Student Achievement

What Are EdWeek Opinion Bloggers Reading This Summer?

By Kate Stoltzfus — June 28, 2016 8 min read
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We thought it would be interesting to get a sense of what EdWeek’s opinion bloggers are reading this summer—for professional enlightenment or for fun—so we asked them. In the first of this two-part reading series, our opinion bloggers to tell us which books made the cut—and which ones they consider must-reads. From guilty pleasures to fiction to memoir to the latest reads in education, this list runs the gamut.

(Stay tuned for our second installment on summer reading in which EdWeek staffers chime in on their list of professional reads or seasonal page turners.)

Elena Aguilar, The Art of Coaching Teachers

Rebecca Solnit’s nonfiction book Hope in the Dark: Untold Histories, Wild Possibilities (Nation Books, 2004) came into my hands last month at just the right time, and it provided the kind of spirit-feeding energy that will last at least a year. Solnit’s writing is a pleasure to read: poetic, precise, and visceral. The historical content of this book will resonate with many educators who struggle to feel hopeful at times in our work. This book is the ideal combination of practical and soul-restoring—just what I needed at the end of a school year.

Jill Berkowicz, Leadership 360

I recommend several books, including Peak: Secrets From the New Science of Expertise (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016) co-authored by K. Anders Ericsson, a Swedish psychologist and professor of psychology at Florida State University who is widely recognized as one of the world’s leading theoretical and experimental researchers on expertise, and Robert Pool, a science, technology, and medical writer. The more we understand about the acquisition of skills and the road to excellence, the better informed our decisions about the design of teaching and learning will be.

From Leading to Succeeding: The Seven Elements of Effective Leadership in Education by Douglas Reeves (Solution Tree, 2016) offers new insight into purpose, trust, focus, leverage, feedback, change and sustainability—all essential leadership elements. I am doubtful that I will get through all 450+ pages of Meeting the Ethical Challenges of Leadership: Casting Light or Shadow by Craig E. Johnson (SAGE Publications, 2011), but am looking forward to venturing into this new tome focused on ethics.

Finally, this winter I read Harper Lee’s fictional Go Set a Watchman (HarperCollins, 2015) and loved it. The view of Atticus from an adult Scout was an artful unveiling of the same man seen by the same person, first as a child, and now as a young adult. For fiction this summer, I am called to re-read To Kill a Mockingbird.

David B. Cohen, Capturing the Spark: Energizing Teaching and Schools

I’m currently reading The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell (Random House, 2014). I usually kick off summer with a huge work of fiction, and though I’m not loving this one as much as Mitchell’s other fiction book Cloud Atlas (Random House, 2004), I’m still enthralled by this dense, layered, multi-narrator metaphysical thriller. Next up is an equally huge book, but nonfiction: Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns (Random House, 2010).

Peter DeWitt, Finding Common Ground

Trying to take a break from reading all things educational, I went to the bookstore for fiction and came upon A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman (Atria Books, 2014). After the first page, I was completely engaged by Backman’s writing style, sense of humor, and depth of character. After I finished the book, I bought Backman’s My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry (Atria Books, 2013) and finished it within days. I’m gearing up to read his latest book, Britt-Marie Was Here (Atria Books, 2016), but it’s a bittersweet decision because I know he won’t have another one out for a while. He has quickly become one of my favorite fiction authors.

Nancy Flanagan, Teacher in a Strange Land

The best book I’ve read this year? Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work by Matthew Crawford (Penguin Press, 2009). It’s full of powerful, interlocked concepts about the nature of working with our hands—and the often meaningless, credential-driven activities that Americans consider prestigious careers. Crawford forces us to ask questions about the value of real work that drive assumptions about education, compensation, personal integrity, and life satisfaction.

Walt Gardner, Walt Gardner’s Reality Check

I intend to read, for a second time, Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Dragon?: Why China Has the Best (and Worst) Education System in the World by Yong Zhao (Jossey-Bass, 2014) in light of the cheating scandal involving Chinese students reported in The Wall Street Journal in June. Perhaps there is more to the story than meets the eye. As one professor wrote in a letter to the journal’s editor: “Cheating is perceived by Asians as a form of respect.”

Deborah Meier, Bridging Differences

I reviewed Samuel Abrams’ book Education and the Commercial Mindset (Harvard University Press, 2016) on my blog: “Chapter One should be a must for all those who want (or should want) to understand the period we are in and the issues confronting us. If you can’t imagine reading the whole book—start there.”

Ann Myers, Leadership 360:

Leaders often find themselves buffeted about by the winds of the political world in which leadership happens. Holding to one’s true self with integrity and authenticity can be a daily challenge. This is the territory examined in the new book Becoming a Leader Is Becoming Yourself (McFarland, 2015) by Russ Moxley, an honorary senior fellow and part-time faculty member at the Center for Creative Leadership.

I also recommend The Transforming Leader: New Approaches to Leadership for the Twenty-First Century (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2012) edited by author Carol Pearson, who is a Jungian scholar. With contributions from renowned scholars in fields of sociology, organizational-change theory, neuroscience, and various wisdom traditions, the nonfiction book takes its readers on a story-filled journey through a theoretical view of leading in the 21st century, preparation and growth of the individual leader, and the readiness to practice leadership collaboratively. It would be a good choice for a leadership team’s summer read.

Finally, every list merits a piece of fiction, and I choose Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok (Riverhead Books, 2010). The book tells the struggle of a young immigrant from Hong Kong who finds her way with her mother to Brooklyn and a new world, and it seems relevant to our work as educators and to our lives as citizens.

Dave Powell, The K-12 Contrarian

In between writing actual letters of recommendation, a job that never seems to end, I’m reading Julie Schumacher’s novel Dear Committee Members (HarperCollins, 2014). So far, it’s a pretty funny and incisive takedown of not only the absurdities of endless recommendation writing (which can be brutal), but also the current state of higher education. There’s a lot we do well in our schools, and a lot we don’t. Schumacher, at least, gives us a chance to laugh a little while we think about that.

Kyle Redford, Reaching All Students

One of my reading goals this summer is to deepen my understanding about issues of race and identity. Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me (Spiegel & Grau, 2015) offered a powerful starting point. Coates’ insights into the complexities, injustices, and tensions related to race are so profound (and urgent) that one could argue it should be required reading for all educators.

Starr Sackstein, Work in Progress

Hacking Leadership: 10 Ways Great Leaders Inspire Learning That Teachers, Students, and Parents Love by Tony Sinanis and Joe Sanfelippo (Times 10 Publications, 2016) is packed with powerful leadership tips for any school leader, with practical ways to implement the strategies. This is a great action book, not just a theory, and it is very readable.

Heather Singmaster, Global Learning

I’m currently reading The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water by Charles Fishman (Simon and Schuster, 2011). Water is critical to our survival, and it’s a topic that teachers need to be able to include in their classrooms. It will be the next generation that solves the water crisis (hopefully!). The book was suggested as a summer read for the Asia Society sponsored #GlobalEdChat, an online discussion that I host. The group will also be reading The Global Educator: Leveraging Technology for Collaborative Learning & Teaching by Julie Lindsay (ISTE, 2016) and the YA novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2007).

Marc Tucker, Top Performers

Two books by my bedside are must-reads for educators: Angela Duckworth’s Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance (Scribner, 2016), which tells us that IQ is not destiny, that what the Brits used to call bloody determination makes a giant difference, and Robert Putnam’s Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis (Simon & Schuster, 2016), which eloquently catalogs the way this country has pulled out all the supports from our kids. One other book readers might want to consider is a tiny volume titled Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli (Penguin Books, 2015). He somehow manages to convey much of the elegance and beauty of the essence of modern physics—in particular the physics of the cosmos and of the insanely bizarre world of quantum mechanics—without mathematics. I actually had the illusion that I understood what he was trying to tell me in this very compelling account.

Tom Vander Ark, Vander Ark on Innovation

Al Gore’s new TED talk is a remarkable speech told with stunning visuals that makes a compelling case for action and, compared to his Academy Award-winning 2006 documentary “An Inconvenient Truth,” has a more optimistic tone. He honed his storytelling with presentation genius Nancy Duarte, whose new book with co-author Patty Sanchez, Illuminate: Ignite Change Through Speeches, Stories, Ceremonies, and Symbols (Portfolio, 2016), helps leaders navigate each stage of transformation: dream, leap, fight, climb, and arrive. It’s a beautiful book—the first print book I’ve purchased in a while—with helpful stories, toolkits, and diagrams.

Stay tuned for recommendations from Education Week reporters and editors.

Image Credit: Flickr/Creative Commons: Germán Poo-Caamaño

A version of this news article first appeared in the BookMarks blog.