This year has been high on transition, anxiety and exhaustion, and very low on sleep. On the plus side, we’re feeling positive about the move to an amazing school, and the sleepless hours have meant even more reading than normal. Here is a selection of the books that have kept me going and inspired me over the past year.
“Please return your brain for a free upgrade.”
I really think all international educators should read this book by the wonderful Hans, Anna and Ola Rosling, of Gapminder. I’ve been a Han Rosling fanboy for many years over on i-Biology and this is the perfect tribute to him and summary of the important messages from years of research, action and TED Talks.
Buy it! It’s better in print than on Kindle, and on Gapminder you can try the global ignorance test and their Dollar Street project.
The Binti Trilogy, Akata Witch & Akata Warrior
“Being in this place of diversity and movement was overwhelming, but I felt at home too… as long as I didn’t look at the ships.”
“Prepare to fall in love with Binti” says Neil Gaiman’s cover recommendation, and he couldn’t be more right. Nnedi Okorafor has created an outstanding body of work, with Binti as my introduction to her world-building, characters and afrofuturism. I won’t spoil it, but give Binti a go – it’s a quick read, packed with imagination an you could well be as hooked as I am. My own 11yo daughter loved it too. I immediately read Home, pre-ordered the trilogy finale, and got stuck into Akata Witch (and more recently finished Akata Warrior). The Akata books (Sunny) are renamed in the UK (here and here).
Okorafor is my new favourite author, and this short TEDx talk by her is well worth the nine minutes. I can see Binti becoming a great reader for MYP Lang Lit units of inquiry as it will resonate with Third Culture Kids (TCK’s).
Bold Moves for Schools
by Heidi Hayes Jacobs & Marie Alcock
I’ve blogged about this before, and tweeted about it plenty. Reading this really resonated with who I am as an educator and curriculum/pedagogical leader. It is clear, provocative and practical, with lots of great ideas and suggestions encompassing curriculum, pedagogy, leadership and more. I had a great time at a Bootcamp with Marie earlier in the year, and it got me thinking a lot more about Webb’s DOK4 & Transfer. Well worth a look, especially if you’re looking to the future. Read more here. I also enjoyed Quest for Learning by Marie Alcock, Allison Zmuda and Michael Fisher (see here).
“Innovation requires courage coupled with a realistic sensibility to create new possibilities versus “edu-fantasies”. Moving boldly is not moving impulsively or for the sake of change. Moving boldly involves breaking barriers that need breaking.”
The John Catt Stable
These last few years, John Catt publishing in the UK have produced a range of great books on education. Back in 2014 I read and wrote about Martin Robinson’s Trivium 21C as a vision of a well-implemented IB Diploma Programme, and reviewed it for IS Magazine. This year I’ve read and loved all of the following, though my particular favourite has been “What does this look like in the classroom?” by Carl Hendrick and Robin MacPherson, illustrated by Oliver Caviglioli (reviewed and linked here).
These are the kinds of books educators should be reading in initial teacher training, as well as keeping as reminders of what works and why – particularly if you want to avoid throwing the baby out with the bathwater in a quest for dynamic learning. Other gooduns I’ve read this year (and there are more than this):
- David Didau and Nick Rose’s What every teacher needs to know about psychology
- Battle Hymn Of The Tiger Teachers (The Michaela Way), edited by Katharine Birbalsingh
- Internationalizing Schools, edited by Steven Carber
- Playful Pedagogies, Young Children Learning in International & Multicultural Contexts, edited by Dr. Anna Cox & Dr. Estelle Tarry
- High School Hacks (Habits of Mind and Success in the IB Diploma and Beyond) by Brianna Smrke
Reasons to Stay Alive
A wonderfully-written, honest and raw description of living with and through depression and anxiety, and great twitter account to follow. Matt Haig’s Reasons to Stay Alive is warm and funny whilst dealing with serious issues.
I look forward to reading his new follow-up, Notes On A Nervous Planet.
Recipes for Wonder
This book is so beautiful I got three copies: one for us, one for my niece and one for the school library. Alom Shaha (@alomshaha) is on a mission to help parents become their child’s first science teacher and with this book, illustrated by Emily Robertson, he has a winner.
Books of “experiments at home” have been around for ages, but this goes far beyond: with personal stories, “the power of I don’t know”, inquiry questions and “Mr. Shaha says” explanations, it helps frame each activity through thinking as a scientist. Get it here, or in real shops.
The Idiot Brain
Who knew brains could be so funny? Dean Burnett, neuroscientists did, and The Idiot Brain is a witty, readable and up-to-date primer on what we know about our brains, how they (kindof) work and how we know.
If you’re at all interested in how your jelly mass is ruling your life, and sometimes working against you, give this a go.
Grace of Kings
In summer 2016, a tweet from Saladin Ahmed sent me down a rabbit hole of rediscovering fantasy/sci-fi through nonwestern authors and stories. One of them, which I only got to in this year, was Ken Liu’s Grace of Kings. Epic, detailed and well-developed, the Dandelion Dynasty is a universe I’ll return to in the future.
And you know how it goes with Amazon recommendations connected to your “likes”…
Ember Quartet (Books 1-2) & The Grisha Series
Excellent YA fantasy, the Ember novels by Sabaa Tahir and the Grisha novels by Leigh Bardugo are fast-paced, with rounded characters, solid arcs, darkness, humour and plenty to set them apart from traditional fantasy. Bardugo’s Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom are also a fun heist novels set in the Grisha world.
Authors like these have given me a renewed interest in a genre which I had abandoned years ago through boredom. I wasn’t aware of how much great stuff was out there.
On my summer reading list (let’s see how many I get through):
- Jy Yang, The Black Tides of Heaven
- Sabaa Tahir, Reaper At The Gates
- Becky Chambers, The Long Way To A Small, Angry Planet
- Matt Haig, Notes On A Nervous Planet
- Dean Burnett, The Happy Brain
- Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow: The Psychology of Happiness
- Dylan Wiliam, Creating The Schools Our Children Need
- James & Dianne Murphy, Thinking Reading: What Every Secondary Teacher Needs to Know About Reading
So… what are you reading? Recommendations below, or find me on Twitter.