A book promises the chance to escape the noise and busyness of our daily lives. In its pages we are never alone, yet we are also shut off, shut off from the thousand decisions and distractions that attack us at any moment. When we open ourselves up to a book we are embedded in the preciousness of ideas, growth, and mindful stimulation.
Few modeled this better than Abraham Lincoln. Amid the chaos of a nation divided, Lincoln always found time to read widely and deeply. It began in his childhood. Late at night he could be found reading by candlelight. He borrowed books from whoever he could. As president, he had the habit of waking up early in the morning to spend quiet time reading alone.
And it wasn’t historical or philosophical treatises on war and conflict that dominated his reading. If you look at the works that occupied his time as president, you will see more poetry and fiction than anything else. There was lots of Shakespeare, as well as Pride and Prejudice, Paradise Lost, and the poems of Browning, Byron, and Burns among so many others.
What this demonstrates is that, as teachers, we need to not solely read professional books to grow. When we are caught up in the madness of writing lesson plans, grading papers, department meetings, and parent phone calls, we can escape it all with the certainty of a good book. We can nourish our spirit with words and ideas when so many forces seek to drain it. As Lincoln validates so comprehensively, it need not be within our discipline or profession. We can achieve a more-perfect union of our individual self with our teaching self if we just find great books whose ideals speak to something foundational in all of us.
Here are six non-teaching books that offer something dignified and beautiful that will impact your teaching and your spirit.