10 teachers share the books that changed their lives

TED-Ed blog books books books

Happy National Book Month! To celebrate the power of a good book, we asked the TED-Ed Innovative Educators to share the books that changed their lives. Looking for a good education read? Check out their book list below.

The Element by Sir Ken Robinson. ”Without a doubt, this is the one book that had the biggest impact on me and my teaching. It opened my eyes to the fact that there is a better way to teach students, and that my role as a teacher should be to help students explore knowledge in their own way.” —Craig Zimmer, Durham Catholic District School Board, CANADA

Drive by Daniel Pink. ”This is one of several books that changed my life as an educator, because it demonstrates so well that the notion of “management” is no longer relevant. The industrial revolution — and the system of education that aligned with it — was necessary for that period in our country’s development; the contents of this book show how research and science now give us a better alternative.” —David Miyashiro, Cajon Valley Union School District, USA

Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences by Howard Gardner. ”I am a product of an educational system where most of the emphasis was given to Math and Science. I always felt that there was something wrong with it, but for the first time I found evidence of that in this well researched book. It reinforced my belief that an educational system should help learners explore their talents and dispositions.” —Mahrukh Bashir, Lazuardi-GIS, INDONESIA

Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv. ”This book made my heart sing and scream. It was everything I knew instinctively — but to have the impact, the implications, and the reality of nature deprivation laid out so clearly was eye-opening.” —Shannon Brake, Elyria Christian School, USA

Welcome to Your Brain by Sandra Aamodt and Sam Wang and Blame my Brain by Nicole Morgan. ”The books that have changed me as an educator are about the brain, especially the teen brain. It is a whole other story to know how you work from the inside, and how it affects your thoughts, behavior, and experience of the world.” —Kristine Sargsyan, Tumo Center for Creative Technologies, ARMENIA

Ain’t I A Woman by bell hooks. ”This book was part of a doctoral program in Curriculum Studies that opened my eyes to the concept of social justice and the power of education — and educators — to ‘level the playing field’ for ALL learners, thus changing lives and molding the future of our world.” —Vicki Albritton, the STEM Academy at Bartlett, USA

Savage Inequalities by Jonathan Kozol. ”The book that changed my life, inspiring me to become an educator, was this one. It was inspiration in the sense that I knew I had to do something, so I changed my major from business to elementary education and philosophy. The conditions Kozol described in this book, published in 1992, are still very much a reality and may even be worse. I dream of policy that will tackle the issues of equitable funding and resources.” —Della Palacios, Colorado, USA

A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn. ”When I read it back in college, it was the first time I’d really been exposed to a non top-down version of history. As a learner and educator, it changed the way I thought about primary sources and multiple perspectives. In our current age of unlimited information and crowd accelerated innovation, embracing the ideals of “this voice matters” matters more than ever.” —Jimmy Juliano, Lake Forest Community High School District 115, USA

Other People’s Children by Lisa Delpit. ”This was the most controversial text we read in my Equity and Democracy course in grad school. It made me aware of all the loaded everyday interactions we have as educators. It also made me proud to be part of the growing number of educators of color.” —Josefino Rivera, Asociación Escuelas Lincoln, ARGENTINA

Up the Down Staircase by Bel Kaufman. ”This book taught me how the life of an educator, although filled with numerous obstacles, can really be surprisingly beautiful. It made me realize that students are literally starving for love and attention and as educators we need to learn how to keep the fire burning. We shouldn’t just teach, we need to touch hearts and make students providers of knowledge.” —Evanthia Poyiatzi, English Language Private Institute, CYPRUS

Learn more about the TED-Ed Innovative Educator program here.


  1. I now have a long list of books to check out! Other People’s Children and Lisa Delphos other books about her experiences as an educator are not only inspiring for educators, but eye-opening when read by a white middle class person. Great list!

  2. Michael Paul Goldenberg

    Too much trendy b.s. for my taste. Gardner, hooks, the predictable “brain science” nonsense. Well, at least Zinn and Kozol made it. How about just about anything by Alfie Kohn?

    • Anton Ninno

      Michael:(predictable “brain science” nonsense) – Nonsense? Really? I’m a 64-year old teacher, but you must be much older than me.

  3. Harriet Mathews

    The Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson is filled with opportunities to read to students when there is a ten minute gap in lesson continuity. My favorite passage concerns the demise of the Dodo bird which coincided with Newton’s revolutionary laws that helped explain Physics.

  4. Janine

    The Five Love Languages of Children.
    Changed my life!

  5. Phill

    Read none of these Probably too old to change again and still help others learn. Learned about others by always taking the other side and learning points of view and about people by long discussions and arguing points of view. Also learned when trying to explain something simple to fellow students and failing, that I had to learn to explain it in an entirely different way, even to a third way. Don’t know why I was aware of this in Junior HIgh, but could sense others not understanding the teacher and ask the question about something I knew to help others. Guess, my mother was a teacher and a d… good one other teachers relied on.

  6. The most important book in my life was “Re-Awaken the Giant Within” by Anthony Robbins.

  7. Peter Durnan

    Very cool list. Love to see a novel there. How about White Noise by DeLillo? More about post-secondary, but a real assumption-challenger.

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