The Synopticon” is an index that points to all the appearances of a particular theme within EB’s list of the Great Books of the Western World (covering thousands of years of Western wisdom). It’s also a great place to find thoughts and thinking on learning how to learn (as well as many other topics).

    You’ll find the references for “Learning” in Chapter 20, “Education”, starting on (printed) page 376 of volume 1 (Angel – Love) which you can download for free here. Likewise, you can download volume 2 (Man – World) for free here.

    • Arthur says:

      Hey Stacey! Thanks for the suggestion. “The First 20 Hours” is on the even longer version of this list but it got cut off the bottom of this truncated version as it only scores a 3.5 on Goodreads.

      I have had it suggested from a couple of people though so for anyone interested, here are the links for Goodreads and Amazon.