Learning to Think.

Learning to Think.

A memoir about hardship, education, hellfire, family, finding a way to break free


Discover the inspirational coming-of-age memoir about modern poverty in Britain and the liberating power of education.

'An astonishing tale, well structured and punchily told.’ - Sunday Times

'Impossible not to read in one sitting.' - Stylist, Best Books for 2024

'A memoir you read with the same breathlessness as you read the most gripping of novels' - i news


When you have nothing, you cling to whatever gives you hope.

Put yourself in Tracy King's shoes. Growing up in an ordinary council estate outside Birmingham; a house filled with creativity, curiosity and love, but marked by her father's alcoholism and her mother's agoraphobia.

By the time she turns twelve her father has been killed, her sister taken into care and her mother ensnared by the promises of born-again Christianity.

This isn't the stuff of cult documentaries; this is the story of an ordinary family trapped in a broken system. It's a story that could happen to anyone without the tools to transform their circumstances.

And it's the story of how Tracy discovered the truth about her father’s death and how she found her way out.

Shocking, inspiring and ultimately hopeful, Learning to Think. is a testament to the power of books and holds up a mirror to the everyday realities of poverty in Britain.


Praise for Learning to Think.:

‘A raw and unflinching account of growing up in poverty, which tackles the false narratives we tell ourselves to survive.’ – Caroline Criado Perez

‘Tracy King’s memoir is heartbreaking and hopeful ... An incredible true story of survival and forgiveness.’ – Tim Minchin

'What would you do if you began to suspect the events of your childhood didn't happen as you remembered them? In this evocative memoir, Tracy King confronts the stories we all tell ourselves in order to live.' – Helen Lewis, author of Difficult Women

‘[An] extraordinary book. It’s compelling and courageous, and it couldn’t be more timely. It’s written with such clarity and compassion, and I think it will leave every reader wiser and stronger.’ – Daisy Buchanan, author of How to Be a Grownup and Sisterhood

‘A brilliant writer’ – Adam Kay

‘You won’t often read a book so driven by raw emotion. A book of tragedy, hope and ultimately of triumph.’ – HH Wendy Joseph KC, author of Unlawful Killings


  • An astonishing account of a father’s violent death, exorcism and religious superstition….
    Learning to Think is, in many ways, a book about demons: the addiction, violence, mental health struggles and, yes, superstition, that so often accompany poverty. But it’s also the story of an extraordinary family, full of energy and joie de vivre. It’s a story that brims with life and hard-won hope… Well structured and punchily told.
    Christina Patterson, Sunday Times

About the author

Tracy King

Tracy King is a writer, producer and science communicator based in England. She has worked on subjects ranging from science and technology to politics and videogames, for the BBC and in the Guardian, Telegraph, New Statesman, Stylist and The New European, amongst others. She was a columnist for Custom PC magazine for over ten years. Her science and critical-thinking animations include a collaboration with Tim Minchin, Storm, which has six million views on YouTube and was adapted into a bestselling graphic novel. Her television and radio credits include Sky News, BBC Newsnight, Good Morning Britain and BBC Sounds.
Learn More

Sign up to the Penguin Newsletter

For the latest books, recommendations, author interviews and more