The Best Books for New Teachers

best books for new teachers first year teachers

Though most newly minted educators received their degrees a few weeks ago, we are now in prime job-snagging time. Post-interview and excited hiring, panic may set in: I’m going to be a teacher. In two months. 

So even though you just spent tens of thousands of dollars on schooling, you’ll scuttle over to the nearest bookstore. There will be rows of books in the Education section, but the end cap will feature books like The First Days of School and Tools for Teaching, maybe even the trusty teacher-saves-the-world standby The Freedom Writers Diary. Now, these books are fine. But let’s go back to the fact that you just spent thousands of dollars to get a degree in teaching. There is no magic formula in these books that isn’t common sense or you haven’t already learned in school. The major problem with the books is that most are focused on fixing the teacher instead of understanding the student.

I don’t pretend to be an expert by any means, just a reader of lists tired of seeing the same five or six books (that have gathered dust in nearly every classroom) repeated on each one. If I could travel back in time to summer before my teaching career began, I’d pack these to take along with me. 

  • Savage Inequalities (all Jonathan Kozol, really) and Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria are great starting points for books focused on social justice and equality in education. 
  • Lies My Teacher Told Me is history focused, but perfect for reminding teachers that the curriculum as written is not the end all, be all of education and we are doing a disservice to our kids if we don’t look at it with a critical eye. 
  • Bluefish is meant to be a placeholder, representative of great, age-appropriate fiction that your students might otherwise miss. Seek it out and fill your classroom with it, even if you’re going to teach math.
  • Tiny Beautiful Things is the book I’ll pick focused on improving the teacher and you will want to keep it close by. It might be the only thing you have time to read during the school year and it will probably be exactly what you need to hear.

Any other teachers want to add to the list?


  • I wish I’d had these before I started teaching 10 years ago. And I think Tiny Beautiful Things is a BRILLIANT choice.

  • Great list! Even for the homeschoolers among us ;)

  • I couldn’t agree more, the hardest part of being a teacher isn’t understanding what you as the teacher need to do, but understanding the children. I hate books like Freedom Writers, it seems like the only teachers that can be judged as ‘inspirational’ are ones that sacrifice their entire lives.

  • I don’t teach in a classroom setting but these titles all sound completely fascinating. What a great (and unique) list!

  • I wish TBT had been around when I started teaching, I needed it in the worst way!

  • YES, especially Lies My Teacher Told Me, because you have so much more freedom to teach the real deal to your kiddos.

  • Ugh, exactly. Just once I would love an inspiring teacher story that seemed real to catch on, just once!

  • If you read any of Jonathan Kozol’s books, he will break your heart and probably make you thankful you’re teaching at home.

  • Oh yes! The Zinn Education Project is a FANTASTIC resource if you’re interested. I used Teaching Tolerance stuff a lot as well. I consider myself a social justice homeschooling mom ;)

  • Oh, it’s my FAVORITE. I use as much as I can but the crunch for me is always time. You should have seen my class of tough boys taking on all the different roles in the Seneca Falls lesson – it was the best!

  • Are they still requiring new teachers to read SAVAGE INEQUALITIES as part of their education? I had to read it more than 15 years ago when I was earning my degree and often wondered if it was still relavent and part of today’s curriculum or not. Glad to see you included it on the list because it is a great book to get people thinking.

  • I read it in college about 7 years ago, but it wasn’t part of my curriculum. I’m not quite sure if that title is being read, like you said it might be a bit dated at this point, but I’d imagine Kozol is weaving his way into some programs.

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