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Superintendent's Bookshelf



I'm at my best when I'm reading, thinking and pushing myself. There's nothing more important than teaching literacy - the ability to read and write at advanced levels - and one way we all get better is (shock) by reading and writing. So I think it's important for me to share what I'm reading and what guides my work. In this Bookshelf section of my website, I am sharing my annotated bibliography of books that either guide my thinking, make me learn and wonder, and/or just simply entertain me.


What I’ve Read Recently


Over our Winter Break, I had the chance to get a lot of reading in! Though none of the books were explicitly on leadership or education, they were all highly entertaining and/or social emotional learning books. Here is what I read!


The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell, by Robert Dugoni (2018)

This book combines some classic underdog stories in the setting of a traditional Catholic school education. I was reminded several times of some of the stories from my own Catholic school education, and I loved all of the reminiscences. It’s a great tale of parenting, discrimination, and coming of age, and the author ties it all together beautifully. It was one of those books I just could not put down and I loved it all.


The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, by Michael Pollan (2007)

If you have looked at my book list before, you have seen a lot of books on the art of cooking and grilling and smoking. I am certainly an omnivore. My wife is a pescatarian, my younger son is a picky eater, and I eat all of the above plus some. (I could probably do with a little less some). The Omnivore’s Dilemma is written by a carnivore who seeks to learn more about the nature of food in our country.


The author’s chapter on the role of corn in our food economy and our economy in general is brilliant. I learned so much about the dominance of the corn industry in our economy. One of the questions my older son ponders about the $5 Costco rotisserie chicken is, “You’d think a chicken’s life would be worth more than that.” When I read this chapter, I began to understand. Between government subsidies and the massive amount of corn that is produced and utilized in this country, I start to get it. Pollan also goes into the details of large-scale farming, which I know something about, and which are never enjoyable to read. He has a spectacular chapter on sustainable pasture-based farming that, if you have the means, is clearly the way to go. I will be paying more for the farm products that I buy, making some adjustments in what I eat, and I found this book incredibly motivational in doing both of those things.


The Blue Zones Kitchen: 100 Recipes to Live to 100, by Dan Buettner (2019)

I learned about this book when I received my Blue Zones newsletter in my in box. I work very closely with the Blue Zones people. Manhattan Beach is a Blue Zones city, committed to promoting healthier habits to help our citizens obtain a longer and healthier life span. I read this book just after I read The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and it fits. Blue Zones Kitchen pushes a plant-based diet, though not all vegetarian. The recipes are from some of the longest-living areas in the world and I found them enticing. I’ve already cooked a few of them. The minestrone soup from Sardinia was a hit in our family. The cookbook has stories, examples, and authentic recipes. I recommend it!


How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy, by Jenny Odell (2019)

I can’t remember how I came across this book, but I’m glad I did. This is a very intellectual book that combines economics with art, literature, poetry and more. I think I understood the majority of it, but it will take a second read for me to get it all. The author’s main point is that our economy survives by large companies gaining our attention through clicks on social media through alerts we see while scanning the internet. These companies know our preferences and push us to make purchasing, lifestyle, or other time-sucking decisions based on their efforts to gain our attention, making money on our purchasing decisions, or just on what we click. There are so many ideas in this book. First and foremost, she pushes us to just pay attention to reality around us. Pay attention to nature. To plants. To the animals and the people that are around us. She uses Thoreau and Epicurus to talk about the importance of rebelling when necessary and having enough control to limit our desires. She urges to have push for simplicity and more control in our lives to combat the omnipresent desire for our attention. It was a very thought-provoking book, and as someone who does not post on social media but gets my news from various feeds, it gives me pause as well. Like I said, I’ll be reading this one again.


Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens (2018)

I read this book after the How To Do Nothing book, and it actually fit in quite nicely. This is a beautiful story of a young woman who raises herself, without parents, siblings, or friends, on the Carolina coast. All she does is pay attention and appreciate everything that is around her. With the help of a few key people, she overcomes flagrant discrimination and hate aimed at her by educating herself, and ends up leading an incredibly fulfilling life. All that, plus an intriguing murder mystery, unfolds to make it a fantastic tale. Love it, love it, love it!


Talking to Strangers, by Malcolm Gladwell (2019)

In recent months, I have become a fan of podcasts. I have a long commute so I enjoy getting to listen to them on the way to or from work. They’re usually about 20 minutes in length so I can listen to one or two on my drive. This latest “book” from Malcom Gladwell has a hard copy version, but the audiobook is not your typical audiobook, where the author simply reads aloud from text he or she has written. This audiobook is more like a podcast, in which he incorporates transcripts of court cases, interviews with subjects in the book, media broadcasts, and more. It’s a full, book-length podcast. I enjoyed the format and I hope more audiobooks get done this way. For some reason, I am not a fan of the typical audiobook. I would much rather read a book than listen to it being read. But this form – I like it.


Talking to Strangers is probably the most difficult Malcom Gladwell book I have read. And I think if you asked 10 people who read it what they took out of it, you might get 10 very different answers. His premise is that we’re not very good at talking to strangers. We as a culture either assume the best in people and listen to them that way, or we assume the worst in people and listen to them with that lens, and either way, there are often mistakes in the lens that we utilize. Gladwell looks at very challenging case studies, such as Black Lives Matter, USA Gymnastics, sexual crimes committed at fraternity parties in colleges, and torture tactics used by the U.S. intelligence agencies, and examines how often the information we think that we are perceiving correctly is wildly incorrect. He tries to discern how that miscommunication happens. For the most part, Malcom Gladwell assumes the best in all people. He makes some surprising accusations, and defends many people along the way. He’s very objective, and it’s an eye-opening book. At a time in our history when talking to people who are different than we are, whether that difference is in how they look, what they believe, or any other difference, is more difficult than ever, I believe this is an important book and I’m glad I experienced it.


Click here for my complete annotated bibliography.


Books About Teaching and Learning

  • Building The World's Greatest High School, by Richard Parkhouse (2013)
  • Better Learning Through Structured Teaching, by Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey (2013)
  • Building a Better Teacher, by Elizabeth Green (2014)
  • Pathways to the Common Core, by Lucy Calkins (2012)
  • Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Education Will Change the Way the World Learns, by Clayton Christensen. (2011)
  • Enhancing Professional Practice: A Framework for Teaching, by Charlotte Danielson (2007) 
  • The Six Secrets of Change, by Michael Fullan (2008) 
  • Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, by John J. Ratey (2008)
  • Focus: Elevating the Essentials To Radically Improve Student Learning, by Mike Schmoker (2011)
  • Horace's Compromise (1984); Horace's School, by Ted Sizer (1992)
  • Emotions, Learning, and the Brain, by Dr. Mary Helen Immordino-Yang (2015)

Books About Leadership

  • Rookie Smarts, by Liz Wiseman (2014)
  • Getting Things Done, by David Allen (2001)
  • The On-Time On-Target Manager, by Ken Blanchard and Steve Gottry (2004)
  • Know How, by Ram Charan (2007)
  • Good to Great, by Jim Collins (2001)
  • The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey (1989)
  • Quiet Strength, by Tony Dungy (2007)
  • Switch, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath (2010)
  • Rich Dad, Poor Dad, by Richard Kiyosaki (2000)
  • Death by Meeting, by Patrick Lencioni (2004)
  • From Values to Action: The Four Principles of Value-Based Leadership, by Harry M. Kraemer (2011)

Books Recently Read


The 2019-20 School Year

  • From Values to Action: The Four Principles of Value-Based Leadership, by Harry M. Kraemer (2011)
  • The Lacuna, by Barbara Kingsolver (2009)
  • Educated: A Memoir, by Tara Westover (2018)
  • Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto, by Aaron Franklin and Jordan Mackay (2015)

  • Salt: A World History, by Matt Kurlansky (2003)
  • The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell, by Robert Dugoni (2018
  • The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, by Michael Pollan (2007)
  • The Blue Zones Kitchen: 100 Recipes to Live to 100, by Dan Buettner (2019)
  • How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy, by Jenny Odell (2019)
  • Where the Crawdads Sing, by Delia Owens (2018)

The 2018-19 School Year

  • All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr (2014)
  • Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, by Neil de Grasse Tyson (2017)
  • Less: A Novel, by Andrew Sean Greer (2018)
  • Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman! (Adventures of a Character), by Richard P. Feynman (1997)

  • Astoria: John Jacob Astor and Thomas Jefferson's Lost Pacific Empire: A Story of Wealth, Ambition, and Survival, by Peter Stark (2014)
  • Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging, by Sebastian Junger (2014)
The 2017-18 School Year
  • The Short Bus, by Jonathan Mooney (2008)
  • In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette, by Hampton Sides (2015)
  • News of the World, by Paulette Jiles (2016)
  • Living Forward: A Proven Plan to Stop Drifting and Get the Life You Want, by Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy (2016)

  • First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers, by Loung Ung (2000)
  • Kitchen Confidential, by Anthony Bourdain (2000)
  • The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo (2011)
  • Spark Joy, by Marie Kondo (2016)

The 2016-17 School Year

  • Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates (2015)
  • Emotions, Learning, and the Brain, by Dr. Mary Helen Immordino-Yang (2015)
  • Ethan Frome, by Edith Wharton (1911)
  • Golf in the Kingdom, by Michael Murphy (1971)
  • Golf is Not a Game of Perfect, by Bob Rotella (1995)
  • Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, by Angela Duckworth (2016)
  • Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance (2016)
  • Leading with Focus, by Michael J. Schmoker (2016)
  • Master of the Grill, America’s Test Kitchen (2016)
  • Never Send a Human to Do a Machine’s Job, by Yong Zhao (2015)
  • Nova Scotia, by David Orkin (2009)
  • The Obesity Code, by Jason Fung (2016)
  • 100 Recipes: The Absolute Best Ways To Make The True Essentials, America’s Test Kitchen (2015)
  • Shantaram, by Gregory Roberts (2003)
  • Unselfie : Why Empathetic Kids Succeed in Our All-About-Me World, by Michele Borba (2017)

The 2015-16 School Year

  • Being Mortal, by Dr. Atul Gawande (2014)
  • Creative Schools, by Ken Robinson (2015)
  • Edge of Eternity, by Ken Follett (2014)
  • Get Some Headspace, by Andy Puddicombe (2012)
  • Girl at War, by Sara Novic (2015)
  • How to Raise an Adult, by Julie Lythcott-Haims (2015)
  • Media Moms and Digital Dads, by Yalda Uhls (2015)
  • Overloaded and Underprepared, by Denise Pope, Maureen Brown & Sarah Miles (2015)
  • Where You Go is Not Who You’ll Be, by Frank Bruni (2015)
  • WordPress to Go, by Sarah McHarry (2013)
  • The Wright Brothers, by David McCullough (2015)
  • Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert Pirsig (1975)


The 2014-15 School Year

  • Better Learning Through Structured Teaching, by Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey (2013)
  • Building a Better Teacher, by Elizabeth Green (2014)
  • Cool: How the Brain’s Hidden Quest for Cool Drives Our Economy and Shapes Our World, by Drs. Steven Quartz and Annette Asp. (2015) 
  • Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Lifeby William Deresiewicz (2014). 
  • Leverage Leadership, by Paul Bambrick-Santoyo (2012)
  • Rookie Smarts, by Liz Wiseman (2014)
  • Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, by Yuval Noah Harari. (2015) 
  • The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way, by Amanda Ripley. (2013) 
  • The Swerve: How the World Became Moderns, by Stephen Greenblatt. (2011)
  • Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, by Laura Hildebrand (2010)


The 2013-14 School Year

  • Building The World's Greatest High School, by Richard Parkhouse (2013)
  • Coaching Conversations: Transforming Your School One Conversation at a Time, by Linda M. Gross Cheliotes and Marceta A. Reilly (2010)
  • Daemon, by Daniel Suarez (2014)
  • Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card (1985)
  • The Flip Side: Break Through The Behaviors that Hold You Back, Flip Flippen (2007)
  • A Leader's Legacy, by James Kouzes (2007)
  • The Long Walk to Freedom (The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela), by Nelson Mandela (2013)
  • The Power of Collective Wisdom, by Alan Briskin and Sheryl Erickson (2009)
  • 10% Happier, by Dan Harris (2014)
  • Transparency: How Leaders Create a Culture of Candor, by Warren Bennis (2008)
  • Wired, by Douglas Richards (2012)

The 2012-13 School Year

  • Big Green Egg Cookbook, by Sara Levy (2009)
  • Enhancing Professional Practice, by Charlotte Danielson (2007)
  • Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury (1951)
  • Fall of Giants, by Ken Follett (2010)
  • Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, by Douglas Adams (1980)
  • The Hobbit, by JR Tolkein (1937)
  • How Will You Measure Your Life?, by Clay Christensen (2012)
  • The One Thing, by Gary Keller (2012)
  • Stranger in a Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein (1961)
  • Wheat Belly, by William Davis, MD (2013)
  • Winter of the World, by Ken Follet (2012)
  • The Wolf Gift, by Anne Rice (2012)


The 2011-12 School Year

  • Adventures of Huckleberry Huck Finn, The Adventures of Tom Sawyerand Roughing It, by Mark Twain (1884, 1876, 1872)
  • The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein (2008)
  • The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins (2008, 2009, 2010)
  • The Lincoln Lawyer, by Michael Connelly (2011)
  • Montana 1948, by Larry Watson (1993)
  • Siddhartha, by Hermann Hesse (1922)
  • Slaughter House Five, by Kurt Vonnegut (1969)
  • Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson (2011)
  • Truman, by David McCullough (1992)