Your Summer Reading List

Looking for just the right book for your summer reading list? NAIS President Debra Wilson shared these recommendations in her most recent edition of Head Space. Most of the titles are directly applicable to the work of educators and leaders, but some might enrich your life in different ways.

Growing as People, Leaders, Teams, and School Communities

Hidden Potential: The Science of Achieving Greater Things by Adam Grant
Grant’s books always offer a healthy helping of insight. But I could see this one really resonating for school leaders, both as individuals and educators. In a world obsessed with natural talent, this book sets out to explore how to “build the character skills and motivational structures to realize our own potential, and how to design systems that create opportunities for those who have been underrated and overlooked.”

Uncertain: The Wisdom and Wonder of Being Unsure by Maggie Jackson
If being uncertain—and feeling secure enough to say you are uncertain—is a superpower, I am looking forward to donning my “lasso of truth” accessory. Seriously, this book incorporates the surprisingly positive neuroscience triggered by uncertainty as well as real-life examples of how navigating uncertainty has worked out well for other leaders.

Anatomy of a Breakthrough: How to Get Unstuck When It Matters Most by Adam Alter
This book came out over a year ago, but I have it on the top of my reading list for this summer. It focuses on how to become “unstuck” either at work or in life.

The Friction Project: How Smart Leaders Make the Right Things Easier and the Wrong Things Harder by Robert I. Sutton and Huggy Rao
I’m intrigued by the case the authors make that friction isn’t all bad. They suggest how to use friction within your particular situation or system—including a school environment—to encourage or discourage behaviors.

Superfans: The Easy Way to Stand Out, Grow Your Tribe, and Build a Successful Business by Pat Flynn
Many things have changed in our industry, but the power of word of mouth definitely has not. This book takes a fresh look at it.

Hopes and Fears: Strengthening the Relationship with Today's Independent School Parents by Rob Evans and Michael Thompson
The newest edition of this NAIS book aims to help your school reset relationships with parents in these post-pandemic times.

Understanding and Managing Polarization

Try to Love the Questions: From Debate to Dialogue in Classrooms and Life by Lara Schwartz
Schwartz, the founding director of the Project on Civic Dialogue at American University, wrote this book with college students in mind, but I know of at least one school leader who is using it as a faculty summer read and who gave it to all of her board members. The book “sheds light on the rules and norms that govern campus discourse… and encourages students to adopt a mindset of inquiry that embraces uncertainty and a love of questions.”

High Conflict: Why We Get Trapped and How We Get Out by Amanda Ripley
Ripley, who will join us as a speaker at the NAIS Heads’ Summit in Nashville next February, describes high conflict as an “invisible hand” that divides and entrenches us and offers insights for how to escape it.

The Age of Grievance by Frank Bruni
Like Ripley, Bruni explores the state of our polarized political climate. His antidote to the blame game and a culture of “whining” is centered around humility. 

Infectious Generosity: The Ultimate Idea Worth Spreading by Chris Anderson, TED curator 
Anderson sees generosity as a key to finding our way through these challenging times. I found this title on a top-10 list from the famously well-read Bill Gates.

Insights into AI

Co-Intelligence: Living and Working with AI by Ethan Mollick
I’ve read some fascinating yet concise articles by Mollick, like this one on the future of education in a world of AI, and am looking forward to digging into this book.

Brave New Words: How AI Will Revolutionize Education (and Why That's a Good Thing) by Sal Khan
Khan’s take, as the subtitle suggests, is an optimistic one; he encourages school leaders not to fear AI, but to harness it to empower teachers and students.

AI for Educators: Learning Strategies, Teacher Efficiencies, and a Vision for an Artificial Intelligence Future by Matt Miller
A teacher on the NAIS Connect communities shared this title as a summer reading recommendation.

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Debra P. Wilson

Debra P. Wilson is president of NAIS.