Books I “Read” in 2018

Here is a brief recap of most of the books I “read” in 2018. I put “read” in quotes as I listen to most of these via Audible as I workout, commute, or travel. This year the books fell into 3 categories; mindfulness, learning, & started but didn’t finish. Perhaps you’ll add some of these to your reading list and make a suggestion or two that you think I should add to my list for 2019.

Mindful Leadership

Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind
Shunryu Suyuki

This is a deep exploration into specifically Zen practices of Buddhism and meditation. It’s a short book. As I listened, I found I wanted to focus all my attention and take in each word. This is not a great starter on mindfulness or Buddhism, but a good fit for those with established knowledge looking to dig deeper into Zen.

The Mindful Leader
Michael Carroll

This is a great introduction to mindful leadership. Carroll is steeped in knowledge and understanding of mindfulness. His experience as a business person and consultant has helped him be able to describe the value of mindfulness in modern day work life whether you are on Wall Street, a kindergarten teacher, or work on your own. He describes many practical ways to bring more mindfulness to the workplace for yourself and others.


I took a deep dive into new perspectives (as well as some classics) on learning and teaching this summer. I did this for a book chapter I was writing with colleagues but have found much of the key take aways coming up in presentations, facilitating retreats, and with coaching clients. For learners and teachers of all ages:

Science of Learning

Lots of what we are more recently learning about how learning works contradictions what we have traditionally understood about learning. More details in this previous post 8 Tips from Neuroscience for Learners & Teachers of All Kinds.

Make It Stick
Peter Brown, Henry L. Roedigger III, & Mark A. McDaniel

Excellent insights on how to learn better for learners and teachers from two prominent cognitive psychologists but written by a journalist who uses great analogies and stories to explain complex concepts. A scientific exploration that is also easily accessible and applicable for learners of all kinds.

How Learning Works
Susan A. Ambrose, Michael W. Bridges, Michele DiPietro, Marsha C. Lovett, Marie K. Norman

This book was written by several folks who run centers for teaching and learning on college campuses. The authors provide good explanation of learning and research based ways to engage in smart teaching. The seven principles for smart teaching are very useful in constructing courses, workshops, or strategies in curricular approaches.

Multiple Pathways to the Student Brain
Janet Nay Zadina

This book offers a detailed and scientific explanation of the multiple ways that learners engage. The author discusses ways for teachers to use multiple pathways (sensory, attention & memory, emotional, and more) to engage both within and across learners. The book makes the point that learning across pathways strengthens the learning.

Teach Yourself How to Learn
Saundra Yancy McGuire & Stephanie McGuire

Written for students rather than teachers, this book focuses on strategies based in science that may seem counter-intuitive to some of the traditional understandings of learning. This would be a great gift to a new college student who perhaps has gotten away without developing study skills or needs to develop better ones.

The New Science of Learning
Terry Doyle & Todd Zakrajsek

This book focuses on the ways to encourage learning through practices such as exercise, embodiment, using all your senses, chunking, and more and how nutrition, sleep, hydration, and exercise all help us prepare to learn. A very useful approach to learning for those who are busy and want to maximize their efficiency and effectiveness.

Brain Based Learning
Eric Jensen

Another text focusing on new learning about the brain and the role of exercise, embodiment, and how to understand and utilize how the brain gets, retains, stores, and utilizes learning.


I also read or re-read these classics on teaching and learning.

Pedagogy of the Oppressed
Paolo Freire

One of my all-time favorites. Freire’s ability to explain complexities of oppression and the role of education in reinforcing this oppression and its potential role in liberating both the oppressed and the oppressors from systems of oppression. This book is one I come back to regularly as it has shaped my world-views and perspectives.

Teaching to Transgress
bell hooks

Another all-time favorite of mine. hooks has shaped my perspective on feminism, social justice, teaching, and liberation. hooks has shaped what it means to be a researcher and teacher of liberation pedagogy for me. I also randomly met bell hooks once during a travel adventure for a job interview. It is a great story.

The Courage to Teach

The Courage to Teach
Parker Palmer

I’ve read through this multiple times and still find quotes that inspire me as a teacher and make me ponder the importance of our inner life as educators. It always reinforces for me the importance of educator developing a deeper awareness of who we are and our purpose so that we can be clearer in our efforts to help learners learn better.

Laura Rendón

This is a wonderful book building on the three books above from Palmer, Freire, and hooks. Rendón calls for a pedagogical approach grounded in both our thinking and feeling to foster deeper and more meaningful learning. She discusses how to integrate critical perspectives with liberation pedagogy and contemplative practices.

Learning as Transformation
Jack Mezirow & Associates

A deep scholarly exploration of transformational learning, which they define as changing how we view the world. This edited volume includes chapters by some of the most prominent thinkers on learning including Brookfield, Langer, Kegan, Mezirow, and more.

In Practice

Small Teaching
James Lang

Lang integrates much of what we are learning about learning and offers suggestions for small changes to teaching based on the science. His focus is on small changes for college faculty to increase student learning but these strategies can be utilized for facilitators, coaches, and teachers of all kinds.

Of Education, Fishbowls, and Rabbit Holes
Jane Fried

Fried offers clear explanation of pedagogy and suggestions for teachers to bring a more updated approach to teaching and learning in the classroom, beyond the classroom, and in how we think about higher education broadly.

Radical Dharma
angel Kyodo Williams, Lama Rod Owens, Jasmine Syedullah

A written collection of public dialogues about racism, white supremacy, and liberation. These Buddhist teachers discuss both racism within Buddhist communities and how to utilize Buddhist teachings and practices as tools to foster individual and collective liberation. A solid read for those interested in new approaches to grounded liberation approaches to racial justice.

Teaching Across Cultural Strengths
Alicia Fedelina Chavez and Susan Diana Longerbeam

The authors discuss tangible ways for teachers to not only avoid marginalization but to utilize cross-cultural approaches to strengthen the learning for all learners. Their approach of tending to both integrated and individualized ways of knowing, learning, and applying is simple and useful.

Learning as a Way of Leading
Stephen Preskill & Stephen D. Brookfield

Stephen Preskill and Stephen Brookfield outline a new way of leading by learning. They particularly focus on nine practices with a different leader for social change as a model for each. This book offers a useful history lesson in social change as well as leadership lessons that are well organized and applicable.


A critique of the accountability paradigm of higher education. The authors call for a shift to the responsibility paradigm – where higher education takes responsibility itself rather than seeking to be held accountable to external stakeholders.

Started but Didn’t Finish

I learned long ago to give up on books that didn’t work for me. Life is too short. Giving up on a book rather than finishing just to satisfy my completionist tendencies is an indulgence.

Leaves of Grass

As much as I enjoyed Thoreau, I just couldn’t get into Whitman. I tried real hard on a camping trip but found it too esoteric and his discussions of democracy too dated to hold my attention. A classic to be sure – just not for me.

On the Move

I was encouraged over and over to read this book in numerous posts by Maria Popova on Brainpickings. It is a memoir that just never grabbed me.

Up Next

Dare to Lead by Brené Brown

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