Resource: Bookbed autodidacts reading collection


In 2014, artist Ruth Beale explored the idea of the public library in the twenty-first century in a solo show at Peckham Platform (then Peckham Space). The exhibition included an Autodidact Library of “teach yourself” books on science, art, music, the way things work and dictionaries.

The artist collated a small collection of books as a starting point for those interested in this approach. You will find books by or about autodidacts and self-education, and books selected to aid the autodidact in their learning.

Anarchist Pedagogies, Ed. Robert H. Haworth

Astronomy by Patrick Moore

Autodidact and I Dare to be Different by Julio Hernandez

Bouvard et Pecuchet by Gustave Flaubert

By the Pricking of My Thumbs by Agatha Christie

Darwin for Beginners by Borin Van Loon and Jonathan Miller

Does Anything Eat Wasps? By Mick O’Hare

Education Automation by Buckminster Fuller

Electricity and Magnetism by Satya Prakash

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemmingway

Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin

Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

How to Build Your Own Living Structures by Ken Isaacs

Keywords by Raymond Williams

Learning all the Time by John Holt

Leonardo by Ernest Raboff

Life on Earth by David Attenbrough

Mathematics Made Simple by Abraham P. Sperling and Monroe Stuart

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre

Oxford Compact Thesaurus

Pedagogy of the Oppressed, by Paulo Friere

Principia Ethica by G.E. Moore

Reading H ayy Ibn-Yaq z an: A Cross-Cultural History of Autodidacticism by Avner Ben-Zaken

Rivers, Lakes and Marshes by Brian Whitton

Self-taught: African American Education in Slavery and Freedom by Heather Andrea Williams

The Autobiography of Malcolm X

The Day I Became an Autodidact by Kendall Hailey

The Discovery of the Child by Maria Montessori

The German Tradition of Self-Cultivation by Walter Horace Bruford

The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing

The Ignorant Schoolmaster by Jacque Ranciere

The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes by Jonathan Rose

The Skeleton and Movement by Brian R Ward

The Total Library by Jorges Luis Borges

The Universal Book of Hobbies and Handicrafts, Ed. Sid G Hedges

The Way Things Work by David McCaulay

The Witchcraft Reader by Darren Oldridge

The Wretched of the Earth by Frantz Fanon

Travellers and Explorers by Iqra Trust

Ukelele Method Book 1 by Hal Leonard

Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett

List updated November 2021

More Resources


Artist Talk: Barby Asante, South London Black Music Archive

Barby talks to host Paul Goodwin at the Tate about the exhibition.

Article: Emily Druiff, Reactivating the archive

Emily Druiff, Trustee and Founder of Peckham Platform discusses Southwark Education Resource Project (SERP) Reactivated and the significance of archives in the spring 2018 issue of The National Society for Education in Art & Design’s AD magazine.

Film: Peckham Promenade by Janette Parris

Film created by Janette Parris with thanks to students and tutors at Harris Academy Peckham.


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