8 Summer Reads for Education Leaders

Summer break is a time to focus on your own learning and add to your leadership toolkit. Here are eight books for your summer reading list recommended by our staff.
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As an education leader, you spend the whole year focused on your staff and your students—and much of the summer, too. With its slower pace, summer break is an ideal time to focus on your own professional development and add to your leadership toolkit. For a full list of recommended resources, visit How Education Leaders Can Restore, Retool, Recommit Now—And All School Year Long.

We asked New Leaders staff, many of whom are former school and district leaders, to recommend books to help you restore, retool and recommit this summer. These books span across topics and industries, offering something for everyone and allowing you to apply diverse perspectives to your work. Whether you’re a current school leader or an aspiring one, we hope these books will serve as thought-provoking and energizing ocean or pool-side companions.

1. Fugitive Pedagogy: Carter G. Woodson and the Art of Black Teaching by Jarvis Givens

Recommended by Michele Caracappa, Chief Program Officer

Throughout our nation’s history, African Americans have pursued education in spite of the laws and threats of violence that withheld it. Carter G. Woodson, whose parents were enslaved, attained an education for himself and then passed that right on to others as the dean of Howard University and the creator of what has become African American History Month. His vision is outlined in Fugitive Pedagogy so that other education leaders can learn from it. 

"This book offers profound insight into the legacy of Black educators who have worked for generations to subvert what Woodson referred to as the ‘miseducation’ of Black students," explains Caracappa. "Though Woodson lived and worked a century ago, his ideas and the perspectives that Givens illuminates are incredibly relevant to the current educational context. Overall, it's a fascinating and meaningful read that will inspire both reflection and action for education leaders."

2. Partnering: Forge the Deep Connections That Make Great Things Happen by Jean Oelwang

Recommended by Joi Kidd, Senior Director, Design & Development

Deep relationships are the foundation of collaboration, which we know spurs innovation and amplifies impact in our schools. Yet being an education leader can feel like a lonely job. 

For over a decade, President and Founding CEO of Virgin Unite Jean Oelwang has been exploring how to create and maintain deep connections with others in a world that may seem disconnected and divided. In this book, Oelwand identifies six core principles gleaned from hundreds of interviews that will help you build relationships that matter and forge partnerships to achieve a greater purpose.

"This book highlights what needs to be in place to create partnerships and coalitions that have a transformational impact," says Kidd. "I highly recommend it."

3. Anti-Racist Leadership: How to Transform Corporate Culture in a Race-Conscious World by James D. White

Recommended by John Jenkins, Chief Implementation Officer

Diversity, equality, and inclusion (DEI) became top-of-mind for many companies following the murder of George Floyd and the rise of the Black Lives Matters movement in 2020. And it's only gaining prominence as organizations compete for talent during The Great Resignation. Written by the CEO of Jamba Juice, this book provides a comprehensive roadmap to help leaders create an anti-racist company culture, and it’s chockful of practical, real-world techniques.

"This book provides a good perspective on how to lead from an anti-racist perspective as a CEO in a corporation," says Jenkins. "It also has great implications for non-profit and school leaders."

4. Speak: Find Your Voice, Trust Your Gut, and Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be by Tunde Oyeneyin

Recommended by Courtney Strozyk, Executive Director, Program Implementation

Need the inspiration and motivation to transform setbacks into triumphs? Look no further than Peloton instructor Tunde Oyeneyin’s Speak. Described as a “memoir/manifesto/guide to life,” Oyeneyin shares her personal journey to living a life of purpose by blending positivity, empathy, and encouragement to help readers push beyond limits and make a positive change in any area of their lives. 

“This book far exceeded my expectations by showing the amazing struggles Tunde overcame with the loss of family members and the risks she took to follow her hopes and dreams,” reflects Strozyk. “Her determination and stamina made me feel I can do anything I put my mind to."

5. Hacking Education: 10 Quick Fixes for Every School by Mark Barnes and Jennifer Gonzalez

Recommended by Keshia Warner, Director, Program

What if there was a straightforward solution to reducing school meetings and creating more time for planning? Through decades of teaching experience and hundreds of conversations with education thought leaders, authors Mark Barnes and Jennifer Gonzalez use a “hacker” mindset to show you how to find and hone quick fixes to everyday school problems. This book will help you save time and keep your focus on tackling more complex challenges when the new school year comes around. 

"I recommend this book because it includes action plans and tips from educators who have actually implemented the suggestions," emphasizes Warner.

6. Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath

Recommended by Lisa M. Smith-Sherrod, Adjunct Trainer, Principals

Ever wonder why it's so hard to make change stick? In a compelling narrative driven by the stories of many individuals—from a home organizer to a nurse—Chip and Dan Heath shed light on how to unite your rational and emotional minds to quickly effect transformative change, whether in your school or your personal life. Through decades of research in psychology, sociology, and other fields, the authors show that lasting change follows a pattern—one you can use to achieve dramatic results. 

"I recommend this book to deepen your knowledge and understanding of the change management process from the perspective of a consultant or coach," shares Smith-Sherrod. 

7. Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019 edited by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain

Recommended by Brandy Nelson, Adjunct Trainer, Principals

Ninety writers chronicle the history of African Americans through various perspectives and formats, including essays, short stories, and personal vignettes. Together, their voices poetically depict a journey of oppression, visionary struggles, unbelievable achievements, and ordinary life experiences. Themes of resistance, hope, and reinvention are evident in this book that so eloquently illuminates the past and provides new ways of thinking about the future.

"I listened to this book on Audible, which had most of the writer's voices reading their text. It was EXCELLENT. I highly recommend it," shares Nelson. 

8. Impact Players: How to Take the Lead, Play Bigger, and Multiply Your Impact by Liz Wiseman

Recommended by Michelle Pierre-Farid, National Senior Executive Director, Strategic Partnerships and Alumni Impact

Do you ever feel stuck going through the motions? Impact Players might be what you need to get out of a rut and play a bigger game. Informed by insights from leaders at top companies, New York Times bestselling author and researcher Liz Wiseman identifies the mindsets that prevent capable leaders from realizing their full potential and how minor tweaks in how we think and act can make an enormous impact on how we lead.

"This is an easy read and gives you the tools you need to maximize your team's effectiveness," says Pierre-Farid. “I recommend adding it to your summer reading list.”

There you have it: eight phenomenal books to get lost in this summer. Whether you read them in your lawn chair or listen to them while doing laundry, we hope they offer insights you can add to your toolkit and reach for when the new school year rolls around. The book titles link directly to Amazon Smile, where you can support a charitable organization of your choice (including New Leaders!) when purchasing. 

What books are you excited to read this summer? Let us know by tweeting to @NewLeadersOrg.

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