As the blog takes it easy for a few weeks, it means we can read actual books (those things everyone read before there was internet) and not only work-friendly ones. Here’s what ELTjam are going to be reading over the summer.


visual-grammarI’m reading NW by Zadie Smith over the summer. I go to a book club and this has been highly recommended by all of the others who’ve read it; one of them loved it so much that she bought it for me for my birthday. I loved White Teeth by the same author so I’m looking forward to this one.
I’m also going to read Christian Leborg’s Visual Grammar. It’s a book about visual messaging that aims to help people better understand the graphics that we see all around us on paper and screens. It’s interesting in that it talks about things such as layout, colour, relation and form as a grammar, with certain things being more or less visually pleasing as a result of how well they adhere to certain rules or standards.


engeasyI’m reading How To Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran as Jo bought it for 1p (not that that is any reflection on its quality!) but a book I like to have around is English Is Not Easy — A Guide to the Language by Luci Gutiérrez, an illustrator from Barcelona who struggled with English learning as many speakers of other languages do. After consuming many ELT products, she even moved to New York to take an English course. Her experience and class notes are distilled into this striking compilation of English expressions, grammar rules, phrasal verbs, confusing words … together with big spoonfuls of sense of humour and imagination. It’s a delicious picture of the point of view of a learner, that can be taken as funny self-learning, inspiration for playful teachers or a call-out to make more efficient and engaging materials for the millions of students battling with the English language.


leanThe Lean Startup is finally on my list as it’s talked about a fair bit and I feel I could do with a better understanding of what it’s all about. Especially now that I work for a startup!

Another one I want to read is So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson is a look at how people behave online, individually and collectively. It might not be directly relevant to ELT and EdTech, I but think this is kind of interesting in terms of people’s online behaviour.


ronsonI’ve been reading quite a few businessy books over the last month, so I’m looking forward to a change of pace. I’m currently struggling through The Chimp Paradox, and I’m not sure I’d recommend it (that said, with 1400+ reviews on Amazon, and a 4.5 star average rating, perhaps the problem’s with me and not the book). Switching into holiday mode, I have a bad tendency to re-read books I love rather than seeking out something new. I’ve already gone down that road this summer by picking up A Cook’s Tour by Anthony Bourdain, which is one of my favourite ever food/travel books. I only intended to read the first few pages and I’m over half-way through it again already! Oh, and I’d second Tom’s recommendation for So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed. It’s great, particularly the audiobook version read by Jon Ronson himself.


The-Yes-Book-CoverI have a bad habit of starting several books at once and rotating through them when I settle down for a spot of reading. At the moment I’m reading The Yes Book by Clive Rich. I’m fascinated by the dynamics and mechanics of negotiation and Rich’s book sets out to provide the tools and means for negotiating in a modern world. What’s really interesting is the current shift towards negotiations that yield a mutually beneficial outcome rather than a ‘winner’ who enjoys a favourable outcome at the expense of someone else.

Alongside that I’m reading The Top 10 Things Dead People Want to Tell You by Mike Dooley. This is a more of a spiritual counterpoint to the businessy titles on the bookshelf. I find Dooley has an excellent way of making you rethink your purpose, position and potential in life — especially helpful when a negotiation falls through!

I’m interspersing these two with Happiness By Design by Paul Dolan. Dolan talks about happiness as being derived from a balance of pleasure and purpose and how we’re able to promote that balance by consciously and deliberately directing our actions.

Lastly, I’m also making my way through a Queens of the Stone Age biography for a frivolous rock and roll thrill.


My summer pick is The One World Schoolhouse – education re-imagined by Salman Khan

oneThis book was recently recommended to me by a cool lady in our co-working space, and it’s basically the back story of the Khan Academy. Any story which inspires ‘ordinary’ people to put ideas into action gets my attention, and the fact that the aim of the Khan Academy is to provide free education to anyone with an internet connection really appeals to my own personal interest in education in developing countries … So I’m excited to find out more about how it all began, what happened along the way and, of course, what we can learn from Khan’s experience.

However, at the moment, I’m reading Burmese Days by George Orwell, and really enjoying it. It’s probably a bit odd that I haven’t read this yet, considering my own Burmese connection, and having already devoured the achingly evocative and nostalgic Finding George Orwell in Burma by Emma Larkin (which I would highly recommend to anyone – first person to email me about it can borrow my copy!). I love Orwell anyway (who doesn’t?) but our shared connection with Burma is possibly something I’ve been waiting to savour. The time is now!


fastWell, I might have another go at Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahmeman – it’s considered a classic on how we think and how we make decisions (not very rationally, on the whole), but I could never get past the first few pages for some reason.
I’m in the process of re-learning how to code, so there are lots of books on Javascript, Meteor and other web tech lying around the place — but coding isn’t a very summery thing to do, so I suspect progress will be slow. The Head First series by O’Reilly is quite interesting, with its claim to being ‘brain friendly’ and its focus on learning styles and left-brain/right-brain. Everyone knows these are neuro-myths now, of course. However, a programming book with simple explanations, lots of pictures, concept checking, quizzes and recycling is quite refreshing.
And finally, as someone who studied English literature at university and then almost stopped reading fiction altogether, I want to re-start. Any recommendations?


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