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on 10 April 2013
James Bach is a computer expert and pioneering software tester. I don't know what that means, except that he obviously has brains to burn. What I do know is that his father Richard Bach wrote a novella called Jonathan Livingstone Seagull that is considered a spiritual classic. I haven't read it, don't intend to, and don't need to in order to appreciate this buccaneering book by his son.

Like many of us (including me), James Back did not flourish in a traditional academic environment and subsequently achieved the bulk of his learning outside it. What sets him apart from most is that he has invested serious reflection on how he has achieved this and formed his findings into 'heuristics', experience-based techniques for learning. Along with autobiography, this is most of what his book contains.

I give it four stars for many reasons. It is bold; not many people create their own metaphor for true education ("buccaneering")! It is interesting and easy to read. It is practical, with little-to-no theory-laden pronouncements. More than practical, it is transformational, by which I mean that not only does Bach narrate his own metamorphosis from dropout to exert, he provides plenty of hints as to how we may achieve the same. Parts of it feel very 'self-helpish' but in a good way.

Part of its charm is also a weakness. Bach writes as if no one has ever spoken, written or thought about self-regulated learning before. Concepts like metacognition, self-efficacy, and andragogy, as formally discussed, seem foreign to him. He writes as if he's discovering it all not only FOR himself but BY himself. Hence, his opinions can read at times as fresh, ultra-pragmatic, and radical, or, by turns, as a tad naive and patchy. But what I won't do is accuse him of amateurism since: (1) he is indeed a "lover of" learning, and (2) it would be foolish to criticise him for being something be neither claims to be nor wants to be i.e. an academic educationalist.

This book is prime reading for those whose experience of the one-size-fits-all, conveyer-belt, exam-driven, state education system sucked. It is also handy for those who would like some tips on what we now call 'study skills'. Who knows, maybe the odd academic might value it as a case study in reflective practice or experiential learning. Buccaneers can dream on, too.
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on 17 September 2009
I enjoyed this book because I saw a lot of myself in his stories and explanations. I like the idea that nobody can be self educatED, only be self educatING.

His writing style is easy to follow and I thought he did a good job of supporting why his opinions hold merit. He will certainly be attacked by the "mainstream" way of thinking, but he welcomes and enjoys the debates.

I would recommend this book to those who have an open mind about others opinions. It is both interesting and useful. I found myself nodding my head with some of his points and disagreeing with others. I realized that this was the point. To not accept everything blindly but to learn, debate, investigate and grow.
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on 12 March 2016
I am a software test manager and follow James Bach's writings on software testing and would count him as one of the thought leaders in this area. However this book just did not do it for me. While it was interesting to know how James Bach had taught himself I don't feel that the advice translates that well for other people. Like all self help books, there is an element of "if I can do this why can't you, just do as I say and you will be transformed". To be a great book it needed some insight in to how the rest of the people who read it can it get to grips with his way of learning. Really its more about his personal journey through self education and struggles with his teenage years.
So in summary it was interesting in parts, but not great.
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on 7 March 2015
The book is full of sound advice on the topic of learning. It may not be applicable to everyone from a psychological point but it provides a very good contrast to traditional approaches to education. For those who struggled with the rigid structures of school this book may offer different path to learning that they can actually enjoy.
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on 19 April 2011
I purchased this book over the weekend. It arrived on Monday. I started late, but by Tuesday lunchtime I had read it in its entirety.
True, I am inclined to devour books. But, those that do not seize me by the throat tend to simmer in piles around my house.
I will mention now a few criticisms. The first that occurs to me is that this is not a book which everyone would utilise. True of so much in the 'self-help' field, the observed phenomena that the vast majority of people never go beyond the first chapter of any given book will, of necessity, exclude a significant proportion of those who might potentially benefit. The second group of people unlikely to enjoy this book, to my thinking, would likely be those for whom a 'conventional education' (I could have indicated either of those words for sarcastic emphasis) works, or has worked. If you are one who has breezed through your education without meeting significant blocks, have attained 'enough' and only wish to learn that which is 'necessary', or one convinced of the efficacy of traditional educational methodologies - of the absolute correctness of the system - then, again, I suspect that this book will do little more than irritate you. The final group of those who might decide that they wouldn't benefit from the book, would consist of those who, upon reading the first chapter(s), determine that they are not as intellectually capable as the author, and derive from this that they won't benefit from what has worked for him.
To the rest of you, or to those, who might fall into one of those categories, but are prepared to exercise a certain "breadth of mind", I would urge you to purchase this book.
It speaks to the curiosity seeker, the visionary, the impassioned. The outlined techniques within are structures, templates which are highly adaptable and most inspiring. This is a pragmatic volume and sufficient in itself not to require you to run off and read/purchase other books, or products, before you can enact the advice within - should you so choose. Perhaps one of the nicest elements is the set of ideas he introduces which allow one to step back from creating unrealistic expectations and to overcome self-doubting tendencies.
There is, perhaps, one other group who might snub this book. I thought I had exhausted the list but, upon reflection, it is evident that those who already know it all, will dismiss the possibility that anyone, anywhere, at any time, could teach them anything of value.
I felt that the essence of this book is the complete opposite of that, inasmuch as one can learn from anyone, anywhere at anytime; from the least likely sources and that one can derive benefit from this, even though it may be years before the benefit becomes apparent. To this final group, I have no comments to address, for I suspect that nothing would persuade them to examine this book, or so much as a sentence of a review of this book, and therefore, these 'confident' folk are unlikely to have reached this far in my comment. Which, of course, reminds me of the first group...
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on 4 August 2015
Very attencious and kind staff.
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on 3 December 2014
James Bach, You are a genius !!
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