Hey there, colleague! Looking for an interesting gift for that certain someone in your life? Below is my idiosyncratic recommendation list of books and such that folks in your life are bound to appreciate. These are some of my favorite books in the world — now available to you in list form, per popular request. 😎
Please note: Any purchase you make through the links below will provide me with a small commission at no added expense to you. 100% of those commissions go in to my research budget, which at the moment is like the gaping maw of a Sarlacc pit. Thank you for supporting my work!
For your math teacher friends:
When my wife and I lived in New York City years ago, Francis Su stayed on our couch while visiting the city. Little did we know that he'd go on to one day write the most beautiful book ever written about the teaching and learning of mathematics.
Ben Orlin is the Randall Munroe of math. Or maybe Randall is the Ben of science. Either way, this book is beautiful (printed in color) and fun. Perfect for the math teacher friend in your life that needs a good set of smiles over break.
For your science teacher friends:
Teach me something nerdy about science -- I like you. Make me laugh consistently while you're teaching me -- I like you a lot. Reference Star Wars on the cover of the book in which you teach me nerdy things about science and make me laugh? I'm buying your book.
The smartest people I know tend to also be people who have read this book. I'm working through it right now, and am appreciating Kuhn's analysis of patterns across history. This one's perfect for your nerdy intellectual science teacher friend.
Feynman fascinates me because he's so different than me. Crazy brilliant. Scientist. Nobel-prize winner. Polymath. This one's fun and illuminating.
For that ceaselessly creative person in your life aching to share their work with the world:
Pressfield's book is a classic for good reason. If you've ever heard someone mention Resistance, they're riffing on Pressfield. Lots of connections to teaching and living. It's not just a book on creative work.
For that person in your life who is on or over the brink of overwhelm:
Burkeman's premise is that we live in a culture that lies to itself about time. It's common to aspire to being excellent in all areas. But of course, that's not possible. We have to choose. We're finite.
McKeown is a champ at cutting through the chatter. He's not writing about education at all, but every page of the book feels like it's aimed right at our unfocused and over-complicated school system. This one helps me dial it in and get back to my Everest.
What if we had to learn everything about organizing our lives from... professional chefs? Each section of this book surprised me with its practicality and depth of insight.
For that eclectic learner, that curious dabbler:
Just like Tools of Titans, except this one's filled with life advice from a bunch of folks I had never heard of but who have lived abnormally purposeful lives.
For that thoughtful Christian that wants a heckuva lot more than culture wars or moralistic therapeutic deism:
Tight prose, deep thoughts -- Gibson does a marvelous job unraveling an ancient wisdom text that confused me for years and years. And as he does it, he proves out a bold claim: living our lives in light of their ends is one of the greatest empowerment tweaks available to human being. (Written from a Christian perspective.)
At the start of COVID, I found myself at our kitchen table each morning for weeks in a row, poring over a 2-3 pages at a time, annotating and absorbing. Willard was a USC philosopher and, in my view, one of the great disciples of the 20th century. This book spends a TON of time establishing what a person is and how people change. Deep, rich, dense, good.
James Clear meets Dallas Willard. Smith's insights are deep, and his body of work is massive. This is the book of his that gets recommended most, and for good reason.
No biography has had a bigger impact on my heart and mind than this one. It's not a long book, but it's a deep one. Written by a long-time correspondent of Rogers', focused on the spiritual life that the screen didn't show.
There's no better way to sit in the Scriptures than the Dwell app. For any verse, passage, chapter, or book of the Bible, you select a professional reader, a version, and background music, and boom. An annual subscription is $40 -- a great gift for someone you care about that likes to (or *wants* to like to) read the Bible.
Some of my favorite readers: Felix with his Kenyan flair, Rosie's comforting gentleness, and David's crisp diction.
For that teacher or relative that likes a good argument a little too much:
My friend John calls this a triple play book -- he's got it copies on Audible, Kindle, and his physical bookshelf. I remember reading this book in October 2020, during the weeks before the election. The first conversation I had with someone across the political divide from me was shockingly productive. This book helps me speak the heart languages of folks with views different from my own.
Jim Burke recommended this book to me -- 'nuff said. But in case you need more: Ripley *nails* the dynamics behind all of the unpleasantly unproductive political arguments I've gotten into in the past five or so years. If you're interested getting better at loving folks with views different from yours, check this one out.
For the teacher who you know is going to read a teacher book over break because they can't stop themselves, but you want to help them overcome their addiction:
Perhaps the crowning moment of my career as a writer was being cited in this book. No other book in education affected my career as much as Mike's did. He is one of our sages. While you might not always agree with him, you've got to admire his heart and clarity.
The person who learns the most from any book is its author. I am still grateful for the things I learned about our work and our practice while writing this over half a decade or so of my career. Cherished by colleagues of ours all around the world.
For the teacher that needs some British PD in their life:
Fawcett writes in the contemporary tradition of UK-based teachers seeking to build an understanding of teaching from the ground-up. Does a great job tossing off lots of our preconceptions and explicating basic principles that guide teachers around the world.
For the psychology junkie in search of the breakthrough:
Tom Vanderbilt has some interesting questions: What if I tried to learn chess alongside my children? What if I treated singing like a skill and not a trait? Basically, this book is an extended meditation and application of the science of growth mindset. It's super fun -- I love the stories.
Years ago, I heard Kross speak at a conference in Philly. His talk was on self-control, and it was rife with insight. Little did I know that Kross would end up making a bridge in his research between self-control and inner monologues. This book is brilliant -- a significant addition to my understanding of my inner life.
For that business-person in your life in need of simplicity:
TERRIBLE title, amazing mentality shift. Whether I like it or not, being a writer means being a businessperson. But there's *so much marketing* aimed at businesspeople these days, and that ends up leading to wasteful spending. This book is how I do my business accounting and budgeting with simplicity and joy.
The chapters on sales were worth the price of the book to me. Now I view sales as fun because I get to talk with principals and leaders about the PD needs they have in their organizations. If I see that I can help, I say so. This book helped me do that without stress or anxiety.
Stuart family recommendations
Mama Stuart's top pick!
Crystal said, "If I had to pick one book, this'd be the one." I also love this book. Lots of books in the child discipline literature don't feel write to me, but this one nails it. Kids need to feel safe, loved, capable, and responsible -- in that order.
Stuart kid recommended
When I asked my family at dinner what our favorite books were, each child (ages 11, 9, 7, and 4) proposed the Super Happy Magic Forest series -- much to my delight. Lots of nerdy references in these (e.g., Lord of the Rings allusions), and so much fun. Ours are well worn.
Our little Laura loves this one. I appreciate that it's getting her to think creatively about how she uses her time, resources, and giftings.
One of my kiddos is a bit of a reluctant reader -- but not when it comes to these beautifully illustrated, heart-filled stories from Ben Hatke.