21 Books That Have Influenced Thinking

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Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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What books have influenced you this year?

Some of the 100s of (recent) books that have influenced my thoughts as an educator, a father, a friend, a teacher, an innovator, a thinker, a teenager/an adult and more, throughout 2017 …

1. The $100 Start Up

The $100 Start Up – You no longer need to work nine-to-five in a big company – you can quit the rat race and start-up on your own. I grabbed this book in the summer and read it from cover to cover. It’s a great read for those who are working freelance or for those who have monetised online businesses from home.


2. The Gift of Failure

The Gift of Failure – For all our best intentions to protect our children from tripping up, we are in danger of depriving them of the most important lessons of childhood. In September 2017, I had the honour of meeting Jessica Lahey at Cambridge University. She is a teacher and an excellent speaker – her book has sold hundreds of thousands of copies all over the world!


3. 100 Social Innovations from Finland

Written in bitesize chunks, this book is easy to access. 100 Social Innovations From Finland – In Finland, as elsewhere, technical inventions have hogged all the economic limelight, but it is only recently that social innovations have been highlighted as the foundation of societal harmony.



4. Cleverlands

I think Cleverlands by Lucy Crehan is a book that makes us really think about education outside of our own setting. Lucy resolved to find out what was really going on in the classrooms of countries whose teenagers ranked top in the world in reading, maths and science … and she has done something I guess most teachers can only dream of – teach in other classrooms around the world.


5. Inner Story

I know Dr. Tim O’Brien who has written Inner Story – If you want to perform better as an individual or as a team you have to know your inner story too – but how much do you know about yours? I’ve learnt to think about my teaching and the way I work and lead others much more carefully; how we should be more attuned to our inner story.


6. 30-Second Psychology

Another bitesize book that offers 30-Second Psychology – The 50 most thought-provoking psychology theories, each explained in half a minute. An excellent starting point for teachers who want a better understanding of psychology and how this can be applied to blogs and teaching ideas. Alternatively, try teaching A-level Psychology instead to 18 year olds!

7. Leverage Leadership

This book has informed much of my thoughts on coaching teachers. Every school leader should read Leverage Leadership – Paul Bambrick–Santoyo shows leaders how they can raise their schools to greatness by following a core set of principles.


8. Twitter Power 3.0

Most of you will know my Twitter prowess, but Twitter Power 3.0 despite it covering the basics, offers nuggets of wisdom throughout. The newly updated guide that shows smart businesses and entrepreneurs how to use Twitter to their advantage. This updated version should be immediate impact and it’s the one book I recommend when offering social media advice to organisations.


9. The Power of Moments

I was lucky enough to have a draft copy of The Power of Moments before publication. In the book it asks ‘What if a teacher could design a lesson that he knew students would remember twenty years later?’ It’s a book yet to hit the masses, but it’s one that I’m sure will gain significant traction in a matter of time.



10. Notes From The Front Line

Still one of my favourite read, Debra Kidd offers Teaching: Notes From The Front Line – Covering education policy, PISA testing, Ofsted, exams, pedagogy and more, this book explores how the so-called accountability and quality systems in our country have been used to straight-jacket teachers into compliance. It truly is a picture of education in England and every parent should read it.


11. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion

I read this book 4 years ago and I still reference Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion in my teacher training presentations. This classic book on persuasion, explains the psychology of why people say “yes”—and how to apply these understandings. It’s largely influenced my thoughts on lesson planning and school leadership.


12. Simple Thinking

I read this book in October 2017 and highlighted pretty much every page. Simple Thinking and behaviours designed to help unclutter your mind and help you realise your true potential. I even got my copy signed by Gerver when we met for a coffee this month at Kings Cross St. Pancras in London.



13. Illusions

Gosh, I read this book in 1998 and have found myself recently dipping it and out of it for pearls of wisdom. Illusions: The Adventure of A Reluctant Messiah takes to the air to discover the ageless truths that give our souls wings. If you’ve never read, it may just change your life. What’s not to like? I’ve blogged one chapter here as an assembly resource.


14. Change

Gerver features again heavily in my reading and I’m proud to be able to call him a friend. Change is a powerful personal reflection on change. Full of wisdom and practical insights, it will help you in any situation you face. Gerver has been inspiring me for the past 3 or 4 years and it is a privilege to see this former headteacher now have an impact worldwide.


15. How To Be Free

When I was facing a personal workload crisis in 2015, I turned to How To Be Free to help change my thoughts. Coupled with a few other sources and external factors outside of my control, I chose to disconnect and take back my workload. If you’ve ever wondered why you bother to go to work, or why so much consumer culture is crap, then this book is for you.

It may just change your direction in life-like it has mine.

16. Flip The System

I’m slowly getting through this book – there is an endless source of research and I’ve been blogging about Flip The System on this site for the past 12 months. In this book, teachers from around the world and other educational experts make the case to move away from an un-educational economic approach, to instead embrace a more humane, more democratic approach to education.

It’s great in theory and shows us how it can be achieved. We need are brave MPs to take a leap of faith …

17. Open

Of all the books listed here, this is my number one choice. Open by David Price should be read by everyone involved in education – Driven by technology, and shaped by common values, going ‘open’ has transformed the way we live. It’s not so much a question of if our workplaces, schools and colleges go open, but when.

I think David is on to something here that the world is yet to wake up to …


18. The Last Lecture

In 2008, I read this book from cover to cover on the floor of Sydney airport during an 8-hour delay. The Last Lecture – Professors are asked to consider their demise and to ruminate on what matters most to them: What wisdom would we impart to the world if we knew it was our last chance?

It has shaped my teacher training and classroom habits ever since, reminding us of our legacy.


19. The Tao of Pooh

Have you seen Tigger on Pose Pause Pounce Bounce resources across the internet? If so, you can blame me. When I read The Tao of Pooh in 2004, my interest in Taoism started to influence my teaching.

Winnie-the-Pooh has a certain way about him, a way of doing things that has made him the world’s most beloved bear, and Pooh’s Way, as Benjamin Hoff brilliantly demonstrates, seems strangely close to the ancient Chinese principles of Taoism. As teachers, we also need to recognise we have certain ways of doing things in the classroom.

20. The Art of Travel

A delightful and thoughtful book by Alain de Botton. The Art of Travel – A philosophical look at the ubiquitous but peculiar activity of travelling ‘for pleasure’.



21. Teach Like A Champion

Probably a book that many have read (for those on social media at least). Teach Like A Champion is effective teaching techniques to help teachers, especially those in their first few years, become champions in the classroom. When I speak at teacher training events across the U.K., on average 5 in every 50 teachers have read this book – I think all teachers should look at it carefully. It truly is a teaching manual and we need an English equivalent.


What books have influenced you and your work over the past 12 months?

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