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Secrets of a Buccaneer-Scholar: Self-Education and the Pursuit of Passion Paperback – October 11, 2011

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; Reprint edition (October 11, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1439109095
  • ISBN-13: 978-1439109090
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 7.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (84 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #719,246 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This is an informative and entertaining account of how to acquire a great education and a good job without classroom instruction or, as Bach puts it, how to become a buccaneer scholar. At 20, he became the youngest technical manager at Apple Computer and probably the only one whose highest academic credential was—and still is—an eighth-grade diploma. Now in his 40s, Bach runs a successful consulting business, and his work has been assigned reading for students at Stanford and MIT. As this book makes clear, Bach is also a gifted teacher. The steps along his road to achievement are detailed in clear chunks. Anyone looking for an instruction manual on how to get a high-quality education without having to show up for classes will find all they need here. The book may also be a healing balm to parents whose children are struggling in school, providing both with helpful tools. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


“With remarkable insight, James Bach describes the tools, skills and mindset necessary to create your own education. If the millions of students currently sitting in class took Bach’s simple advice and began creating products, projects, and organizations in the real world, unemployment could be solved practically overnight.”

--Dale J. Stephens, Founder of

“Bach’s book is a wake-up call. I recommend it to just about anyone who wants to hear a different take on learning from what they’ve heard from parents and teachers.”

“James Bach has demonstrated that there are opportunities for each one of us to expand the innate capacity of our mind to learn and be creative without surrendering to the dictates of an academic establishment.”

More About the Author

James Marcus Bach is an expert in the field of computer software testing who has taught critical thinking and software testing to rocket and nuclear scientists at such places as the Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He lives in Eastsound, Washington with his wife and son.

In addition to the books he has authored and co-authored. James has also contributed chapters to several technical books including The Gift of Time, Edited by Fiona Charles, The Testing Practitioner by Erik van Veenendal, Visual Basic for Testers by Mary Romero Sweeney, and Essential Software Test Design, by Torbjörn Ryber.




Customer Reviews

It is not a large or long book, just 193 pages, and easy to read.
Jon Norris
It turns out that life learning led James Bach into successful career as a trainer and consultant for software and later as an auther of highly rated book.
M. Stone
Agree with it or not, this book will make you really think and that alone makes it worth reading.
Benjamin Kelly

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Irfan A. Alvi TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 15, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In this book, James Marcus Bach, son of Richard Bach (author of Jonathan Livingston Seagull), tells us a lot about his rather atypical life and what he's learned along the way. Skeptics might question his motives and speculate that he wants to prove or promote himself, but I appreciate his candor and willingness to share, and I'm willing to grant that his main motive is to sincerely help the reader.

In reading the book, it quickly becomes evident that Bach is indeed his father's son. He dropped out of high school and never went back for formal education, but he was intelligent and motivated, so he managed to chart his own passionately self-directed course of intellectual development and built a career as a recognized expert in software testing.

Here's a summary of most of the key "secrets" he offers for a "lifetime of success":

a. View yourself as an evolving work in progress which you're responsible for creating (Nietzsche had the same idea).

b. Education must be lifelong and customized for your needs and desires, so learn to educate yourself by scouting and using the vast array of resources at your disposal (books, the Web, peers, etc.).

c. Work on "authentic problems" which engage you, rather than artificial problems which have no significance for you.

d. To sustain passion for learning, go with the flow of what engages your curiosity, is fun, and fits the natural rhythms of your mind. In other words, engage in "low-pressure learning."

e. When possible and helpful, let yourself procrastinate so that your creative subconscious mind can help you solve problems.

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34 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Michael Gunther on August 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
James Bach is a high-school dropout who achieved a successful career as a consultant and trainer in the field of software testing. In "Secrets of a Buccaneer-Scholar," he shares some of his thoughts about his career, his self-education, and his general philosophy of life. Note the repetition of the pronoun: this book is all about *him*. Examples: "Other minds exercise my thinking and applaud my exploits," "My mind is free," "I can learn on purpose while also creating opportunities to learn by accident," "If I try to understand, but fail, that's progress."

I wanted to give the book a positive rating, because I agree completely with the author's core advocacy of constant lifelong learning. However, in reading it I was put off by the book's random organization, banal mottoes, relentless self-promotion, and ranting against formal education. I think it is likely to appeal almost exclusively to readers who share the author's unorthodox cognitive style and point of view. In short, it was written by a maverick drop-out to be read by other maverick drop-outs. If that fits your situation, you might enjoy reading it.
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37 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Currie-Knight TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 23, 2009
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The original title for this book was School Kills. While James Bach changed the title, there is still some of this very message in his book. Bach is not as anti-school as he is a believer that the best learning is that a person does on their own because they want to.

Secrets of a Buccaneer Scholar alternates between chapters outlining Bach's theory of learning (a very Montesorrian free-flowing approach) and autobiographical chapters detailing his fall from high-school as a drop out to his rise in the computer world - all due to the kind of self-motivation and passionate learning he was disallowed from in high school. At times, Bach can come off as a bit cocky and conceited, like when he tells us of memorizing hte first 41 digits of pi just for kicks (reciting them for us again), or when he explains why he doesn't "know how to talk about things that don't matter." (kindle edition, loc. 1798)

I have mixed feelings about this book, especially as a teacher. One the one hand, I was and am very much one of the buccaneers Bach talks about. I coasted in high school, went to a non-academic music college, discovered learning on my own, read constantly, and now have two masters degrees and am in pursuit of a PhD. Bach is certainly correct that the best learning - that which is often discouraged in school - is that which one does passionately on their own.

On the other hand is the question that Bach does not much address as to whether this approach would set as many kids up for failure as success. It is evident from Bach's book that he was strongly motivated and had an uncanny sense of self-discipline.
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Jon Bach on July 23, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I'm James' younger brother Jon.

James is a high school dropout. I have a Bachelor's Degree.

Who's smarter? Who's had more opportunities? Who's more successful?

Those who would ask those questions might find value in this book, because intelligence, opportunities and success are not measured by who's had more schooling, but how we approach and apply the education we build for ourselves.

For example, James and I both have successful careers in software testing, but it is James who is more famous and sought-after as a speaker, writer, and consultant. He also has a much more impressive resume, having lectured to PhDs and nuclear scientists.

This book is his story about the learning techniques he has discovered (and invented) in creating an education for himself without any schooling.

Two years ago, he showed me an early draft of this book and asked for suggestions to help him show what he has learned about learning -- for example, how school actually *prevented* him from learning -- and how he has crafted his own education since dropping out in 1982.

I hoped I could help him with his book as much as he helped me develop and thrive in my software testing career. He knew I was a journalism major and an author, but he also knew that my main skill was to ask a lot of questions (the major skill of software testing, by the way).

One of my suggestions was to talk about the advice he gave to a class of borderline dropouts in 1990, encouraging them to quit if school wasn't teaching them anything to their satisfaction. He recounts the questions they immediately asked him ("How did you get Apple Computers to hire you without a degree?
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