Most educators love books. They seek out books that give them information to refine their practice. They enjoy reading about strategies to infuse curiosity and joy into the teaching and learning process. They look for texts that can offer guidance on expanding their understanding of themselves and the world around them. And they use books as a way to relax, to find refuge in whimsical tales that take them on a journey with interesting new friends. However, the hectic pace of the school year often means there is little time for educators to give their full attention to a book on a new topic or to delve deeply into passions or interesting subject matter.
The summer months are a great time to pause and explore the incredible stories, learning, and resources that books have to offer. During the coming months, consider perusing one or many of the books below.
Books for Professional Learning
Educators, at their core, are perennial learners, and books are a great starting point for exploring new tools and strategies or topics with which you have prior experience. A powerful way to deepen this process is to coordinate reading a book with a colleague or friend and make time to discuss the subject matter. When you do this, either as you are reading or after you finish, find ways to share unique perspectives and experiences as they relate to the book.
Moving Up Without Losing Your Way by Jennifer Morton
Summary from Goodreads: “Upward mobility through the path of higher education has been an article of faith for generations of working-class, low-income, and immigrant college students…Drawing upon philosophy, social science, personal stories, and interviews, Jennifer Morton reframes the college experience, factoring in not just educational and career opportunities but also essential relationships with family, friends, and community. Finding that student strivers tend to give up the latter for the former, negating their sense of self, Morton seeks to reverse this course. She urges educators to empower students with a new narrative of upward mobility--one that honestly situates ethical costs in historical, social, and economic contexts and that allows students to make informed decisions for themselves.”
The Power of Moments by Chip Heath and Dan Heath
Summary from Goodreads: “While human lives are endlessly variable, our most memorable positive moments are dominated by four elements: elevation, insight, pride, and connection. If we embrace these elements, we can conjure more moments that matter. What if a teacher could design a lesson that he knew his students would remember twenty years later? What if a manager knew how to create an experience that would delight customers? What if you had a better sense of how to create memories that matter for your children? Readers discover how brief experiences can change lives.”
Summary from Goodreads: “In this inspiring collection, the award-winning, bestselling author—and MacArthur genius—gathers all-star advice for K–12 teachers on engaging students around today's toughest issues…In Teaching When the World Is on Fire, Delpit now turns to a host of crucial issues facing teachers in these tumultuous times. Delpit’s master-teacher wisdom tees up guidance from beloved, well-known educators along with insight from dynamic principals and classroom teachers tackling difficult topics in K–12 schools every day.”
Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein
Summary from Goodreads: “Using dozens of eye-opening examples and drawing on decades of behavioral science research, Nobel Prize winner Richard H. Thaler and Harvard Law School professor Cass R. Sunstein show that no choice is ever presented to us in a neutral way and that we are all susceptible to biases that can lead us to make bad decisions. But by knowing how people think, we can use sensible ‘choice architecture’ to nudge people toward the best decisions for ourselves, our families, and our society, without restricting our freedom of choice.”
Books for Personal Growth
The last two and a half years have been incredibly challenging for educators across the K-12 spectrum. The summer offers the space and time to process, heal, and find hope in what’s ahead. Books can offer welcome guidance on how to productively reflect on challenges and successes and make intentional decisions about moving forward.
Summary from Goodreads: “Conventional wisdom holds that if we work hard we will be more successful, and if we are more successful, then we’ll be happy…But recent discoveries in the field of positive psychology have shown that this formula is actually backward: Happiness fuels success, not the other way around. When we are positive, our brains become more engaged, creative, motivated, energetic, resilient, and productive at work…Using stories and case studies from his work with thousands of Fortune 500 executives in 42 countries, Achor explains how we can reprogram our brains to become more positive in order to gain a competitive edge at work.”
Summary from Goodreads: “In this inspiring, empowering book, Shetty draws on his time as a monk to show us how we can clear the roadblocks to our potential and power. Combining ancient wisdom and his own rich experiences in the ashram, Think Like a Monk reveals how to overcome negative thoughts and habits, and access the calm and purpose that lie within all of us. He transforms abstract lessons into advice and exercises we can all apply to reduce stress, improve relationships, and give the gifts we find in ourselves to the world.”
Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before? by Julie Smith
Summary from Goodreads: “Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before? teaches you how to fortify and maintain your mental health, even in the most trying of times. Dr. Julie Smith's expert advice and powerful coping techniques will help you stay resilient, whether you want to manage anxiety, deal with criticism, cope with depression, build self-confidence, find motivation, or learn to forgive yourself. The book tackles everyday issues and offers practical solutions in bite-sized, easy-to-digest entries which make it easy to quickly find specific information and guidance…Dr Smith's empathetic guide offers a deeper understanding of how your mind works and gives you the insights and help you need to nurture your mental health every day.”
Books That Are Just for Fun
Sometimes the very best kind of book is one that allows you to escape into another world, meet new characters who become friends, and enjoy their adventures. Use these recommendations to go on a lighthearted, witty journey or inspire you to seek out other books to read purely for pleasure.
The Authenticity Project by Clare Pooley
Summary from Goodreads: “[This is the] story of a solitary green notebook that brings together six strangers and leads to an unexpected friendship, and even love. Julian Jessop, an eccentric, lonely artist, and septuagenarian believe that most people aren't really honest with each other. But what if they were? And so he writes--in a plain, green journal--the truth about his own life and leaves it in his local café. It's run by the incredibly tidy and efficient Monica, who furtively adds her own entry and leaves the book in the wine bar across the street. Before long, the others who find the green notebook add the truths about their own deepest selves--and soon find each other in real life at Monica's café. The cast of characters…is by turns quirky and funny, heartbreakingly sad and painfully true-to-life. It's a story about being brave and putting your real self forward--and finding out that it's not as scary as it seems. In fact, it looks a lot like happiness.”
The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman
Summary from Goodreads: “The only child of a single mother, Nina has her life just as she wants it: a job in a bookstore, a kick-butt trivia team, a world-class planner, and a cat named Phil. If she sometimes suspects there might be more to life than reading, she just shrugs and picks up a new book. When the father Nina never knew existed suddenly dies, leaving behind innumerable sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews, Nina is horrified…It's time for Nina to come out of her comfortable shell, but she isn't convinced real life could ever live up to fiction. It's going to take a brand-new family, a persistent suitor, and the combined effects of ice cream and trivia to make her turn her own fresh page.”
Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher
Summary from Goodreads: “Jason Fitger is a beleaguered professor of creative writing and literature at Payne University, a small and not very distinguished liberal arts college in the midwest. His department is facing draconian cuts and squalid quarters, while one floor above them the Economics Department is getting lavishly remodeled offices. His once-promising writing career is in the doldrums, as is his romantic life, in part as the result of his unwise use of his private affairs for his novels. His star (he thinks) student can't catch a break with his brilliant (he thinks) work Accountant in a Bordello, based on Melville's Bartleby. In short, his life is a tale of woe, and the vehicle this droll and inventive novel uses to tell that tale is a series of hilarious letters of recommendation that Fitger is endlessly called upon by his students and colleagues to produce, each one of which is a small masterpiece of high dudgeon, low spirits, and passive-aggressive strategies.”
Pick out a few books to read this summer and then pass to a friend to read. Get together and discuss the different books that were chosen to be read and what was learned; may that be professional, personal, or just fun facts about the book itself.