Top reads of 2022

Non-fiction

Adam Boxer Teaching Secondary Science: a complete guide: Much like Craig Barton’s How I Wish I’d Taught Maths, Boxer’s book is only ostensibly about teaching Science. What I loved about this was the way Boxer applies research to reality, and the use of science-specific examples enhances the ideas and makes clear their application in any classroom.

Marcus Buckingham Nine Lies About Work: Harry Fletcher-Wood recommended this, so I knew it would be excellent. The “lies” in the book have the joint benefits of feeling logically and experientially true, as well as having ample research evidence and data to support them. This book prompted a great deal of re-thinking for me – in a good way.

Alison Colwell No Excuses: turning around one of Britain’s toughest schools: I had the very great pleasure of working for Alison, and reading this felt like reliving all the best wisdom of our line management meetings. Colwell’s no-nonsense approach, combined with her deep love and respect for the community she serves, made me miss her and the school a great deal. On recruitment, Colwell says: “I look for only three things in my teachers: that you love children; that you are conscientious, committed and with a clear moral purpose; and that you are passionate and highly knowledgeable about your subject.” I couldn’t agree more.

Rachel Cusk A Life’s Work: I have long loved Cusk’s fiction, and this was the first non-fiction work of hers I have read. I loved the loosely chronological narrative from pregnancy to the early, wonderful, painful days of parenting. The entire experience of motherhood is captured best in similes like this: “this morning she won’t feed. Suddenly it is like trying to feed a kitchen appliance, or a shoe, bizarre and apparently inappropriate.”

Amy-May Forrester The Complete Guide to Pastoral Leadership: Normally you would expect adjectives like “complete” to be hyperbole, but with Forrester’s guide it most certainly is not. If you have a pastoral leadership role in a school, it is the only book you need to read. Forrester’s deep moral purpose, commitment to the children, and vast experience on the ground in schools walking the walk makes every page of this a critical “how to” manual for leaders.

Paul A. Kirschner & Carl Hendrick How Learning Happens: This is the most succinct compendium of all the best research squashed into one book. The authors write clearly and relevantly about how we should employ research evidence into our classroom practice, making this a must-read for educators at all levels.

Doug Lemov et al Reconnect: The only book you need to read about school culture. The authors write with their usual lens: how can we make schools work best for the pupils who most need the benefits of an excellent education? Honest and relatable about the challenges brought into schools by the pandemic and modern life, the book sets out clear guidance for how to reconnect our pupils with schooling, and how schools can reconnect with their communities.

Mary Myatt & John Tomsett Primary Huh 2: I loved Primary Huh as well, but if only one can make the list it is the follow up. The first is a great guide for Primary teachers; I found this to focus more on whole-school matters like assessment, curriculum and pastoral in the round. My favourite chapter was Jon Hutchinson’s, who made me dramatically rethink the best way to capitalise on an all-through model in terms of its curriculum, as well as the level of challenge we can expect in our primary classrooms.

Christopher Such The Art and Science of Teaching Primary Reading: Definitely not just for primary teachers. Such’s astute interpretation of the science of reading is well-applied to the actual classroom, and he brilliantly balances decoding with knowledge acquisition and getting children to genuinely engage with what they are reading.

Fiction

Annie Ernaux The Years: incredible series of poetic vignettes, ranging from the personal to the national and international, capturing the march of the years through a lifetime. 

Susannah Dickey Tennis Lessons: I’m a sucker for a second person narrative. Almost painful to read the deeply awkward teenage years, partly due to this.

Daphne du Maurier Rebecca: my favourite re-read of the year. You lose the reveal on re-reading, but Maxim de Winter’s creepiness seems even more impressively drawn when you know the ending.

Joanna Glen All My Mothers: almost every book I love tells the story from early years through a lifetime and this is no exception. I also found the chapters portraying the impact of early teachers deeply moving.

Ashley Hickson-Lovence Your Show: I know nothing – nothing – about football, but you don’t need to to adore this. A fictionalized account of the life of Uriah Rennie, I found myself moved to tears by the final chapter. A real tour de force.

Caleb Azumah Nelson Open Water: a short and poignant love story, with powerfully poetic prose.

Curtis Sittenfeld Sisterland: I’ve loved all of Sittenfeld’s novels, but this one really stayed with me a very long time after finishing it. Fascinating portrayal of family and the things which tie us together.

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