5 Books to Teach You How to Learn Anything Faster

Unlock rapid learning secrets with these powerful reads.

5 Books to Teach You How to Learn Anything Faster
Photo by Iewek Gnos on Unsplash

Unlock rapid learning secrets with these powerful reads.

“Learning more is a smart person’s favorite way to procrastinate.” — Mark Manson

I love learning about new things when I’m free (or not).

If you’ve spent hours reading obscure articles on super niche topics when you should instead be studying for your exams or completing that important work assignment, you know what I mean.

The world is full of mysteries, and there’s never enough knowledge one can have. This thirst for learning more fuels me and adds meaning to my existence.

Learning new stuff is always fun, but then again, we’re here on this planet for a limited time. If we could optimize for faster learning, we could spend our time implementing the lessons and adding more meaningful experiences to our repertoire.

If you’re blessed (cursed?) with this unquenchable thirst for learning new things, and you want to pick up skills faster, I’ve got some hacks for you.

In this article, I present to you five books that will help you pick any new skill faster. Backed by science and corroborated by experiments, these books will unlock new powers in your brain you didn’t even know you had.

Read on, and if you find your next favorite book among this list, don’t forget to let me know in the comments.

1. Make It Stick by Peter C., Mark A., and Henry L.

Image: Goodreads

Understanding and memorizing the concepts is just a part of learning. The learning is complete when you can apply that knowledge or concept to solve real-life problems. It’s complete when you can draw conclusions from your learnings. 

I wanted to develop the ability to learn anything faster and enhance memory. That’s when I started reading Make It Stick, a book that gives insights into cognitive psychology and the best strategies for effective learning.

Make It Stick has a detailed description of eight learning practices, some of which worked wonders for me. Some of the cool practices I learned from Make It Stick are: 

  • spaced repetition, 
  • retrieval practice, 
  • elaboration, 
  • interleaving, 
  • generation, 
  • reflection, 
  • calibration, and 
  • mnemonics. 

If you want long-term retention of anything in your memory, spaced repetition can be helpful. 

Retrieval practice involves using quizzes, flashcards, and practice tests to actively recall information. This is the best practice to strengthen your memory. 

If you’re stuck on one subject or topic for a whole day, try interleaving. When you mix more than two topics or forms, your brain develops the capacity to differentiate between concepts. 

You can also elaborate on a topic to someone else as it’s rightly said that the more you share knowledge, the more you gain. 

To memorize complex topics I use the mnemonics technique. Using visualization techniques, acronyms, and rhymes, it’s easier to retain knowledge.

Make It Stick has also debunked some myths about learning I had. You might have heard that everyone has a unique learning style and they should be taught in that way only. But do you know that there’s little scientific evidence supporting this idea? Highlighting and rereading methods are often less effective than active learning strategies like retrieval practice and elaboration. If you want to learn how to learn, Make It Stick is a good read to start.

My favorite quotes from Make It Stick by Peter C. Brown, Henry L

“Trying to solve a problem before being taught the solution leads to better learning, even when errors are made in the attempt.”
“One of the most striking research findings is the power of active retrieval — testing — to strengthen memory, and that the more effortful the retrieval, the stronger the benefit.”
“Third, learning is an acquired skill, and the most effective strategies are often counterintuitive.”

2. The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle

Image: Goodreads

Greatness Isn’t Born, It’s Grown.

As the tagline says, The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle can help you reach your maximum potential by providing a neurological method that works for the leading talents in the world. Whether you’re a parent, coach, businessman, teacher, or just want to be exceptional, this book has something for you.

It began when scientific research was done on the greatest talents in the fields of sports, music, art, and education to uncover the secret mantra for their mastery. Scientists found a neural protein behind all this, called myelin. It’s a proteinaceous fatty substance that wraps the nerve fibers, enhancing your brain’s signal strength and speed. Surprisingly, myelin isn’t fixed by birth. You can grow it by certain practices. The best way to produce myelin is to deliberately practice a skill you want to master.

Humans need three key elements to excel in any field they want. These are- 

  • deep practice, 
  • ignition, and 
  • master coaching. 

Deep practice can completely rewire your brain and create stronger neural connections. All you have to do is break any skills into manageable chunks and practice every day until mastery is achieved. 

But for this, you need ignition or motivation that drives you every day. 

And remember, you can’t do everything by yourself. A mentor or coach is a must to accelerate the learning process and identify weaknesses. 

The Talent Code has a detailed discussion on these three elements and how to practice them. This book has provided me with a clear-cut roadmap to achieve my highest potential, and you can learn that too. Just give it a read, you won’t regret it.

My favorite quotes from The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle

“Although talent feels and looks predestined, in fact, we have a good deal of control over what skills we develop, and we have more potential than we might ever presume to guess.”
“Try again. Fail again. Fail better. — Samuel Beckett”
“You will become clever through your mistakes. — German proverb”

3. How We Learn by Benedict Carey

Image: Goodreads

I’ve tried everything like a designated place to study, putting on some focus music, memorizing, and following routines. But sometimes, nothing seems to work for me and my brain stops following my instructions. 

Does this happen to you as well? 

I was looking for a solution when I found How We Learn by Benedict Carey. It challenges the conventionally taught learning methods with scientific evidence and the results are astonishing.

The book says there are four pillars for learning- 

  • attention, 
  • memory, 
  • motivation, and 
  • mind-wandering. 

The brain needs focused attention to learn something but slight distractions can be beneficial sometimes. Your memory is enhanced not by spending more time with the material but by using quality learning methods. Intrinsic motivation and allowing your mind to wander can enhance creativity and problem-solving skills.

The book also mentions contextual learning, which I follow in real life. Studying in different environments helps retain or recall information. Since I love traveling and managing my work altogether, I work from different cafes, parks, or any other spot that I find peaceful. I found I’m more focused and productive when I work from different places. 

Another big takeaway from How We Learn by Benedict Carey is to take my sleep schedule seriously. Sleep is the most crucial factor affecting our memory and brain function. 

My favorite quotes from How We Learn by Benedict Carey

“It’s not an adventure until something goes wrong.”
“Answering does not only measure what you remember, it increases overall retention.”
“the science suggests that interleaving is, essentially, about preparing the brain for the unexpected.”

4. Ultralearning by Scott H. Young

Image: Goodreads

Do you know what’s common between Benjamin Franklin, chess grandmaster Judit Polgàr, physicist Richard Feynman, and others who were prodigies in their fields? They were ultra learners. 

Ultralearning by Scott H. Young explains the nine principles of Ultra Learning that can make you stand out in the crowd. Ultralearning is a self-directed and intense strategy for acquiring hard skills.

The book extensively discusses the nine principles of Ultralearning which include — 

  • Meta Learning, 
  • Focus, 
  • Directness, 
  • Drill, 
  • Retrieval, 
  • Feedback, 
  • Retention, 
  • Intuition, and 
  • Experimentation. 

Meta learning involves understanding how learning works and developing a strategy for learning a specific skill. We all practice meta learning in life when we research something and collect resources to learn the skill. 

Focus and directness help you in learning and applying skills. 

The drill is a concept of breaking down complex skills into learnable chunks and retrieval is actively recalling it. 

Feedback and retention methods are equally important because they can help you identify your weaknesses and develop a strategy accordingly. 

Ultralearning involves engaging in self-reflection and intuitive problem-solving. You can become an ultra learner by experimenting with new learning techniques that work best for you.

My favorite quotes from Ultralearning by Scott H. Young

“Your deepest moments of happiness don’t come from doing easy things; they come from realizing your potential and overcoming your own limiting beliefs about yourself.”
“By taking notes as questions instead of answers, you generate the material to practice retrieval on later.”
“Learning, at its core, is a broadening of horizons, of seeing things that were previously invisible and of recognizing capabilities within yourself that you didn’t know existed”
“One rule I’ve found helpful for this is to restrict myself to one question per section of a text, thus forcing myself to acknowledge and rephrase the main point rather than zoom in on a detail that will be largely irrelevant later.”

5. Why Don’t Students Like School? by Daniel Willingham

Image: Goodreads

The title of this book prompted me to read it and find out why our children are facing so much difficulty learning in schools. They find school boring and unengaging because our education system is based on rote learning. 

Why Don’t Students Like School by Daniel Willingham provides practical strategies to learn based on cognitive science. I recommend parents and teachers especially to read this as the results are interesting. It can help them develop a lesson plan that’s suitable for students in different age groups.

As a kid, I was attracted to topics that I could relate to in the real world. So, the lessons should start with a question that piques their curiosity. Some strategies to follow are 

  • building strong factual knowledge, 
  • deliberately practicing, 
  • developing deeper understanding by connecting new learning to previous learning, 
  • managing cognitive load, and 
  • developing a growth mindset. 

Apart from all this, storytelling and making the story relatable to the topic works for all students.

My favorite quotes from Why Don’t Students Like School? by Daniel Willingham

“Memory is the residue of thought.”
“Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is the probable reason why so few people engage in”
“People are naturally curious, but we are not naturally good thinkers; unless the cognitive conditions are right, we will avoid thinking.”

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