Of all people, teachers know that learning never stops, even during breaks between the university semester or summer vacation. And while you probably want a little personal rest and recreation during your summer break — not to mention time away from your students — you can still find ways to indulge your love of teaching and mentoring. These beautiful and inspiring books — including novels, memoirs and teaching guides — are great summer reads and will help you recharge after a tough school year.
This list includes classic novels and more contemporary stories about teaching in prep schools, on college campuses, and even in prisons.
- A Lesson Before Dying: by Ernest J. Gaines. A formerly ambitious teacher who’s returned to his segregated hometown to teach is suddenly responsible for saving a prisoner’s soul before he is executed.
- Anne of Windy Poplars: by Lucy Maud Montgomery. Anne of Avonlea heads to Summerside High School to teach uppity prep school girls who don’t think she belongs. This is a continuation of the classic Anne of Green Gables series.
- Wonder Boys: by Michael Chabon. A professor trying to finish his novel is distracted by his affair with the dean’s wife, a boarding student who tries to seduce him, another troubled but promising student, and his visiting editor.
- The Crazy School: Read about a severely moral boarding school in New England and the teachers and students trying to survive.
- Schooled: by Anita Lakhani. A former Dalton English teacher, Anita Lakhani writes a novel about teaching and paying the bills at an elite New York City prep school.
- Pnin: by Vladimir Nabokov. A Russian professor teaches at an American college in the 1950s in this book, and even if you speak the same language as your students, you’ll appreciate all the miscommunications this poor teacher faces.
- Ms. Hempel Chronicles: by Sarah Shun-lien. This fun book is about a middle school English teacher who’s everyone’s favorite. Find out how she gets her students to think intelligently, and still like her.
- Villete: by Charlotte Bronte. Read this psychologically insightful novel about a young woman who travels to teach at an all-girls school.
- Goodbye, Mr. Chips: by James Hilton. This classic book is about a beloved English schoolteacher in the late 19th century.
Teaching Tips and Education
These books critique the education system in the U.S., offer daily classroom management tips for teachers, and more.
- The Students are Watching: Schools and the Moral Contract: by Theodore R. Sizer and Nancy Faust Sizer. Co-principals ask teachers and the education system to promote moral values and "nurture our humanity" as well as teach practical lessons.
- The Gigantic Book of Teachers’ Wisdom: by Erin Gruwell, with a forward by Frank McCourt. This book contains over 3,000 entries about teaching and knowledge, including tips and quotes from Socrates, Helen Keller, Albert Einstein, and others.
- Learning to Teach Everyone’s Children: by Carl Grant. Grant helps teachers understand the new face of education: it’s multicultural and global, and teachers need to understand how to meet these new demands.
- Classroom Management That Works: Research-Based Strategies for Every Teacher: By Robert J. Marzano, Jana S. Marzano, and Debra J. Pickering. Discover how to bring together school policies, classroom dynamics, first impressions and other forces in order to have an effective, positive classroom.
- Engaging Ideas: The Professor’s Guide to Integrating Writing, Critical Thinking and Active Learning in the Classroom: by John Bean.College and high school teachers can read this book to learn how to actively engage students in discussion and writing assignments.
- The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America: by Jonathan Kozol. After years of research, Kozol wrote this book about how black and Hispanic schools are resorting to "pre-Brown era" segregation and neglect.
- Teaching Outside the Box: How to Grab Your Students by Their Brains: by LouAnne Johnson. This book helps teachers harness their own unique teaching styles and personalities in ways that inspire students, organize lessons, and maintain discipline.
- Why We Teach: by Sonia Nieto. This collection of essays will inspire you to find new ways to reach your students and find meaning in your work.
- Teach Like Your Hair’s On Fire: The Methods and Madness Inside Room 56: by Rafe Esquith. This New York Times-bestselling book is from fifth-grade LA public school teacher Rafe Esquith, who successfully teaches Shakespeare and Vivaldi to immigrant children.
- The Essential 55: An Award-Winning Educator’s Rules for Discovering the Successful Student in Every Child: by Ron Clark. Disney Teacher of the Year Award winner Ron Clark wrote this book of 55 rules that incorporate personal anecdotes and general guidelines for good etiquette, all included to teach respect in education.
- What Keeps Teachers Going?: by Sonia Nieto. Public school teachers find inspiration and appreciation in this book.
- The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher: by Harry K. Wong and Rosemary T. Wong. This best-selling book can teach you better classroom management strategies, especially from the first days of school.
- The Death and Life of the Great American School System: by Diane Ravitch. This potentially controversial book from a former assistant secretary of education Diane Ravitch considers the nature of public education.
Biographies and Memoirs
From inner-city challenges to one-room school houses, these teachers’ experiences can inspire and help you with your own classes.
- The Freedom Writers Diary: by Zlata Filipovic. Read the true story about a young teacher from a privileged background who reached out to troubled kids in Long Beach, CA.
- Teacher Man: by Frank McCourt. Famed writer/teacher Frank McCourt taught English in New York City and writes about his challenges with students, parents, administrators and his own insecurities in this memoir.
- Educating Esme: Diary of a Teacher’s First Year: by Esme Raji Codell. Get inspired by first year teacher Esme’s crazy techniques for catching the attention of her public school students.
- Three Cups of Tea: by Greg Mortenson. Mortenson’s instantly popular book about his work opening girls’ schools in Afghanistan shares a message of using education to promote peace.
- Finding Mrs. Warnecke: The Difference Teachers Make: by Cindi Rigsbee. This is the true story of Cindi Rigsbee, a three-time Teacher of the Year who writes about her first grade teacher who changed her life, gave her self-esteem, and inspired her to open up to her creative side.
- Tisha: The Story of a Young Teacher in the Alaska Wilderness: by Robert Specht and Anne Purdy. This book is based on the story of Anne Hobbs, who moved at just 19 to Alaska in the 1920s to teach but who was torn between her friendship with Native Americans and the other townspeople.
- The Calculus of Friendship: What a Teacher and a Student Learned about Life While Corresponding About Math: by Steven Strogatz. This memoir about mentorship and the power of student-teacher relationships can be appreciated by all readers, no matter their favorite subject.
- The Teacher Who Couldn’t Read: One Man’s Triumph Over Illiteracy: by John Corcoran. Read about a high school teacher who managed to make it into the profession without being able to read, and how he ended up being a champion for literacy.
- Freedom’s Teacher: The Life of Septima Clark: by Katherine Mellen Charron. Former teacher Septima Clark helped thousands of African Americans register to vote in the 1950s, and this book tells about her challenges.
- Why cant U teach me 2 read? Three Students and a Mayor Put Our Schools to the Test: by Beth Fertig. This critique of No Child Left Behind follows three New York City students who graduated from local high schools with barely passable reading skills.
- The Emergency Teacher: The Inspirational Story of a New Teacher in an Inner City School: by Christina Asquith. Asquith was an "emergency teacher" and journalist brought into an inner city school to off-set a teaching shortage. Find out why she was one of the few to make it to the end of the school year.
- Teacher: by Sylvia Ashton-Warner. Learn about a teacher who helped New Zealand’s Maori children learn to read.
- The Unveiling: An American Teacher in a Saudi Palace: by Kristin Decker. Read the story of a husband and wife who educated a progressive princess in Saudi Arabia, only to be detained and threatened with imprisonment a year later.
- A Smile as Big as the Moon: A Special Education Teacher, His Class and Their Inspiring Journey Through U.S. Space Camp: by Mike Kersjes and Joe Layden. Read about one teacher’s determination to send his special ed students to space camp, even though administrators and other teachers opposed the idea.
- The Accidental Teacher: by Eric Mandel. This funny memoir follows the efforts of a first-time high school English teacher who has no training or experience.
- Crossing the Water: Eighteen Months on an Island Working with Troubled Boys: by Daniel Robb. Read this memoir about teaching juvenile delinquents, and how their "school" is run more like a family.
- Losing My Faculties: A Teacher’s Story: by Brendan Halpin. Halpin writes about his experiences teaching in the Boston public school system, from the joys of watching students respond to Wordsworth to the frustrations of managing disruptive classrooms.
- I Become a Teacher: A Memoir of One-Room School Life in Eastern Kentucky: by Cratis D. Williams. Williams was a scholar on life in Appalachia and wrote about his time teaching rural Kentucky students in this memoir.
- A Boy I Once Knew: What a Teacher Learned from her Student: by Elizabeth Stone. Read about a teacher whose former student sent her 10 years’ worth of diaries about life in San Francisco’s gay community.
- I Choose to Stay: A Black Teacher Refuses to Desert the Inner City: by Salome Thomas-EL and Cecil Murphey, with a forward by Arnold Schwarzenegger. This memoir from a teacher turned principal is about the life of a promising student transferred from a struggling public school to a magnet school, where he met with racism, insecurity, and inspirational teachers.
Check out these books for more motivation and inspiration to pump you up for the next school year.
- Love and Logic Teacher-isms: Wise Words for Teachers: This little book is filled with quotes and teacher-isms to help you get through the day and look forward to fall.
- Motivating Students Who Don’t Care: Successful Techniques for Educators: by Allen N. Mendler, Ph.D. Learn about five strategies for helping unmotivated, unprepared students succeed.
- The Creative Teacher: An Encyclopedia of Ideas to Energize Your Curriculum: by Steve Springer, Brandy Alexander, and Kimberly Persiani-Becker. This book was written for K-6 teachers and features writing prompts, writing project ideas, DIY projects, science experiments and more.
- Work Hard. Be Nice. How Two Inspired Teachers Created the Most Promising Schools in America: by Jay Matthews. Learn about the revolutionary KIPP program, founded by Teach for America graduates Mike Feinberg and Dave Levin.
- There Are No Shortcuts: by Rafe Esquith. Rafe calls on teachers to work beyond normal school hours in this memoir/manual.
- Not Quite Burned Out, but Crispy Around the Edges: by Sharon M. Draper. If you need a little extra encouragement to keep going, read this book of stories and essays.
- I Remember My Teacher: by David Shribman. Read stories from everyday people, celebrities and politicians who reflect on their favorite teachers.
- Chicken Soup for the Teacher’s Soul: by Jack Canfield. The Chicken Soup series continues with this edition just for teachers.
- Teaching with Fire: Poetry that Sustains the Courage to Teach: Edited by Sam M. Intrator and Megan Scribner; Written by Parker J. Palmer and Tom Vander Ark. This collection of poetry was arranged to inspire teachers and find the beauty in what they do every day.
- Letters to a Young Teacher: by Jonathan Kozol. Education critic and teacher Johnathan Kozol writes letters to a young first-grade teacher working in inner city Boston, encouraging her and sharing observations from his own work.