The Principals’ reading list

Looking for some literary inspiration? We asked some of our principals what books they’d recommend.

Teresa Varman, Principal/CEO, GEMS Millennium School – Sharjah
Recommended book: The Power of Moments (Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact) by Chip and Dan Heath

“I enjoy the Heath brothers’ writing style. I like the way they weave stories in and out of what they are trying to communicate. One of these stories, ‘Made to Stick’ which focused on why some ideas stick while most are quickly forgotten, was particularly brilliant and engaging. The focus is on the power of ‘moments’ (read: experiences) to raise one’s brand or organisation far above the competition.

The book delves into the power of experiences: Why we tend to remember the best or worst moments of an experience. The big idea is: ‘A defining moment is a short experience that is both memorable and meaningful.’ Meaningful and memorable experiences can slingshot organisations to the next level.

It has helped me change my way of thinking. I have begun to insert ‘moments that matter’ into my interactions with parents, staff and students. I now try to intentionally create magical moments at work and in my life.”

Jonathan Dey, Headmaster/CEO, Wesgreen International School Sharjah
Recommended Book: Let the Great World Spin by Colum McGann

“In 1974, a tightrope walker walked between two skyscrapers in New York. The book is the story of four different groups of people who all happened to look up and see the tightrope walker. It is a National Book Award Winner.”

Akram Tarik, Principal/CEO, GEMS Founders School – Al Mizhar
Recommended Book: Matilda by Roald Dahl

“As a child, I was a massive Roald Dahl fan and spent hours with my nose in his books. At school, we had to read Danny the Champion of the World, The Witches and Matilda. Matilda is a wonderful book no matter your age, about a bookish child. Matilda is a lovable protagonist, revered for her mischievous nature and easily sympathised with because of her parents who don’t recognise how extraordinary she is. Within the book is artwork by Quentin Blake who I believe illustrated all of Roald Dahl’s work. He has a way with his artwork that not only brings the story to life but makes you laugh and connect with the characters, too. Overall, this is a book that, even after all these years, is still relevant in today’s society.”

Campbell Douglas, Principal/CEO, GEMS Wellington Academy – Al Khail
Recommended Book: How Learning Happens: Seminal Works in Educational Psychology and What They Mean in Practice

“This is the ‘go-to’ book for educational research and applying this to make sure learning is effective, efficient and enjoyable. It takes 28 key works from the areas of educational psychology and cognitive science, gives a summary, explains the significance and, most importantly, describes the implications for practice and how the findings can be used practically in the classroom. It covers how the brain works and what this means for learning, pre-requisites for learning, learning in context and teacher activities. This book is a must read for those who want to have an impact on classroom practice.”

Nav Iqbal, Principal/CEO, GEMS Metropole School – Motor City
Recommended book:
The Go-Giver Leader by Bob Burg and John Mann

“I enjoy a good book as much as anybody, and the current book I am reading is The Go-Giver Leader by Bob Burg and John Mann. I enjoy reading around business, leadership and education. I particularly like this book as it is easy to read and understand the human aspect of business decisions and the human interaction in a leader. Leaders are not great leaders because they lead; they are great leaders because they strive to be more human.”

Nargish Khambatta, Principal, GEMS Modern Academy and Vice President – Education, GEMS Education
Recommended book: Chatter by Ethan Kross

“This book was recommended to me by an English teacher at Modern, Aarti Seth, and the hook for me was the tagline – “The Voice in Our Head, Why it Matters”. Written by an award-winning psychologist, it is an interestingly presented insight into harnessing the positive power of our inner voice or ‘chatter’. Kross draws on compelling stories to highlight the tools we possess and how we can make the inner voice work to our advantage. It’s a quick and interesting read that is easily relatable.”

Simon Herbert, Head of School/CEO, GEMS International School – Al Khail
Recommended book:  Global Challenge by Walter, Mackie and Bacon

“This insightful book gives an account of the world’s toughest yacht race, the BT Global Challenge, which involves 14 teams racing around the world the ‘wrong’ way (against prevailing winds and currents). Leadership lessons are provided along the way, which is far more engaging and fascinating than a theoretical analysis. It is moving, real and written ‘warts and all’. I thoroughly recommend it.”

Justine Wilson, Principal, GEMS American Academy – Qatar
Recommended book: The Onward Workbook: Daily Activities to Cultivate Your Emotional Resilience and Thrive by Elena Aguilar

 “I believe we all need a coach and need help reflecting to learn. I have been slowly reading Onward since July 2020 – a chapter a month, doing the associated workbook activities. Onward is my coach! The book is all about building resilience and keeping the resilience muscles strong as a school year progresses. Elena Aguilar, the author, is an experienced educator and has researched the ebb and flow of educators’ emotions as the school year moves along. She has her finger on the pulse. Each months’ readings and activities are exactly what I need when I need them. I recommend any educator, teacher or leader to dive in and find a coach in this book!”

Karim Murcia, Principal/CEO, GEMS Al Barsha National School
Recommended book: When They Go Low, We Go High: Speeches that shape the world – and why we need them by Philip Collins

“The book is written by Philip Collins, the former speechwriter of former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair. In this book he considers the greatest inspirational speeches and why they matter. Selected orators range from Elizabeth I to Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama. We learn about the structure, transitions and delivery style of these great speeches. Collins is interested, too, in the drafting process that takes place when crafting a powerful message, and the social and political context of the momentous occasions and events related to these speeches.”