Every summer we compile a list of 5 interesting books outside of education that we believe every educator should be reading. This year’s list is one of our most eclectic with books from the world of manufacturing, business development, literature, finance, and personal development. Take a look at the list and then add your own recommendations in the comments section.
The Goal by Eliyahu M. Goldratt
Perhaps, the biggest stretch on this year’s list, The Goal is about a concept called the Theory of Constraints. Written as a novel, this book illustrates how to make any system more productive by identifying and exploiting the bottlenecks (or constraints) in that system. In order to illustrate this concept, Goldratt sets his story in a manufacturing plant. Initially, it will be difficult to see how the concepts can apply to a school but I urge you to keep reading and get through the entire book. If you get creative and think about ways to apply the concepts to your own school or system, I promise you you’ll walk away with a whole new way of thinking about how to make broken systems – whether those systems are your master schedules, test preparation and remediation processes, teacher assignments, or team or grade level policies – work better. My entire team read this book and we are applying what we learned to our own systems as well as using them to help our clients develop better systems and solve persistent problems.
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
I’ve been tempted to include works of fiction on this list in the past and have always resisted. But after reading The Underground Railroad, I decided it’s time. Whitehead’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is not just the story of the underground railroad (which in this novel is a literal railroad), it’s a exploration of the toll that racism has taken on our collective psyche and the legacy that slavery has left on all our children without revisiting the usual tropes around slavery, oppression, and racism. It’s something with which every educator needs to personally grapple, not to dredge up guilt or promote victimhood, but because we need to openly explore these issues if we are going to serve ALL children.
The 5 Dysfunctions of Teams by Patrick Lencioni
This book has been around for a while but I only recently read it. I must say, I was pleasantly surprised at how relevant it still is especially for those of us who lead teams. Written as a story, it’s an easy read. I admit that I found the story better than the expository portion of the book (that part could use some more substance). Still, it helped me think through a couple of leadership challenges some of my clients were facing and offer solutions that overcame some of the team’s inertia and got them working on the right things. It’s a good book to have in your leadership arsenal.
Killing Sacred Cows: Overcoming the Financial Myths that are Destroying Your Prosperity by Garrett Gunderson
As the title implies, Killing Sacred Cows challenges some of the conventional wisdom that has ruled our thinking about finance for decades. Gunderson’s approach offers a counter-intuitive take on building wealth and personal prosperity while pursuing your “soul purpose.” When I first became an educator, I really struggled financially (I talk about this in depth in my book You Can Do This.) I thought that being an educator meant taking a vow of poverty. Gunderson’s book shows you how to build prosperity even if you are living on a teacher’s salary and offers a new take on finances that I found refreshing and inspiring.
The Road Back to You by Ian Cron.
Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot about the enneagram, an ancient theory of 9 personality types, and I have to admit that I dismissed it as another fad akin to those “what Disney princess are you?” quizzes that have been showing up on facebook lately. Then, I attended a conference where Ian Cron was the keynote speaker and 15 minutes into his speech, I was sold. Not only does the enneagram help you identify your own personality type, it can also help you better understand your colleagues and your students and how they see the world. Although Cron isn’t the only one who has written about enneagrams, what I like about his approach is that he offers an easy to read description of each type, filled with stories and anecdotes to illustrate how each type sees the world, and suggestions for how to overcome some of the potential weaknesses of each personality type that I found to be insightful. I also love that he doesn’t ignore the spiritual components of personality in his analysis.
So that’s my list for this year. Now, it’s your turn. What do you think I should be reading this summer? Let me know your recommendations in the comments below.