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Reading List

Most people think all learning happens in a vacuum. When we think of learning, we picture a rigid school schedule, workbooks and structured lesson plans. That’s not how it needs to be. Bettering yourself personally and growing professionally are your prerogative and yours alone. That’s what our company, UnCollege Gap Year, celebrates – blazing your own trail and developing a roadmap to learning what you want to learn).

There’s an arsenal of new tools to aid in your learning – the Internet, MOOCS, online communication tools, intensive hard-skills bootcamps – but a time-tested, logical, compelling book can also be a good place to start.

Here’s a list of UnCollege’s book recommendations for self-directed learners for the following categories:






Business and Social Media

Design Thinking


How Children Fail, by John Holt (Summary)

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

Deschooling Society, by Ivan Illich (Summary)

The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to Quit School and Get a Real Life and Education, by Grace Llewellyn

The New Global Student: Skip the SAT, Save Thousands on Tuition, and Get a Truly International Education, by Maya Frost


How to Lie with Statistics, by Darrell Huff

Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age, by Clay Shirky

Art of Non-Conformity: Set Your Own Rules, Live the Life You Want, and Change the World, by Chris Guillebeau

The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World, by Eric Weiner

The Quarter Life Breakthrough, by Smiley Poswolsky


Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School, by John Medina

How We Decide, by Jonah Lehrer

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, by Daniel H. Pink

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath


How to Win Friends and Influence People, by Dale Carnegie

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, by Chip Heath

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, by Simon Sinek


Eats, Shoots, & Leaves, by Lynne Truss

The Elements of Style, by William Strunk Jr. and E. B. White

Business and Social Media

The 80/20 Principle: The Secret to Achieving More with Less, by Richard Koch

Personal MBA: Master the Art of Business, by Josh Kaufman

Rework, by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose, by Tony Hsieh

The Mesh: Why the Future of Business Is Sharing, by Lisa Gansky

Never Eat Alone: And Other Secrets to Success, One Relationships at a Time, by Keith Ferrazzi (Summary)

The Education of Millionaires: It’s Not What You Think and It’s Not Too Late, by Michael Ellsberg (Summary)

The Dragonfly Effect: Quick, Effective, and Powerful Ways to Use Social Media to Drive Social Change, by Jennifer Aaker and Andy Smith with Carlye Adler

Design Thinking

Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative-Thinking Techniques, by Michael Michalko

The Design of Everyday Things, by Donald A. Norman

Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality, by Scott Belsky