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“A tradition like no other.” 10 books to read this summer

To quote Jim Nantz and his love for the Master’s golf tournament, “it’s a tradition unlike any other.”

And just like the Master’s, the March Madness basketball tournament, the NCSS national conference, and the annual May collapse of the Kansas City Royals baseball team, my self-assigned summer reading program is something that’s been part of my yearly schedule for almost as long as I can remember.

An early mentor from my Derby Middle School teaching days, Mike Ortmann, was fairly adamant about the whole thing. “This is not a part-time job,” he said.

Don’t get lazy over the summer, he said. Read some books. Expand your mind. Hone your craft. Be sure to stay current, he said.

So . . . who was I to argue? The guy was a social studies rock star. And ever since, I’ve created a list of books that I plan to read during the summer months. It’s a great idea. Read some stuff. Take some notes. Get smarter. (Of course, it’s common knowledge that I’ve never actually finished one of these lists. And it’s not going to happen this year either, just saying. A used book store five minutes from my house? Yeah. That’s gonna be trouble.)

This year’s list is a mix of work-related and just fun-to-read books. In no particular order:

O Say Can You Hear? A Cultural Biography of The Star-Spangled Banner
Mark Clague
Clague, a historian and musicologist, examines our complicated relationship to a famously challenging song. There’s lots of baggage to unpack here – how Union soldiers sang it during the Civil War, how the Confederate leaders banned it. Protests for and against it. And how Whitney Houston’s 1991 Super Bowl version perhaps embodies the intent best of all. (FYI. One thing I’ve already learned – the song is not set to the tune of a drinking song.)

I Never Thought of It That Way: How to Have Fearlessly Curious Conversations in Dangerously Divided Times
Mónica Guzmán
Guzmán is the liberal daughter of Mexican immigrants who voted—twice—for Donald Trump. When the country could no longer see straight across the political divide, Mónica set out to find what was blinding us and discovered the one tool we’re not using: our own built-in curiosity. She shows how to overcome the fear and uncertainty that surround us to finally do what only seems impossible: understand and even learn from people in your life whose whole worldview is different from or even opposed to yours. Mónica shows how you can put your natural sense of wonder to work for you immediately, finding the answers you need by talking with people—rather than about them.

Fully Engaged: Playful Pedagogy for Real Results
Michael Matera and John Meehan
Michael has always been one of my favorites. A classroom teacher who is always sharing what works for him. This is his second book. His first, specifically about games and gaming, is awesome so I’m looking forward to this one that focuses on how teachers can inject curiosity, wonder, and excitement into any classroom. The Table of Contents suggests that its packed with “student-centered strategies precision engineered for young minds.” I like precision engineered.

Game On, Brain On: The Surprising Relationship Between Play and Gray Matter
Lindsay Portnoy
The research is clear: human beings are born to play. In a similar vein, Lindsay unpacks the playful experiences that invite engagement and deep learning. Using cognitive science to explore the ways in which play helps students acquire and maintain critical skills, Portnoy shows how inviting creativity and excitement into the classroom results in big gains for everyone.

The EduProtocol Field Guides, History Edition
Dr. Scott Petri and Adam Moler
If you’re not using EduProtocols as part of your instructional design, hmm . . . why? Based on Harvard’s Project Zero and their very cool thinking routines, Marlena Hebern and Jon Corippo have developed and packaged all sorts of powerful strategies that just work. And later this summer, Petri and Moler are publishing a social studies version that will quickly get bumped to the top of the list when it comes out.

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma
Bessel van der Kolk
I should have read this years ago but . . . you know, stuff. (Plus I work with some amazing folks who’ve mentored me on a lot of this over the last few years. You are going to their Moving the Needle conference in Wichita, right?)

Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith
Jon Krakauer
Yes. That Banner of Heaven. Beginning with a meticulously researched account of a scary double murder, Krakauer constructs a multi-layered, bone-chilling narrative of messianic delusion, polygamy, violence, and unyielding faith. Along the way he uncovers a shadowy offshoot of America’s fastest growing religion, and raises provocative questions about the nature of religious belief.

Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know About the People We Don’t Know
Malcolm Gladwell
Something is very wrong, Gladwell argues, with the tools and strategies we use to make sense of people we don’t know. And because we don’t know how to talk to strangers, we are inviting conflict and misunderstanding in ways that have a profound effect on our lives and our world. 

Born to Be Hanged: The Epic Story of the Gentlemen Pirates Who Raided the South Seas, Rescued a Princess, and Stole a Fortune
Keith Thomson
I just finished playing through the Uncharted video game series for a second time and so I’m still on a bit of a pirate kick. So what better book than this? It’s 1680 and more than three hundred hardened pirates gather on a remote Caribbean island. The plan? Wreak havoc on the Pacific coastline, raid cities, mines, and merchant ships, walk away with Spanish gold, and become the stuff of legends.

The Church of Baseball: The Making of Bull Durham. Home Runs, Bad Calls, Crazy Fights, Big Swings, and a Hit
Ron Shelton
“The only church that truly feeds the soul, day in, day out, is the church of baseball.” At least that what you learn from one of the best sports movies of all time. (With perhaps the best series of movie lines ever.) Is this a history book? Probably not. But . . . we can learn a lot about history by knowing more about baseball. Not feeling guilty about this pick at all.


What’s on your list?

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jane Doe #

    Thanks for sharing this list of books! I am especially intrigued by “Fully Engaged: Playful Pedagogy for Real Results” by Michael Matera and John Meehan. I am always looking for new strategies to get my high school students excited in class and this seems like a very interesting read.

    October 13, 2022

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