How to Learn About Meta-Learning: My Resource List

Give a Man a Fish, and You Feed Him for a Day. Teach a Man To Fish, and You Feed Him for a Lifetime. - Anne Isabella Thackeray Ritchie


Trusting more credible sources like books and research papers is better than some blogger here. Here’s my recommended reading list to understand more about meta-learning.

All items are in descending order of importance and all are non-affiliate links.

Research Paper

  1. Improving Students' Learning With Effective Learning Techniques

I consider this the most fundamental research paper if you’re interested in what the science says about effective and efficient learning. It formed the basis of my understaning. Reading it through the lens of spaced repetition and you may understand why SRS is so effective at promoting learning.

General Books

  1. Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning

I couldn’t recommend this book more: stories are engaging; explanations are easy to understand. I got engrossed into this whole meta-learning journey largely due to this book.

  1. Ultralearning: Master Hard Skills, Outsmart the Competition, and Accelerate Your Career

The author Scott Young finished the MIT Challenge. In my mind, his definition of “ultra-learning” is broader than meta-learning, so you may consider meta-learning being a part of “ultra-learning”.

  1. A Mind For Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science

The book that forms the basis for “How to Learn” Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC). Great alternative if you want to take the course instead of reading the book.

  1. How We Learn: The Surprising Truth About When, Where, and Why It Happens

This is like another version of “Make It Stick” but from different perspectives.

  1. Why Don’t Students Like School?

I was put off by the title because I thought it was a rant about the education system; but it was actually very relevant to learning how to learn. Here’s a great review of this book: Seven Principles of Learning Better From Cognitive Science

  1. Understanding How We Learn: A Visual Guide

Full of infographs and easy-to-digest content.

  1. Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything

If you could only read one book on memory, this is it. If you want to know “how to remember faces and random digits, how to use memory systems like PEG system or PAO system, what is memory palace”, look no further. Highly engaging stories and provide a good background of “memory history” like the story of S and the origin story of memory palace. However, it doesn’t go into depth about promoting comprehension.

  1. Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise

This book is brought to you by the researcher (RIP Anders Ericsson) who coined the term “deliberate practice”. It’s geared towards mastery of physical skills like sports or musical instruments.

  1. Powerful Teaching

You don’t need to be a teacher to benefit from this book. Teaching is very highly related to learning. If you didn’t have the luxury of having a proper guidance on learning how to learn (most didn’t), learn to be your own guide by reading this book.

Technical Books

  1. Learning as a Generative Activity: Eight Learning Strategies that Promote Understanding

The technical equivalence of “Make It Stick”: a much deeper dive into the above research paper.

  1. Applying the Science of Learning

A short technical book by the same author from “The Cambridge Handbook of Multimedia Learning”. Short and sweet.

  1. Successful Remembering and Successful Forgetting

Largely a collection from Robert A. Bjork, the father of “retrieval strength” and “storage strength”.



Okay this one is biased.

  1. Gwern’s Spaced Repetition for Efficient Learning

Where Do I Begin?

Suggestion: the first item from each list

Make It Stick -> Improving Students' Learning With Effective Learning Techniques -> Learning As A Generative Activity

80/20 principle: If you’ve read Improving Students' Learning With Effective Learning Techniques and Make It Stick, you’ve gained the hypothetical 80% knowledge.

If you only have time for one resource, I suggest Make It Stick. If I were to gift a book because it’s changed my life so much, this is it. Reading this book will give you 80% of all the knowledge you need on how to learn and study effectively and efficiently. This book accumulates decades' worth of research on cognitive psychology and also is the follow-up of the paper Improving Students' Learning With Effective Learning Techniques.

Please let me know if you have any other worthwhile learning resources. I might just add it to the list.