Monday, August 22, 2011

My Summer Reads

As I mentioned in my last post, I spent most of my summer traveling. As a result of my traveling adventures, I spent a lot of time on buses, cars, and airplanes. In addition, I had minimal access to television and computers. Reading is one of my major hobbies and this summer provided a massive amount of time to read various genres. Below is a quick review of the books I read this summer.

Education Books

Punished by Rewards Alfie Kohn

I have to admit I finished it before summer started, but I will still include it here. Although a tad "academic" in writing style, it is an invaluable guide to somebody who really wants to understand motivation. It illuminates how entrenched "behaviorism" is in our culture and how damaging it effects can be.

Drive Daniel Pink

"When it comes to motivation, there’s a gap between what science knows and what business does." Simply put, this is what Mr. Pink so elegantly describes in a very readable, rather short book. Although he focuses on business, much of the research he cites and the outcomes he deduces are applicable to education. To me, this is an absolute must read, especially since so many of my business sector friends fail to understand motivation.

Discipline that Restores Roxanne Claassen and Ron Classen

Looking for a classroom management system that restores, fixes long-term behavior, and builds trust rather than relying on controlling, relationship-destroying punitive measures? If so, I invite you to check out this book. Although I did not agree with everything in this book, it provides a wonderful framework for instituting restorative justice in the classroom. "Trust grows when agreements are made and kept" is a central thesis of this book. 

The Homework Myth  Alfie Kohn

Once again, Mr. Kohn presents evidence that challenges conventional wisdom. In a read much less "academic" than Punished by Rewards, Kohn rips apart the so-called "scholarly" evidence for  homework. While making a strong argument against the effectiveness of homework, he also raises a bigger question- Why do we allow for so many ineffective and unproven trends in education?

Other non-fiction

Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business Neil Postman
Bill Chapman (@classroomtools) suggested this book for a book chat with members of #sschat. While I didn't think I would find this book enjoyable, my opinion quickly changed. Unbelievably thought-provocating and brilliantly argued, Postman believed that television would essential dumb down America. Written in 1985, some of his predictions turned out to be scarily true. One of his central points is that we don't need to fear an Orwellian world, but rather a Huxlian vision.

Immigrants and the Right to Stay Joseph Carens
For people that know me, immigration reform is extremely important to me. In this brief book, Carens asks a number of university professors to give a short essay on the aforementioned title. Although slanting left, there is balance in viewpoints and some passionate views are illuminated by rational arguments. If this is a topic you find compelling, take a few days to read this short companion.


Marcelo in the Real World Francisco Stork
Fabulous! Our English teacher gave this as a summer reading book to 8th graders. It deals with many mature topics and will engage readers in high school or adulthood. The main character is an 18-year-old boy on the autism spectrum. A summer job takes him out of his comfort zone and into the "real world", where he sees the cruel reality that can mark everyday life, especially in the upper echelons of society. One of the best young adult fiction books I have every read you will find yourself deep in philosophical thought

Golden Bull by Majorie Crowley
One of my goals this summer was to do some reading/learning about Mesopotamia. This book does a good job of presenting life in Mesopotamia. While I found this book enjoyable and I think it would help students relate to the time period, it is probably too simple of a read for students in high school.

The Hunger Games Suzanne Collins
This book lives up to the hype. A real page-turner, I am currently reading the second one. Just give in and read it yourself.

The Epic of Gilgamesh Penguin Classics
As I mentioned earlier, learning about Mesopotamia was a goal of mine this summer. If one is to refresh their memory about Mesopotamia, The Epic of Gilgamesh is a definite starting point. I read it in college but didn't appreciate the beauty of the story. I also recommend the Penguin Classics version because the beginning included a ton of history and gave some truly remarkable background information.

One Hundred Days of Solitude Gabriel Garcia Marquez
I always try to read a book or two like this for every modern book I pick up. While I am not a literary snob, I try to familiarize myself with major works like this. Although the story itself was confusing and dense, the writing proved so beautiful I kept reading. The genre of magic surrealism takes such imagination and creativity it leaves me awestruck. All I could think about while I was reading this was how much more jaw-dropping it must be in its original language. Also how cool would it be to combine a story like Gilgamesh with the magical surrealism of a Marquez.


  1. This is a pretty impressive list Tim. Here is a title that I'm certain you'll want to add to the next one - How Real is Real? Communication, Disinformation, Communication by Paul Watzlawick. Sadly, it is no longer in print or available as an e-book, but you'll probably find it in a nearby library. It is definitely worth the time you'll put into tracking down a copy.

    I too am beginning the second volume of the Hunger Games series. The first was a real page turner, very hard to put down. I see that a movie based on Volume One is set for release in January.

  2. Hey Tim, another must read title just occurred to me. It is The White Man's Burden by Winthrop D. Jordan. This is an abridgment Jordan did of his National Book Award winning White Over Black, to make it more accessible to teachers and students. He succeeded brilliantly. I'll go so far as to say that it is not possible to truly understand race relations in the US without having read this book. It is available in a Kindle edition for $9.99 - a true bargin.

  3. Thank you for the book suggestions. A superlative like the one you offered about The White Man's Burden is an excellent incentive to go reading it. I have heard much about it and hopefully yours will be the kick in the butt I need to go read it.

    Also some hunger games news. Apparently Suzanne Collins, the author, also wrote the screen play. This is here previous background I guess. This gives me much hope for the movie.