Home > C. The Thinker As Hero, I. Books > An Inspiration: The Independent Scholar’s Handbook

An Inspiration: The Independent Scholar’s Handbook


Some readers will recognize the symptoms: a sudden, inexplicable obsession with a topic, question, or creative work that drives a person to drop practical considerations and even essential obligations so he or she can spend time researching or writing in the library, interviewing people, tracking people down on the internet, making observations on their telescope, and so forth. Yes, there can be no doubt: you or someone in your life has been inspired to make a contribution to the advancement of knowledge or the creation of beauty. The person in question is an independent scholar.

Just what is an independent scholar? Someone who is working on an research project or work of art without support from an academic institution or other organization. In other words, this is where the rubber hits the road; people have been known to live on the street while they’re researching, writing, painting, sculpting, making a movie…

But, thanks to guides like Ronald Gross’s The Independent Scholar’s Handbook, the journey doesn’t have to be that hazardous. There are ways to organize your time and maximize your resources, grants that can defray your costs, volunteers who will support you because you’re doing important work, and support from other scholars, whether they be unknown like yourself or the most distinguished experts in your field. Patience, tact, and persistence can go a long way to easing the pain involved with any self-motivated act of learning and creation.

You might be wondering if a single book really can be the gateway to marshalling your resources and finishing your “inner assignment” (as Ansel Adams used to call his own creative work). And the Handbook does have one problem: it was last edition was published in 1993. Many of the specific suggestions it lists have disappeared or been reincarnated in internet and e-publishing guises. But then, come to think of it, cheap rent is still cheap rent.

External resources aren’t what’s at the heart of Gross’s book. What matters most is the way that he builds the independent scholar’s pride. Here is the sentence that opens Chapter 1:

This book is about taking risks of an unusual kind: risks in the realm of the mind.

His goal is to awake his readers to a sense of passion and purpose. Why? Because he realizes, that for most people, there is nothing of significance in their day-to-day existence. If we are to live fully, we must find the courage to do something really important.

So, in fact, a project that at first may seem impossible or just crazy turns out to have been the origin of many famous books: Barbara Tuckman’s A Distant Mirror, Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock, and E.F. Schumaker’s Small is Beautiful are all works of independent scholarship. And look at what people like Buckminster Fuller, Betty Friedan, and John Snyder accomplished.

And then there are the many quotes from other authors on living the life of the mind:

Many workingmen are self-taught intellectuals.

Ignace Lepp, L’Art de Vivre de l’intellectual

And finally, to round the book out, Gross provides a wonderful bibliography, full of books devoted to the theory and practice of the independent scholar.

The Independent Scholar’s Handbook has changed a lot of people’s lives. Maybe it could change yours.        RT


Chinese Character: The Scholar. WikiCmns. CC 2.5 Generic. User: Magna. Magazine Cover: Hermes the Scholar, WikiCmns; Public Domain.


  1. March 28, 2012 at 3:02 pm

    Informative, thanks for sharing.

  2. March 28, 2012 at 3:13 pm

    MW: & thanks for taking the time to appreciate…you have a fine blog! RT

  1. December 11, 2012 at 7:51 pm

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