Reading List

A friend asked for a reading list: current and classic.  After 30 years of reading at least a book a week, I have to admit that I’ve switched to blogs and, with a few exceptions, quit reading books.  I tried books on Kindle for a year, but I just found that I was more likely to learn something new by reading a dozen blogs every morning.
Here’s a couple books I read last year and found useful:
Christensen: Disrupting Class
Tony Wagner: Global Achievement Gap
Cutis Bonk, the World is Open
Kementz: DIY U
Collins: Rethinking Edu in the Age of Tech
Hess: Education Unbound

For the classics, here’s a couple dozen books that hold up well after 10 years.

Ted Sizer: The Students are Watching and everything else he wrote
Deb Meier: The Power of their Ideas
Choice advocates
Paul Hill: It Takes a City and the classic Reinventing Public Education
Chubb & Moe: Politics, Markets & American Schools
Meryerson: No Excuses
Standards advocates
Marc Tucker: Standards for our Schools
Teaching & Learning
Linda Darling Hammond: The Right to Learn
James Stigler: The Teaching Gap
Kids these days
Botstein: Jefferson’s Children
Tapscott: Growing up Digital
Lisa Delpit: Other People’s Children
Jonathan Kozol: Savage Inequality
Change Theory
Tony Wagner: How Schools Change (and Change Leadership)
Schlechty: Schools for the 21st Century
Fullan: Leading in a Culture of Change
Learning Organization
Senge: 5th Discipline
Jim Collins: Good to Great
Tom Peters In Search of Excellence
Godon MacKenzie: Orbiting the Giant Hairball
Max Depree: Leadership is an Art
Stevphen Covey: Principle Centered Leadership
Covey: Leadership Challenge
Drucker: Managing for Results
Carver: Boards that Make a Difference
Parker Palmer: Let Your Life Speak
Thomas Moore: Care of the Soul
Gardner: Good Work
Fox: The Reinvention of Work

Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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1 Comment


The book that changed my career from Defense Systems to OER was There Are No Children Here: The Story of Two Boys Growing Up in The Other America, Kidder. Don't know if it still carries impact; it had me pretty much crying in the middle of Princeton's campus.
Hope and Despair in the American City: Why There Are No Bad Schools in Raleigh, Grant, shows entire districts can change, at least if they have leverage over the teachers, and can blend low- and high-resourced students.
Winning the Race: Beyond the Crisis in Black America has a thoughtful different look at urban Black families before and after segregation and redlining. I read it with the Thernstroms' No Excuses.
Like Tom, my reading is coming more from the daily web, though the Wall Street Journal still brings some of the best perspectives on everyday policy matters.
The one place where I agree with the Diane Ravitch 'Hatin on the Deformers' tour is that great education comes from interacting with great content. So I limit my intake of process- and policy-related books, and recommend to others the same. Too many books are one-sided criticisms (Diane's included!)
Bell's Out of this Furnace was introduced to university students in my sophomore history class and is still used across the nation to introduce students to the world of their great-great-grandparents. It and Michner's Poland (not nearly as readable) offer great views into the life of the average person, lives often nearly slave-like themselves.
The Ohio Story, Siedel, gives an example of even easier powerful reads. In ten page stories, Siedel gives readers the experiences of a canal digger, an itinerant frontier preacher, early Appalachian iron workers, etc. Again, great reads if you grew up in a comfortable suburban life, everything you need arriving in neat wrapped bundles. (Winter's a great time to read these; work a few hours outside first, with no nylon or Thinsulate comforts.)
Valley Forge, new on the shelves, gives a look at the six months of 1778 where a group of men came together finally as a team, survived a bootless, coatless winter, and transformed 13 colonies' losing militias into an competent Army of an united nation.
Books like these latter also are good leadership resources. Above all, men want to follow a leader with a clear view of the common good, who can identify the centers of gravity of the current challenges, and press forward against adversity to seize them. Great biographies and historical novels put such leaders into one's mind.
Finally, we are a nation of Princes, and should so read.
Reset: Iran, Turkey, and America's Future, Kinzer, is good, yet not as fundamentally informative as The Shia Revival: How Conflicts within Islam Will Shape the Future. Great, readable history of the Shia and Sunni sects, how their separate philosophies align with ours, and what that means to our futures. Future Jihad, Phares, looks at the extremists thereof, and their (maybe) patient, very long term, strategy.
The Ayatollah Begs to Differ: The Paradox of Modern Iran brings the previous history into the modern, post-revolution Persian living room. Again, a reminder that a people and their current leaders oft may be greatly divided.
Finally, I read a lot of edge programming and software engineering stuff. There's hope therein.


Tom Vander Ark

Thanks Ed, great list

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