Below are the books I read in 2020. Just like previous annual lists I’ve shared (2018 and 2019), I haven’t included books I didn’t finish due either to time restraints or because they were boring. I believe it’s important to discard a book if it bores you, and I did that a handful of times over the past twelve months. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have been able to finish 25 books.

This was an interesting year–both in terms of the state of the world and what I read. I finished one of my all-time favorite American novels, which was a wonderful experience, but I admit my interests resulted in a random 2020 list.

The titles have been placed in reverse chronological order, so the first book listed is the last book I read for the year. I hope there’s a book waiting for you that enriches your life and inspires you to face the New Year with knowledge in your head and hope in your heart.

1. The Great Mental Models Volume 2: Physics, Chemistry, and Biology by Riannon Beaubien and Shane Parrish.

Super interesting and accessible. I found it fascinating to reflect upon how we can take scientific principles and apply them to everyday life.

2. Streets of Laredo by Larry McMurtry

Intense, unsentimental, heartbreaking, meaningful… Larry McMurtry plays for keeps. Streets of Laredo is the fourth book in the Lonesome Dove series but the second one written; McMurtry wrote this after Lonesome Dove, and then he published two prequels. I’ll have to read those next.

3. The Distance Learning Playbook for School Leaders: Leading for Engagement and Impact in Any Setting by Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey, Dominique B. Smith, and John Hattie.

My big takeaway from these distance learning books being published by the Visible Learning folks: teacher clarity is of the upmost importance in both in-person and remote teaching.

4. The Almanack of Naval Ravikant: A Guide to Wealth and Happiness by Eric Jorgenson.

Wonderful. I read this book very quickly. Naval Ravikant’s thoughts are important, and I’m finding it wise to listen to him.

5. Lives of the Stoics: The Art of Living from Zeno to Marcus Aurelius by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman

This contained interesting information regarding the early Stoics, but I have to admit I found it boring. I think this will be more rewarding as a reference when I want to look up specific philosophers later.

6. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry.

A masterpiece. The Godfather, The Brothers Karamazov, and Blood Meridian come to mind when I think of masterpieces; Lonesome Dove holds its own with these titles. The characters stick with you long after you’ve finished, and there are scenes that occur about 400 pages into the novel that truly shocked me. I love this book.

7. So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love by Cal Newport.

This was just as good as the first time I read it. So Good They Cant Ignore You is perfect if you’re pondering one of the two following questions. 1) What’s my passion? and 2) Why am I not promoting within my organization?

8. The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock.

Again, here’s another book I reread. Rereading books is not a common practice of mine–although I think it should be. As I get older, I’m valuing the books that have already enriched my life, and I’m finding it important to revisit them. I reread The Devil All the Time because the Netflix movie was released. The movie’s good, but the novel’s better.

9. The Distance Learning Playbook, Grades K-12: Teaching for Engagement and Impact in Any Setting by Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey, and John Hattie.

This was the number one resource for how I approached this year as we prepared for distance learning.

10. The PBIS Tier Two Handbook: A Practical Approach to Implementing Targeted Interventions by Jessica Djabrayan Hannigan and John E. Hannigan.

This was helpful for one main reason—it prompted me to begin a Tier Two Sub Team, which morphed into an MTSS Leadership Team.

11. The Moth Presents All These Wonders: True Stories About Facing the Unknown by Catherine Burns.

These stories were a nice way to wind down in the evening before going to sleep.

12. The Great Mental Models Volume 1: General Thinking Concepts by Rhiannon Beaubien and Shane Parrish.

If you’re not familiar with mental models and how they can improve your decision making, then there’s a lot of value in reading this book.

13. Gung Ho! by Ken Blanchard and Sheldon Bowles.

I read this with a fellow principal who recommended it. It’s a light read with an interesting take on turning an organization around.

14. The Quick and Easy Guide to Winning No Limit Texas Hold’em by David Harris Griffith.

I shouldn’t be sharing this book because you’ll know my poker strategy. Or maybe I jettisoned the book’s advice and created my own way of playing… You’ll just have to play me to find out.

15. Robert’s Rules: Quick Start Guide – The Simplified Beginner’s Guide to Robert’s Rules of Order by ClydeBank Business.

I wouldn’t recommend this, but that’s because I probably needed more of an intermediate reference book.

16. Solve for Happy: Engineer Your Path to Joy by Mo Gawdat.

The unimaginable happened when Mo Gawdat lost his son due to an error during surgery. This book shares his thought process for how to find happiness in an unforgiving world.

17. Consider This: Moments in My Writing Life After Which Everything Was Different by Chuck Palahniuk.

This was a delightful book. If I were to boil down the advice from all the books I’ve read on writing, the commonalities are to write simply, clearly, and because you enjoy it. Do not write stories to make money or be famous. And above all else, don’t be boring.

18. How the Other Half Learns: Equality, Excellence, and the Battle Over School Choice by Robert Pondiscio.

I found Pondiscio’s exploration of Success Academy very interesting. Love them or hate them, the charter schools in this book get good test results. The conflict arises regarding how a person answers this question: What are the results schools should be seeking?

19. The Motive: Why So Many Leaders Abdicate Their Most Important Responsibilities by Patrick Lencioni.

Some people should be leaders and some people shouldn’t—that’s the message of this book. Leading isn’t easy, and it’s important for a person to quickly recognize whether leadership is the right path. Just because it isn’t now doesn’t mean it can’t be in the future.

20. Call Sign Chaos: Learning To Lead by Jim Mattis.

Jim Mattis is an impressive American, and this book is a fascinating look into Mattis’ career and recent history.

21. Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life… And Maybe the World by Admiral William H. McRaven.

This is a quick and fun read. I like the idea of accomplishing small things every day that eventually add up to big changes in the long run.

22. The Outsider by Stephen King.

A great beginning, a pretty good middle, and a clunky ending. This can be said for many King novels. Overall I liked it, and the TV series is worth watching as well.

23. 10 Success Factors for Literacy Intervention: Getting Results with MTSS in Elementary Schools by Susan Hall.

This book is what I needed to fill my knowledge gaps regarding literacy intervention.

24. The PBIS Tier One Handbook: A Practical Approach to Implementing the Champion Model by Jessica Djabrayan Hannigan and Linda Hauser.

Helpful but not groundbreaking. For me, the most important takeaway was understanding the components of Tier One so a school can successfully scale to Tier Two and Three.

25. The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company by Robert Iger.

I technically read this book in 2019, but I finished it so closely to 2020 that I didn’t add it to my end-of-the-year list then, so I’ll add it now. I really liked this book. It’s important to take the opportunity to look into the lives of successful people; especially when they’re the ones sharing their thoughts and advice in an autobiography. Iger was able to accomplish some amazing things, and ushering in Disney+ when he did pretty much saved the company from what could have been a catastrophic 2020.

That’s it! Thanks so much for visiting the site. Here’s to great reading in 2021!


Below are the books I read in 2019. There are many more books I started and either haven’t finished yet (A Dance with Dragons) or I stopped reading altogether (Ask the Dust). I believe it’s important to discard a book if it bores you, and I did that many times over the past twelve months. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have been able to finish reading twenty-six books.

While I enjoyed all the books on this list, none of them stood out as my absolute favorite. There’s one novel I liked the most out of the fiction I read, but nothing captivated me as much as my favorite books from 2018.

I added some commentary below to the books I especially liked. I hope you find this list helpful; let me know if you have any questions! (FYI: These books are in the order I read them–only backwards. In other words, Awareness is the last book I read.)

1. Awareness by Anthony de Mello

A lot of helpful ideas are shared for being aware and disconnecting from everything that makes us unhappy.

2. Stillness is the Key by Ryan Holiday

Great book; I’ll read anything by Holiday.

3. New X-Men by Grant Morrison: Ultimate Collection, Book 1

4. A Summer with Montaigne: On the Art of Living Well by Antoine Compagnon

5. Everything Is F*cked: A Book About Hope by Mark Manson

Not as good as his first book, but definitely worth reading.

6. Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad by Austin Kleon

I read this in one afternoon in Barnes & Noble. It was the perfect book for me in the moment that I needed it. I love it when books are there for us like that.

7. Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World by David Epstein

This book really helped me understand the value in pursuing knowledge within multiple fields. I like the idea of following interests, no matter how divergent they may be.

8. Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell by Eric Schmidt

9. Leverage Leadership 2.0: A Practical Guide to Building Exceptional Schools by Paul Bambrick-Santoyo

The most influential book on this list that’s influenced my approach to instructional leadership over the past year. The two most important items to focus on for new principals is data driven instruction and student culture. This book taught me that and more.

10. The Lessons of History by Will Durant and Ariel Durant

11. Driven by Data 2.0: A Practical Guide to Improve Instruction by Paul Bambrick-Santoyo

I liked it, but you can get by with reading just Leverage Leadership 2.0.

12. Nuance: Why Some Leaders Succeed and Others Fail by Michael Fullan

Not as good as Coherence, but still really good.

13. Don’t Suspend Me! An Alternative Discipline Toolkit by Jessica Hannigan and John E. Hannigan

An important book in that it gave me a good start in developing my own alternative discipline toolkit.

14. Cherry by Nico Walker

The best novel I read in 2019. I really enjoyed this, although it’s definitely not for everyone. I heard they’re making a movie out of it, and I can’t wait to see it.

15. The Speed of Trust: The One Thing That Changes Everything by Stephen M.R. Covey

I’ve used excerpts from this book for quite a few conversations and meetings recently. I have a feeling this book will be a resource I return to for years to come.

16. Turning the Flywheel: A Monograph to Accompany Good to Great by Jim Collins

Not really a book (it’s a monograph), but I’ll include it here anyways. I found myself almost a year later referring to this book during a recent meeting. You know a book is pretty good if that happens.

17. The Principal: Three Keys to Maximizing Impact by Michael Fullan

Fullan is the only Edu-Hero I have.

18. The One Thing: The Surprising Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller

19. Digital Minimalism: On Living Better with Less Technology by Cal Newport

If there is one book I could force every person in the modern world to read, this would be it.

20. Shoe Dog: A Memoir by the Creator of Nike by Phil Knight

I’m ashamed to say this is the only autobiography I read in 2019. The good news is if I only could read one, this would be at the top of my list.

21. Shifting the Monkey: The Art of Protecting Good People From Liars, Criers, and Other Slackers by Todd Whitaker

This is a must-read for all school administrators. The main idea Whitaker teaches is something that’s taking me a while to develop within my own leadership capacity.

22. Pet Semetary by Stephen King

The 1989 version of this movie petrified me. I have vivid memories of being frighted on the trundle bed in my friends room back when I was ten-years-old. Finally reading this book at thirty-eight-years-old was no where near as horrifying, but it was damn creepy.

23. Leadership on the Line: Staying Alive Through the Dangers of Leading by Ronald A. Heifetz

This book is probably one of the best leadership books I’ve ever read–primarily because it focuses on the difficulty of being a leader and the importance of knowing what you’re getting into when you lead people.

24. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable Patrick Lencioni

It was interesting reading this after reading The Ideal Team Player; some of the main characters are in both.

25. Tiger Woods by Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian

This book can be viewed as a cautionary tale, exploitative, entertaining… possibly all three. I think it’s a good book to read as a parent. I finished it before Tiger’s comeback in 2019, so I think it’s a complete different read now.

26. Teach Like a Champion 2.0: 62 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College by Doug Lemov

Great resources. I wouldn’t recommend reading this cover to cover–better to understand the structure and refer to the strategies you want to learn about at any given moment.

That’s it! I hope you found this list helpful. As always, let me know if you have any questions. Here’s to a great year of reading in 2020!

Books I read in 2018

Below are the books I read in 2018. This list doesn’t include the titles I’m currently reading, nor does it include books I began and never finished. I believe it’s important to discard a book if it bores you, and I did that a few times over the past twelve months. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have been able to finish reading twenty-four books–all of which I enjoyed.

I added a little commentary below to the books I especially liked. I hope you find this list helpful; let me know if you have any questions!

One last thing… In 2018 I completed the first draft of a book entitled Rise and Converge, which you can access here: . I can’t say it’s better than the books you’ll find below, but I can say it was heavily influenced by many of the following titles.

1. Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers by Timothy Ferriss

I like to call Tim Ferriss my mentor, even though I’ve never met him. This book is a treasure trove of helpful information, and it encouraged me to do a lot of writing this year. You can’t go wrong with any of Ferriss’s books.

2. The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman

I started The Daily Stoic in October of 2017 and finished it a year later. I highly recommend reading a meditation a day if you’re interested in stoicism. The philosophy has helped me to live both a more peaceful and productive life.

3. A Clash of Kings (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 2) by George R.R. Martin

4. 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story by Dan Harris

5. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (Author) and Dave McKean (Illustrator)

I really enjoyed The Graveyard Book. Both devastating and hopeful, this story beautifully captures a good person not just surviving, but also loving others in a very dark world. I’ll definitely re-read this novel again.

6. Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Skin in the Game was the best nonfiction book I read this year. Like all of Taleb’s work, this tome will be remembered for years to come, and I will re-read it as I have his other books (i.e. Antifragile and The Bed of Procrustes). I can’t think of another nonfiction author who has influenced and challenged me as much as Taleb.

7. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey

8. Deep Learning: Engage the World Change the World by Michael Fullan, Joanne Quinn, and Joanne J. McEachen

9. 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson

My second favorite nonfiction book of the year. No doubt Peterson is a controversial figure in the media; don’t let this stop you from reading 12 Rules for Life. It contains a lot of wisdom.

10. The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi

11. Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue by Ryan Holiday

Super entertaining and informative–especially if you’re not familiar with how this true story played out.

12. What Made Maddy Run: The Secret Struggles and Tragic Death of an All-American Teen by Kate Fagen

Kate Fagen wrote a book that is difficult to read because of its subject matter, but I highly recommend it for teachers, coaches, and parents. Many important questions are raised, but I can’t help but think some stones were left unturned.

13. A Storm of Swords (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 3) by George R.R. Martin

14. Leonardo Da Vinci by Walter Isaacson

Excellent. Most of my books are in storage right now because my family and I are in the process of moving. This is one of the books I’m most interested in revisiting as soon as I can access my library once again.

15. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling

Rowling completed an incredible feat in writing the seven Harry Potter books, and I will forever be thankful to her for the time my daughter and I have spent reading her wonderful tale.

16. Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson

Walther Isaacson is currently my favorite biographer, and this might be my favorite biography. If there is one founding father I would most like to emulate, it’s Franklin.

17. The End of Diversity As We Know It: Why Diversity Efforts Fail and How Leveraging Difference Can Succeed by Martin N. Davidson

I enjoyed this book and learned a lot. As a matter of fact, I wrote a blog post about what I took away from Davidson here. To read all my thought from my visit to the University of Virginia, you can check this out.

18. City of Thieves by David Benioff

19. Poor Charlie’s Almanack: The Wit and Wisdom of Charles T. Munger, Expanded Third Edition by Peter D. Kaufman, Ed Wexler (Illustrator), Warren E. Buffett (Foreword), and Charles T. Munger

Some people may not read this book due to its $61.92 price tag, and that would be a shame. This book was worth the cost and more.

20. Get Better Faster: A 90-Day Plan for Coaching New Teachers by Paul Bambrick-Santoyo

21. Culturize: Every Student. Every Day. Whatever It Takes. by Jimmy Casas

22. The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business by Patrick Lencioni

My team at work read through this book together, and it was a great help as we created our mission statement, vision statement, purpose, and core values.

23. Driven by Data: A Practical Guide to Improve Instruction by Paul Bambrick-Santoyo

24. Edward Hopper: Portraits of America by Wieland Schmied

Edward Hopper is my favorite painter. I viewed his painting Nighthawks in Chicago last spring and couldn’t stop staring. This book is a brief but satisfying summary of his work.

That’s it! I hope you found this list helpful. As always, let me know if you have any questions. Here’s to a great year of reading in 2019!


“Take from the margin to rethink the whole.”
–Lani Guinier

Over a month ago I met with a group of educators for the purpose of planning English Language Development (ELD) professional learning sessions. As we discussed the importance of good instruction during designated ELD, I was reminded of a post I wrote a while back entitled Macro from the Micro. Here’s an excerpt:

In Tim Ferriss’s book Tools of Titans, he explains a principle used by chess prodigy Josh Waitzkin called “learning the macro from the micro.” This approach avoids the common way of learning by focusing on a single component (the micro) in order to learn and understand the whole (macro).

The ELD planning group discussed how refining one’s practice for designated ELD has the potential for producing a better teacher in all content areas. The eventual title of the ELD session would become Get Good at ELD to Get Good at Everything.

I was reminded of this planning session as I recently finished reading Martin N. Davidson’s excellent book The End of Diversity As We Know It in which he writes:

The marginal voice is the one that holds the seed of the next great idea, the next powerful invention. We can’t create and innovate without the voice and vision that challenge our familiar and comfortable way of thinking and operating.

Davidson then gives two examples that show how the “marginal voice is the one that holds the seed of the next great idea.” First, he describes how a company named MedTown installed touch screens at a new distribution center because the technology was more advantageous for individuals with developmental disabilities. Turned out the touch screens, once installed, helped workflow for all employees, so all the old keyboards were replaced with the touch screen technology.

Second, sidewalk ramps were built across the country as a result of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. These ramps allowed people in wheelchairs easy access to curbs. Today, almost all walkways have ramps, but you’ll notice not just people in wheelchairs use the ramps. Skaters, bikers, parents pushing strollers, and many other people use the ramps to access walkways.

As the quote at the top of this post states, the margin was used to rethink the whole in the examples Davidson provides. For those of us in the field of education, it’s important we ponder two things:

  1. How can building my own personal capacity in ELD instruction make me a better teacher overall?

  2. How can we take from the margin to rethink the whole so all students benefit?