Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Twenty-five nonfiction reviews a-comin'

What does an education look like?

Call me crazily old-fashioned, but I believe that entails reading full-length books. I model reading full-length books with my students every day, and I hope they're also actually reading with me.

I read at home a bit as well, and when you add it up, I've devoured a lot of books. This month, I'll be updating my 100 Nonfiction Books I Recommend project with 25 new books and accompanying reviews. Each day, I'll post a review, so enjoy!

Most people — including teachers — don't read full-length books. Now, those alliterate educators can indeed learn from textbooks, the Internet and word of mouth, but with Gen X by and large being a generation of non-readers, how can we expect Gen Z or future generations to read full-length books?

Well, I'm hopeful because the minds of our Gen Z youngsters work faster and are more malleable than us Gen Xers. Being forced into Zoom School during the pandemic, that process highlighted how school is so superficial — systemically. However, the kids I run across yearn to actually learn. When given the chance, they absolutely want to read relevant books to their lives, the time and place. They don't want to pretend to read To Kill a Mockingbird.

So in my classroom, I do my best to encourage students to read books that are meaningful to them. It's called extended reading. I look at how extended reading has helped me grow over the past decade, and I'm astonished where books have led me.

I fell in love, got married for a second — and final — time, raised two strong and reliable teenagers, and just got so much healthier. Nonfiction books played a huge role in all of that.

I must stress how crucial extended reading is to education. Where will you really get in life without books? In my classroom, that's the message, and I love that my first assignment of the school year is "Hey, kid, get a library card."

On a recent Fourth of July, somebody asked me what I thought the best thing about America is. I went with "opportunities for women." Not a bad answer. Right? I'd have to put public libraries and public education on the list as well.

With my project this month, each book gets a review and thoughts, but beware, I pretty much write off the top of my head. The reviews aren't as detailed as something you may read in, say, The New York Times Book Review. My reviews focus on what stood out to me and what I remember.

If you know me or this blog, this should be a jackpot for you because these are vetted books I've read cover to cover that are 100 percent worth reading. That assumes you like my sensibility.

I'll be writing 25 new reviews, meaning that a fourth of the 100 books I recommend are changing since I did the original project back in 2019. But, y'know, nothing really of note has happened since then.

I categorize the books in 10 categories, but truthfully, many books could cross over their categorizations. Also, I have eliminated three categories — "humor," "grab bag" and "recommended by readers." I believe it makes sense to be more specific with grab bag, and I actually only recommend three of the books people recommended to me. Thank you so much to those recommenders — Dave Davis, Matt Gailey and my wife, Dina!

With humor, I realized that my selections were pretty weak, so that category is out. Only two books on that list make the cut, and I'm moving them to different categories. Why would I read a George Carlin book when I can actually watch his stand-up?

"Teaching," "capitalism" and "humanity in the digital age" are the three new categories in the project, and all the other categories have at least two new books, except "leadership."

Look for a post every day this month — save Sundays — and enjoy the book reviews. Hopefully, my captivating prose will keep you glued to this blog. But if not, do what I suggest students do with books they find hard to connect. Drop it, and move to the next one. But read a book; it's quite worthwhile, especially in the digital age.


  1. At one time, the Cleveland Public Library (downtown) was the
    largest open stack library in the country.
    This still may be true. Just come in and browse!

    1. I must thank you as introducing me to libraries. I remember that the Maple Heights one was pretty awesome!