What's on your summer reading list? Members of the Education World Teacher and Tech Teams share their favorite books for professional development, personal information -- and pure pleasure.
Recently, Craig Nansen, posted to the EDTECH listserv a number of books that his tech department uses as its "guiding principals." "Everyone in our department," Nansen said, "has read the books, and we revisit them each year."
Nansen's post got us wondering: What books are today's educators reading, enjoying, and using in their personal and/or professional lives? So we asked our experts -- members of the Education World Teacher and Tech Teams -- to tell us about their favorite books. The books, we told them, can be fiction, non-fiction, humor, mystery, biography, pedagogy; for teachers, about teachers, for children, for parents; long, short, old, new...in other words, any book at all that you have enjoyed or learned from within the last few years. Below are the books they recommended for your summer reading pleasure!
A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail, by Bill Bryson. Broadway Books (a division of Random House) 1999
"Back in America after twenty years in Britain, Bill Bryson decided to reacquaint himself with his native country by walking the 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail, which stretches from Georgia to Maine. The Appalachian Trail offers an astonishing landscape of silent forests and sparkling lakes -- and to a writer with the comic genius of Bill Bryson, it also provides endless opportunities to witness the majestic silliness of his fellow human beings. For a start there's the gloriously out-of-shape Stephen Katz, a buddy from Iowa along for the walk. Despite Katz's overwhelming desire to find cozy restaurants, he and Bryson eventually settle into their stride and meet a bizarre assortment of hilarious characters on the trail. But A Walk in the Woods is more than just a laugh-out-loud hike. Bryson's acute eye is a wise witness to this beautiful but fragile trail and, as he tells its fascinating history, he makes a moving plea for the conservation of America's last great wilderness. An adventure, a comedy, and a celebration, A Walk in the Woods is a wonderful read."
In a Sunburned Country, by Bill Bryson. Broadway Books. 2000
"Every time Bill Bryson walks out the door, memorable travel literature threatens to break out. In A Sunburned Country is his report on what he found in Australia -- the country that doubles as a continent, and the place with the friendliest inhabitants, the hottest, driest weather, and the most peculiar and lethal wildlife found on the planet. The result is a deliciously funny, fact-filled, and adventurous performance by a writer who combines humor, wonder, and unflagging curiosity. Despite the fact that Australia harbors more things that can kill you in extremely nasty ways than anywhere else, including sharks, crocodiles, snakes, even riptides and deserts, Bill Bryson adores the place, and he takes his readers on a rollicking ride far beyond that beaten tourist path. Wherever he goes, he finds Australians who are cheerful, extroverted, and unfailingly obliging. He also catalogs the geological, geographical, and biological wonders of a land with clean, safe cities, cold beer, and almost constant sunshine. Australia is an immense and fortunate land, and it has found in Bill Bryson its perfect guide."
A Short History of Nearly Everything, by Bill Bryson. Broadway Books. 2004
"In A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson confronts his greatest challenge yet: to understand -- and, if possible, answer -- the oldest, biggest questions posed about the universe and ourselves. He takes as his territory everything from the Big Bang to the rise of civilization. The result is a sometimes profound, sometimes funny, and always supremely clear and entertaining adventure in the realms of human knowledge, as only Bill Bryson can render it. Anyone with even a glimmer of interest in science will enjoy reading this book and come away with a treasure chest of fun-filled facts to enliven many a day in the classroom."
1491 : New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, by Charles C. Mann. Knopf. Vintage Books. 2005
"In a riveting and fast-paced history, massing archeological, anthropological, scientific and literary evidence, Mann debunks much of what we thought we knew about pre-Columbian America. Reviewing the latest, not-widely-reported research in Indian (i.e. native inhabitants of the Americas) demography, origins, and ecology, Mann zestfully demonstrates that long before any European explorers set foot in the New World, Native American cultures were flourishing with a high degree of sophistication. The new researchers have turned received wisdom on its head. For example, it has long been believed that the Inca fell to Pizarro because they had no metallurgy to produce steel for weapons. In fact, scholars say, the Inca had a highly refined metallurgy, but valued plasticity over strength. What defeated the Inca was not steel, but epidemics of smallpox and other diseases to which the indigenous populations of North and South America in general had no immunity. Mann also shows that the Maya constructed huge cities and governed them with a cohesive set of political ideals. Most notably, according to Mann, the Haudenosaunee, in what is now the Northeast United States, constructed a loose confederation of tribes governed by the principles of individual liberty and social equality. The author weighs the evidence that Native populations were far larger than previously calculated. Any teacher of social studies should read this book because it corrects misconceptions that may still persist in standard elementary and secondary textbooks."
The Electric Life of Michael Faraday, by Alan W. Hirshfeld. Walker & Company. 2006
"This is the second Faraday biography I've read in the past year. The first, A Life of Discovery: Michael Faraday, Giant of the Scientific Revolution, by James Hamilton, published in 2002 by Random House, was an equally good read. This second biography looks at Faraday's life from a slightly different perspective, with less emphasis on Michael Faraday. the person, and more on sharpening understanding of the scientific discoveries that this nineteenth-century English scientist made. Son of a blacksmith, Faraday (1791-1867) was apprenticed at an early age to a bookbinder, who encouraged him to pursue the interest in science that he'd gained from reading the books that crossed his workbench. By a great stroke of luck, he went to work for the eminent scientist Sir Humphry Davy. From that point on, Faraday proved unstoppable as he made important discoveries in every field to which he applied himself. His breakthrough came when he discovered that he could induce an electric current by moving a magnet inside a coil of wire. That led to his development of the dynamo, precursor to the electric motor. In this elegantly written biography, Alan Hirshfeld, winner of a Templeton Foundation prize for an essay on Faraday, and himself a professor of physics, beautifully elucidates the science of electromagnetism for which Faraday is chiefly known."
A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life, by Dana Reinhardt. Wendy Lamb Books. 2006
"I just read and loved this young adult book. It's about an adopted teen who is encouraged to meet her biological mother by her adoptive parents. I don't want to give away the plot because it does have twists. It also deals with a discovery of roots and faith among the many themes. I found the book realistic, sensitive, and moving. Teens (and adults) who came to love the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series will like this same-feel book."
The Excellent 11, by Ron Clark. Hyperion. 2004
"In this book, Ron Clark pinpoints what it takes to make a great student -- and shows how the same qualities apply both to educating children and to becoming a great teacher or parent. You'll find out what those characteristics are, why they work, and how you can incorporate them into your classroom, home and life.
The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis. Focus on the Family Publishing. 2005
"I recently listened to a CD of The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis (Radio Theater). It was fantastic. The acting is wonderful and the story is so good I am ready to listen to it again."
The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion. Knopf. 2005
"Joan Didion has written a memoir that discusses how she has dealt with the sudden death of her husband. There's a very lovely, lyrical quality to her work that makes one contemplate life."
Lincoln Lawyer, by Michael Connelly. Little, Brown. 2005
"Any mystery by Michael Connelly is a great escapist summer read!"
Teachers Have It Easy: The Big Sacrifices and Small Salaries of America's Teachers, by Dave Eggers et al. New Press. 2005
"Dave Eggers and assorted authors present logical arguments for improving the teaching profession."
My Losing Season, by Pat Conroy. Nan A. Talese Publisher. 2002
"I love anything by Pat Conroy, and I read this book most recently. It's not just about the game of basketball, but about such concepts as teamwork and family."
A Whole New Mind: Moving From the Intellectual Age to the Conceptual Age, by Dan Pink. Riverhead Hardcover. 2005
"This book is on my summer reading list. It has been suggested as a great companion to A World is Flat.
The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century, by Thomas L Friedman. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 2005
"This book is a real eye-opener to the drastic changes that have happened right under our noses -- and for the most part without us taking notice. The book explores reasons for changes in world economy and politics and provides an indication of where we are headed."
700 Sundays, by Billy Crystal. Warner Books. 2005
"In this book, Crystal talks about his relationship with his father and the influences that his father and his father's associates had on him as he grew up. He focuses on the days (Sundays) spent with his father and how much they impacted him. The book is a fast read, but a meaningful one."
What Great Teachers Do Differently: Fourteen Things That Matter Most, by Todd Whitaker. Eye on Education. 2002
"Short, easy read about how good teacher become great ones. What are the defining differences in teachers?
How to Talk So Kids Can Learn, by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. Scribner. 1995
"Easy to follow advice about how talking to kids make a difference in what they will do for you, whether at home as a parent, or in the classroom as a teacher. Lots of stories, sample dialogues, and other interesting tidbits to keep your interest."
Boys and Girls Learn Differently, by Michael Gurian. Jossey-Bass. 2001
"This book explains why students react so differently to assignments, instructions, and so on. It offers practical advice on reaching all students by thinking about how their gender impacts their learning."
If They're Laughing, They Just Might Be Listening, by Elaine Lundberg and Cheryl Miller Thurston. Cottonwood Press. 1992
"Lots of fun activities to use in your classroom to make learning fun for you and your students. Games, quizzes, strategies, to help everyone, even those who are 'humor-challenged.'"
For Matrimonial Purposes, by Kavita Daswani. G.P. Putnam's Sons. 2003
Princess: A True Story of Life Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia, by Jean P. Sasson. Avon Books. 1993
"Not for the faint-hearted."
In the Presence of My Enemies, by Gracia Burnham with Dean Merrill. Tyndale House. 2003
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. Mariner Books. 2003
Angela's Ashes, by Frank McCourt. Touchstone. 1996
The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience, by R.J. Sider. Baker Books. 2005
Mayada: Daughter of Iraq, by Jean P. Sasson. Dutton (Penguin Group). 2003
"Not for the faint-hearted."
The Real World of Technology, by Ursula M. Franklin. Anansi. 1990
Rich Dad Poor Dad, by Robert T. Kiyosaki and S. L. Lechter. Warner Business Books. 1997
The Purpose Driven Life, by Rick Warren. Zondervan. 2002