An autodidact is, simply, a self-educated person.
Kendall Hailey is the author of an amazing book, entitled, The Day I Became an Autodidact. It's a journal of her decision to begin a life of self-education. It's amazing because it begins in her junior year of high school and traces her choice to finish high school early and her self-educational adventures. As her friends head off to college, it's obvious that they won't be getting a tenth of the education that Hailey is giving herself.
Hailey's father is a playwright and her mother a novelist, and you'll understand how heredity works when you read her clear, direct prose. It's like sunshine poured out onto the pages. She's a literary lioness who devours the Greeks, the Russians, and the Romantics with equal fervor. She expresses her views on writers, genres, and entire cultures with an authority all out of proportion to her years. This is one scary kid, but one that you will want to know better.
She has become the poster child for home-schooling. Advocates point to her book as though it explained or justified their decision to abandon the school system. Let's be clear here: Hailey is self-educated, not home-schooled. There's a world of difference.
Hailey began her quest for self-education in 1988. Today she's a writer and actress who has received some good reviews for her work in modern and classical plays. The only danger to reading The Day I Became an Autodidact is that you might compare your energy level to hers, your reading list to hers, and come away with the feeling that you've somehow wasted your life.