Top Ten Books on My Summer To-Read Pile by Matt Renwick

For the first time, I am participating in the Goodreads Reading Challenge. My goal is 50 books in 2015, or about one per week.


As you can see, I’m a bit behind schedule. Maybe by posting the titles I plan to tackle this summer, I will be more motivated to catch up.

Creative Schools: The Grassroots Revolution That’s Transforming Education by Ken Robinson, Ph.D. and Lou Aronica (Penguin, 2015)

According to the summary, this book expands on Robioson’s famous TED talk, “How Schools Kill Creativity.” I enjoyed his previous writings that addresses creativity in schools, such as Out of Our Minds. Colleagues have recommended his newest installment in promoting a more engaging educational experience for students.

Digital Reading: What’s Essential in Grades 3-8 by William L. Bass II and Franki Sibberson (NCTE, 2015)

This book is right up my alley. Bass and Sibberson investigate how reading has been redefined with the advent of digital tools and texts that now pervade our society. Digital Reading appears to be an essential resource for any educator attempting to keep up with all of the technological changes in today’s learning environment.

Schooling Beyond Measure and Other Unorthodox Essays About Education by Alfie Kohn (Heinemann, 2015)

Kohn thrives on writing in contrast to conventional thinking about schools. His past positions on homework, grading, and behavior management have been both well-received and stirred controversy. Whichever side of the fence you sit on regarding particular issues in education, Kohn always promises to make his points with strong prose, evidence and passion.

The Knife of Never Letting Go: Chaos Walking Trilogy Book #1 by Patrick Ness (Walker, 2008)

I can hear a friend or family member telling me, “Read something fun!” Okay, I do find books on education enjoyable, but I get your point. Ness’s A Monster Calls was a powerful young adult novel, one of the best I’ve read. This first book in a science fiction trilogy is about the remaining members on a colonized planet infected with the ability to hear everyone’s thoughts.

The Boy Who Fell Off the Mayflower, or John Howland’s Good Fortune by P.J. Lynch (Candlewick, 2015)

We received an advanced reader copy of this illustrated text, about one of the earliest English settler’s voyage to the New World. I am hesitant to list this as an “everybody book.” In previewing the text, several people perish, both at sea and on land. I’ve always enjoyed history when it has been told through the smaller lens of a real historical figure, such as Howland.

Time for Cranberries by Lisl H. Detlefsen (author), Jed Henry (illustrator) (Roaring Brook, 2015)

Full disclosure: Our family has been friends with Lisl’s family for over a decade. However, the fact that this book was accepted by the Junior Library Guild should give my admittedly biased opinion more weight. This realistic narrative depicts a young boy, Sam, who is old enough to participate in the cranberry harvest. Fiction that informs – perfect for fall and seasonal reading.

The Tarantula in My Purse: and 172 Other Wild Pets by Jean Craighead George (HarperCollins, 1996)

This nonfiction text was a favorite read aloud of mine and my students when I was an upper elementary grade teacher. Now as a father of two elementary school students, I look forward to reading it aloud to my kids. Although this memoir of short stories doesn’t always follow a sequential chronology, each piece builds on the next in this honest description of George’s unique and happy family.

H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald (Grove, 2014)

Continuing with the nature theme, this memoir/meditation about the author dealing with her grief over her father’s death has received heaps of praise. Christopher McDougall referred to it as “My favorite book, reincarnated,” comparing it to Jean Craighead George’s Newbery Honor title My Side of the Mountain. It’s not surprising that I have been drawn to this genre lately.

Live Right and Find Happiness (Although Beer is Much Faster) by Dave Barry (G.P. Putnam, 2015)

Sometimes we just need a book that makes us laugh. Dave Barry has been making people laugh with his self-deprecating humor and subtle social commentary for years. Having this title on my to-read pile reminds me that I used to select at least one funny read aloud every year when I taught 5th and 6th grade. Harris and Me by Gary Paulsen was a perennial favorite.

The Art of Slow Reading by Thomas Newkirk (Heinemann, 2012)

Another educational resource…I just couldn’t help myself. This title has been sitting in my book shelf since it came out, and I am not sure why I haven’t read it yet. Newkirk shares six practices he has found for helping students (and ourselves) develop a deeper engagement with reading. In our ever-increasingly fast paced world, I think this selection is timely.

There you have it. Ten texts I’d like to read this summer. While I may not get to them all, I think it is important that we have goals for our reading, just as we expect of our students.

Which book(s) is on your to-read pile this summer? Please share in the comments. If you are looking for an excellent educational resource, check out my list of recommended reads on my blog at

Matt Renwick is a 16-year public educator who began as a 5th and 6th grade teacher in a country school outside of Wisconsin Rapids, WI. After seven years of teaching, he served as a junior high dean of students, assistant principal and athletic director before becoming an elementary school leader in Wisconsin Rapids.

Matt blogs at Reading by Example, tweets @ReadByExample and writes for EdTech magazine. He is the author of Digital Student Portfolios: A Whole School Approach to Connected Learning and Continuous Improvement  (Powerful Learning Press 2014).