“A page turner. With candor and clarity, Tony Wagner tells the story of his remarkable life and, in so doing, tells the story of our education system.”
Angela Duckworth, Founder and CEO, Character Lab, and New York Times bestselling author of Grit

One of the world's top experts on education delivers an uplifting memoir on his own personal failures and successes as he sought to become a good learner and teacher.


Tony Wagner is an eminent education specialist: he has taught at every grade level from high school through graduate school; worked at Harvard; done significant work for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; and speaks across the country and all over the world. But before he found his success, Wagner was kicked out of middle school, expelled from high school, and dropped out of two colleges. Learning by Heart is his powerful account of his years as a student and teacher.

After struggling in both roles, he learned to create meaningful learning experiences despite the constraints of conventional schooling--initially for himself and then for his students--based on understanding each student's real interests and strengthening his or her intrinsic motivations. Wagner's story sheds light on critical issues facing parents and educators today, and reminds us that trial and error, resilience, and respect for the individual, are at the very heart of all teaching and learning.
"Wagner’s passionate memoir serves as blueprint for educators looking to inspire their own students." —Publishers Weekly

"This honest and thoughtful memoir reminds readers what’s at the heart of learning—a unique individual—and that school cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach." —Booklist

"Tony Wagner has written an irresistible coming-of-age memoir that is an extended reverie on education—what it is, what it’s not, and why it matters. This story of mental, emotional, and moral awakening will touch your heart.” —Daniel H. Pink, author of When and Drive

“Eloquent, intimate… Tony Wagner’s memoir is a much-needed account of how unconventional kids navigate a conventional education. I love this book, find hope in Wagner’s story, and will be recommending it to parents who worry that their children won’t find their way in the world.” —Jessica Lahey, New York Times bestselling author of The Gift of Failure

“If you think you know what it means to be ‘smart’ or a ‘lifelong learner’ read Learning By Heart and be prepared to have your assumptions challenged. Wagner artfully reminds us of what we already know, that smart and learning take place at a far different intersection, one where curiosity, creativity and perseverance meet.” —Madeline Levine, Ph.D. Co-founder Challenge Success, Stanford Graduate School of Education, author of The Price of Privilege and Ready or Not

"An intriguing and moving account of how a wayward student became a master teacher as well as a thought leader in education.” —Howard Gardner, author of Mind, Work, and Life

“True to Wagner’s guiding principle, this compelling memoir will help you make sense of yourself and the world around you.” —Ted Dintersmith, author of What School Could Be, and Executive Producer of Most Likely to Succeed 

“Wagner’s personal trials and tribulations as a teacher and school head made him the leading modern ethnographer of how schools change. His memoir is an indictment of traditional content-based secondary education and a call for a more humane ecologically minded, learner-centric system... and is now more relevant than ever as we reconsider learning for the innovation age.” —Tom Vander Ark, author of Getting Smart

Learning By Heart exposes the twinned problems of authority and shame cooked into our traditional educational institutions and generously offers an alternative way of learning based on purpose, respect, inspiration, joy, and even love.” —Cathy N. Davidson, Founding Director, The Futures Initiative, The Graduate Center, CUNY, and author of The New Education

“Dr Tony Wagner has given us a great gift with this autobiography. In teaching us how to develop the potential of our students, he reveals himself in a way most successful people do not, showing his failures as well of successes. He shows educators that when we challenge ourselves to ask what is the purpose of education and how do we best serve that purpose even when you swim against the current, it starts building a powerful purposeful student-centered environment in which our students can thrive. Tony makes it clear none of us can do this alone, but in taking us through his journey, he demonstrates the power of education and educators.” —Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers

“This book has profound lessons for educators today.” —Diane Ravitch, Historian & Author

“This is essential reading for anyone doing research in education and anyone undertaking a career in education. So much wisdom packed into these pages.” —Esther Wojcicki, Founder, Palo Alto High Media Arts Program and author of How to Raise Successful People

Learning By Heart is an important series of stories that could and should spark many discussions. Highly recommended - and hard to put down.” —Ulrik Juul Christensen, MD, Executive Chairman of Area9 Group

"I admire Tony’s gumption, his refusal to follow conventional wisdom, his unflinching honesty about his own failures, and his unshakable belief that there’s a better world out there—and that he was destined to improve the work of teachers everywhere." —John Merrow, Founding President of Learning Matters

"Learning by Heart transforms the young Tony Wagner’s pain into a journey of compassion, imagination, wit, and, finally, triumphant success. Fast paced, original, and beautifully written, it is of the most honest and useful memoirs I’ve read in recent years." —Rebecca Pepper Sinkler, former editor of The New York Times Book Review

Learning by Heart revels in rich storytelling to reveal why classrooms—or conversations—demand deep listening for anyone ready to learn the compelling lessons of the heart. His life quest and this book delivers.” —Hal Gregersen, Executive Director of the MIT Leadership Center

"Part memoir, part manifesto, Learning By Heart is a powerful counter blast: a full-blooded testament to the inescapably personal nature of teaching and learning.” —Sir Ken Robinson, New York Times bestselling author of The Element