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17 Books for Teachers' Summer Reading Lists

Stack of books

By Michelle Manno

June 18, 2015

Anyone who says teachers have summers off has probably never met a teacher. While their work year is technically September to June (or August to May in the warmer states—I'm looking at you, Arizona), teachers' brains don't take a summer vacation. Summers are filled with lesson plan prep, curriculum designing, professional development seminars, and reading, reading, reading.

The summer months are prime real estate to take advantage of "free time" and catch up on reading to inform your practice and  lighten your spirits overall. Below are the top 17 books for our teacher summer reading list, organized by SPF (summer professional fun!) level. We avoid the tanning oils (i.e., Chicken Soup for the Soul), but the following books range from pedagogy and poetry to special education and science fiction.

Topic: Pedagogy and Professional Development

SPF: Zinc Oxide

These 8 books have you covered when it comes to planning for next year’s curriculum, lesson planning, and classroom management.

  1. Youth, Education, and The Role of Society: Rethinking Learning in the High School Years by Robert Halpern
  2. Improbable Scholars: The Rebirth of a Great American School System and a Strategy for America’s Schools by David L. Kirp
  3. Make Space: How to Set the Stage for Creative Collaboration by Scott Doorley and Scott Witthoft
  4. See Me After Class: Advice for Teachers by Teachers by Roxanna Elden
  5. Teaching as Leadership: The Highly Effective Teacher’s Guide to Closing the Achievement Gap by Steven Farr
  6. Real Talk for Real Teachers: Advice for Teachers from Rookies to Veterans by Rafe Esquith
  7. The Principal 50: Critical Leadership Questions for Inspiring Schoolwide Excellence by Baruti K. Kafele
  8. Teaching for the Two-Sided Mind by Linda Williams

Topic: Personal Wellness

SPF: 45

While these books aren’t targeted toward your professional development in the classroom, they focus on leadership, writing skills, and work/life balance — all necessary skills to succeed and survive in the classroom.

  1. Make it Stick: The Science of Successful Learning by Peter C. Brown, Henry L. Roediger III, and Mark A Daniel
  2. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey
  3. Bird by Bird: Instructions on Writing and Life by Annie Lamott
  4. The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

Topic: Beach Reads

SPF: 15

Take a brain break with these beachside reads. These won’t necessarily help inform your professional, personal, or academic knowledge, but taking time out for yourself to indulge in some lighter reading will help you enjoy your summer, and give your brain a bit of relaxation before September prep.

  1. The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
  2. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
  3. Yes Please by Amy Poehler
  4. Life, Animated: A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes, and Autism by Ron Suskind
  5. White Teeth by Zadie Smith

Want to do more with your summer reading list? Cult of Pedagogy's Jennifer Gonzalez suggests starting a book club. Book clubs are a great way not only to stay on track with your reading, but also to stay connected with colleagues during the summer months (and eat great snacks!).

If you’re looking for reading suggestions for your students, check out this summer reading flowchart by and USC Rossier’s online teaching degree.