Top Reads for Christmas

Top Reads for Christmas

As someone who has always struggled to find time and motivation for reading, I was quite shocked when I realised quite how many books I have managed to get through in the last year or so. I guess lockdown has helped! Of course, I enjoy a James Patterson or Lee Child novel, but I tend to have a more work related read or two on the go.

There are some incredible choices out there and I am sure I have missed some crackers but, with life busier than ever, perhaps this quick review of books I have recently enjoyed will help you make smart choices about what to read next? Here is my 2020 choice in the five categories of sport, leadership, life, education and physical education.


To add to the collection of great reads like Outliers (Malcolm Gladwell, 2009), the Talent Code (Daniel Coyle, 2010), Bounce (Matthew Syed, 2011), the Sports Gene (David Epstein, 2014), The Greatest (Matthew Syed, 2017) and Range (David Epstein, 2019) that explore the realities of seeking and supporting sporting greatness. I have really enjoyed The Best: How Athletes Are Made (Mark Williams and Tim Wigmore, 2020). If you are looking for facts, figures, anecdotes, real life stories and more to support your thinking about how best to unlock sporting greatness then this is a must read. It covers off genetics, practice, sports science and tech along with fascinating interviews with the likes of Marcus Rashford, Pete Sampras, Helen Glover, Ian Poulter and many more household names. I particularly liked the research statistics that help unearth the reality of what it takes to make it to the top.


Joining classics like 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Covey, 1989), Good to Great (Collins, 2001), The Toyota Way (Liker, 2021), Start With Why (Sinek, 2011), The Chimp Paradox (Peters, 2012) and other great professional development books to support and challenge you to be a better leader. In my opinion, Rebel Ideas (Syed, 2020) is must read to help consider collective intelligence, the power of diversity and the importance of avoiding ‘echo chambers’. However, I have only just stumbled upon Leaders Eat Last (Sinek, 2017) and it just pips Rebel Ideas to my top spot. If you want to learn more about servant leadership and creating a culture where your team will put themselves on the line for the good of the team then look no further. The comparison of military commitment and self-sacrifice versus bankers being willing to throw anyone under the bus to save themselves and their salary brought it all home for me.


Stumbling on Happiness (Gilbert, 2007), The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck (Manson, 2016), Why we Sleep (Walker, 2018), Becoming (Obama, 2018), Factfulness (Rosling, 2019) and Ikigai (Garcia & Miralles, 2017) are all worth a look if you haven’t already. However, Simon Mundie introduced me to Ryan Holiday during an interview with him on the popular ‘Don’t Tell Me The Score’ podcast and I have subsequently devoured two of his books. Holiday wrote The Obstacle is the Way in 2015 to explore the philosophy of Stoicism – how obstacles and adversity pave the way to advantage and fulfilment. The whole idea of Stoicism really resonated with me during these challenging times of coronavirus and life as a self-employed consultant. So, I have just started Lives of the Stoics: The Art of Living from Zento to Marcus Aurelius (Holiday, 2020) which brings the virtues to life through stories of those who practiced Stoicism.


Making Kids Clever by David Didau (2019) just pips The Science of Learning (Busch and Watson, 2019) and Teaching Walkthrus (Sherrington and Caviglioli, 2020) to the top spot as my most helpful generic education read of the year. I listened to David being interviewed on the Mr Barton Maths Podcast and, as I have a relentless commitment to trying to close that disadvantage gap, it was an obvious book choice. With much of the debate in education right now (and the focus of Ofsted) around cognitive psychology, learning theories and equality within education and as 2020 also marked the passing of the great Sir Ken Robinson (see changing education paradigms and do schools kill creativity TED Talks) I certainly think it is about time we thought differently about education! You may also want to try Boys Don’t Try (Pinkett and Roberts, 2019), Rosenshines Principles in Action (Sherrington, 2019) or Just Great Teaching (Morrison McGill, 2019).

Physical Education

With young people seemingly more concerned and protective over their ‘virtual self’ than they are with their real life, it is imperative we understand more about how our students view and consume social media to inform their health and wellbeing choices. Consequently, Young People, Social Media and Health by Vicky Goodyear and Kathy Armour (2020) tops my must-read list for all things PhysEd. It is closely followed by Physical Literacy Across the World (Whitehead, 2019) which updates us on global perspectives, research and practice in the field. I am also very much looking forward to the December release of Models-based Practice in Physical Education (Casey and Kirk, 2020) which promises to explore pedagogical models to help PE better meet the cognitive, social, affective and psychomotor needs of today’s students.

I hope this list inspires you to read more, to read broadly and to share back your book recommendations.

Get brand new resources, courses, research and insight delivered every week!