The Best PD Books I Read in 2017

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Confession Time: I love reading PD books. I really, really do.

It’s weird, I know. I’m one of the only people I know (in real life–not on IG or Twitter) who feels this way.

I have stacks of them, shelves full of them. It’s sort of an addiction, but not a dangerous one, so no worries.

This year, I’ve read countless books for professional development and personal pleasure. I’m in the middle of about four books at the moment, and I’ll be honest, I’m sort of terrible at remembering what I read (maybe I read too much?), but I’ve read a few PD books this year that have stuck with me.

So if you’re looking for some good reads to add to your repertoire, here are the best PD books I read this year.

Deep Work by Cal Newport

I don’t know about you, but I am the type of person who has three to fifteen things going on at once. Like right now, I have so many tabs open, it’s embarrassing. Don’t get me wrong, they are grouped into different windows so there is some semblance of order, but I switch between tasks as quickly as switching between those windows. I’m trying to get better and Newport’s work is helpful. This book is all about how to get down to the kind of work that actually produces or accomplishes something. It’s not geared toward educators in any way, but I think it can be helpful to anyone who wants to figure out to stop doing shallow work. He also provides tips for staying focused, which I found especially helpful!

Deep Work also helped me think about my students. Newport talks a lot about the new skills needed by the workforce, and they’re not really what you’d expect. He points out that because the younger generations are often used to working with a lot of distractions, there are fewer people doing really deep, meaningful work. He explains the negative effects of not allowing oneself (or their kids?) to become bored, and how boredom is important to concentration training. 

All in all, I think it’s a good read. (Honestly, I’m sort of terrible at summing things up, but trust me when I say it’s worth it!) I bought the ebook when it was on sale, so keep your eye on the deals and pick it up when you can! 

Empower by John Spencer and A.J. Juliani

This. book. is. amazing. and all teachers need to read it! If you don’t follow Spencer and Juliani on Twitter or their blogs…well, what’s wrong with you? Hehe, jk, but seriously go follow them right this second. Their book is a quick read and totally worth the time you’ll put into it. The whole time my friends and I were reading it, we were sending each other pictures of our favorite quotes and saying “OH MY GOSH!” a lot.

Okay, Kristy, but what is it about? Sorry. I got excited.

Empower is about how to give students more ownership over their learning and it is the book that most influenced my teaching this year. My favorite quote from the book: “Our job as teachers is not to prepare students for ‘something;’ our job is to help students to prepare themselves for anything.” Need I say more?

Yes? Oh, okay.  Well in this book you’ll learn a bit about design thinking (my current obsession), as well as how to shift your mindset to take more risks and turn the classroom over to your students.  It’s scary as hell, y’all, but oh so worth it! Please go buy this book right now! You will NOT regret it!

The Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros

A group of teachers and our assistant principal, Jennifer Hogan, read Couros’s book this summer and discussed it over Voxer. Whereas Empower focused on what teachers can do in the classroom, this book looked at the whole school, which as an instructional coach, a change leader, and a member of our new “Innovative” PLCs, was important to me.

Before I talk about the book, let me say Couros is another person whose blog and Twitter accounts you should be following. In this book, he presents the case for innovation in our schools. As you can guess, it’s all about changing our mindsets. It’s about creating relevant learning experiences for our students. This can be done in the classroom or as a school or district. I like this book because it pairs nicely with Empower, but sort of zooms out to show the impact of innovation on a whole school.


Switch by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

This is another book that isn’t geared toward educators but can definitely have an impact. As an instructional coach, I’d like to think that I can (eventually) impact our school as a whole, and this books helped me change my mindset about this. It’s all about how to convince people (including yourself) to change. This sounds manipulative, but the authors provide logical explanations behind the suggested techniques.

One of my favorite ideas comes early in the book: Focusing on the bright spot. I can see this being very impactful in schools. Highlight those teachers (and students) being innovative, or doing something awesome, to encourage change across the board. Let’s face it, we teachers can be rather curmudgeonly when it comes to being presented with ideas for change (granted, oftentimes those ideas suck), but if we can see that it’s working for someone, we are more likely to get on board. I feel like this can be helpful to me in my role as instructional coach.

This is a great read for improving one’s self, one’s school / company, or any other group who needs a change!

Shift This by Joy Kirr

I’ll be honest with you, I haven’t finished this one yet: it’s one of the four I’m currently reading; however, I still feel like it’s worth recommending. Kirr presents a TON of easy-to-implement ideas for creating a more student-centered classroom. Her book reads like you’re just sitting down with a colleague sharing ideas.

It’s one of those books you probably want to read in chunks.  Read the chapter on classroom changes, for example, choose some ideas to try, implement them, and then move on to another chapter and other ideas. I love the organization of the book because it’s organized into chapters like “Classroom”, “Grading”, “Homework”, etc., so it’s easy to look for what you actually want to work on.

Oh yeah, and Joy Kirr is another awesome person to follow on Twitter!


Intention by Dan Ryder and Amy Burvall

If you are looking to spice things up, grab this book immediately! On our way home from The Lovett School in Atlanta, we listened to a podcast with Dan Ryder and my friend and I both ordered this book as soon as we got home.  It is FILLED TO THE BRIM with ideas for not only getting more creative but focusing on the intention behind that creativity. There are some much needed reminders in this book about helping our students be intentional. There tips about deconstructing the standards to help us see the potential within each of them, which I found really helpful because I often think that the standards are too confining, but this book showed me how to change my thinking. The best part: each {super duper cool} lesson idea has steps to follow, extension tips, correlations to different subject areas.

It is seriously worth every single penny!!


I hope you can find a book (or six) to read from this list! If you’re looking for more, I have also reviewed two of my old favorites on Cult of Pedagogy: Focus by Mike Schmoker and Good Thinking by Erik Palmer. I often share my current faves on Instagram and Facebook, so be sure to follow me!

What are your favorite PD books?

8 thoughts on “The Best PD Books I Read in 2017

  1. Thank you so much for the recommendations. I love to read but am guilty of skimming through PD books or letting them collect dust on the shelf after a training! This list is focused and has inspired me to do a little PD reading in the new year!


  2. I’ve been looking for a new book to read! I can’t wait to check these out. I love when teachers make professional book recommendations!


  3. Pingback: How Instructional Coaches Can Help Teachers Focus: A Review of Stuart’s These 6 Things | Louden Clear Blog

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