Book Review – The Lies of Locke Lamora

Title: The Lies of Locke Lamora

Author: Scott Lynch

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4.0 out of 5.0 stars

What It’s About

In the bustling, corrupt city of Camorr, an orphan named Locke Lamora emerges as an ingenious thief, a master of deception, and the leader of a band of skilled swindlers known as the Gentleman Bastards. In Scott Lynch’s captivating debut novel, “The Lies of Locke Lamora,” we are transported to a richly imagined world of criminal intrigue and breathtaking adventures that keep us hooked from the very first page.

The story follows the life of Locke Lamora from his tragic childhood to his rise as a skilled con artist under the tutelage of Father Chains, a blind priest who is, in fact, a criminal mastermind. Alongside his fellow Gentleman Bastards, Locke sets out to carry off the ultimate heist: swindling the city’s wealthy nobles of their fortunes while avoiding the attention of the city’s powerful criminal underworld, led by the mysterious figure known as Capa Barsavi.

As the plot unfolds, the stakes rise, and the intricate web of lies and deception grows ever more tangled. The Gentleman Bastards find themselves embroiled in a perilous game of cat and mouse with the enigmatic Gray King, a deadly figure who seeks to overthrow the established criminal order. As the danger escalates, Locke must use every ounce of his cunning and guile to outwit his enemies and protect his friends while navigating the thin line between loyalty and betrayal.

Lynch’s writing is a delightful blend of humor, suspense, and rich world-building. He has created an intricate, layered society that mirrors the complexities of our own world. The Lies of Locke Lamora is a tale of friendship, loyalty, and the fine art of deception. With its vivid characters, razor-sharp dialogue, and thrilling action sequences, the novel is a masterclass in storytelling.

In summary, “The Lies of Locke Lamora” is an enthralling and inventive fantasy novel that will leave readers eagerly anticipating the next installment in the series. Scott Lynch has created an unforgettable protagonist in Locke Lamora, a character whose cunning and charm will undoubtedly resonate with fans of the genre. A must-read for anyone who enjoys immersive world-building, clever heists, and unforgettable characters.

How I Discovered It

This book was recommended to me by nearly everyone I know who reads books similar to those I enjoy.

“When you don’t know everything you could know, it’s a fine time to shut your fucking noisemaker and be polite.” (Scott Lynch, The Lies of Locke Lamora)

Thoughts

While I enjoyed the book, it did take some time for me to get into it. There is quite a bit of world-building at the beginning of the book, so much so that I began to wonder exactly where the plot would end up.

However, once the story picked up, I was completely engrossed. The characters are well-developed, and the plot is full of unexpected twists and turns. I especially enjoyed the intricate heists that Locke and his crew pull off. The world-building is also impressive, with vivid descriptions of the city of Camorr and its various factions.

What I Liked About It

I loved the dynamic between the members of the Gentleman Bastards and the witty banter that they engage in. The world-building is also fantastic, and I found myself fully immersed in the richly imagined city of Camorr.

What I Didn’t Like About It

As mentioned before, the beginning of the book can be slow due to the extensive world-building. Additionally, some of the violent scenes may be too graphic for some readers.

Who Would Like It?

Fans of fantasy heist novels will love “The Lies of Locke Lamora.” It’s a great choice for readers who enjoy complex plots, well-developed characters, and immersive world-building.

Related Books

Readers who enjoyed “The Lies of Locke Lamora” may also enjoy the sequels, “Red Seas Under Red Skies” and “The Republic of Thieves,” as well as “Six of Crows” by Leigh Bardugo.

All your base are belong to us

all your base are belong to us

Hey, y’all. We’re nearing the end of March, and for many public schools, that means Spring Break is near (or maybe already arrived). It’s a very busy time for educators as one school year ends, and plans for the next are already taking shape.

My hope for you as we approach the end of another school year is that you take the time to take care of yourself. You cannot pour from an empty cup, and it’s easy to get caught up in all the things at the end of the school year.

atomic habits by james clear

Take a beat, catch a deep breath, and center yourself. Rediscover what is really important to you and what you can control.

“We have so little control over our lives. The only thing we can really control is what we spend our days on.” – Austin Kleon

Anyways, here are ten things I thought were worth sharing with you this week:

10 Things Worth Sharing

  1. I worked with a senior English class this week, showing them some AI tools. They might write a book.
  2. Here’s a curated list of prompts, tools, and resources regarding the GPT-4 language model.
  3. Wanna learn financial literacy? This 300-page book was written completely with ChatGPT.
  4. The TikTok trial is a mess and is only proving that the US government is targeting this specific company over other social media platforms. Any issues with TikTok are the same with Facebook, Instagram, Snap, and many others.
  5. What is the right amount of agency to give to learners during their interactions with EdTech? Blog post and paper
  6. Are you a Wordle fan? I’m totally not, but I’ve also never liked Scrabble. Not that you care. Here’s Every Possible Wordle Solution Visualized
  7. An AI course creator – according to the page: “Start with a description and let AI-Assistant offer title and outline suggestions.”
  8. You might be violating copyright in your classroom. Maybe.
  9. Bill Gates explains why AI is as revolutionary as personal computers, mobile phones, and the Internet, and he gives three principles for how to think about it. Also, he recommends this book, this book, and this book as helpful in shaping his own thinking about AI.
  10. An Introvert’s Field Guide to Friendship: Thoreau on the Challenges and Rewards of the Art of Connection
rocking the boat
Rocking the Boat by Debra Meyerson

Thanks for reading. This newsletter is a completely reader-supported publication. The best way to support it is to check out my recommendations or become a paid subscriber.

The Reading List for February 2023

Two things came to mind as I began compiling this month’s reading list: deeper learning in schools and the power of embracing your authentic self. The first one is, of course, on my mind pretty much every day. Any work that I have done in education has ultimately been centered on creating deeper learning experiences for students.

Second, the idea of embracing your authentic self is important to me since I spent the majority of my life not being my authentic self. Growing up in an environment in which I was expected to do “the right thing”—a pretty subjective idea—and what I wanted to do wasn’t easy. I’m getting there, but there haven’t been many of my 46 years on this planet that have been guided by my own passions and thoughts.

Now, on to this month’s book recommendations:

Failure to Disrupt

If there was ever a book that arrived at the perfect time in the education world, it’s this one.

In this book, Justin Reich argues against the idea that technology can completely change schools and how students learn. He does this by describing and analyzing different educational technologies in a realistic way. Reich draws on his positions at Harvard and MIT to provide unparalleled insight into the progress of these trends and their limitations in practice.

This book sheds light on the issues with educational technologies, such as the various approaches and tools developed by technologists. It offers valuable insights into what to consider when adopting, utilizing, and implementing technologies in different educational settings, especially during the era of virtual learning and social distancing.

In Failure to Disrupt: Why Technology Alone Can’t Transform Education, the author questions the ability of educational technologies to bring transformative changes to education. Despite the promises of affordable, accessible, effective, and engaging education for all students, the author points out the inconsistencies in enrollment and completion of online courses and the limited benefits for students from low socioeconomic statuses. The author also highlights four challenges: the Curse of the familiar, the trap of routine assessments, the EdTech Matthew effect, and the toxic power of data and experiments.

The book’s last chapter, “Conclusion: Preparing for the Next Learning-at-Scale Hype Cycle,” is key. The author urges readers, including educators, administrators, policymakers, and technologists, to carefully evaluate educational technologies and be cautious of tools that claim to be transformative. To do so, he poses the following questions: 1) What’s new? 2) Who guides the learning experience? 3) Is the pedagogy trying to fill pails or kindle flames? 4) What existing technologies does it adopt? He also emphasizes the need to examine how and when technological tools can be incorporated into students’ learning processes and warns against factors that could hinder learners’ abilities to achieve desired results.

Failure to Disrupt offers compelling arguments on educational technology, examining the hype and laying the foundations for a promising future in the field.

Leadership for Deeper Learning

Full disclosure on this one: I am lucky to call all three of the authors who collaborated on this project friends. Even if I didn’t have that connection, I’d still recommend this book to you. It’s a fantastic look at innovative schools and what they are doing to create deeper learning experiences for students.

This book examines how leaders have introduced, maintained, and advanced innovative, deeper learning opportunities in their schools.

Schools are changing to be more action-oriented, focused on performance, digitally relevant, and democratic. This book highlights innovative practices across seven categories: vision, agency in learning, trust in teachers, openness to new ideas, over-communicating change, equity-mindedness, and courage to live outside norms.

Leadership for Deeper Learning explores how school leaders can create new learning environments for students and teachers, with practical strategies and stories to inspire change and innovation.

Most Likely to Succeed

While this book has been around for a bit, the message is no less relevant today than it was in 2015, perhaps more so in the wake of COVID-19

Most Likely to Succeed looks at the problems with the US education system and suggests ways to better prepare future generations for the age of innovation, such as changing the way we teach and what we teach.

According to Tony Wagner and Ted Dintersmith, schools are not equipping students with the skills they need to succeed as ethical citizens and productive employees, and they are also forcing them to learn useless information superficially. Wagner and Dintersmith say that this makes it harder for students to follow their passions and get real-world experience. They also say that it makes teachers unhappy and keeps society divided along class lines.

The key message of Most Likely to Succeed is this: although society is advancing at an astonishing speed, our education system is stuck in the nineteenth century. Consequently, we’re educating our children to succeed in a bygone era. To give our kids the opportunity to succeed, we must creatively reimagine education for the innovation era.

What Schools Could Be

In What Schools Could Be, Ted Dintersmith shares solutions he discovered while traveling to 50 states, 200 schools, over a hundred community forums, and a thousand meetings. The book talks about innovation in K–12 education, online learning, colleges and universities, and short-term immersive experiences. It’s a great way to learn about the American educational innovation landscape.

In Dintersmith’s model, a great school has four parts (PEAK):

  • Purpose: Where students do actual important work.
  • Essentials: There’s a backbone to what they’re learning that they’ll need in the future.
  • Agency: Students are in charge of their learning and are intrinsically motivated.
  • Knowledge: Everything learned is deep and retained, they are creators and teach others what they know

Kitchen Confidential

I miss Anthony Bourdain almost as much as I miss Tom Petty, which is a lot. I’m sure as you reach this section you’re asking yourself, “What the hell is a book about line cooks doing amongst books about education?”

Allow me to try and explain…

The book takes the form of a biography chronicling Bourdain’s time in the culinary industry. Interspersed with cooking advice, it covers the love between a chef and sous-chef, as well as the chef’s relationship with delusional owners. The biography takes you through Bourdain’s childhood and his realization, while in France, of the importance of food. It then follows his journey from his start in the culinary industry, through culinary college, and up the ranks of various chef positions until he eventually runs his own kitchen with, as he puts it, “brigades of pirates, degenerates, and thieves.” Filled with wild anecdotes of kitchen misbehavior, drugs, sex, rock and roll, more drugs, and truffle oil, the book illustrates the hardships of the industry, including long hours, injuries, and sexual harassment, and how people still choose to do it. One particularly powerful chapter towards the end of the book goes blow-by-blow through an average day in the life of a chef.

While the life of an educator doesn’t have nearly the entertainment value of the life of a chef, there are certain parts of the job that are difficult, frustrating, and perhaps even maddening. The relationships between teachers and students, the demands on teachers’ time, meaningless mandates from far-away misguided legislators, and the never-ending grind of the school year can have many teachers feel like they are on the line. And maybe they are.

But in the relentless pursuit of making something great, there are always obstacles. There are always trying times. There will always be something to improve, whether that is a 7th-grade math lesson or an exclusive dish at a Michelin-star restaurant.

Maybe I’m crazy, but I thoroughly enjoyed this inside look at a madcap world that so many of us will never experience or understand. It’s all fun stuff. The anecdotes, characters, and asides are crazy enough that Bourdain wouldn’t need to be a great writer to make them work. But he is a good writer with a unique voice and a dry sense of humor that makes his TV shows stand out. Together, these elements make the book not only an interesting read but also a real pleasure. I laughed out loud numerous times throughout.

Honorable Mentions

I can’t talk about being your authentic self and driving for what you really want in life without mentioning The War of Art, the modern classic on overcoming Resistance and becoming the creative genius you were meant to become. And if you’re wanting to dive deeper into discovering your authentic self, you should add Daring Greatly and The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown to your list, along with Victor Frankl’s classic Man’s Search for Meaning. I’d also recommend Flow as a way to get the most out of your creativity and reach your fullest potential.

I hope you enjoyed this month’s reading list! Remember, reading is a great way to expand your knowledge and understanding of the world. Whether you’re interested in education, leadership, or just looking for a good memoir, there’s something on this list for everyone. So, grab a book and start reading!

Quotes, Mindfulness, & Adventure

Hey, y’all.

This week, I’m thinking about taking care of myself while preparing for the new school year. It’s late February, and the ramp-up for the new school year is here. Meetings, quick chats, emails, and video conferences fill the calendars of many school leaders this time of year, not to mention the very sudden increase in conferences filled with pitches from every company under the sun.

When this happens, I try to remain grounded and keep doing the things I know will apply a little salve to my soul.

As such, here are 10 quotes this week to give you something to think about, something to comfort you, or something to inspire you.

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10 Things Worth Sharing

  1. “Truly clever things are said with short words. Long ones are used to hide stupidity.” (Joe Abercrombie, A Little Hatred)
  2. “Evidence of a traditional professional learning model: Decreased teacher attendance on in-service days. The experience is fully planned by the administration in a top-down approach, with little to no teacher involvement. The experience is designed with a one-size-fits-all approach. A mass exodus occurs when the required time is up. There is little opportunity for teacher feedback on the experience. Professional learning is viewed as a set number of hours or calendar days per year. Accountability is measured in hours—not in progress or outcomes over time. Supervision conversations focus on experiences attended and hours earned—not on the transformation of instructional pedagogy. Professional learning is viewed solely as a district responsibility.” (Eric C. Sheninger, Thomas C. Murray, Learning Transformed)
  3. “We don’t need to get rid of all our possessions, but we should constantly question what we own, why we own it, and whether we could do without.” (Ryan Holiday, Stillness Is the Key)
  4. “My greatest successes came from decisions I made when I stopped thinking and simply did what felt right. Even if there was no good explanation for what I did.” (Patrick Rothfuss, The Name of the Wind)
  5. “In your whole life nobody has ever abused you more than you have abused yourself.” (Don Miguel Ruiz, Janet Mills, The Four Agreements)
  6. “Time magnifies the margin between success and failure. It will multiply whatever you feed it. Good habits make time your ally. Bad habits make time your enemy.” (James Clear, Atomic Habits)
  7. “Games make us happy because they are hard work that we choose for ourselves, and it turns out that almost nothing makes us happier than good, hard work.” (Jane McGonigal, Reality Is Broken)
  8. “No matter how good you were, someone was better. Live by that knowledge, and you would never grow so confident that you became sloppy.” (Brandon Sanderson, The Emperor’s Soul)
  9. “The key to developing a deep work habit is to move beyond good intentions and add routines and rituals to your working life designed to minimize the amount of your limited willpower necessary to transition into and maintain a state of unbroken concentration.” (Cal Newport, Deep Work)
  10. “Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.” (Steven Pressfield, The War of Art)

Thanks for reading. This newsletter is a completely reader-supported publication. The best way to support it is to check out my recommendations or become a paid subscriber.

Books I Read in January 2023

Good grief. Somehow, we’ve already burned through the first month of 2023. My year started with a bang with several projects at work with my teaching fellowship and with a new round of doctoral classes. Time is just flying by! I’m grateful for the opportunities, but sometimes it feels like there’s not enough time in the day. Does anyone else feel like this? How do you all manage your time? I’ll share some of my best tactics to save time and organize my days later this month.

For now, let’s dig into the books I read in January 2023. This month’s books include fiction and non-fiction titles. Two of these books are specific to my doctoral classes and, as such, won’t be far from my desk for the rest of this semester. One of the books is the first of Brandon Sanderson’s “Secret Projects,” unveiled last year as part of the most successful Kickstarter ever.

But first, here are some stats from my StoryGraph for the month of January 2023:

January 2023 reading stats for Mike Paul from Storygraph
January 2023 reading stats for Mike Paul from Storygraph

And now… TO THE BOOKS!

Tress of the Emerald Sea

The first book of the year for me arrived in my inbox at midnight, mountain time. Which means I was fast asleep when it showed up! However, bright and early on the morning of January 1, I sent the ebook to my Kindle (my physical copy will arrive soon enough) and dove in.

The wait was long, and I did my very best to avoid pretty much any plot points or even commentary Sanderson provided before the launch.

The wait was well worth it. What a joy this book was to read. I smiled while reading for probably over half of the book. And at the end, I reveled in the warm, fuzzy feeling of an instant favorite and classic. I haven’t finished all of Sanderson’s Cosmere books yet (that’s one of my goals for 2023), but this one is currently in my top three books, right behind Oathbringer and The Hero of Ages.

If you’re a Sanderson fan, this is a must-read. If you’re not yet a Sanderson fan, dive in this year. This book will be waiting for you when you’re ready.

2001: A Space Odyssey

I’m a big fan of science fiction, so I was especially looking forward to reading 2001: A Space Odyssey. I knew it was a classic, and I was excited to see how the world-renowned movie adaptation compared to the book. I’ve seen the movie several times but never read the book.

Unlike other film adaptations, this novel was written right alongside the development of the film. Stanley Kubrick (the director) and Arthur Clarke (the writer) worked together through the process, each getting the writing credit for the film and book, respectively.

The novel did not disappoint. It is an absolute masterpiece and a classic in the science fiction genre. The story is gripping and thoughtful, the setting is unique and captivating, and the characters are well-developed and memorable.

What’s remarkable about the book is how different it is from the movie. While the movie does a great job of conveying the overall plot and has magnificent visuals, it lacks the nuanced details that make the book so compelling. The book provides greater detail and helps define the scope of the themes in the film masterfully.

Overall, I highly recommend this book to any fan of science fiction. It’s an incredible piece of literature with many interesting and thought-provoking ideas. It’s a must-read for any fan of the genre.

The Great Gatsby

Yes, I probably should have read this book before I was 46 years old. Sue me. It was not on the list of required books when I was in high school, so I didn’t read it. My apologies to all fans of the book and all its various adaptations.

First, let’s clear the air. I did not enjoy the book. Not at all.

Even so, I have to say that this is a book worth reading. I respect it for its place in the classics of American literature and the impact it has had over the years.

It brings the glamour of the Jazz age alive and also offers an interesting view of life’s relationship with wealth and power. The novel touches upon themes like ambition and disillusionment, offering up a compelling psychological study of its characters.

While Fitzgerald’s writing style is sometimes criticized for being overly romantic and sentimental, there’s no denying the power of his prose. The Great Gatsby shows that it still has a lot to say about life today. It’s a story of dreams, desires, and consequences that can still be felt many decades later.

Oliver Twist

This was not my first time reading Oliver Twist. I love Dickens’s novels. Love them. This time, I listened to an audio dramatization of the novel that was stunning. It was incredibly well-acted, and the music and sound effects added to the story’s intensity.

The novel follows the adventures of Oliver Twist, an orphan in London who is tossed from one misfortunate situation to another. It’s full of incredible characters like Fagin and Bill Sykes, as well as moments of heartbreak and suffering.

It’s a timeless story that shows the power of hope, even in the darkest of times. It may be set in Victorian England, but its themes of poverty and injustice still resonate today. It is an inspiring reminder to always keep on fighting against all odds.

Elantris

After reading a large chunk of the Cosmere novels, I finally went back to “the beginning” of sorts. Elantris is Brandon Sanderson’s first published novel but the sixth one he wrote. Elantris takes place in a world of magic and wonder, but it’s also filled with tragedy, loss, and pain.

As others have pointed out, Sanderson’s writing has improved greatly since Elantris’ publication. However, the book is still fantastic and gives hints of much of the Cosmere awesomeness to come.

Sanderson has said that he will write sequels to Elantris in the future, and I’m looking forward to how they will tie into the larger Cosmere universe.

Stalking the Nightmare

Harlan Freaking Ellison. I think this is my third time reading this collection of stories from the Grand Master of speculative fiction. Stalking the Nightmare is an amazing read every time, as are all of Ellison’s collections.

Ellison grabs you by the throat with his prose and doesn’t let go, not ever. His stories are intense, heart-wrenching, and full of emotion. If you haven’t read this book yet, I highly recommend it for its exploration of themes like mortality, identity, morality, creativity, and the endless cycle of tragedy, loss, and pain.

I’m thrilled that author J Michael Straczynski is working to get all of Ellison’s works republished and finally get the anthology “The Last Dangerous Visions” published.

To be sure, Ellison can be problematic, and he certainly was not a great person to work with at any time. But his contributions to speculative fiction cannot be overlooked.

Reframing Organizations

This classic of organizational theory — this is the seventh edition — is one of the books for my doctoral work.

In Reframing Organizations, Bolman and Deal offer a unique perspective on organizations, focusing on four frames: structural, human resources, political and symbolic. They argue that all four frames must be taken into account when looking at the inner workings of an organization.

The book is very accessible and flows well, making it easy to understand even for those with little background in organizational theory. This update includes examples from more recent organizational leadership scenarios, including commentary on the Trump presidency.

Mixed Methods Applications in Action Research

The second book for this semester’s doctoral studies, this book goes into incredible detail about creating a mixed methods action research project.

Of course, it is primarily a handbook for budding researchers and not a captivating read. However, if you’re curious about the mixed methods action research methodology, you may want to add this to your reference library.

The Prestige

I have a unique connection to the film version of “The Prestige.” My grandfather passed away on the morning of Halloween in 2006. To help take my mind off that incredible loss, my girlfriend (now my wife) and I went to the movies and saw “The Prestige.”

I have loved the film ever since.

Whether I knew about it and forgot or just never knew, I didn’t realize the film was based on a novel. As soon as I did, I picked it up and dove in.

While the film for me is more enjoyable than the novel, the novel does bring a different perspective to the events and the characters. Altogether a fine read.

Deep Work

Cal Newport defines “deep work” as focused, uninterrupted, undistracted work on a task that pushes your cognitive abilities to their limit.

In comparison, “shallow work” means tasks that don’t need much thinking – like answering emails, doing paperwork, and going to unproductive meetings. These tasks don’t give much value, and anyone can do them.

Newport argues that developing new concepts and achieving great results requires deep work, not shallow work. Shallow work is small and incremental, whereas deep work can be life-changing.

Now, as an educator in the K-12 sector, much of what Newport outlines here with time blocking and other techniques don’t translate well to the daily life of a teacher.

However, there is still much to learn and apply here, we have to modify for our work.

For example, rather than blocking off large chunks of time to focus on a single task, teachers can look at ways to make the most efficient use of their limited time.

This could include carving out shorter periods for deep work focused on planning or assessment and using the rest of their day for shallow tasks like grading papers or completing administrative duties.

Overall, Deep Work is a great read for anyone looking to maximize their productivity.

Peak

Peak: Secrets From the New Science of Expertise looks at how people gain skills and how top performers in music, sports, and other areas grow their abilities. It may appear that people such as Chopin, Beethoven, or Roger Federer have a natural gift that allows them to do amazing things without hard work, but in fact, they put in a lot of effort.

The book discusses that, as your skills improve, you will come to a point that will cause you to change how you “practice” that skill to see greater improvement. The process involves moving from “purposeful practice,” a process involving setting specific goals, getting feedback, and stepping outside of your comfort zone, to “deliberate practice,” which builds on the principles of purposeful practice but applies them in a systematic, rigorous framework that leads to the kind of performances we see from acknowledged experts.

Think about all we do in our schools. Not just what our students do as part of the learning process but what we do as teachers improving our practice. By embracing the principles of deliberate practice and applying them to every, we could create a far better world, one with profound implications for technology, healthcare, public service, and countless other fields.

On War

I know, I know. You’re thinking to yourself, “why is an educator reading a book on war strategies?”

I get it, this is probably not the book you would find on most teachers’ bookshelves. However, as someone who wants to make significant changes in the educational system, I think that any strategy I can find to help me in that “war” will be helpful.

On War by Carl von Clausewitz is arguably the most influential Western treatise on the subject of war. Clausewitz was a Prussian general who fought in the Napoleonic wars in the early 1800s, and he wrote extensively about military philosophy, strategy, and tactics.

The book consists of a large collection of essays. The author intended to develop them into a comprehensive textbook for military officers, politicians, and others who needed to understand the subject of war. However, he died before finishing this project, so his writings were published in their original form.

Again, I have no intentions of going to war. But, as educators, we are continually involved in political battles, and having some strategies to keep in mind as we participate in those battles is not a bad thing.

Conclusion

Overall, January was a great reading month. I stayed in line with my reading goals for the year and knocked off several books that have been lounging on my TBR for a long, long time.

Of course, I’ll continue to recommend books that I think are great for teachers and other leaders each and every month. If you’re interested, I publish a monthly book recommendation newsletter with 5-10 books I think you’ll love.

If you haven’t already, consider signing up for my Read With Mike monthly newsletter. I’m sure you’ll enjoy getting great reading recommendations each month for free.

The 10 Books Every Teacher Should Read in 2023

A new year begins, full of new challenges and possibilities. But really, these challenges and possibilities aren’t new. They’re the same ones humans have faced for centuries; we experience them in a different context.

We’re all still trying to make sense of this crazy world and what part we must play in this grand performance of life. How do we make the world a better place? How do we find happiness? How do we experience true fulfillment? How do we achieve what we want in this life and, along the way, help a few other people get what they want?

As educators, that last question may be the most important one for us to answer. Without question, we have goals for our lives. But so much of the work we do every day is tied to helping other people, our students, accomplish their goals. Sometimes, our work helps students determine their goals.

Sometimes our work is helping students believe that their goals are possible; that they’re not crazy for being different and wanting something others may tell them is “stupid,” “not acceptable,” or “bad.”

We are purveyors in providing spaces for dreamers to make their dreams come true.

We must diligently provide these students with the support and resources they need to make their dreams a reality. We must create learning environments that foster creativity and exploration. We should inspire our students to take risks and challenge themselves to think outside the box. Additionally, we must equip them with the necessary skills and knowledge to help them progress steadily toward their goals.

As educators, it is our responsibility to be a source of guidance and understanding for our students, no matter how big or small their dreams may be. We must recognize the power of our influence and use it to encourage and empower our students to reach their full potential.

But for us to do all of that, we must take care of ourselves. We have to refill our cups, and we must ensure that we are working toward our own goals. Modeling success is key for our students. I can think of no greater tool to keep our minds sharp, our spirits full, and our eyes focused on the horizon of our dreams than reading great books.

Books are more than just an investment in yourself – they are a doorway to a world of knowledge. From novels and nonfiction to how-to guides, poetry, classics, and biographies, there’s something for everyone in the world of books. Reading can help you think more deeply, be kinder, gain a broader perspective, and become better at the things that matter to you. Books have been around for thousands of years and are still being published today, containing the distilled wisdom of countless hours of hard work. Why not take this opportunity to benefit from the knowledge stored within them?

With that in mind, here are 10 books – both recent and classic – that can help you achieve your 2023 goals and live a better, more fulfilling life.

Note: If you expect professional development books with 13 strategies and 27 tips to get more done in your classroom, you’ve come to the wrong list. These books help you with LIFE and living better in every area.

I’ll leave the boring, monotonous, ill-conceived PD books to other folks 😉

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius

Meditations by Marcus Aurelius is a collection of personal reflections written by the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. Written in the 2nd century AD, it is an important philosophical work exploring Stoic philosophy and its practical application in life.

mediations by marcus aurelius

Meditations is an essential read for teachers, as it offers a great insight into the Stoic philosophy and how to apply it in a practical way. It provides a framework for understanding our emotions and reactions and how to use them to our advantage. It helps to refocus our attention on what matters most in life and encourages us to be kinder and more compassionate towards others. It also offers a unique perspective on our own inner struggles and how to make peace with them. With its timeless wisdom, Meditations is an invaluable resource for teachers striving to make a difference in their students’ lives.

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

The War of Art by Steven Pressfield is a must-read for teachers looking to break through creative blocks and achieve their goals. It examines the inner struggle of pursuing your dreams and offers concrete strategies to help you overcome these obstacles.

The book focuses on the concept of “resistance”, which is an inner force that can be physical, mental, or emotional and prevents us from achieving our goals. It encourages us to push through these barriers and to keep working no matter how difficult the journey may be. The War of Art is an inspirational read that provides invaluable advice for teachers looking to overcome their own struggles and help their students reach their full potential.

The Obstacle is The Way by Ryan Holiday

The Obstacle is The Way by Ryan Holiday is a book that explores the concept of stoicism and its practical application in everyday life. It encourages readers to confront and embrace the obstacles that stand in their way and to use them as an opportunity to grow and become stronger.

The Obstacle is The Way provides a framework for understanding life’s struggles and how to use them to your advantage. It is an essential read for teachers looking to help their students overcome their own obstacles and achieve their goals.

Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon

Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon is a must-read for teachers looking to find their creative spark. It encourages readers to look at the world from a different perspective and to embrace their own unique style. Through personal anecdotes, Kleon provides a framework for understanding creativity and how to use it to your advantage.

This inspirational read encourages readers to escape their comfort zones and explore their passions. Steal Like an Artist is an invaluable resource for teachers looking to foster creativity and exploration in their students.

Start With Why by Simon Sinek

Start With Why by Simon Sinek is an inspirational and thought-provoking book with a simple premise – that people should start with why when making decisions and formulating strategies. The book provides clear examples of how this approach can help teachers become more successful and effective.

It advocates for an approach that puts the why before the how and what and encourages readers to find their own why. It helps teachers to understand the importance of having a clear purpose and how it can help them reach their goals. It also encourages teachers to think more deeply and creatively and helps them to understand their own values and how they can help to create a better world for their students.

Dare to Lead by Brene Brown

Dare to Lead by Brene Brown is a powerful and inspiring book that explores the courage and vulnerability needed to lead. It examines how fear often keeps us from taking risks and how embracing vulnerability can help us achieve our goals. Through personal stories and historical examples, Dare to Lead provides a framework for understanding leadership and how to use it to create a better world for our students.

It encourages readers to be brave and take risks, to be honest, and open, and to find their own voice. It helps teachers to understand their own strengths and weaknesses and how to use them to become more effective leaders. Dare to Lead is an essential read for any teacher looking to become a better leader and foster a more positive and productive learning environment for their students.

Tribes by Seth Godin

Tribes by Seth Godin is a must-read for teachers looking to make a difference in their classrooms. It examines the concept of leadership and how to use it to create positive change.

The book focuses on the concept of “tribes”, which are communities united by shared values, beliefs, and goals. It encourages readers to create their own tribes and use them to make a difference in the world. Tribes also provides readers with invaluable advice on how to effectively lead their tribes, how to inspire others and how to create a positive learning environment. It is an invaluable resource for teachers looking to empower their students, foster collaboration, and create a positive learning environment.

The Name of The Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

The Name of The Wind is a modern classic, praised for its beautiful prose and captivating story. It’s also one of the few books I’ve read that have caused me to weep openly.

It follows the tale of Kvothe, an orphan seeking to make his way in a world filled with danger, mystery, and wonder. Kvothe’s journey is one of self-discovery as he comes to understand the power of words and the power of stories. Through his adventures, Kvothe learns to master the power of magic and the power of his own emotions.

The Name of The Wind is an epic adventure filled with memorable characters, captivating dialogue, and lush descriptions. It is a powerful tale of self-discovery, courage, and perseverance and is a must-read for anyone looking for an unforgettable journey. Rothfuss’s writing is beautiful and engaging, and his story is filled with moments of joy, sorrow, and inspiration.

On Writing by Stephen King

On Writing is a must-read for any creative or teacher. It’s a first-person account of Stephen’s writing process and a bit of a personal memoir. He shares his stories of success, failure, and redemption while providing advice on writing style, technique, and tools.

While the book is focused on writing, you can apply the lessons to any creative endeavor, like teaching.

On Writing is an adventure in a different kind of world where the written word is powerful beyond measure. Whether you are interested in learning how to write better or want to entertain yourself with Stephen King’s witty observations, this book will not disappoint.

The Library Book by Susan Orlean

I had to think about this last one for a while because I didn’t want to waste the slot. There are so many great books that could go on this list. But here we are with what has become one of my favorite books.

The Library Book by Susan Orlean is an inspiring and captivating exploration of the power of libraries and the stories of the people who love them. Orlean examines the impact of libraries on our lives, from the Great Library of Alexandria to modern-day libraries. She weaves together stories of patrons, librarians, and politicians, creating a vivid and compelling narrative that highlights the importance of libraries in our society. The Library Book is an essential read for anyone looking to understand the impact libraries have on our lives and to appreciate their value.

A Final Note

As we grow and change over the years, we can gain new perspectives and lessons from books we’ve read in the past. Take some time this year to revisit some of your favorites. Thumb through Fahrenheit 451 one more time. Take a stroll down memory lane with A Tale of Two Cities or The Grapes of Wrath. Dive back into the worlds of Tolkien once again. You’ll likely find something you missed and learn something new.



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Tress of the Emerald Sea by Brandon Sanderson – Summary & Quotes

Ah, friends. It is time that I gave you my impressions on my first book of 2023. This is one I’ve been both excited to get and hesitant to read. Why? Back in March 2022, Brandon Sanderson revealed he’d written five extra books in his spare time during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. He released four of them on Kickstarter, leading to the biggest Kickstarter in history ($42 million worth of awesome).

While there were some sneak peaks from Sanderson in the months leading up to the release of the projects, I stayed away from them. I didn’t even want to see the cover design.

So, without much to go on, I waited patiently for January 1, 2023, when the ebook of the first secret project would be available to Kickstarter backers. I got up that morning and dove right in.

And, oh my, was it worth the wait.

"She felt less like a mere human being, and more like a human who was merely being." (Brandon Sanderson, Tress of the Emerald Sea)

Book Details

Tress of the Emerald Sea by Brandon Sanderson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Series: The Cosmere

Genre: Fantasy, High Fantasy, Epic fantasy

Pages: 483 pages (Kindle)

Published: 1st January 2023 by Dragonsteel Books (Kickstarter) & 10th January 2023 by Tor Books (US Ebook)/Gollancz (UK Ebook)

What It’s About 

Tress, a young girl, goes on an epic adventure to rescue her love. Along the way, she changes. For the better. Also, sandals with socks. We sail seas that aren’t really seas and meet tons of people who aren’t who they say they are. Heck, there’s even a dragon.

At the heart of it all, the book is the answer to this question: “What would happen if the princess had to save the prince?”

How I Discovered It

This is the first “secret project” Brandon Sanderson announced in early 2022. The entire “secret project” process has been a treat to watch. From the initial hook of learning Sanderson had written books in secret to seeing the project updates and the community that surrounds these novels has been a blast.

Thoughts

I honestly wasn’t sure about this book before I began reading it. With no clue what to expect, I dove in with an open mind. Moreso than almost any other Sanderson novel, I didn’t want to put it down.

What I Liked About It

The characters, as always. The story is told from Hoid’s perspective (if you don’t know who Hoid is, this one probably isn’t for you) which is refreshing and brilliant. The humor is perfect. Tress is a compelling female lead with a great development arc and so many of the other characters have great arcs, as well.

What I Didn’t Like About It 

Only that I finished it so quickly. I would note that if you haven’t read many of the other Cosmere novels, you may miss out on a number of easter eggs and connections to the other worlds, characters, and storylines.

Who Would Like It?

Fans of Sanderson’s Cosmere books will likely be very happy with this book and the connections made within the story. If you haven’t read the books, I don’t know that you will enjoy the book as much. It’s certainly a good story and can stand on its own, but the Cosmere connections make it something special.

Quotes

(Brandon Sanderson, Tress of the Emerald Sea)

“If you wish to become a storyteller, here is a hint: sell your labor, but not your mind.”

Brandon Sanderson, Tress of the Emerald Sea
"One of the great tragedies of life is knowing how many people in the world are made to soar, paint, sing, or steer—except they never get the chance to find out." (Brandon Sanderson, Tress of the Emerald Sea)

“One of the great tragedies of life is knowing how many people in the world are made to soar, paint, sing, or steer—except they never get the chance to find out.”

Brandon Sanderson, Tress of the Emerald Sea
"Whenever one does discover a moment of joy, beauty enters the world. Human beings, we can’t create energy; we can only harness it. We can’t create matter; we can only shape it. We can’t even create life; we can only nurture it. But we can create light. This is one of the ways. The effervescence of purpose discovered." (Brandon Sanderson, Tress of the Emerald Sea)

“Whenever one does discover a moment of joy, beauty enters the world. Human beings, we can’t create energy; we can only harness it. We can’t create matter; we can only shape it. We can’t even create life; we can only nurture it. But we can create light. This is one of the ways. The effervescence of purpose discovered.”

Brandon Sanderson, Tress of the Emerald Sea
"Even small actions have consequences. And while we can often choose our actions, we rarely get to choose our consequences." (Brandon Sanderson, Tress of the Emerald Sea)

“Even small actions have consequences. And while we can often choose our actions, we rarely get to choose our consequences.”

Brandon Sanderson, Tress of the Emerald Sea
"Questions like these burdened her. Worry has weight, and is an infinitely renewable resource. One might say worries are the only things you can make heavier simply by thinking about them." (Brandon Sanderson, Tress of the Emerald Sea)

“Questions like these burdened her. Worry has weight, and is an infinitely renewable resource. One might say worries are the only things you can make heavier simply by thinking about them.”

Brandon Sanderson, Tress of the Emerald Sea
"Heroism is often the seemingly spontaneous result of a lifetime of preparation." (Brandon Sanderson, Tress of the Emerald Sea)

“Heroism is often the seemingly spontaneous result of a lifetime of preparation.”

Brandon Sanderson, Tress of the Emerald Sea
"Consistently, across cultures, eras, and ideologies, war heroes report the same simple motivation. They did it for their friends." (Brandon Sanderson, Tress of the Emerald Sea)

“Consistently, across cultures, eras, and ideologies, war heroes report the same simple motivation. They did it for their friends.”

Brandon Sanderson, Tress of the Emerald Sea

Related Books

How to Make Reading Lots of Books More Manageable

I talk a lot about reading here on this site because I believe we learn more if we read more. And if we read books that challenge us, that learning increases exponentially.

I can speak to my growth as a writer and educator as I’ve worked to increase the number (and type) of books I read each year.

Of course, everyone is different, and your reading goals likely don’t align with mine, nor should they. Your reading habit should support your goals personally and professionally.

Reading more books can be daunting, especially when you have a long list of books you want to get through. It is important to read for personal and professional development, but finding the time and motivation can be difficult.

We’re all busy and have many things competing for our time. Family, friends, work, and life ask more of us daily.

Thankfully, there are ways to make reading more manageable, so you can reach your goals without feeling overwhelmed.

Setting Goals

The first step in making reading more manageable is setting goals. It is important not to share your goals publicly as this will increase the pressure to reach them. Instead, create realistic and achievable goals that you know you will be able to meet without too much stress.

Break large goals into small ones so that they are easier to manage. For example, if your goal is to read 10 books by the end of the year, break it down by setting smaller monthly or weekly targets instead.

Putting Reading Time on Your Calendar

I’m a big believer in scheduling time in your day for the tasks you deem most important.

It is easy for reading time to get lost among other commitments throughout the day. To make sure you prioritize reading, set aside specific times each day or week when you dedicate yourself completely to reading. This could be during your lunch break at work or before bed each night—whatever fits best with your schedule.

You could even set reminders on your phone for when it’s time for “reading hour” each day so that it doesn’t slip away from you too quickly.

Joining or Starting a Book Club

Joining a book club or starting one of your own has many advantages when it comes to managing your reading goals and habits. Being part of a book club allows you to connect with others who share similar interests while also providing accountability and support in achieving your own personal goals.

There are plenty of online book clubs available if there isn’t one local enough for you to join in person, but starting one yourself would allow complete freedom when it comes to choosing topics and themes that interest all involved.

Always Carrying a Book On You

Carrying a book around with you wherever you go (Kindles and other digital readers make this easy) makes it easier for moments throughout the day when there may be some downtime or waiting around—whether that be in line at the store or waiting for an appointment—to become moments devoted solely towards catching up on some pages rather than scrolling through social media timelines or checking emails out of boredom.

As long as there’s something good enough in hand, these moments can become part of a routine, which helps keep track of progress over time and stay motivated about reaching those larger goals.

Not Feeling Bad About Quitting Books That Aren’t Enjoyable

Not every book we choose will immediately grab our attention which means sometimes we may need some convincing before we keep going with something new; however, don’t feel like quitting after only giving something new a few pages just because someone else said it was amazing —reading should always remain enjoyable no matter what everyone else says! Give yourself permission not just stick with what everyone else recommends but also take chances on those books that really spark an interest within oneself first and foremost.

Conclusion

Making reading more manageable means taking control of how much time is dedicated to getting through books effectively without feeling overwhelmed by unrealistic expectations placed upon oneself or others alike.

Creating routines such as setting achievable goals, putting reading time on calendars, joining/starting book clubs, carrying books around everywhere possible, and allowing yourself permission not to finish any books if they’re not enjoyable are all great places to start when trying to make sure all those different genres & topics get their fair share attention moving forward.

Ultimately, if you want to read more, the only way to do that is to just read more. But that’s not always so easy. These tips will, hopefully, give you some support in increasing your reading in the coming year.

The Reading List

If you’re looking for book recommendations, I release a reading list email monthly. In each newsletter, I recommend 5-10 books that I think are great, along with a one-sentence recap. I also include connections to other books I’ve read and why I think you might enjoy reading them as well.

If you’d like access to that reading list, fill out the form below, and you’ll receive the next monthly email.

My 2023 Reading Challenge

Sitting down on the first day of a new year to share something with you feels a bit… different. Over the years, I’ve been hit or miss with my blog posts and have never really achieved a consistent posting schedule.

That changes in 2023.

Along with adopting a regular posting schedule, I’m setting my goal for my reading this year. I’ve done a yearly reading challenge for the past three years and read over 100 books annually in 2021 and 2022.

For 2023, I’m upping the book count to 150.

Why? Because I looked back at my reading numbers and saw “gaps” in my reading time throughout the year. Here’s a look at my reading stats for 2022 from Storygraph:

As you can see, my reading progress suffered in January, February, June, and August. November is abnormally high due to a LARGE number of short audiobooks. I worked really hard to get my numbers for the year up. Yes, I achieved my goal, but I wasn’t smart about it.

I’ve got a better plan in place this year, not only to read more books but learn more from what I read. And that plans start with setting a goal.

Setting a Reading Goal

Setting a goal for the number of books you want to read in a certain time period can be a powerful way to help you read more. Here are some tips for making this goal actionable:

  1. Be specific and measurable. Rather than setting a vague goal like “I want to read more,” set a specific target like “I want to read one book per month.” This way, you’ll have a clear benchmark to measure your progress.
  2. Make the goal achievable but challenging. Choose a goal that is challenging enough to motivate you but not so difficult that it becomes discouraging. If you’re new to reading, for example, starting with a goal of one book per month might be a good place to start. As you get more comfortable reading, you can gradually increase your goal.
  3. Set a deadline. Giving yourself a deadline can help you stay on track and ensure that you don’t put off reading. You might set a goal to read one book per month for a year, for example, or to read a certain number of books by a specific date.
  4. Write down your goal and track your progress. Put your goal in writing and post it somewhere visible as a reminder. You could also use a reading tracker or app to keep track of your progress. Seeing your progress in black and white can be a powerful motivator.
  5. Celebrate your achievements. When you reach your reading goal, take a moment to celebrate your accomplishment. This could be something small, like treating yourself to a new book or your favorite dessert, or something bigger, like taking a trip or going out for a special dinner. Whatever you choose, make sure to take some time to enjoy your success and give yourself credit for all the hard work you put in.

Of course, I’ll be documenting my progress and learning from what I read right here on this site. You can find my GoodReads profile here if you want to see the books as I’m reading, or check right here on the blog for updates with the tag 2023 reads.

Have you set your own reading goal for 2023? Keep watching here as I’ll share more tips in January to help you read more.

MP


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The Very Best Books I Read in 2022

I am lucky to work in a profession that allows me time to read. Actually, it’s pretty much part of my job to read professional development books. I’m always looking for new strategies to share with teachers.

Of course, I also read out of necessity for my doctoral work. And that reading will only increase in the next few years. Still, I am committed to reading as much as possible since I am working on my books (you gotta read if you want to write). More on that later in this post.

I’ve participated in reading challenges for the past few years, but I thought I’d publish a list of the best books I read this year. I wanted to do this partially as. a way to remind myself of the books I’ve read and what I learned from them and encourage more of you to read more in the next year. You can’t go wrong by reading more, and if you plan the time, I promise you’ll be astounded by how much you can read in a year.

Here, in no particular order, are the books that I loved the most in 2022:

The Library Book by Susan Orlean

In her fascinating 2018 book, The Library Book, Susan Orlean recounts the story of the Los Angeles Public Library and its remarkable journey from destruction to rebirth. On April 29th, 1986, a devastating fire consumed the Central Library of Los Angeles, destroying hundreds of thousands of books and leaving much of its infrastructure in ruins. Through extensive research and interviews with those who lived through this tragedy, Orlean sheds light on how the library could be rebuilt despite such immense destruction (Read More).

Shadow Divers by Robert Kurson

In his riveting narrative, Robert Kurson captures the true story of two relic-seeking divers’ incredible discovery off the coast of New Jersey in 1991. John Chatterton and Richie Kohler are presented with an opportunity to unearth a mysterious secret hidden for over 60 years – a German U-boat from World War II. Through their perilous journey, they set out to identify the submarine and uncover the human bones on board (Read More).

Quiet by Susan Cain

The world of psychology is constantly evolving, but one concept remains the same: the idea that introverts and extroverts exist on a spectrum. In her book Quiet, Susan Cain dives into how this dichotomy has been viewed through the ages and how embracing both types of personalities can lead to a healthier, more well-rounded society (Read More).

Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson

Brandon Sanderson’s novel, Oathbringer, is the third installment in the best-selling Stormlight Archive series. This epic fantasy novel follows Dalinar Kholin and his quest to protect Roshar from the Voidbringers. The novel features a wide array of fascinating characters, a thrilling world, and a gripping plot that will keep readers hooked until the very last page (Read More).

The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter

The Rage of Dragons is an exciting new fantasy novel by author Evan Winter. It’s a story about a young man who embarks on a quest for revenge after suffering a major personal loss. But this isn’t just another tired, Eurocentric medieval fantasy—this story draws inspiration from African cultures and offers readers something fresh and unique (Read More).

Truman by David McCullough

Presidential biographies are often a great source of information for understanding the character and accomplishments of the presidents who have shaped our country. David McCullough’s Pulitzer Prize-winning biography, Truman, serves as a particularly informative and in-depth look into the life and legacy of President Harry Truman.

This book is an important resource for learning about Truman and provides insight into his optimism, diligence, perseverance, political talents, and acumen. Let’s dive deeper into the book and explore what makes it so special. Read More

Final Words

I read 102 books in 2022 (tying my count from 2021) and plan to read at least that many in 2023. Starting in January 2023, I’ll send out my reading recommendations each month based on what I’ve read.

I release a newsletter every Friday with 10 Things I think are worth sharing across my various interests. Once a month, I send an additional reading recommendation list as well. The newsletter is free, and you can sign up right here.

One last thing…

I’ve been thinking about writing books for a long time. Then, I decided I would get ready to write books & stories. Now, it’s time to make that happen.

I’m launching the Patreon page for my books/stories/connected world of The Heretic Chronicles. I aim to have the first novel ready to publish (self-publish) by the end of 2023. Along the way, there will be behind-the-scenes previews, short stories, and more for patrons. If you’d like to support this work (or want to hang around and watch the train wreck!), head on over to my Patreon page and sign up (for as little as $1/month!)

Thanks for being here in 2022, I’m looking forward to bringing you more content than ever in 2023.

MP