Books make the best gift. There is nothing like opening a new book knowing that someone thought you might enjoy it. Giving someone a great book is handing them growth potential or hours of enjoyment.
As an educator, you better believe books are at the center of my life. This is a list of books I’ve given, enjoyed, and recommended many times.
I’ve grouped them in the categories of this site: money, career, and decision-making. Finally, I’ve added a section on some of my favorite fiction books.
Try any of these books as a great gift for others or yourself.
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Jump to Books by Category
Financial Books to Gift
These are not necessarily the “best” financial books, but they’re the ones I’ve found to share possibility and understanding with others. These are my go to gifts for bringing people into the conversation.
The Simple Path to Wealth by JL Collins
Simply put, my go to gift to expose anyone to the possibilities of financial independence. Great narrative style with simple lessons. This was originally written as a series of letters to his daughter. The perfect starter book to gift.
The Millionaire Next Door (Latest Edition)
My second choice financial gift book. This is especially good for friends and family who could benefit from understanding that wealth is built quietly and over time, not through flashy appearances or big swings.
Another great option for introducing someone to the path to financial independence. Includes great activities and leads the reader through the process as well as any book out there.
A Random Walk Down Wall Street by Burton Malkiel
This book is great for someone who needs a deeper look to believe that individual stock picking may not be the best path. It helped me understand the asset types (including futures and options) at a level that increased by confidence in index fund investing. Probably not a first book for a reader, but a great gift for someone who wants to understand a bit more about the stock market.
Cryptoassets by Burniske & Tartar
A great overview book for anyone wanting to learn more about cryptocurrency. I worry about some who are treating it like gambling, or worse – a sure thing. I’m not advocating investing in crypto, but if you or someone you know is thinking about it this is a great intro text.
Over the course of my career, I’ve read hundreds of education-related books. Methods and content-specific books come and go, so I’ve mostly focused here on big ideas and leadership books. If more school principals read these books, we’d have fewer ineffective schools with unhappy staff. Whether you are a formal leader or not, improving your leadership mindset and systems understanding will improve your career satisfaction.
Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek
Sinek is better known and celebrated for Start with Why. That’s a great book too, but this is my favorite. It emphasizes the responsibility of leadership. We’d all be a lot better off if our leaders (both politicians and school principals) all embraced this. My go to gift for new administrators.
This is an old one, but a good (okay, GREAT) one. After 20 years, it’s still my favorite summary of organizational change and the strive for excellence.
The Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath
As with Sinek, there are lots of Heath books that could go here. I chose this one for leadership because of the emphasis on implementing change through powerful moments of inspiration. Applicable to all educators. (See my favorite quotes from The Power of Moments as applied to financial independence.)
Coherence: The Right Drivers in Action for Schools, Districts, and Systems by Fullan & Quinn
Fullan is one of my favorite ed leadership writers. This is a book that captures what I like most about his work – systems thinking combined with a focus on the things that matter. As an education leader, you can’t go wrong with most Fullan books but this is the one I’d give.
Between The World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
I could have put several “educational equity” books on here. It’s a critical area of knowledge and exploration for any educator. This one isn’t specifically that though – and that’s why it’s my choice. It’s beautifully written, a challenging read, and I guarantee it will change how you think about race in America. Some may suggest easing people into the conversation more – but I give this book without hesitation.
I’m on a constant quest to get better at consistently making solid decisions. These books have helped me understand my mind and thinking, and to build better systems for life and decision-making. It’s no coincidence that for most I’ve also pulled out key quotes in stand alone posts. Give those a read if you want more information before digging into the whole book.
Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely
Simple and well-written with clear explanations and great examples. The best starting book for understanding how our minds and decision-making are not as strong as we think they are. My go-to gift for those looking to improve their decision-making.
Thinking in Bets by Annie Duke
This one is a close second to Predictably Irrational, especially if your gift target enjoys poker. As someone who constantly fights against perfectionism, shifting to thinking about decisions as probabilities was a game-changer for me. You can read more about my thoughts in 15 quotes from Annie Duke’s Thinking in Bets.
Principles: Life and Work by Ray Dalio
An oft-mentioned book for those looking to improve their lives and decision-making. I can see why, and so I put it on this list. A bit rambling at times, and not always applicable for the day-to-day earner, it’s still worth a read. It’s ideal for those in your life who want a little hero worship (Dalio has accomplished a lot in the finance world) or like to think on a bigger scale. The book could also fit into the career category for its organizational thinking. Quotes from Principles by Dalio.
This book could have gone in any of the categories. Next to The Simple Path and Leaders Eat Last, this is my favorite book to gift. The simple approach and actionable steps can empower everyone to do better with their finances, physical health, career, and decision-making. It’s no wonder that 15 FI Quotes from Atomic Habits is one of my most popular posts. A great gift.
Science Fiction Books to Gift
I’m an avid reader of fiction. While I read heavily in the first three areas, I try to balance it out by also having a pleasure read going. Science fiction is my genre of choice because of the sense of possibility, the exploration of ideas, and the fact that it’s just different enough from reality to be an escape. These are some of my favorite science fiction books and authors.
For this list, I’ve included some of my “gateway” science fiction books that are both incredible and accessible. These are the books I recommend most to my friends who haven’t yet become full-fledged sci-fi readers.
No book has ever sucked me in from the very first page like Snowcrash. While some of the things in it will now seem “old” that’s a testament to how visionary this book was when originally released. It will get new Sci Fi readers hooked with its pace and storytelling. It’s also a great gateway to Stephenson in general, who does amazing work cross-genre. (Check out Cryptonomicon for incredible math and historical fiction mixed.)
The shortest book on my list – this novella is a great introduction to sci-fi AND a great read for those more experienced in the genre. An excellent example of how science fiction is so much more than you might expect.
You can buy just the first novella, or the whole trilogy – it’s worth the read.
This is a perfect starter book because the storytelling exceeds the science fiction concepts. A far future “Canterbury Tales” approach ensures virtually every reader will find something to follow.
The Player of Games by Iain M. Banks
My favorite sci fi author/series is The Culture Universe by Banks. Each book is a different concept, and often world. Player of Games is a safe entry and perfect for game enthusiasts in particular. Most readers will be hooked on The Culture after this book.
While the others are stand alone, this is a great entry into “world building” science fiction. The political and economic concepts are amazing. There is lots of wisdom to pull from this one, including my favorite “Fear is the mindkiller…” quote. Of course, it’s also a great book to just read and enjoy.
You can’t go wrong with any of these books! I could recommend hundreds or thousands, but these are some I always feel comfortable gifting. I’ll update this list from time to time as I discover new books that fit the categories.
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