When I look back at my reading habits this year, I feel torn. On the one hand, I discovered several juicy titles that challenged me and made me think and feel in new ways in 2022. On the other hand, I read noticeably fewer books than I have in years past — just 18. This is largely because I spent so much more time writing this year. Whether it was renewing my National Board certification or my weekly Meditations on a Cogen series, I found myself tapping away at my keyboard more than I found myself turning the pages of a book. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it just is. That said, I do find that my writing suffers when I’m not reading as much (this is also true for my thinking, in general). Throughout the year, my input influences my output a great deal.
Of all the books I read this year, four of them were biographies/memoirs: The Dead are Arising by Les Payne, The Three Mothers by Anna Malaika Tubbs, On Writing by Stephen King, and Will by Will Smith and Mark Manson. The Dead are Arising is phenomenal and serves as a perfect companion to Malcolm’s autobiography. The Three Mothers is informative and exciting, but I think the context and history that Tubbs offers of Black mothers outshine her three centerpieces (the mothers of Malcolm X, MLK, and James Baldwin). On Writing is great, but having never read any of King’s books, I don’t think I can appreciate it as much as others have. Having revered Will Smith since my childhood, his memoir doesn’t disappoint. It is outstanding, full of fun and wisdom. Given the slap heard ’round the world, his book gave me a deeper, fuller picture of him and his life.
In addition to those biographies, John McWhorter’s Talking Back Talking Black and Woke Racism are also standouts. I’ve long been fascinated by and adopted many parts of Black English, and Talking Back Talking Black is a fascinating introduction to understanding it better. McWhorter uses concrete examples to explain the inner workings of linguistics to a non-linguist, all while uplifting Black English from the lowbrow culture society places it in. As for Woke Racism, while I don’t subscribe to McWhorter’s condemnation of today’s antiracist movement, I appreciate how he complicates the matter. The book is pretentious and convoluted at times, but there are nuggets of truth in his message that have helped me see antiracism from another perspective.
There were a couple of teacher-y books that are worth highlighting. The first is We Got This by Cornelius Minor. With heavy comic-book vibes, the book’s design is stunning. Its colorful and vibrant curb appeal is equaled by Minor’s wordplay and his message to educators everywhere: find the poetry of every student. I’m not sure why it took me so long to read Other People’s Children by Lisa Delpit, but I’m so glad I did this year. I see why it has become a classic in the field. The Little Book of Restorative Discipline for Schools by Lorraine Stutzman Amstutz and Judy Mellett is small but mighty. It came up big for me during my restorative circles training in the spring.
Three more honorable mentions that don’t fall into any particular category: Making Numbers Count by Chip Heath and Karla Starr, The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein, and Between Parent and Child by Haim G. Ginott. Leading with intuition and appealing to the masses about alluring statistics, Making Numbers Count was an utter delight to read and learn from. The Color of Law is expertly researched and full of facts about important government policy as it relates to de jure and de facto segregation. Despite this, it doesn’t feel weighty or dense. I ended the year with Between Parent and Child, which felt a lot like a parental therapy session. You can tell some of the content is dated, but much of the advice Ginott dishes out is timeless.