[I should have written this post a month ago but better late than never…]

I read some great (and not so great) books in 2023! Here are my top few (and why)…

My top book for 2023 was actually first published in… 1964! I’ve been sharing some quotes from How Children Fail by John Holt (and need to share some more). There is a reason that this book is an all-time education classic. I visited at least 50 deeper learning schools last year. As I drove around the country and talked with educators, nothing that I read last year resonated with me more than How Children Fail. Holt did a phenomenal job of sharing little vignettes from his work with children and pondering their meaning. Over the course of the book, those vignettes start adding up to more complex themes such as How do we really know if children have learned what we think they have? I could not stop thinking about this book all year.

I also read again An Ethic of Excellence by Ron Berger. Ron’s stories of mastery and excellent work stayed with me throughout the year too. As I visited deeper learning classrooms, I witnessed countless examples of children doing meaningful, impactful work that they were rightfully proud to share with me. I enjoyed this book so much a second time that I gave a copy to every student in one of my principal licensure cohorts. I also had a chance to attend (and present at) the EL Education National Conference (ELNC) for the first time since it was in Denver. If you’ve never attended, ELNC might be the best exemplar that I’ve ever experienced of giving young people authentic voice and participation opportunities at a conference. No patronizing student appearances in which adults pretend to listen to children. No condescending ‘oh they’re so cute’ panel discussions. Students at ELNC delivered multiple keynote talks that ABSOLUTELY ROCKED, and in every session I attended students were there, either facilitating or learning side-by-side with educators. It was fantastic.

Another top nonfiction book for me last year was Recoding America by Jennifer Pahlka, which gave me some different ways to think about technology adoption and implementation in government. If you’ve ever wondered why so much of state and federal government runs on extremely-antiquated technology systems, this is the book for you (hint: it’s both depressing and frightening). It’s also a really good book for thinking about systems-level change in public schools and universities.

Finally, it’s highly possible that Fix Injustice, Not Kids and Other Principles for Transformative Equity Leadership by Paul Gorski and Katy Swalwell might be the best book on educational equity that I’ve ever read. I appreciated the book’s emphasis on action, not just empty rhetoric. As I said in an earlier post, it’s immensely readable, very practical, and absolutely fantastic. I gave a copy to every student in another of my principal licensure cohorts. This book was definitely a strong contender for my top read last year.

As always, I read lots of nonfiction last year too. I’m not sure if anything leaped out at me in particular, other than the always phenomenal Gentleman Bastard series by Scott Lynch (which I’ve read numerous times):

Hope you’re reading something fun too!