Read the entire “Don’t Go to Art School” series:

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

* * *

I hope you’ve been enjoying my series on the “nearly free” English degree! So far, I think I asked you to buy just one book. That reallyis nearly free!

For this final installment, I list books and subjects you can use to round out your program with some electives. These are all intended to be introductory courses to various topics; it is beyond the scope of this series to present a full-fledged program for higher math and science subjects, for example. But you can take self-study your way to a decent understanding of the general arts and sciences using the “courses” below.

I have chosen to focus only on textbook-based material from fairly established and not-likely-to-vanish sources. However, the offerings available via online portals such as Coursera, Udacity and iTunes U are generally high-quality and comprehensive, if ever-changing. Feel free to use one of these interactive online courses as one or more of your “elective” blocks if you wish.

All the books below should be supplemented with secondary sources. I suggest you begin each chapter or module with two read-throughs of the textbook’s chapter: first a skim, during which you read for general meaning, then a closer read during which you write down keywords you can plug into YouTube, Wikipedia, Google Images or Google Search to learn more about. When you feel you’ve mastered the material, move on to the next section.



Business: E-Commerce and E-Business (Wikibooks)

Business: Exploring Business (Open Textbook Catalogue)

Business: Human Resource Management (Open Textbook Catalogue)

Business: Principles of Management (Open Textbook Catalogue)

Business: Principles of Marketing (Open Textbook Catalogue)


Communications: Business Communication for Success (Open Textbook Catalogue)

Communications: Business English for Success (Open Textbook Catalogue)

Communications: Introduction to Communication Theory (Wikibooks)

Communications: Professional & Technical Writing (Wikibooks)

Communications: Writing Better University Essays (Wikibooks)


Computers: Web Fundamentals (Code Academy)

Computers: Introduction to C Programming (Wikibooks)


History: American History (Wikibooks)

History: Modern European History (Wikibooks)

History: New Zealand History (Wikibooks)


Language: Introduction to Formal Logic (Open Textbook Catalogue)

Language: Introductory French (Author Website)

Language: Introductory Latin (Wikibooks)

Language: Introductory Spanish (Wikibooks)

Language: FSI Language Courses (US Government, 40+ Languages)


Life Skills: Basic First Aid (Wikibooks)

Life Skills: Money & Banking (Open Textbook Catalogue)

Life Skills: Steps to Job Search Success (Open Textbook Catalogue)


Math: College Algebra (Open Textbook Catalogue)

Math: Fundamentals of Mathematics (Open Textbook Catalogue)

Math: Introductory Statistics (Open Textbook Catalogue)

Math: Math in Society (Open Textbook Catalogue)


Science: Anatomy and Physiology (OpenStax)

Science: Applied Ecology (Wikibooks)

Science: College Physics (OpenStax)

Science: Concepts of Biology (OpenStax)

Science: Introduction to Biology (OpenStax)

Science: Introductory Chemistry or The Basics of Chemistry (Open Textbook Catalogue)

Science: Introduction to Historical Geology (Wikibooks)

Science: Introduction to Human Physiology (Wikibooks)

Science: Introduction to Physical Oceanography (Open Textbook Catalogue)


Social Science: International Finance (Open Textbook Catalogue)

Social Science: Introduction to Paleoanthropology (Wikibooks)

Social Science: Introduction to Psychology (Open Textbook Catalogue)

Social Science: Introduction to Sociology (Wikibooks or OpenStax)

Social Science: World Regional Geography (Open Textbook Catalogue)


So there you go! Four years of organized, methodical study, for (nearly) free!

The structure of this self-study program is virtually identical to the four-year degree I took from one of my country’s best universities. It is absolutely amazing to me that 13 years after I completed it, the world has changed so much that a self-studier could find everything they needed online, for free, to learn the same thing.

Obviously, if you plan to pursue a career in academia, you would need to attend an accredited program, even for the humanities. But if you’d rather spend your student loan money on a program with a more direct path to a job, you don’t have to feel like you’re missing out by not getting a great liberal arts education. You can get that yourself, for free, and spend your money on a career instead.

Previous articleEyeball-licking trend in Japan debunked by sharp-eyed reporter
Next articleAdBlock takes ad-blocking campaign to the web
"I’m a journalist, a teacher and an e-book fiend. I work as a French teacher at a K-3 private school. I use drama, music, puppets, props and all manner of tech in my job, and I love it. I enjoy moving between all the classes and having a relationship with each child in the school. Kids are hilarious, and I enjoy watching them grow and learn. My current device of choice for reading is my Amazon Kindle Touch, but I have owned or used devices by Sony, Kobo, Aluratek and others. I also read on my tablet devices using the Kindle app, and I enjoy synching between them, so that I’m always up to date no matter where I am or what I have with me."


The TeleRead community values your civil and thoughtful comments. We use a cache, so expect a delay. Problems? E-mail