The best books I read in 2023

The best books I read in 2023

[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!

Books I read in January 2024

Books I read in January 2024

Books I finished reading (or rereading) in January 2024…

  1. Ultimate Travel, Lonely Planet (travel)
  2. The Helsinki Affair, Anna Pitoniak (thriller)
  3. Heat Lightning, John Sandford (thriller)
  4. Embers of War, Gareth Powell (science fiction)
  5. Fleet of Knives, Gareth Powell (science fiction)
  6. The Toll, Neal Shusterman (science fiction)
  7. Gleanings, Neal Shusterman (science fiction)
  8. Crucible of Fortune, Andy Peloquin (fantasy)
  9. Storm of Chaos, Andy Peloquin (fantasy)
  10. Secrets of Blood, Andy Peloquin (fantasy)
  11. Ascension of Death, Andy Peloquin (fantasy)
  12. Eleventh Cycle, Kian Ardalan (fantasy)

Hope you’re reading something fun too!

Where are new tasks, work, and jobs emerging?

I ran across this working paper from Dr. David Autor, a labor economist at MIT:

Autor, D., Chin, C., Salomons, A., & Seegmiller, B. (2023). New frontiers: The origins and content of new work, 1940-2018. Quarterly Journal of Economics (forthcoming).

Autor et al. defined new work as “the introduction of new job tasks or job categories requiring specialized human expertise” (p. 1). In other words, in which occupational sectors are new tasks, work, and jobs emerging / declining, and for whom?

Here is an informative chart from page A13 of the Appendix (page 73 of the PDF):

Autor, Chin, Salomons, Seegmiller 01.

[download a larger copy of this image]

As we can see, the growth of new work in the Farm and Mining sector has been low since 1980 regardless of workers’ level of education. In contrast, for workers with a high school education or less, we can see larger growth in new work since 1980 in sectors such as Health Services, Personal Services, and Technicians. Growth for workers with some college education or higher since 1980 is primarily concentrated in the highest-earning sectors of Professionals and Managers. Workers with a high school education or less have seen some growth of new work since 1980 in those higher-earning categories too, but the overall data are more mixed. For instance, look at the large decline since 1980 in the Production sector and the concurrent declines in other sectors such as Construction, Transportation, Sales, and Clerical and Administrative.

The decades-long sorting of the American workforce by education level continues, with implications for lifetime earnings. Something to consider as we think about preparing ‘college and career ready’ graduates for life success…

Your thoughts and reactions?