My Fall Reading List, 2011

Recently, I stumbled across a post by Seth Godin that was super valuable to me. In it, he spotlighted a series of books that he was currently reading.

As simple as that sounds, Godin's post was helpful simply because it turned me on to interesting titles that I may never have found on my own in the sea of paper that is published every year.

Essentially, Godin became my information filter — pointing me to books that had a higher likelihood of being valuable because they were prescreened by someone that I trust.

So I figured I'd start doing the same thing here on the Radical every now and then.

Below are five books that I'm currently reading — or that I've recently finished — that I think you might find interesting and/or useful:

I'm Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59

I'm Feeling Lucky: The Confessions of Google Employee Number 59 — a book I picked off of Godin's reading list — is an interesting look into the early life of one of the world's most dominant companies.

What surprised me was just how scattered Google's early work really was. Led by two Stanford grads with a determination to build a flat organization, employees often felt simultaneously confused AND empowered.

Written by one of Google's early marketing employees, it's an entertaining read that may just help you to figure out how to begin to structure early change in your buildings.

 

Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos and Luck — Why Some Thrive Despite Them All

Despite having one of the balkiest subtitles titles I've ever seen, Great by Choice — written by organizational change experts Jim Collins and Morten Hansen — builds on the themes that Collins has been studying for the better part of a decade: Organizations CAN outperform their peers by taking specific, identifiable steps.

In this new twist, Collins and Hansen specifically focus on the kinds of steps that have allowed businesses working in unpredictable and chaotic industries — airlines, biotech firms, tech heavyweights — to thrive.

I couldn't think of a more relevant book for school leaders, y'all. As we wrestle with new definitions about what teaching and learning should look like, education has become one of the MOST unpredictable and chaotic industries.

With engaging and approachable examples, Collins and Hansen outline three tangible steps that leaders can take in order to survive AND thrive in disruptive times.

 

The Innovator's DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators

Regular Radical readers know that The Innovator's DNA — written by Jeff Dyer, Hal Gregersen and Clayton Christensen — has been a huge influence on my thinking over the past few months.

Designed to introduce readers to the characteristics of the individuals and companies that have churned out innovation after innovation in today's world, The Innovator's DNA isolates the kinds of behaviors and processes that are essential for succeeding in professions driven by knowledge-based, creative work.

Considering that schools — and particularly schools that are structuring themselves as professional learning communities — are attempting to become more innovative in their practices and processes, there's a TON to be learned from The Innovator's DNA.

 

Hungry Planet: What the World Eats

Regular Radical readers also know that I'm driven to introduce my students to the reality that billions of people around the world live in extreme — almost unimaginable — poverty.

Not only does poverty present a great lens for studying required objectives in the sixth grade social studies curriculum (we look at the differences between developed and developing countries), it is a theme that resonates with middle grades students who are passionate about fairness and justice.

Besides, teaching students to think critically about the impact that poverty has on our world is just plain the right thing to do.

That's why I was so excited to stumble across The Hungry Planet the other day — a book designed to introduce readers to poverty through the lens of food.

Written by Peter Menzel — the author of the widely acclaimed Material World — and Faith D'Aluisio, The Hungry Planet looks at the foods eaten by average families in both rich and poor countries around the world in an average week.

The contrasts are stark and will leave kids wondering. You can't help to be moved when you learn that Sudanese refugees in Chad have less than $1.25 per week to spend on food or that families in the Philipines have to choose between eating and going to the doctor.

 

Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton

Here's a simple truth, y'all: If we are ever going to convince our students to be readers, we've got to start talking about our own personal reading interests and passions in our classrooms. Kids need to know that WE read for pleasure, too — and that means we need to make time to read for pleasure!

In my world, "reading for pleasure" generally means reading nonfiction titles connected to fringe religions, survival in extreme circumstances, or the lives of interesting people who dominated my attention when I was a teen.

That's why I picked up Sweetness: The Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton, the newest title by one of my favorite sports writers, Jeff Pearlman. Payton was one of my heroes when I was a kid — so learning more about what made him tick was a no brainer for me.

My notion of Payton as a hero was reinforced in Pearlman's text. Heck, Payton was almost singlehandedly responsible for the successful integration of his racially segregated Mississippi high school.

But my notion of Payton as a hero was also destroyed in Pearlman's text.

Turns out that there were a ton of behind the scenes weaknesses in Payton's character, from the son he had out of wedlock and refused to ever acknowledge to the mistress that he brought — along with his wife and children — to his Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

You won't learn a ton about school leadership or organizational change from this title, but if you haven't read a book for pleasure in a long while, it's difficult to be a successful reading role model for your students.

 

Interesting list, isn't it?  When I shared it with a few close friends, they were surprised that there's not a SINGLE education title — nothing by DuFour, Marzano, Mattos or Schmoker — on it. 

That doesn't mean I'm NOT reading books by #edustars. 

But it DOES mean that I'm intentionally trying to read beyond my profession.  Creating intellectual collisions — a TED in my head, so to speak — means diversifying my information streams. 

The fact of the matter is that there are real lessons to be learned from titles that have nothing to do with education.

Here's to hoping you'll share your own fall reading list with us — either here in the comment section or on your own blogs.  Let's sort and sift through interesting titles for one another, huh?

If you create your own list, share it in Twitter with the tag: #edreads

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Related Radical Reads:

Real Men Read

Are YOU Intentionally Creating a TED in Your Head?

Innovation and Intellectual Collisions

One Tweet CAN Change the World

 

 

 

 

2 comments

  1. Hatcherelli.wordpress.com

    Hi Bill,
    Thanks for sharing your reading list. I am especialling interested in the Google book and the Walter Payton story. You are right, it is enlightening and refreshing to read stuff that is not education based. I find that no matter what I read, there is always applications to education. I actually find that some of the latest education and leadership books are starting to get rather “cliche”.
    Anyway, thanks for the post. It is always great to get some titles…
    Derek

  2. Claudia Swisher

    My fall reading won’t look as ‘serious’ as yours! In my class, I usually read what my students are reading and recommending…I like this challenge and will get back to you. Just started Brain Rules after two former students recommended it to me! 🙂