Classroom Technology Opinion

The 50 Best Books of All Time

By Tom Vander Ark — August 21, 2012 2 min read
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OK, these are probably not the best books of all time but these mostly non-fiction titles were important to me when I read them over the last twenty years.


  1. The Power of Their Ideas, Meier (Bible)

  2. The Students are Watching, Sizer

  3. Reinventing Public Education and It Takes a City, Hill

  4. Global Achievement Gap, Wagner

  5. The World is Open, Bonk

  6. Disrupting Class, Christensen, Horn and Johnson

  7. Mindset, Dweck

  8. Education Unbound, Hess


  1. 5th Discipline, Senge (Didn’t like the field guides as much)

  2. In Search of Excellence, Peters and Waterman

  3. Competitive Strategy, Porter (Classic)

  4. Positioning, Ries and Trout

  5. The Innovator’s Dilemma, Christiansen

  6. The Age of Unreason, Handy

  7. Good to Great & Built to Last, Collins

  8. Managing, or anything by Drucker

Leadership & Biography

  1. Leadership is an Art, DePree (Still the best)

  2. The Leadership Challenge, Kouzes and Posner (The guidebook)

  3. A Force for Change, Kotrer

  4. Orbiting the Giant Hairball, MacKenzie (Fun runner up)

  5. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Covey

  6. John Adams, McCullough (Read a Madison biography after that.)

  7. Benjamin Franklin, Isaacson


  1. Guns, Germs & Steel, Diamond

  2. Development as Freedom, Amartya Sen

  3. Which World, Hammond

  4. Culture Matters, Harrison & Huntington

  5. Fourth Turning & Millennials, Strauss/Howe

  6. The Lexus and the Olive Tree & Longitudes and Attitudes, Friedman

  7. The Post-American World, Zakaria


  1. Rilke’s Book of Hours: Love Poems to God, Macy and Barrows

  2. The Heart Aroused, Whyte (Good runner up with leadership application)

  3. Early Morning, Stafford (Touching biography makes Bill Stafford accessible)

  4. New and Collected Poems, Milosz

  5. Poems New and Collected, Szymborska (What is it about mid-century Poles?)

  6. The Complete Poems of D.H. Lawrence

  7. Teaching With Fire, Intrator and Scribner


  1. Consilience, Wilson (Wow)

  2. Art & Physics, Shlain (Amazing parallels)

  3. Turning Point, Capra (Where Meg Wheatley got her start)

  4. The Clock of the Long Now, Brand

  5. Einstein’s Dreams, Lightman (Only fiction on the list; mind bending)

  6. For the Time Being, Dillard (Another mind bender/dual biography)

  7. The Blank Slate & Drive, Steven Pinker

  8. Elegant Universe, Greene (or A Brief History of Time, Hawkin)

  9. Tipping Point, Gladwell


  1. Good Work: When Excellence and Ethics Meet, Gardner, Csikszentmihalyi and Damon

  2. Flow, Csikszentmihalyi

  3. Care of the Soul, Moore

  4. The Reinvention of Work, Fox

Wow, I left so many great business and education books out. And no non-fiction!?! What books made a difference to you and your work?

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The opinions expressed in Vander Ark on Innovation are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.