Recommended Reading: Winter Break Edition

What books should be on every school leader’s desk? What page-turners should you tuck away in your carry-on to devour during travel? And what books do veteran teachers recommend to others?

The BES team is full of former school leaders and teachers, so we thought we’d pick their brains: During this busy season, how should leaders use their break wisely to fill their cups, renew their spirits, and even plan for the coming semester? 

Unsurprisingly, our team of lifelong learners tends to turn to great books to get informed and inspired. Scroll down for some of our must-reads.


Examine your leadership mindset in order to truly inspire others…

Dare to Lead by Brené Brown

Bestselling author Brené Brown has researched and written a lot on openness, vulnerability, and courage – three traits that are entirely applicable to an effective school leader who is fiercely committed to transforming the lives of their students. Dare to Lead is instructive for developing a leadership mindset that is courageous enough to close the opportunity gap for youth and inspiring enough to move others to do the same, even when the days are long and tough.

Other titles we recommend:

Legacy by James Kerr

Practice Perfect by Doug Lemov, Erica Woolway, and Katie Yezzi


Understand the steps educators can take to address issues of racial equity in schools….

Everyday Antiracism by Mica Pollock (Editor) with contributors

Opening up conversations about race among a school’s staff and community can have profound effects on the school’s culture. Everyday Antiracism helps educators understand how to deal with challenging conversations about race, inequity, and privilege, which are pervasive in schools across the country. This book has several well-known contributors (such as Sonia Nieto, author of many titles on diversity and multicultural education) and dives headfirst into topics such as how to deal with racially-charged incidents among students or staff and how to support parents with advocating for their child. 

Other titles we recommend:

Pushout by Monique W. Morris

White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo


Improve and refine your adult coaching know-how….

The Art of Coaching by Elena Aguilar

Effective leaders know that understanding the needs of adult learners is the key to building and developing a mission-driven and well-equipped staff. This is a practical book on coaching for the sake of better outcomes for students through the lens of confronting inequity. It also includes a variety of resources for educators to use in their own schools.

Other titles we recommend:

Leverage Leadership and Get Better Faster by Paul Bambrick-Santoyo


Take a deeper look at barriers to access…

The Years That Matter Most: How College Makes or Breaks Us by Paul Tough

Is college the best option for everyone? Does a high school diploma and college acceptance provide the same level of opportunity to all students? Paul Tough’s The Years That Matter Most examines the inequality that has become, or has always been, prevalent among higher education institutions. This book will renew your commitment to the bottom line that many schools across the country have adopted: every student should have the option of going to and succeeding in college. 

Other titles we recommend:

Lost at School by Ross W. Greene, Ph.D.

How the Other Half Learns by Robert Pondiscio


Begin to understand how to get it all done…

The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande

In The Checklist Manifesto, Gawande writes about the meticulous processes that surgeons follow to minimize mistakes in their complex and stressful jobs. What does a surgeon have to say about leading an excellent school? Well, plenty, when you think about how vital it is for school leaders to ‘schedule their priorities’ and stress-test their schedule against the school’s mission and what happens on a day-to-basis in their hallways. A checklist may seem simple, but it’s a tried and true method to make sure balls don’t get dropped.

Other titles we recommend:

Smarter Faster Better by Charles Duhigg

The Together Leader by Maia Heyck-Merlin


We’d love to hear what books you’re reading this holiday season or throughout the year, or what’s on your “Need to read when I have time” list. Tweet us @besleadership and let us know!