Best Books On Learning: 70 Great Books on How to Learn Faster

70 books on learning how to learn
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Best Books On Learning

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.

BONUS: 4 Awesome Courses on Learning How to Learn

You can learn everything you need to know about learning from the book list below. But if you’re on a tight timeline or prefer a more structured approach then one of the premium courses offered below might be the right choice for you:

  • Learning How To Learn (FREE) – The best entry-level course out there on learning how to learn. You’ll find more of Barb Oakley’s excellent work in this summary of A Mind for Numbers (which also happens to be the accompanying text for the course).
  • Magnetic Memory Method ($197) – A superb course by Dr. Anthony Metivier that focusses on memory improvement techniques and tools. Great for language learners.
  • Rapid Learner ($249) – The best allround course on learning I know of. Scott covers everything from planning and productivity to note-taking and memory.
  • SuperLearner Academy ($399) – The most expensive option but Jonathan’s hybrid speed-reading / memory-improvement approach (and great online tools and community) give his work a satisfying punch for its price.

I know most of the course creators personally and have been through all of the courses myself. Most offer free mini-courses and downloads after the jump so you can get a better feel for yourself for their offerings. Whether you plan to do the courses or not, I’d definitely recommend taking advantage of those resources while they’re there!

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 and the number of Goodreads reviews. The goal is to give a good balance of what’s most loved and what’s most popular.

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, Greene (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 Green.
    Rated 4.3 over 17,000 reviews on Goodreads
  2. The Brain that Changes Itself, Doidge (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.
    Rated 4.2 over 24,400 reviews on Goodreads
  3. Tools of Titans, Ferriss (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.
    Rated 4.2 over 12,800 reviews on Goodreads
  4. Peak, Ericsson, Pool (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.
    Rated 4.3 over 5,400 reviews on Goodreads
  5. Deep Work, Newport (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.
    Rated 4.2 over 25,100 reviews on Goodreads
  6. Outliers, Gladwell (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.
    Rated 4.1 over 394,300 reviews on Goodreads
  7. The Inner Game of Tennis, Gallwey
    The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance
    Rated 4.2 over 5,300 reviews on Goodreads
  8. A Mind for Numbers, Oakley (Summary)
    How to Excel at Math and Science (Even If You Flunked Algebra)
    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.
    Rated 4.2 over 6,100 reviews on Goodreads
  9. Tribe of Mentors, Ferriss
    Short Life Advice from the Best in the World
    Rated 4.2 over 4,400 reviews on Goodreads
  10. Black Box Thinking, Syed (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.
    Rated 4.3 over 3,200 reviews on Goodreads
  11. Flow, Csikszentmihalyi (Summary)
    The Psychology of Optimal Experience
    A bottom-up guide to finding success, growth and happiness through flow – an optimal experience of being, characterised by total absorption and joy in the present moment – by psychology professor, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.
    Rated 4.1 over 36,200 reviews on Goodreads
  12. Make It Stick, Brown, Roediger, McDaniel (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.
    Rated 4.2 over 5,100 reviews on Goodreads
  13. 10 Steps to Earning Awesome Grades, Frank (Summary)
    (While Studying Less)
    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.
    Rated 4.4 over 1,500 reviews on Goodreads
  14. Chasing Excellence, Bergeron
    A Story About Building the World’s Fittest Athletes
    Rated 4.5 over 1,200 reviews on Goodreads
  15. Fluent Forever, Wyner
    How to Learn Any Language Fast and Never Forget It
    Rated 4.2 over 3,400 reviews on Goodreads
  16. Mastery, Leonard
    The Keys to Success and Long-Term Fulfillment
    Rated 4.2 over 4,200 reviews on Goodreads
  17. The Power of Habit, Duhigg (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.
    Rated 4.0 over 190,600 reviews on Goodreads
  18. Spark, Ratey
    The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain
    Rated 4.1 over 7,600 reviews on Goodreads
  19. So Good They Can’t Ignore You, Newport
    Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love
    Rated 4.1 over 14,000 reviews on Goodreads
  20. Mindset, Dweck (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.
    Rated 4.1 over 44,300 reviews on Goodreads
  21. Grit, Duckworth
    The Power of Passion and Perseverance
    Rated 4.1 over 28,200 reviews on Goodreads
  22. Unlimited Memory, Horsley (Summary)
    How to Use Advanced Learning Strategies to Learn Faster, Remember More and be More Productive
    A short and accessible introduction to mnemonic memory techniques for anyone looking to quickly improve their memory and increase their productivity – by Grand Master of Memory, Kevin Horsley.
    Rated 4.2 over 2,700 reviews on Goodreads
  23. Bigger Leaner Stronger, Matthews
    The Simple Science of Building the Ultimate Male Body
    Rated 4.2 over 3,800 reviews on Goodreads
  24. High Performance Habits, Burchard
    How Extraordinary People Become That Way
    Rated 4.3 over 1,000 reviews on Goodreads
  25. Switch, Heath
    How to Change Things When Change Is Hard
    Rated 4.0 over 32,900 reviews on Goodreads
  26. The Master and His Emissary, McGilchrist
    The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World
    Rated 4.3 over 900 reviews on Goodreads
  27. The Art of Learning, Waitzkin
    An Inner Journey to Optimal Performance
    Rated 4.1 over 9,800 reviews on Goodreads
  28. The Talent Code, Coyle
    Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How.
    Rated 4.1 over 13,600 reviews on Goodreads
  29. Neuroscience, Bear, Connors, Paradiso
    Exploring the Brain
    Rated 4.3 over 900 reviews on Goodreads
  30. Brain Rules, Medina
    12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School
    Rated 4.0 over 21,100 reviews on Goodreads
  31. How to Become a Straight-A Student, Newport
    The Unconventional Strategies Real College Students Use to Score High While Studying Less
    Rated 4.2 over 3,000 reviews on Goodreads
  32. Zen in the Art of Archery, Herrigel
    Rated 4.0 over 8,400 reviews on Goodreads
  33. Pragmatic Thinking and Learning, Hunt (Summary)
    Refactor Your Wetware
    A practical and extensive collection of ideas, frameworks, tools and tips to supercharge your learning, ostensibly for programmers but relevant to anyone who plans on hacking their learning at school, home and work – by programmer and life-long learner, Andy Hunt of Pragmatic Programmers.
    Rated 4.1 over 3,200 reviews on Goodreads
  34. The Little Book of Talent, Coyle (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.
    Rated 4.1 over 4,200 reviews on Goodreads
  35. Effortless Mastery, Werner (Summary)
    Liberating the Master Musician Within
    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.
    Rated 4.2 over 1,200 reviews on Goodreads
  36. Bounce, Syed (Summary)
    Mozart, Federer, Picasso, Beckham, and the Science of Success
    Rated 4.0 over 4,800 reviews on Goodreads
  37. How to Read a Book, Adler, van Doren (Summary)
    The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading
    Rated 4.0 over 11,900 reviews on Goodreads
  38. How the Mind Works, Pinker
    Rated 4.0 over 15,500 reviews on Goodreads
  39. In Search of Memory, Kandel
    The Emergence of a New Science of Mind
    Rated 4.1 over 3,700 reviews on Goodreads
  40. Talent is Overrated, Colvin
    What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else
    Rated 4.0 over 14,400 reviews on Goodreads
  41. Willpower, Baumeister
    Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength
    Rated 4.0 over 14,700 reviews on Goodreads
  42. The Practicing Mind, Sterner
    Developing Focus and Discipline in Your Life — Master Any Skill or Challenge by Learning to Love the Process
    Rated 4.0 over 4,400 reviews on Goodreads
  43. The 4-Hour Chef, Ferriss
    The Simple Path to Cooking Like a Pro, Learning Anything, and Living the Good Life
    Rated 4.0 over 8,300 reviews on Goodreads
  44. The Cambridge Handbook of Expertise and Expert Performance, Ericsson, Hoffman
    Rated 4.3 over 100 reviews on Goodreads
  45. How Children Succeed, Tough
    Grit, Curiosity, and the Hidden Power of Character
    Rated 3.9 over 19,400 reviews on Goodreads
  46. Moonwalking with Einstein, Foer (Summary)
    The Art and Science of Remembering Everything
    An overview of the history, science and philosophy of memory set against journalist Josh Foer’s year-long sprint from memory virgin to 2006 U.S.A Memory Champion.
    Rated 3.9 over 57,800 reviews on Goodreads
  47. Periodization Training for Sports, Bompa
    Rated 4.2 over 200 reviews on Goodreads
  48. How Learning Works, Ambrose et al
    Seven Research-Based Principles for Smart Teaching
    Rated 4.1 over 700 reviews on Goodreads
  49. A More Beautiful Question, Berger
    The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas
    Rated 4.0 over 2,500 reviews on Goodreads
  50. Teach Students How to Learn, McGuire
    Strategies You Can Incorporate Into Any Course to Improve Student Metacognition, Study Skills, and Motivation
    Rated 4.3 over <100 reviews on Goodreads
  51. Music, Language and the Brain, Patel
    Rated 4.1 over 600 reviews on Goodreads
  52. High-Performance Training for Sports, Joyce
    Rated 4.5 over <100 reviews on Goodreads
  53. The Neuroscience of Intelligence, Haier (Summary)
    A neuroscience-heavy, research-rich review of the evidence, myths and future of our understanding of intelligence – including what it is, why some people have it and what can be done to enhance it – by psychologist and professor, Richard J. Haier.
    Rated 4.4 over <100 reviews on Goodreads
  54. The Trivium, Joseph, McGlinn
    The Liberal Arts of Logic, Grammar, and Rhetoric
    Rated 4.1 over 500 reviews on Goodreads
  55. Synaptic Self, Le Doux
    How Our Brains Become Who We Are
    Rated 4.0 over 4,200 reviews on Goodreads
  56. Design for How People Learn, Dirksen
    Rated 4.1 over 700 reviews on Goodreads
  57. Why Don’t Students Like School?, Willingham
    A Cognitive Scientist Answers Questions About How the Mind Works and What It Means for the Classroom
    Rated 4.0 over 2,800 reviews on Goodreads
  58. The Complete Problem Solver, Hayes
    Rated 4.6 over <100 reviews on Goodreads
  59. Visual Intelligence, Herman
    Sharpen Your Perception, Change Your Life
    Rated 4.1 over 500 reviews on Goodreads
  60. Small Teaching, Lang
    Everyday Lessons from the Science of Learning
    Rated 4.2 over 200 reviews on Goodreads
  61. The Mind of a Mnemonist, Luria
    A Little Book about a Vast Memory
    Rated 4.0 over 1,300 reviews on Goodreads
  62. Being Wrong, Schultz
    Adventures in the Margin of Error
    Rated 3.9 over 4,800 reviews on Goodreads
  63. Strength and Conditioning, Cardinale, Newton, Nosaka
    Biological Principles and Practical Applications
    Rated 4.4 over <100 reviews on Goodreads
  64. Teaching At Its Best, Nilson
    A Research-Based Resource for College Instructors
    Rated 4.2 over 100 reviews on Goodreads
  65. Science of Sports Training, Kurz
    How to Plan and Control Training for Peak Performance
    Rated 4.3 over <100 reviews on Goodreads
  66. The Memory Book, Lorayne, Lucas (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.
    Rated 4.0 over 1,500 reviews on Goodreads
  67. Teach Yourself How to Learn, McGuire (Summary)
    Strategies You Can Use to Ace Any Course at Any Level
    Simple strategies and inspirational stories to help you ace courses and enjoy a lifetime of deep, effective learning from retired Chemistry professor and writer on academic success, Saundra McGuire.
    Rated 4.8 over <100 reviews on Goodreads
  68. How the Brain Learns, Sousa
    Rated 4.1 over 300 reviews on Goodreads
  69. How We Learn, Carey
    The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why It Happens
    Rated 3.9 over 3,300 reviews on Goodreads
  70. The ABCs of How We Learn, Schwartz, Tsang, Blair
    26 Scientifically Proven Approaches, How They Work, and When to Use Them
    Rated 4.2 over <100 reviews on Goodreads
DEPRECIATED BOOKS
A graveyard for books on learning that have notes or crunches on FASTER TO MASTER but fell off the lists above in a previous update. This usually happens when better books push it off the bottom of the list or I decide it isn’t relevant enough to the topic to stay on it.

  1. Wooden, Wooden (Summary)
    A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court
    An effort-and-integrity focussed personal philosophy – spanning family, achievement, success and excellence – by UCLA’s famous philosopher-coach, John Wooden, and author, Steve Jamison.
    Rated 4.5 over 3,300 reviews on Goodreads
  2. Learning How to Learn, Shah (Summary)
    Psychology and Spirituality in the Sufi Way
    Collected snippets of wisdom from talks and correspondence with author and spiritual teacher, Idries Shah, on the theme of learning from a Sufi perspective.
    Rated 4.4 over 200 reviews on Goodreads
UPDATE LOG

26 APR 2018 (v1.0) – First version of the 70-book list published.

28 MAY 2018 (v2.0) – First refresh of the list to account for new books found during the first 15 notes/crunches of books on the original list. Syntheses added to noted/crunched entries. +21 new books make the list.

3 JUN 2018 (v3.0) – Changed ranking methodology to a ranking of “Score Rank” + “Number of Ratings Rank” to balance both factors more evenly. Included a big first round of sports performance books on the long-list. +15 new books make the list.

Arthur
Arthur
Arthur is a learning-freak, slow-thinker, and writer who loves helping curious, busy people digest chewy topics fast. One of his passions is language learning. Send yourself his Free Ultimate Language Learning Guide today to save you or a friend thousands of dollars and hours on your journey to fluency.

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Stacey morris
Stacey morris

The First 20 Hours.

Marybeth Herald
Marybeth Herald

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…

Kevin Kelly
Kevin Kelly

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

Mateus Lopes
Mateus Lopes

Many thanks for the tips. I’m reading everyone.

TheGritZone
TheGritZone

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.