Skip to content

7 great reads that are gonna make my brain bigger

Most of you already know about the History Tech summer reading program. If you just starting hanging around, a quick recap.

For years, I’ve been making a list of books that I plan to read between the end of school in May and back to school in August. Social studies superhero, teaching guru, and my unofficial mentor back in the day, Mike Ortmann, encouraged me to use June, July, and August as a time for personal professional growth. Don’t just waste it at the pool – use the summer to build up some new content knowledge and research a few teaching strategies with a little individual book study.

It was great advice then. And it still is. Getting better at what we do should always be a focus. My job has changed a bit since the Mike Ortmann days but I still love the idea of stacking up six or seven books and jumping in.

And what better time to do that than right now? You’ve got a little free time. I’m guessing there’s an easy chair by an AC vent or an Adirondack set up outside somewhere.

I’m still a fan of print but feel free to go the e-book or audio route. Heck . . . there are great podcasts out there as well. But Mike was right. Summer’s the perfect time for personal professional growth no matter what format you prefer.

So . . . here’s what I got going. What’s on your list?

Balance With Blended Learning: Partner With Your Students to Reimagine Learning and Reclaim Your Life
With so much uncertainty about next fall and the belief that blended learning isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, this is a non-brainer. Author Catlin Tucker has been messing with blended learning for years. So I’m looking forward to this version which came out just a month before we all got sent home.

Teaching What Really Happened: How to Avoid the Tyranny of Textbooks and Get Students Excited About Doing History
James Loewen has always been one of my favorites. And I know this is a bit of a rehash of his Lies My Teacher Told Me but I’ve only read it the one time just after it was first published. As we’re moving into uncharted waters with digital teaching and learning, it seems like a good idea to review what works to engage kids in the content.

I still vaguely remember the mini-series that aired long before many of you were in short pants. Super cheesy. But like most things, the book is so much better. I’ve used the book and a great text-based video game as part of past world history courses. Plus it’s just fun to read. Pirates, ninjas, sea battles, spies, political intrigue, and samurai with swords. What’s not to like?

Just finished the three part History Channel special. And loved it. But have never read the book. So . . . being a Civil War nerd since grade school, this probably gets moved to the top of the stack.

The Witches: Suspicion, Betrayal, and Hysteria in 1692 Salem
My daughter is working her way through this and we’ve has some amazing conversations about the culture, gender roles, theology, and economics of 1600s Massachusetts. I’m hooked.

Just Mercy
Wow. Just wow. You may have seen the movie but the story of Walter McMillian, a black man wrongfully accused of murder and sentenced to death in Alabama in the late 1980s, is a powerful message to anyone who says racism doesn’t exist in the United States. McMillian’s lawyer and author of Just Mercy, Bryan Stevenson, provides historical context to the case and offers his own moral and philosophical reflections on our criminal justice and prison systems. As we watch current events unfold in Minneapolis and Georgia, this book becomes a must read.

Leave Only Footprints: My Acadia-to-Zion Journey Through Every National Park
This was never really on my bucket list but to visit every national park in the country would be super fun to do. And I’m thinking this travelogue by Conor Knighton highlighting all of the different national parks may just change my mind.

I went with seven this year. (And based on past experiences, I might make it through four or five.) You might go smaller or bigger but whatever you decide, make a list and start working your way through it. Cause who’s brain doesn’t need to get bigger?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Glenn is a curriculum and tech integration specialist, speaker, and blogger with a passion for technology and social studies. He delivers engaging professional learning across the country with a focus on consulting, presentations, and keynotes. Find out more about Glenn and how you might learn together by going to his Speaking and Consulting page.

7 Comments Post a comment
  1. Thanks again for the summer reading list. Some I know others are a welcome read.

    May 28, 2020
    • glennw #

      Enjoy the new ones!


      May 29, 2020
  2. Thank you for this descriptive list of great reads. Concerning Ulysses S. Grant, don’t forget about his great autobiography, which was one of the most read books for many years after it was published. Here is the complete gutenberg copy, linked from my dropbox account (where I store many freely available learning and reading materials for my website at

    Person Memoirs of U.S. Grant – gutenberg version:

    May 28, 2020
    • glennw #

      I do need to dig into his autobiography. Thanks for the reminder!

      I liked how the miniseries incorporated bits from that into the dialogue.


      May 29, 2020
  3. Caleb Lagerwey #

    Just Mercy is probably my favorite book of all time. It’s so powerful and so timely. Enjoy!

    May 29, 2020
    • glennw #

      Looking forward to it. Though . . . I was told to be ready to take breaks during reading because content is very heavy. But still need to work through it and think about ways to integrate it into instruction.


      May 29, 2020

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Sharing Diigo Links and Resources (weekly) | Another EducatorAl Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: