What to read or buy this holiday season for yourself or others
Looking for impactful holiday reading, or for gift ideas for your favorite educator? Here’s a few of my favorite picks from my reading (or re-reading this year), some about education, some just good books!
Executive Skills in Children and Adolescents, by Peg Dawson and Richard Guare
“Why isn’t Betty Lou writing down her homework?!” “Why won’t Johnny bring a pen to class?!” “Why won’t my students think ahead?!” These questions (lamentations) are familiar refrains for teachers and parents. The skills humans need to plan, organize ourselves, manage our time, remember things, and think about our own thinking are high-level cognitive functions called executive skills—and they’re not natural. The authors of Executive Skills in Children and Adolescents argue for the importance of students understanding these skills, having opportunities to practice these skills, and getting feedback on these skills (like other academic outcomes).
The Best American Short Stories 2017 Edited by Meg Wolitzer
I admit it: I find it hard to read novels during the school year. Between reading student work and research, planning, and managing my own family and life, the sustained attention (and ability to stay awake at night) needed for a good novel waxes and wanes throughout the year. During those waning times I often come back to the short story-- my favorite literary form, really. And the Best American series curates many of the best of the year from authors I know (TC Boyle, Curtis Sittenfeld) and some I don’t (Mary Gordon).
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
During the month of March I try (and fail) to keep up with The Morning News Tournament of Books, and it's a time I get excited to read novels again. It works much like March Madness, brackets and all. Starting in early March, one of The Morning News judges "reads two books, chooses one to progress, and explains how he or she reached their decision." I'm a little bit addicted. And although Fates and Furies didn't ultimately win, it was one of my favorites. I was pulled into this unusual book through the portrayal of the unusual and complicated marriage of Lotto and Mathilde, two somewhat unlikeable characters until their full selves are revealed as the novel progressed.
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
This was another Tournament book, and it was even better than Fates. Two half-sisters, Effia and Esi, born and separated in eighteenth-century Ghana, are launched on two very different journeys; Effia is married off to an Englishman while Esi is sold into slavery and shipped to America. The scope of this novel (300 years) is impressive, but even more so is the narrator’s voice. This novel is even better as an audiobook.
Embedded Formative Assessment, by Dylan Wiliam.
I have an intellectual crush on Dylan Wiliam, and if you're an educator, I know you will, too. Formative assessment is a cornerstone of high-level teacher practice. If you need more strategies and information about how to have a ‘ﬁnger on the pulse’ of a lesson, Wiliam is your guy.
Shrill, by Lindy West
I have to admit I had not heard of Lindy West until I heard a rebroadcast of a "This American Life" episode called Tell Me I’m Fat (really amazing episode), but West has been writing about feminism, size, humor and sexual harassment for years. I may be late to the Lindy West party, but I’m so glad I discovered her unique voice this year.