Summer reading 2019: eight book recommendations for teachers

It’s that time of year again! Summer is just around the corner and I’m planning my reading list for some self-paced PD in the sun. I also like helping other teachers with their professional reading so, as I do every year, I have prepared a list of eight recommendations. This list is comprised of five books that I have read and personally recommend, and three books that I will read over the summer that have been recommended by others. Of course, my recommendations from previous years are still absolutely valid. Click here for sixteen more recommendations.

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My five recommendations:

Be REAL: Educate from the Heart by Tara Martin, 2018

Tara finally expressed her REAL philosophy in a must-read book. REAL stands for Relatable/Reflective, Expose vulnerability/show Empathy, Approachable and Learning Through Life. Tara wears her heart on her sleeve in the most honest book that I have ever read. Her vulnerability is actually a massive strength! The book discusses the importance of human relationships in education and also outlines the thinking and research behind #BookSnaps. As a #BookSnaps advocate in Hong Kong, I’m quoted in this section! I’m proud to be a tiny part of such a special book.

“If we compare the education system to a body, educators are the heart. And, just as science has been unable to create a viable replacement for the human heart, neither can technology replace REAL teachers.”

Tara Martin

Launch: Using Design Thinking to Boost Creativity and Bring Out the Maker in Every Student by John Spencer and A.J. Juliani, 2016

I’m late to the party on this one. People have been raving about this book for three years and now I know why. John and A.J. explain the relevance and urgent need for creativity and design thinking in modern education. They share their LAUNCH cycle approach to support students through the process. This is just one of many versions of the design thinking cycle but the LAUNCH acronym seems to have all of the important elements covered and the book explains them well. Implementing design thinking is a target of mine and this book has been extremely helpful.

“In the past, we heard about a “digital divide” between those who had access to technology and those who didn’t. We are now seeing a new divide emerge – a Creative Chasm between those who passively consume and those who actively create.”

John Spencer and A.J. Juliani

More Now: A Message from the Future for the Educators of Today by Mark Wagner, 2018

I first met Mark at the Shekou EdTechTeam Summit in September and he was kind enough to give me a copy of his book. I then worked with him again at the Google Innovator Academy in Sydney and was able to tell him, in person, how much I loved it. Mark is passionate about technology, innovation and the evolving role of teachers. In the book, he shares his ‘Honeycomb of School Change’ and, with case studies and examples, dives deeper into each of the elements: Courageous Leaders, Empowered Teachers, Inspiring Spaces, Engaged Community, Robust Infrastructure and Student Agency. The honeycomb is a vision for what education can be.

“When we marry the power of technology with the heart of a teacher, there is no limit to what our students can create or achieve.”

Mark Wagner

Escaping the School Leader’s Dunk Tank: How to Prevail When Others Want to See You Drown by Rebecca Coda and Rick Jetter, 2016

I have never read a book like this one! It is extremely honest and relatable regarding issues that leaders face in education. The book acknowledges that some teachers are difficult and have poor attitudes. Rebecca and Rick explore the reasons behind these negative behaviours and made me appreciate others’ perspectives. When we understand the reasons, we are better equipped to address them. Importantly, the book outlines Ten Crucial Tenets that are, as the name suggests, crucial in order to understand others. In a nutshell: all teachers, deep down, are good (or at least have goodwill). They are simply products of their experiences.

“The unfortunate reality is that the poor attitiudes of others are difficult remediate. We realize that this seems pessimistic and absolute, but toxic people are everywhere.”

Rebecca Coda and Rick Jetter

Culturize: Every Student. Every Day. Whatever It Takes by Jimmy Casas, 2017

In the book, Jimmy expresses the importance of positive cultures in schools. He also challenges us to consider where average exists in our settings, and how we can inspire others to reach higher. The definition of ‘culturize’ is written below and is underpinned by the Three Rs: relationships, relationships, relationships (I love that). Jimmy also discusses negative teachers who are detrimental to a school’s culture. He calls them ‘awfulizers’. This inspired one of my favourite blogs posts from last year: What if everyone in your school had your attitude?

“Culturize: to cultivate a community of learners by behaving in a kind, caring, honest and compassionate manner in order to challenge and inspire each member of the school community to become more than they ever thought possible.”

Jimmy Casas

My summer reading list 2019:

Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. by Brené Brown, 2018

A few weeks ago, I asked my PLN for some book recommendations and this one was suggested many times! This is an author who people quote regularly and a book that comes highly recommended. It sounds like a must-read for leaders and aspiring leaders. I look forward to diving in!

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath, 2010

If I’m honest, I know very little about this one. It wasn’t on my radar until it was given to me at the Google Certified Innovator Academy but, now that I have done a little research, it looks like a great read with lots of positive reviews. I’m seemingly late to this party as well! It’s a New York Times Bestseller on a topic that I am very interested in. I’m looking forward to it!

Collaborative Professionalism: When Teaching Together Means Learning for All by Andy Hargreaves and Michael T. O’Connor, 2018

I was fortunate enough to see Andy Hargreaves deliver his keynote at the 21st Century Learning Conference 2019. He shared some powerful messages about education, leadership and professionalism. I left hungry for more and so I grabbed a copy of the book on my way out. I look forward to exploring his ideas in greater depth.

I hope that these recommendations are useful. What have I missed? What books do you recommend? Please share your suggestions in the comment section below and, while you’re there, let me know your plans for the summer. Finally, don’t forget to check out my previous lists for more recommendations. Happy reading!



  1. Thank you for all of these suggestions. I plan to read each one this summer! It would be awesome if I could be in a book club of some sort with a group of teacher so I could discuss them.

    1. Hi Casey,

      Great idea! Many of these authors facilitate book studies and/or people use the hashtags to create online discussions. You should reach out. The authors of the first five are definitely active on Twitter and would love to help. I’m not sure about the other three. Let me know if I can help.



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