Back to School? Book Recommendations for Lifelong Learners

“A mind that opens up to a new idea never returns to its original size.” – Albert Einstein

This month, millions of students head back to classrooms across the country. But what about those of us who have exited the halls of formal education? How do we keep learning and transforming? There is much to gain from pursuing lifelong learning and rolling ideas over in your mind.

Want to spark your curiosity? These books, eBooks, and audiobooks are just a few examples of what is available in the Poudre Libraries’ collection – browse the online catalog for many more!

Beginners: The Joy and Transformative Power of Lifelong Learning

By Tom Vanderbilt

Why do so many of us stop learning new skills as adults? Are we afraid to fail? Have we forgotten the sheer pleasure of being a beginner? Or is it simply a fact that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? Inspired by his young daughter’s insatiable need to know how to do almost everything, and stymied by his own rut of mid-career competence, Tom Vanderbilt begins a year of learning purely for the sake of learning. He tackles five main skills (and picks up a few more along the way), choosing them for their difficulty to master and their distinct lack of career marketability–chess, singing, surfing, drawing, and juggling.

A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life

By Brian Grazer

For decades, film and TV producer Brian Grazer has scheduled a weekly “curiosity conversation” with an accomplished stranger. From scientists to spies, and adventurers to business leaders, Grazer has met with anyone willing to answer his questions for a few hours. These informal discussions sparked the creative inspiration behind many of Grazer’s movies and TV shows, including Splash, 24, A Beautiful Mind, Apollo 13, Arrested Development, 8 Mile, J. Edgar, Empire, and many others.

Educated: A Memoir

By Tara Westover

Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, Westover was seventeen the first time she set foot in a classroom. Her family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education, and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent. When another brother got himself into college, Tara decided to try a new kind of life.

Hacking Your Education: Ditch the Lectures, Save Tens of Thousands, and Learn More Than Your Peers Ever Will

By Dale Stephens

Stephens speaks to a new culture of “hackademics” who think college diplomas are antiquated. Stephens shows how he and dozens of others have hacked their education, and how you can, too. You don’t need to be a genius or especially motivated to succeed outside school. The real requirements are much simpler: curiosity, confidence, and grit.

Learning by Heart: An Unconventional Education

By Tony Wagner

A leading education expert who has taught at Harvard and MIT describes how he learned a radically different approach to individualized learning after he was kicked out of middle school, expelled from high school and dropped out of two colleges. Wagner’s story sheds light on critical issues facing parents and educators today, and reminds us that trial and error, resilience, and respect for the individual, are at the very heart of all teaching and learning.

The Education of an Idealist: A Memoir

By Samantha Power

Tracing her distinctly American journey from immigrant to war correspondent to presidential Cabinet official, Samantha Power’s acclaimed memoir is a unique blend of suspenseful storytelling, vivid character portraits, and shrewd political insight.

The Intelligence Trap: Why Smart People Make Dumb Mistakes

By David Robson

Smart people are not only just as prone to making mistakes as everyone else, they may be even more susceptible to them. This is the “intelligence trap,” the subject of Robson’s fascinating and provocative book that explores cutting-edge ideas in our understanding of intelligence and expertise, including “strategic ignorance,” “meta-forgetfulness,” and “functional stupidity.”

The School I Deserve: Six Young Refugees and Their Fight for Equality

By Jo Napolitano

The journalist and two- time Pulitzer Prize nominee delves into the landmark ACLU case in which the School District of Lancaster, Pennsylvania was sued for refusing to admit older, non-English speaking refugees and sending them to a high-discipline alternative school. Six refugee students fought alongside the ACLU to demand equal access to education.

Teaching Artfully

By Meghan Parker

Parker comes to understand both her teaching and art-making practices through making insightful comics. Teaching Artfully looks at daily teaching practices, visual literacy, the teacher’s experience, relationships, and engagement with life inside and outside of schools.

The Year of Learning Dangerously: Adventures in Homeschooling

By Quinn Cummings

In this honest and wry memoir, popular blogger, author, and former child actor Quinn Cummings recounts her family’s decision to wade into the unfamiliar waters of homeschooling the fastest-growing educational trend of our time — despite a chronic lack of discipline, some major gaps in academic knowledge, and a serious case of math aversion

Your Turn: How to Be an Adult

By Julie Lythcott-Haims

In the 20th century, psychologists came up with five markers of adulthood: finish your education, get a job, leave home, marry, and have children. Since then, every generation has been held to those same markers. Yet so much has changed about the world and living in it since that sequence was formulated. All of those markers are choices, and they’re all valid, but any one person’s choices along those lines do not make them more or less an adult.

Looking for more recommendations? Need help downloading digital materials? Visit the Poudre River Public Libraries in person or online at