These are the books that I found most compelling, meaningful, and helpful in my own journey through alternative education.

A Different Kind of Teacher: Solving the Crisis of American Schooling

by John Taylor Gatto

The book that revolutionized the way I think about schooling and education, way back when I was in college.


The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How to Quit School and Get a Real Life and Education

by Grace Llewellyn

“Do you go to school? Yes? Then … You are not free.” An incendiary bombshell that’s inspired more teenagers to question their unhappy school situations than perhaps any other book. Another big influence on me in college.

Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life

by William Deresiewicz

A powerful critique of elite colleges and the college-preparatory system as a whole. Read my full review and listen to my podcast interview with Deresiewicz.

Why School?: How Education Must Change When Learning and Information Are Everywhere (Kindle Single)

by Will Richardson

A short, powerful book that explains why schools don’t function well in the modern era of information abundance. Also listen to my podcast interview with Richardson.

Weapons of Mass Instruction: A Schoolteacher’s Journey Through the Dark World of Compulsory Schooling

by John Taylor Gatto

Another fantastic book by John Taylor Gatto. Not as popular as his classic Dumbing Us Down, but more powerful.

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

by Daniel H. Pink

The first (and perhaps only) book you need to read about self-motivation as it pertains to the modern economy and education.

Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work

by Matthew B. Crawford

A careful examination of the limits of working with one’s mind and the virtues of hands-on, experiential “doing”.

Stop Stealing Dreams: a powerful education manifesto by the blogger and author Seth Godin.

Putting Choice First: stories about Dev Carey‘s wild experiments in self-directed learning, democracy, and community living. Dev is a gap year program leader, outdoor adventurer, experiential educator, and Ph.D. ecologist.

Other Reading

Paul Graham‘s essays on education and self-efficacy:

What to Do Instead of School: 28 ideas for spending your time outside of high school or college. A compilation of blog posts I wrote in late 2013. Designed to be read on a phone.

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