Difference makingI read some great (and not so great) books in 2021! Here are my top few (and why)…

My top book for 2021 is Difference Making at the Heart of Learning, by Tom Vander Ark & Emily Liebtag. Tom and Emily describe how students can make positive impacts in their local, online, and global communities NOW, not later after they graduate from high school or college. The real-world, authentic, contributory work that students are doing is incredibly inspiring. We need more learning opportunities like these because they help our learners find meaning and relevance in their schooling experience. The book has countless examples of this work in action and has given me numerous ideas to talk about with school leaders (as well as a bunch of new schools to investigate further!). 

Right behind Difference Making at the Heart of Learning for me was The Power of Place, also by Tom Vander Ark and Emily Liebtag (and Nate McClennen). The Power of Place focuses on community-embedded partnerships, service learning, and impact projects and is a very nice complement to Difference Making at the Heart of Learning. New schooling models are showing us how to make learning more meaningful and impactful, if we are willing to follow the paths that these schools are blazing. I can’t recommend these two books highly enough.

I am a former Social Studies teacher and attorney, and current school law instructor. Accordingly, I care quite a bit about the health of our American democracy. Right now we see a number of extant challenges to some very basic political precepts that we have taken for granted for far too long (for instance, voting rights, the peaceful transfer of government control, and the ability of Congress to actually get anything done, just to name a few). In his book, The System: Who Rigged It, How We Fix It, Robert Reich describes quite clearly how our current political, judicial, and basic governance processes are all working for the moneyed few, not the general American public. Reich shows us how nearly every decision made in government benefits those who are wealthy, not average citizens, making the United States a democracy in name but an oligarchy in reality. Wealth and political inequality right now are greater than they have been in a century. If you want to know why so many American citizens are rightfully angry that their economic, health, and political interests aren’t being addressed by the people whom they elected to represent them, read this book. It’s an eye-opener…

I also discovered some new science fiction authors this past year. I can’t believe I hadn’t somehow heard of Marko Kloos before November of 2021! His series, The Palladium Wars, consists of three books so far: Aftershocks, Ballistic, and Citadel. I enjoyed them thoroughly and am hoping that more will follow.

I also thought Acheron Inheritance by Ken Lozito was just plain fun and am looking forward to the rest of that series. Additionally, on the fantasy front, I enjoyed re-reading all of Michael Sullivan’s books in both the Riyria Revelations and Riyria Chronicles series. And now I’m diving back into Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series for the fourth time, which also has been a blast…

Hope you’re reading something fun too!