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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

One of my favorite summer activities is reading -- I relish those long afternoons (and mornings and evenings) on the couch (or beach or bed) when I lose myself in a book. I remember vacations by what I read; travels get surreal overtones because of the confusion with the interweaving of narratives -- reading Song of Solomon on Costa Rica's Pacific coast or Pope Joan in Jamaica -- stories that don't match my environs when I close the book. I'll compromise the purity of the travel-experience, however, for a side trip into a good book.

I know that summer vacation is getting close because I've recently found myself perusing the shelves of my favorite used bookstores and building a stack on my bedside table. Here in Oakland, we have a few more weeks of school; I'm envious of all of you who are already done with the school year. But as I anticipate a break, I'm creating a reading list -- and I want to ask all of you for recommendations!

I'm going to share some of my recommendations for the Best Summer Reading for two reasons: first, because they are fantastic, engrossing must-reads, and second, because then you'll get a sense of what I like to read and then you can make recommendations. I do, by the way, read some work-related books in the summer -- it is possible for me to get lost in an education-related book.

Divided by genre here are my recommendations for summer reading (drawn from my reading list of the last 12 months):

Non-Fiction: Education-Relevant, but Not Directly-Related

  • If you read only one book this summer related to school, read Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard. Especially if you do any work in school change/reform/transformation. The authors tell engaging and entertaining stories, and pack in punches of science and wisdom and insight about how to change things. You'll find relevance and meaning for your personal and work life. I loved, loved, loved this book and reference it all the time. And it'll feel like fun reading. I promise.
  • I also recently read The Talent Code: Greatness isn't Born. It's Grown. Here's How. This is another one that you'll find relevant to your personal and work life. Who doesn't want to figure out how to unlock talent in themselves or their students? Another super easy read, narrative-based book.
  • I went on a Daniel Pink binge early this year; I had heard his books talked about for long enough and devoured them one after another. If you haven't done this yet -- do! Read Drive: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us, and A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future. These are both sooo good. You'll get insights into classroom management, engaging students in their learning, and lots of tips and tricks that are applicable in your own life.

Directly School-Related

If you read only one teaching book this summer, read, Teaching the Taboo: Courage and Imagination in the Classroom, What a relief this book is! The authors express what so many of us (teachers, parents, principals) who are drained by testing-mania are yearning to hear. In this vision of schools, students have a voice and drive their learning. Teachers: Read this! You'll get ideas, hope, validation, and community.

Non-Fiction that's Not Work Related

  • This spring I read two nonfiction books that blew my mind and haven't left me. First, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail. I couldn't put this down -- which I usually don't experience with memoir. This is a woman's account of dealing with some really heavy life experiences at a young age and finding resolution and healing on a long hike. If you've ever dealt with anything in your life that hurt -- read this. I couldn't believe how much I loved it
  • Beyond the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Undercity is a very different kind of book -- reads like historical fiction: engrossing characters, plot and suspense, political intrigue, but it's nonfiction. This was fascinating, disturbing, and brilliantly written. Also one I couldn't put down. And actually, there were some insights to apply to working in schools

Fiction

I love fiction -- it's always going to be my favorite genre, but I'm a little short on recommendations this year. I did read one novel that would be a perfect beach book: A Discovery of Witches is the first in a trilogy. This is a tangle of witches and magic, vampires, alchemy, history, family lore, suspense, and a little romance into a very entertaining page-turner. A complete distraction.

What do you recommend?

What's on your bedside table? I'd love to hear education-related and non-related recommendations for summer reading. Thanks!

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