Recently, while wandering through a local Barnes and Noble, I stumbled upon a fascinating, beautiful book. The title is My Ideal Bookshelf. The editor asked various people—mainly artists of all sorts and writers of various genres—to imagine what books would comprise their ideal bookshelf. It’s also has lovely illustrations of the books, either lined up neatly or in random, sometimes jumbled stacks. Of course, I began thinking about what books I would choose. Well, when it comes to books, I don’t like limits imposed upon me. We haves books all over the house; my iPad Kindle app is like a five-shelf bookcase by itself; and my wish list on Amazon keeps growing.
Because I like to believe one can have it all, I’m not going to present my ideal single shelf here. Instead, I’m planning two posts, of which this will be the first. It’s my ideal bookshelf for educators. Next will be my ideal bookshelf on leadership. Then I might do a third post on books that have really impacted me but didn’t fit on those first two shelves.
Before I proceed, I need to make a few caveats. I believe educators and leaders should read widely and deeply. All sources can help one grow in both realms. But I’m going to limit myself to books specifically focused on the topic, albeit a bit more loosely in some cases. Therefore, you won’t see Pink’s Drive, for example, in the post on education even though teachers could learn a great deal about motivation from it. Also, I don’t select books that deal primarily with nuts and bolts. Instead, I focus on bigger picture works. Wiggin’s Understanding By Design thus doesn’t appear. Finally, I’m not going to go into any real depth about a book. I simply will make a general comment or two about why the book belongs on my ideal shelf. I hope that will encourage others to read it for themselves and feel the same power.
Let’s look at the shelf:
· Experience and Education by John Dewey. It’s a seminal work, and the essential message is timeless. In some ways we’re realizing now just how on target Dewey was.
· The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life by Parker Palmer. The best educators see their work as full of meaning and purpose, upon which they reflect quite intentionally. This work helps one understand that.
· A Letter to Teachers: Reflections of Schooling and the Art of Teaching by Vito Perrone. An urgent call, based on his years of experience, to keep in mind what really matters about education.
· Horace’s Compromise by Ted Sizer. This classic book does a very nice job of helping clarify what choices we should make when deciding what and how to teach.
· The Passionate Teacher by Robert Fried. This is the book that inspired me to think of a class as a giant single idea rather than a bunch of discrete units. It flipped my approach in many ways.
· The Schools our Children Deserve: Moving Beyond Traditional Classrooms and Tougher Standards by Alfie Kohn. He’s polarizing in many ways, but he’s passionate and insightful and definitely worth reading, whether one agrees or not.
· Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck. Essential lessons about how some of our traditional education practices can enhance or hinder how students perceive themselves. And how we see them.
· Intellectual Character: What It Is, How to Get It, and Why It Matters by Ron Ritchhart. This book makes one think about intelligence in a new way, along with challenging the goals of a traditional education.
· How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience and School by National Research Council. An amazing amount of cutting-edge research complied into one work.
· The Book of Learning and Forgetting by Frank Smith. This simply written book contrasts two views of learning: work versus a fun/social process.
· Five Minds for the Future by Howard Gardner. I think this is more important to read than his work on multiple intelligences because this provides a strong vision for what students will need in the future.
· The Global Achievement Gap by Tony Wagner. There are plenty of books on “21st century learning,” but I think Wagner’s stands out as less trendy.
I’m sure as soon as I post, I will think of some other titles I should have included. But I won’t go back and change it. What did I miss that you would want on your ideal bookshelf for educators?
 This experience reminded me of the wonderful serendipity of browsing through a bookstore with no particular purpose, something I no longer do as frequently since moving entirely to e-books. Clicking links just doesn’t have the same feel. I love the incredible inventory of Amazon, but I hope bricks-and-mortar bookstores never disappear.
 While thinking about this post, I had a sad realization. Book covers are often wonderfully designed, and the mosaic of spines on a shelf can be rather dazzling. But with e-readers, we no longer know what the spine looks like. Also, I wanted to create my own images but lacked the patience to produce either copies or originals.