Summer Reading for Tired Catholic School Teachers

Summer Reading for Tired Catholic School Teachers

It’s summer and you’re excited, but you’re also super tired! Welcome to being a Catholic school teacher–or any school teacher, for that matter. Here are some books to uplift you, make you laugh, intrigue you, or help you improve your practice. I put calming books at the beginning of the list for winding down in June/July and more invigorating reads near the end to ready you to return to school…but don’t think about that now! 🙂

Also, I linked each title to a quick, easy & inexpensive place to order it–Half Price Books online, if possible; otherwise, Amazon.

In the School of the Holy Spirit–Fr. Jacques Philippe

This book is from one of the best spiritual masters, Fr. Jacques Philippe. He is an expert in coaching people on finding peace and hearing God’s voice. Take this to the lake and read it in the early morning by your lonesome, or throw it in your bag to take to Adoration some afternoon.

The Coddling of the American Mind–Gregg Lukianoff & Jonathan Haidt

Did your end-of-the-year rant end with, “Why won’t parents let their kids experience natural consequences?” Do you wish you could snowplow the snowplow parents and bulldoze the bulldozer parents? This book offers the science and psychology behind why kids are becoming less resilient, as well as how cognitive behavioral therapy can help to change their patterns of thinking. You can use the suggested strategies on yourself this summer and try offering some of them to your students as conflicts arise in the fall.

The Mindful Catholic: Finding God One Moment at a Time–Dr. Gregory Bottaro

Having trouble letting go of all the anxieties of the school year? This volume, recommended to me by an experienced spiritual director, is all about living in the moment without subscribing to some of the weird mindfulness practices out there. Jesus is present in the Eucharist and in the now. So if you’re like me and get tempted to use summer as a “catch up” season, take a deep breath and be. Just be.

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking–Malcolm Gladwell

I think about this book regularly because of the degree to which it changed my awareness about intuition. Gladwell incorporates enticing psychological studies into his assertion of the brain’s capacity to work intensely, even when we don’t notice it. You’ll appreciate this book as a teacher but also as a spouse and parent. If you’re nervously anticipating an awkward grad party (aren’t almost all of them awkward?!), this book will give you lots of easy and interesting tidbits to share in those random conversations you’ll have at the sheet cake table.

Kristin Lavransdatter–Sigrid Undset

Looking for one book that you can read and delight in the entire summer and beyond? This classic will deepen your faith and make you want to travel to Norway, with its gorgeous landscapes and passionate people. Though set centuries ago, Kristin’s story will captivate you. Undset’s style is rich and nuanced; you will find yourself catching your breath at suspenseful vignettes, feeling with Kristin in her ache for God and His mercy, and settling into a family that will become your own over the course of this saga. You can buy it as a full trilogy; or, if you’d rather have a lighter beach bag, you could try one volume at a time. However, you’ll undoubtedly find yourself craving more pages and more tall glasses of lemonade on the side.

French Women Don’t Get Fat–Mireille Guiliano

This is the most feel-good eating book ever! It’s all about truly savoring your food in moderation and not using exercise as a form of punishment. If a flavorful dinner finished off with a glass of wine and a leisurely walk through town sounds refreshing to you, get this immediately.

Pearls Before Swine

Sounds holy, but it’s not. This is a compilation of comic strips, and it is awesome. When I was little and my dad would get home from the office, us kids would race to see who would get the paper first so that we could read the comics. I don’t think “Pearls Before Swine” was added to the page until I was a teen, but I absolutely savored it once it did arrive! If you like sarcastic humor and cute animals, you will relish this! Pro tip: Try not to read the whole book in one night…or if you do, be sure to mark your favorite pages with post-it notes so you can return to them frequently.

Consoling the Heart of Jesus–Fr. Michael Gaitley

If you ever look back at your day of teaching and say to yourself, “Well, bombed that one,” this book is for you. Fr. Michael Gaitley shows you how to give Jesus everything–failures and successes alike, in a marvellously unique and well-written mini-retreat. He suggests you do it over one weekend, but I usually take several weeks to ponder the contents during my morning prayer time. 

Things Fall Apart–Chinua Achebe

When you’re ready for some good literature that doesn’t feel as dry and difficult as some “good literature,” pick up Things Fall Apart. Neither long nor dense, this work of art will elicit tears, anger, or both. More importantly, it will awaken your compassion for the plight of native people who have everything to lose at the hands of their oppressors. Surprisingly, this is not too sad for a summer read, as you will likely find yourself in need of a dinner topic some night, and the plot is easy enough to explain to your friends you haven’t yet read it. You’ll be able to then dive into some deep questions about race, religion, identity, and hope…all of which are very applicable to our struggles today.

Unbroken A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption–Laura Hillenbrand

GAHHHH! This book is the BEST! An Olympic runner, a plane crash, sharks, a prison camp…all in one. I recommend this book all the time, especially to sophomore and junior boys looking for leisure reading. One caveat: The prison camp section is quite graphic, so if you are going to pass it on to one of your teens, do preview those chapters beforehand.

Ten Poems to Change Your Life Again & Again–Roger Housden

Okay, okay. I admit it. I’m an English teacher, but poetry is sometimes really dry for me. Roger Housden, however, opened my eyes to the power of modern, personalized commentary to bring life and meaning to poems both old and new. Rather than a volume chock-full of poems alone, this simply presents ten works of art and offers a light, thought-provoking essay after each one. It’s sort of like taking a guided tour through a museum rather than attempting to make sense of its treasures on your own. And if you like this compilation, Housden has other, similar titles…and they all have beautiful covers, so they can sit at the top of your front porch stack in all their glory.

Shirley–Charlotte Bronte

If you’ve read Jane Eyre, you know that Charlotte Bronte is a master. You probably haven’t heard of Shirley, though. Wait no longer–this delightful historical fiction piece is about strong women, farmers revolting against machine-makers, and a unique female friendship between two unlikely women. There’s also some romance sprinkled in for good taste. It does start out slow, but it’s worth the wait. If you root for the underdog, you will be enamored with Caroline Helstone. And if you like ambitious women, you’ll be the #1 fan of Shirley Keeldar. 

St. Dominic: Preacher of the Rosary and Founder of the Dominican Order–Mary Fabyan Windeatt

Pretty sure Mary Fabyan Windeatt wrote this for that doleful day in August when you wake up and realize that no, summer vacation will not last forever. Especially if this happens to you on August 8th, the feast of St. Dominic! Fervent about souls, the Gospel, and the adventures into which the Lord invites us, St. Dominic is the ultimate saint to get you revved up about education and evangelization! I know this is a children’s book, but what’s wrong with that?!

Proust & the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain–Maryanne Wolf

If you want to impress people, definitely bring this book to the pool! I’m not going to lie–I read this book during my honeymoon in Cabo last fall, and I was super proud of myself, although I’m sure absolutely no one around me cared! (I wasn’t ignoring my husband; I promise. He was very into Sudoku.) Seriously, though, this is one of the most fascinating books I’ve read in a long time! It’s a cool combination of history, science, and psychology, and it helped me understand the struggles of all children in learning how to read, not just ones with diagnosed learning disabilities. Take this in small doses and with less alcohol than you might typically sip. Or perhaps that is an indication that you shouldn’t read it at the pool at all? 🙂

The Holy See’s Teaching on Catholic Schools–Archbishop Michael J. Miller

Another inspirational read in the week or two before workshops. Remember the love you had at first, as a young teacher, and return to that in your heart as you read these inspiring reflections on your vocation in one of the Church’s most necessary and formative apostolates!

Girls on the Edge/Boys Adrift–Dr. Leonard Sax

Get ready to nerd up! Both of these books, written by a doctor who has worked extensively with teenagers, are excellent. As a high school teacher and coach, I thought I knew what my students were going through, but Sax opened my eyes to many struggles beneath the surface for our beloved teenagers. Even if you’re not a middle school or high school teacher, you’ll still learn a wealth of information about the culture that all of our children are living and breathing. A great book for the plane, this integrates stories, principles and science in a very readable and engaging manner.

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