Review: The Day I Became an Autodidact

698417The Day I Became an Autodidact: And the Advice, Adventures, and Acrimonies that Befell me Thereafter

Kendall Hailey

288 pages

Published in January 1989 by Delta

Source: Public library

A few days ago, I started reading The Day I Became an Autodidact by Kendall Hailey. Hailey, the daughter of a playwright and novelist, decided to graduate from high school a year early at the age of 16. Her turning point came when days after tenth grade ended, her school sent out a mandatory summer reading list. I don’t blame her. After being told what to read, what to write about, and what classes to take, the last thing anyone wants to do is slave away during the summer. I remember not wanting to do that during the school year.

So Hailey calls it quits with school and decides to become an autodidact, learning everything she needs to know through books. She reads Madame Bovary and Anna Karenina, Vile Bodies and Great Expectations. She takes trips with her family, reads, and takes more trips.

It’s great and all but I soon found myself wanting more. Part of the problem has to do with the fact that Hailey doesn’t do anything but read. Coming from a well-to-do family, the author doesn’t have to do anything she doesn’t want to but it doesn’t make for a good story. I DNFed the book after reading sixty pages, so I can’t tell you if she ever does anything out of her comfort zone. Within the pages I read, she doesn’t volunteer, search for others like herself, or anything. What’s the point of educating yourself if you’re going to stay in a bubble? Granted, the memoir was written in the late 1980s and Google wasn’t a click away.

Maybe the problem is that I’m not the right target for this book. I mean, I love reading. If I could, I would read all day long, except I can’t. That’s why read-a-thon days and various breaks are like Christmas to me. Even while writing this post, I had to stop and play Legos with one kid and make a snack for another one.

It doesn’t matter.

Hailey’s thoughts are insightful at times and I found a few paragraphs that I want to photocopy. That wasn’t enough for me to want to finish this book. My rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars. It’s okay.


About Vasilly

Mother, daughter, sister, college student, bookworm, lover of chocolate and coffee.
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13 Responses to Review: The Day I Became an Autodidact

  1. Care says:

    Hi, the reviews of this on goodreads are rather interesting – many voice the same displeasure as you do. Have I ever told you about a lady I met once who told me her daughter was home-schooled and so I asked about how she set up the curriculum? She told me that she didn’t have a thing to do with it – the daughter did it all herself. I was amazed! She is now a college graduate and I don’t know much else. I am attracted by people who walk their own paths and have the confidence to march to that different drummer.

  2. Heather says:

    I’m torn! This sounds so good! But you didn’t like it! Ugh. I guess I’ll give it a try if I run across it, but I won’t actively seek it out.

  3. Belle Wong says:

    I’m feeling the same as Heather. It sounds good, but you didn’t like it! I have too much on my tbr already, so I’ll probably not be adding this title to it.

  4. readerbuzz says:

    It sounds like a book I’d like but I see why it disappointed you.

  5. Beth F says:

    I’d likely DNF too — even without the Internet, she could have sat in on a class at college, volunteered somewhere, visited a museum, wrote a letter to an expert … There is more to learning than books. Wasn’t it Twain who warned about being a “fool for books”?

  6. I love books more than is rational but I also know that there’s more to life…especially if you are trying to self-educate. Hmmm. I’m interested in her journey though.

  7. I can see liking this pursuit in theory but not in reality. If the reading leads no where – not to new people or places or expanded horizons – then it seems a little self-serving as well as problematic in that those views gleaned from books are never challenged by different perspective. On to the next book! 🙂

  8. Athira says:

    It would be awesome to be able to sustain oneself on a lifestyle like that! I am really curious to know what she does with all she learned through books, and whether it is even a practical option (to me head, nop, but if she wrote a memoir about it, then something must have happened).

  9. What Frances said! Because I’m stumbling all over my own comment.

  10. joyweesemoll says:

    I read this in the 80s when it was new. I can’t remember, now, if she gets out of her house, eventually. Mostly, I just liked the idea of the thing. It started me on a lifelong habit of setting up little learning projects for myself and not feeling too weird about it.

  11. I’m sure there are many people doing studies on all these home-schooled children we have around us now. It will be interesting to see what becomes of them.

    But I won’t be reading this book.

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