Looking ahead to the summer, and keeping in the tradition of educators sharing their essential reading, I thought I would join in the fun, sharing the 9 books that I’ll be reading this summer, and those recommended to me by my PLN. There will be something for everyone in this weeks blog. My inspiration for the post came from similar lists from last year.  Aaron Hogan‘s 2016 list is one of my favorite examples.

Last May I embedded Aaron’s list into a blog post detailing what I would do during the summer vacation that would drive my teaching forward and develop me as an individual. The post entitled “Read, Watch, Listen, Do” was one of the most read from last year.

In advance of possibly the longest summer vacation of my teaching career, and in preparation for two transatlantic flight, coupled with some new Kindle Fires in my household, here is my list of 9 #summereads that will see me through the next 3 months.


My top row of books all pertain to social justice. I first became aware of Rebecca Skloot‘s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks when it was recommended to me by my students. I’m always intrigued to see what they are reading for English class and this was a book that they all seem to enjoy. The story of Henrietta Lacks, who was diagnosed with cervical cancer in the 1950s, and whose cancer cells (later known as HeLa) would change the course of cancer treatment has been made into an HBO movie but I want to read the book first before seeing the movie. Check out RadioLab’s fascinating Henrietta Lacks podcast.

I’ve actually just finished listening to Ta-Nehisi CoatesBetween the World and Me on the Overdrive app, which is used by my amazing local library. Increasing my conversations with others about race and diversity has been a focus of mine for the past few years and I’ve presented on this topic at three separate conferences. Coate’s book is a powerful letter to his adolescent son in which he details the feelings, symbolism, and realities associated with being black in the United States. Within the first minutes of listening to the book I recommended it to Justin Schleider who subsequently blogged about his experience of reading the work.

W. Kamau Bell seems to be everywhere right now so I don’t know how he found time to write The Awkward Thoughts of W. Kamau Bell: Tales of a 6’4″, African American, Heterosexual, Cisgender, Left-Leaning, Asthmatic, Black and Proud Blerd, Mama’s Boy, Dad and Stand-Up Comedian. He’s on CNN, in the New Yorker, The New York Times, on stage, and also the co-host of one of my favorite podcasts Politically Re-Active. Bell is all about intersectional progressivism: he treats racial, gay, and women’s issues as inseparable, and he talks about things in a way in which I wish I could talk about things. OK, call it a man crush, but this dude is cool, funny, socially aware and doesn’t hold back with the punches. I’m hoping that reading this book will help me continue to have those brave conversations about race. Oh, and he tweeted me recently too!

Other recent social justice reads for me include The Warmth of Other Suns and The Underground Railroad. For similar recommendations see this list from Tolerance.org.

If the theme of the top row in my #summerreads image is social justice, then the middle row is pedagogy. Each book should develop my teaching or at least help me become a more effective educator.

Greg McKeown‘s book Essentialism was recommended by Adam Llevo and Jarrod Robinson. I continually feel pulled in so many directions, sometimes attending to the demands of others at the detriment of my own needs. This book should help me refocus on getting the right things done – doing more with less, staying focused and targeted..and perhaps improve my ability to say ‘no’ more frequently.

Nudge by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein is the only book on my list that is a re-read. But similar to the first time that I read Made to Stick by Chip & Dan Heath, I need to go back again, making notes. The concept of using gentle nudges to shape behavior fascinates me, and as a health teacher I want to find ways in which I can make it easier for my students to make healthy behavioral choices. This book will inspire you, as it did me, to become an effective architecture of choice in your classroom.

Explore Like a Pirate by Michael Matera. I have to admit, the whole educating like pirates thing never really resonated with me, but that might be because my previous school mascot was a corsair. However, I am becoming increasingly fascinated by game theory and how I might be able to use elements of gamification in the classroom to motivate my students, or at least make my teaching space more innovative.

For similar recommendations see this list from George Couros.

The third row of my #summerreads image is me reading for pleasure. I actually have more titles lined up, but that first book, Food Truths by Michelle Payn was recommended to me by the host of the Sound Bites podcast Melissa Joy Dobbins. I enjoy reading about food almost as much as I enjoy preparing and eating it, and this book promises to “provide practical tips and accurate information that allows readers to make decisions based on their own social, ethical, environmental, and health standards”. Again, coming back to my health classes, anything that helps my students make informed decisions has to be a good thing.

I’m intrigued that the word that keeps coming up when people describe Sapiens by Yuval Noah Hurari is ‘vibrant’. I was excited to find that my local library has this on e-Book and this investigation of three great revolutions of human history: Cognitive, Agricultural, and Scientific might be my kindle read on the flight to Europe this summer.

Finally, The Boys in the Boat from Daniel James Brown is a book that I have meant to read for the past few years. My students speak highly of it, and since high school I’ve been fascinated with European history encompassing both World Wars. The emotional celebration of a remarkable achievement, and a chronicle of one extraordinary young man’s personal quest will be a nice story to end my summer reading and fire me up for a new school year in September.

I’ve included links to Amazon for each of the book titles but I’d urge you to consider other outlets including local book stores if they still exist in your community.

Shout out to a great book store near our school.

I created a moment on Twitter with examples of book suggestions from my PLN. Feel free to draw inspiration from their tweets and share your own #summerreads on Twitter.

5 thoughts on “#summerreads

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