10 Books That Every Teacher Should Read

by Lisa Dabbs


Alix Kreil/Shutterstock

I love to read and simply can’t get enough of it. Do you feel the same way?

I love to read for many reasons, most importantly because it relaxes, invigorates, and challenges me– not to mention allows me to escape the world (for a short while, anyway).

I thought that for this post, I’d share 10 books that I think every educator should read. Although all the books aren’t specifically for educators, there is definitely something to take away from each. They’re not listed in order of importance, but rather in the order that they popped into my mind. Each book title and description (courtesy of Amazon.com) is also linked to their Amazon.com page for your review.

1. Freedom Writers DiaryAs an idealistic twenty-three-year-old English teacher at Wilson High School in Long beach, California, Erin Gruwell confronted a room of “unteachable, at-risk” students. One day she intercepted a note with an ugly racial caricature, and angrily declared that this was precisely the sort of thing that led to the Holocaust. She and her students, using the treasured books Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl and Zlata’s Diary: A Child’s Life in Sarajevo as their guides, undertook a life-changing, eye-opening, spirit-raising odyssey against intolerance and misunderstanding.( I met Erin Gruwell twice and loved her! I know she’s gotten a bit of a bad rap for leaving the teaching profession but don’t let that stop you from taking a read.)

2. Passion Driven Classroom: A Framework for Teaching and LearningDiscover ways to cultivate a thriving and passionate community of learners – in your classroom! In this book, educators and consultants Angela Maiers and Amy Sandvold show you how to spark and sustain your students’ energy, excitement, and love of learning. ( I know Angela Maiers personally and can assure you that she’s serious about the importance of bringing passion to our classrooms, every day.)

3. Drive:The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us-In this provocative and persuasive book, Daniel Pink asserts that the secret to high performance and satisfaction-at work, at school, and at home—is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world. (Dan Pink, the author, is challenging the education community in ways that some may not be ready for. Get ready to be unnerved.)

4. Tribes:We Need You to Lead UsA tribe is any group of people, large or small, who are connected to one another, a leader, and an idea. For millions of years, humans have been seeking out tribes, be they religious, ethnic, economic, political, or even musical (think of the Deadheads). The key question is: Who is going to lead us? (I can’t say enough about this great, short read. My copy has tons of notes scribbled in the margins. Hope you will read it, then pass it forward.)

5. The ElementThe Element is the point at which natural talent meets personal passion. When people arrive at the Element, they feel most themselves and most inspired and achieve at their highest levels. With a wry sense of humor, Ken Robinson looks at the conditions that enable us to find ourselves in the Element and those that stifle that possibility. (Have met Ken Robinson, at a library conference. Heard him speak and have a signed copy of his book. He’s a fascinating individual with a powerful message.)

6. Hesselbein on LeadershipThe book affirms Hesselbein’s specific leadership principles that will give readers the inspiration to go forth and become exemplary leaders. It is also filled with the practical knowledge readers need so they can make a difference every day. (I was so moved by this book that I created a presentation about it for a class of aspiring admin!)

7. Simple Ways to Be More with LessIf you have imagined a life with less, reading this book is a great way to get started. Most of us have lived our adult lives working more, to make more, to spend more, to have more. We haven’t done it maliciously, but out of habit. (I think that teachers can sometimes be overwhelmed with “stuff,” not only in their professional lives, but personal as well. Author Courtney Carver shares a provocative message of learning how to thrive, while freeing ourselves of the “stuff” that robs our precious time.)

8. Other People’s Children:Cultural Conflict in the Classroom-In a radical analysis of contemporary classrooms, MacArthur Award-winning author Lisa Delpit develops ideas about ways teachers can be better “cultural transmitters” in the classroom, where prejudice, stereotypes, and cultural assumptions breed ineffective education.

9. 10-10-10 A Life-Transforming IdeaAny choice you make -any decision -will benefit from 10-10-10. We all want to lead a life of our own making. But in today’s accelerated world, with its competing priorities, information overload, and confounding options, we can easily find ourselves steered by impulse, stress, or expedience. (The next time you have a challenging decision ask yourself…what will the consequences of my decision be in 10 minutes? In 10 months? And in 10 years? It’s very thought provoking!)

10. Do the WorkCould you be getting in your way of producing great work? Have you started a project but never finished? Would you like to do work that matters, but don’t know where to start? The answer is Do the Work, a manifesto by bestselling author Steven Pressfield, that will show you that it’s not about better ideas, it’s about actually doing the work. (The title says it all. Stop procrastinating and just get back to doing the work that matters! Everyone will benefit from this simple, yet challenging message.)

No doubt there are tons of other books that you would add to this list. However, I encourage you to stretch a little out of your comfort zone, and pick up one of these titles that you might not be familiar with. You might just find that they will strike a resonating chord and bring a supportive change to both your personal and professional life.

Lisa Dabbs

Lisa Dabbs is an educational consultant and former principal who lives in California. She is a Core Blogger at Edutopia.org, founder of New Teacher Chat #ntchat on Twitter and blogs about supporting new teachers at Teaching With Soul.