Beach Reading Anyone?

Because nothing beats kicking back with a good book.


Happy Wednesday! During the school year, I teach American Literature and spend A TON of time digging into the finer points of fiction. But no school means that I can read whatever I want! So each Wednesday throughout the summer, I’ll try to post a sort of living, breathing “works in progress” reading list of a handful of books I’m working through, along with a few lines about what I’m learning as I go.

I once heard it said that the books you are reading today is the person you'll become in five years. I really like that idea. Click To Tweet

Fair warning: I’m a “dabbler,” who works in spurts through a ton of different books at a time. Audiobooks, Kindle, PD reads, leisure reading, and a whole bunch of non-fiction books — usually for professional growth along the lines of personal branding or dedicated research for future projects on down the line.

This week’s audio book (re)read:*

Ralph Ellison Invisible Man

You Can’t See Me: If you’ll pardon a blatant cut-and-paste job from

A first novel by an unknown writer, it remained on the bestseller list for sixteen weeks, won the National Book Award for fiction, and established Ralph Ellison as one of the key writers of the century. The nameless narrator of the novel describes growing up in a black community in the South, attending a Negro college from which he is expelled, moving to New York and becoming the chief spokesman of the Harlem branch of “the Brotherhood”, and retreating amid violence and confusion to the basement lair of the Invisible Man he imagines himself to be.

I’ve taught the “Battle Royal” chapter in my eleventh grade Honors American Literature class for the better part of a decade. It’s a powerful, harrowing piece of short fiction that speaks volumes about race and identity in a time of pronounced social divide, and it’s become a fixture of my Black History month lesson planning. But it’s been years since I’ve had the time or the instructional freedom to bring the full-length book into our school’s curriculum. Thankfully, that’s all changing this summer (funny thing when you write a book — people start listening to your suggestions all of the sudden!), and so my students will have hit the ground running by reading the entire novel before the first day of class. It has the potential to change the entire shape and structure of our school year together, and I simply could not be more excited.

Verdict: Sneak a peek by reading the Battle Royal chapter online, then check out the full book if you like what you’re seeing. It’s one of the best works of literature I’ve ever encountered.

This week’s PD read:

The Four O’Clock Faculty: A Rogue Guide to Revolutionizing Professional Development by [Czyz, Rich]

Rich Czyz – The Four O’Clock Faculty: A Rogue Guide to Revolutionizing Professional Development 

Ring Ring: This book came highly recommended to me by a teacher friend who’s been taking part in the EDrenaline Rush Voxer book study. And since I’m our school’s director of professional development and one of my biggest initiatives for the upcoming school year is to eradicate the traditional “sit and get” style PD once and for all in favor of a self-paced system of teacher growth we’re calling the igKnight Academy, I’m all in for checking out any book that promises to offer a guide to “Revolutionizing” professional development.

Verdict: Loving the sentiment that this book presents when it points out how faulty the logic can be when you expect someone else to be responsible for YOUR professional growth. It’s you against you, folks. And while most traditional PD has its work cut out for it, there’s really little excuse for an educator to hang back and let someone else to the work for them in an era of 24/7 web connectivity where opportunities to learn are literally everywhere you look.

This week on Kindle:

Seth Godin – This is Marketing

Buy Buy Buy: A big part of any teacher’s job is “pitching” — new lessons to students, no pedagogies to admin, new curricula to colleagues and parents, you name it. And in a job where we are constantly asked to stand and deliver novel and exciting ways to get those around us fired up to come along with whatever ride we’ve got in store, it certainly pays to understand what makes the “market” tick. Godin is a noted author, blogger, and thought leader with particular savvy in the field of marketing, and this book is an excellent intro into his approach to doing business.

Verdict: Reads like a less curse-word version of Gary Vaynerchuk’s The Thank You Economy. A solid intro to 21st century marketing philosophy — with a particular focus on the online realm.

*A quick note on Audiobooks: Two hours of commuting every day = lots of time to “read” in the car! And yes, audiobooks absolutely count as reading. The research is super clear on this point, especially for readers with learning differences — including folks with dyslexia like me — and I wholeheartedly encourage my students to do the exact same thing.

Author: John

John Meehan (@MeehanEDU) is an English teacher and school instructional coach at Bishop O’Connell High School in Arlington, Virginia. He began his teaching career in 2010 as a career switcher through The New Teacher Project, after spending five years working in social media and event marketing. He is a 2017 ASCD Emerging Leader, and an alumnus of the 2016-2018 Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Teacher Advisory Council. In 2016, he was named one of Arlington, Virginia’s “40 Under 40” by the Leadership Center for Excellence. He is a past presenter and regular attendee at educational conferences throughout the United States, including the annual conference for National Catholic Education Association, ASCD Empower19, and the Play Like a Champion Today: Character Education Through Sports summer conference at the University of Notre Dame. He’s an avid runner who’s completed more than three dozen marathons, half marathons, long-distance road relays, mud runs, and obstacle course races. John lives in Silver Spring, Maryland.

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