Ten Books Every Lifelong Learner Should Read

Linking up with The Broke and The Bookish for Top Ten Tuesday. Today’s topic is “Ten books every (X) Should read.”

fa06114a227c0d6d401a3473ca949b4fI have a million-bajillion lists about books every medical student or health-professional should read; so I decided to pretend I know something and suggest books for, well, almost everyone. On Semester at Sea, we had “Lifelong Learners”. These were slightly older voyagers who had already worked and gained life experience, and who sailed with us and audited classes.

I like the concept of lifelong learning. I love the idea that you are not stuck with learning only about whatever you studied in college/university; I love the idea that you can gain knowledge about almost anything if you are inspired to do so (thank you, Google). I believe I am a life-long learner; and I believe that books are at least partially responsible for that.

The list, in no particular order:

1. Sex in the Sea by Marah J. Hardt

Whether you are interested in marine biology or not, or any kind of biology; whether you like science or the humanities, this book remains a gem. It illustrates how the most obscure topic can be interesting, and also how intimately our well-being depends on the kinky escapades of marine life.

2. The Long Journey of Poppie Nongena by Elsa Joubert

I can guarantee that most readers have never heard of this book – even South Africans. This biography (of sorts) of a black woman during Apartheid South Africa was quite revolutionary for a book published in 1978. It chronicles the life of Poppie, from her birth, and focuses especially on the forced mass migrations of black people due to the Pass laws and the attempt to set-up homelands.

The full worth of this book goes far beyond its topic, though. It illustrates how Poppie goes from complacency to shock to outrage about her ordeals and – really, I need to write a proper discussion post bout this book because it is that good.

(Note: it is available in many languages but it was originally written in Afrikaans – I have no idea how good or bad the translations are.)

3. Lactivism by Courtney Jung

Whether you are in the health sciences or not, this book is valuable not only because of its topic, but also because of what it teaches: how research can be manipulated to suit those with money (and/or an agenda); and how even common knowledge may be founded on lies. It also does a lot to quell the whole idea of super-moms and mommy-judging.

4. Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee

GSAW is a good book to read, but only really if you have both read To Kill A Mockingbird and you know the history behind the publishing of both books. Besides the value in discussing the two and their histories, most of us will be able to identify with Scout’s disillusionment – as many people experience a growing discordance between their views on life, and those of their parents.

5. A Man of Good Hope by Jonny Steinberg

If you’re a regular at my blog you know how much I love this book. In our era of war and famine, where thousands of people seek refuge in other countries; and many citizens are outspoken against allowing refugees into their countries, this book is a must. (And it remains one of the best-written books I’ve ever read.)

6. The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances by Matthew Inman

Not only is it an awesome full-colour cartoon, but this book brings a whole new perspective to fitness. Inman is unapologetic about his love of food (and nutella, so we must be besties); and even if the reader is into another form of fitness, this remains an awesome and valuable book.

7. I Remember Beirut by Zeina Abirached

Another graphic novel, about a very recent war. I find that we are often very well-informed of the atrocities of long-ago wars (even WW2), but when it comes to more recent history, we avert our eyes.

8. Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

Because it is so important to read African narratives that are not centered around suffering and poverty. Not simply because it is diverse, but because it opens the mind to the knowledge that this continent, too, is magical and wonderful.

9. The Big Necessity by Rose George

Another book I recommend relentlessly. The need to understand human waste around the world, instead of turning away in disgust, is huge.

10. The Radiation Sonnets by Jane Yolen

A beautiful collection of sonnets about sickness, grief, and love. This anthology was actually one of the books I read while on Semester at Sea, and it broke down veritable walls in my heart.

So, what do you think? Do you have any books to recommend that inspire lifelong learning?


  1. Marah Hardt says:

    Thanks so much for including SEX IN THE SEA in your top ten list! Would love to hear your favorite part…!

    1. barefootmegz says:

      How lovely to see you comment here! Your book has undoubtedly been one of my favourite reads in a long time. It’s impossible to name a favorite part… I really liked when you mused on the “preference for penis studies over vagina research”, and also the way that females manipulate sexual outcomes. The lobster section was just lovely and weird on separate occasions! Oh, and I loved the section on responsible marine-living in general, like 4FJ, which I had never heard of before. Just, a wonderful work all around.

  2. kellyfbarr says:

    Very interesting list. We have the book Go Set a Watchman. I recently bought it because our church associate pastor told us that it was the book that got him interested in reading. I must confess I haven’t read it yet, but To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my all time favorites.

    1. barefootmegz says:

      Well I mean… I doubt you will love it as much as you loved TKAM. It is… very different. But it is an important read nonetheless!

  3. Enlightening take on the topic! So cool!

  4. Amy says:

    What a clever idea for a list!!! I should do a list talking about all my text books one day, after all they’re the most expensive thing on my bookshelf so they should defs at least get some love hahah!

    1. barefootmegz says:

      Oh my gosh yes! Textbooks are crazy expensive – too expensive! A post like that would be a pretty good way of sharing what you’re learning at uni, too. 🙂

  5. Interesting list! I haven’t read any of these books but they all sound very interesting and covering a variety of different topics; I’ll have to keep an eye out for them 😉

    My TTT

  6. meganm922 says:

    I like your topic this week, though I haven’t read any of those.

  7. Cait @ Paper Fury says:

    I loooove the idea that we never stop learning! IT’S SO TRUE AND SO GOOD. And kind of comforting?! It’d be terrifying if there was like a “cut off” date for learning once you finished school or what not. eeek. ANYWAY. I haven’t read any on your list but I really want to read Akata Witch. OH. And I want to read Go Set a Watchman but I have to re-read TKAM first and I’m kind of nervous to have my view of Atticus change. 😦 So there’s that.

  8. I LOVE this list! Sex in the Sea is one I came across recently and definitely want to read, but there are so many others on here I hadn’t heard of but now want to read. The Big Necessity, A Man of Good Hope and The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run long distances especially appeal. Fantastic idea for a list!

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