The Education of Henry Adams records the struggle of Bostonian Henry Adams in his later years, to come to terms with the dawning 20th century, so different from the world of his youth. It is also a sharp critique of 19th century educational theory and practice. The Modern Library placed it first in a list of the top 100 English-language nonfiction books of the twentieth century.
The Education is much more a record of Adams's introspection than of his deeds. It is an extended meditation on the social, technological, political, and intellectual changes that occurred over Adams's lifetime. Adams concluded that his traditional education failed to help him come to terms with these rapid changes; hence his need for self-education. The organizing thread of the book is how the "proper" schooling and other aspects of his youth, was time wasted; thus his search for self-education through experiences, friendships, and reading. Two aspects set The Education apart from the common run of autobiographies. First, it is narrated in the third person; second, it is frequently sarcastic and humorously self-critical.