Top 5 Books I Have Read This Year

There is one way to stay current and “fresh” in your ideas and mindset…read. Read books, articles, journals, blogs or anything that will help you lead your organization. So far this year, I concentrated by reading on business books that help me understand the business world a little better. Specifically, I read 12 books about marketing and PR. I have also spent time reading leadership books and a few fiction books. The following is a “best of” list of those books that I believe will help you in your job.

The book is a classic written in 1968. I read a lot of leadership books and authors frequently mention this book as a foundational text. After hearing that recommendation so much, I figured I better read the book! I gleaned a lot from the book and the one change in my behavior as a result of reading the book is to track my time so I know I am concentrating on high impact activities. Drucker suggests that you actually track your time to discover where your time is spent. Along that vein, I adopted Drucker’s idea of time tracking with Jim Collins’ (author of Good to Great) take on the same concept and created a chart.

This chart represents Collin’s 50-30-20 Rule (I have adopted it for education). 50% of your time should be spent in the direct service of creating, maintaining or furthering the mission of the school or school district. This could be preparing activities (i.e. for a family reading night). 30% of your time is teaching or coaching. This can be with adults and/or students. 20% is strictly managerial items that you must get done for the school to survive (discipline, attendance, IEP meetings, etc). Where do you spend most of your time and why?

Dark Horse discusses the trends that are impacting society and specifically discusses schooling and education. As a matter of fact, the authors spend considerable time talking about how the Summit Public School model is an example of how public education must adapt to the trends affecting society. Of course, this is exciting since IU8 is involved with the Summit Public Schools by helping them spread their message to school districts in Pennsylvania. The trends the authors discuss (in a nutshell) is that society is moving away from standardization of processes and moving toward personalization. Personalization emerges when people are aware of their “micro motives”….which are things that “make your heart sing” as the authors write. As society shifts from standardization to personalization, micro motives become the driver for organizations as well as individuals.

Heartland tells the story of what it is like growing up poor (and white) in rural America. The author grew up on a Kansas wheat farm in the 1990’s. Her personal story reflects the changes in American society that affected rural America in the 1980’s and 1990’s. During this time a rabid privatization mindset took ahold of both political parties in America. In rural policy, this mindset is exemplified by Richard Nixon’s secretary of Agriculture who told farmers to “get big or get out”. Agricultural policies that encouraged farmers to become bigger have devastated rural towns and communities. Towns that used to be able to support themselves because of small farms disappeared with the small farms. The author also dismantles some popularly held assumptions about rural America. For example, just as many white, college-educated people voted for President Trump as did white, poor, non-college educated but the only narrative we hear is that Trump was elected by the latter. This is a damaging stereotype that is not supported by facts. The bottom line is that this book made me question what we “know to be true”. I have always felt the tension between what I have experienced in rural America and what policymakers seem to think is true about rural America…this book reinforced in me that I may just have to trust my gut.

As I mentioned earlier, I did a “deep dive” into marketing and PR to help understand the current landscape in this environment. The one book that really helped me understand the new landscape is The New Rules of Marketing and PR by David Meerman Scott. Marketing is now centered on “Inbound” marketing which is also called “Content” marketing. Basically, the new way to market is to involve potential customers/clients with content you produce (writing blogs, creating videos, podcasts, etc.). Offering to share your experiences and expertise with the public so they can learn from you is natural for educators. I think this book is valuable for educators for one reason…if school leaders follow the concept of content marketing, it can help control the narrative of education in the school district.

My reading adventure away from “work” related titles include one of my favorite authors, Ivan Doig, and his book Bucking the Sun. His books take place in Montana over different time periods in history. I have read all of his books except three. I believe it is good to read fiction as well as non-fiction books. As education leaders, we are always on the lookout for a great leadership book. I am definitely in that class. However, reading fiction is a good changeup. Reading fiction “turns on” other parts of your brain. I notice that I am more creative after I read a fiction book. I actually visited the Ivan Doig collection at Montana State University library last summer and viewed some of his notes that he used in researching his books…a neat experience.

About Tom Butler, Ph.D.

I believe that public education is for the public good and that education should be uncompromisingly learner-centered. The New Learning Ecosystem points us away from the old model of education that does not serve kids well. All educators regardless of where they work can help lead and contribute to the New Learning Ecosystem.
View all posts by Tom Butler, Ph.D. →

Leave a Reply