It is just for the record I wanted to write here the basic achronim [later authorities] that are considered a fundamental part of Torah and are important to learn. R. Akiva Eiger, the Pnei Yehoshua, the Kezot HaChoshen, and the school stemming from Reb Chaim Soloveitchik that forms a commentary on the Rambam: Reb Chaim, Shimon Shkop, Baruch Ber, Naphtali Troup, Rav Shach.
The best of this last list is the Avi Ezri of Rav Shach which one can more or less learn straight. It is a very deep book but it is self contained. In fact it is so well done that I wonder if perhaps I could make the two books that God granted to me to write on the Talmud a little bit more self contained also.
You can see that there is some way to do this even with the kind of comments I did on the Talmud. for Rav Yaakov Abuchatzeira also wrote a book of learning on the Talmud that also you can simply pick up and read straight without having to look up anything. [I used to read it in Israel. but no longer have it.]
[This list should not be needed except for the fact that outside of the Yeshiva world it is virtually unknown. Also I have seen an enormous amount of confusion about this very issue so it seems like a good idea to make it known to the general public.]