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Must-reads in education, communication and social sciences

The School of Education, Communication & Society at King’s College London houses research from a range of different fields – from linguistics to education research, from social justice to youth work, through personal and professional development, and health communications, to name a few. Here our lecturers, researchers and academics have come together from across the School to recommend some of the most impactful books from their field of study and research interests. Enjoy reading!

We're Trying to do Things Differently: the challenges of relationships and recognition in higher education, by Freya Aquarone, Laura Nehéz-Posony, Propa Rezwana Anwar, Samira Salam, Eleni Koutsouri, Minkyung Kim, SooYeon Suh, Tope Mayomi, Julia Pilarska, and Yara Boodai – Centre for Public Policy Research (2020)

Recommended by Freya Aquarone

"Please forgive the shameless self-promotion, but this book co-written by students and staff on the BA Social Sciences is, I hope, an interesting read for anyone interested in innovative higher education programmes.

"Launched in 2019, the BA Social Sciences programme aimed to do things differently from conventional programmes, including through an emphasis on social science for social justice, forms of democratic decision-making, alternative assessment practices, and a focus on small-group, participatory approaches to learning. A group of students and staff worked together to document and analyse the journey of the programme’s first year and its efforts to put its principles into practice."


Art Worlds, by Howard Becker

Recommended by Steven Berryman

“It’s an important text on the MA Education in Arts and Cultural Settings programme and helps challenge assumptions about what (and whose) creativity we value. The everyday creativity Becker shares, such as quilt making and amateur photography competitions, connects readily with the KCL report ‘Towards Cultural Democracy’, and the broader aspirations of the Arts Council Let’s Create Strategy.

“But now more than ever we need to be reminded that we all have creative potential, and there is value in championing and enabling such quotidian creativity. Recommend Becker’s book highly.”


Capital (Vol One), by Karl Marx; and The Logic of Practice, by Pierre Bourdieu

Recommended by Sara Black

On Capital: “I know this seems like old hat but it fundamentally changes how one thinks about political economy, alienation, abstraction, structure and, well, just hating (or loving) your job. Of course, Marx didn’t get it all right, but so many who draw on neo-Marxist theory would do well to read this original work. It transformed how I think about work, about time, about money and about what flourishing looks like. Not bad for a book that’s almost 200 years old.”

On The Logic of Practice: “If you’ve ever reached for a light switch where it used to be, or driven on autopilot back to your old home instead of your new abode, then you’ll have an inkling of habitus, one of Bourdieu’s fundamental concepts about how we are, for the most part, creatures of repetition and pre-cognitive action.

“I found Bourdieu’s theory of practice just revelationary for understanding why people do what they do, and why change is so hard. It’s worth soldiering through his long-winded prose... the ideas are gems.”

Explaining Understanding. New Perspectives from Epistemology and Philosophy of Science, edited by Grimm, Baumberger and Ammon (2017)

Recommended by Richard Brock

“My decision to start my PhD was sparked by a physics student I taught who had been awarded the highest grade but insisted that they didn’t understand the subject at all. By contrast with knowledge, there has until recently been comparatively little work on theorising scientific understanding.

“Grimm, Baumberger and Ammon’s excellent book fills that gap, and includes chapters on the relationship between understanding and truth, considers whether understanding requires coherence (and what that concept might mean), and questions whether belief is a requirement for understanding. This is a rich and insightful book that I hope promotes the study of scientific understanding.”

A Magna Carta for Children? Rethinking Children’s Rights, by Michael Freeman

Recommended by Jenny Driscoll

“Described in a review as ‘the brilliant balance sheet of one of the most distinguished experts in the field of children’s human rights’, this book challenges us to recognise children as entitled to full citizenship rights. Deriving from a series of three Hamlyn lectures (Is it wrong to think of children as Human Beings?, Even Lawyers were Children Once, and A Magna Carta for Children), the book retains the lectures’ lively informality.

“I don’t agree with all he says, but always enjoy Freeman’s wide-ranging reflections, from philosophy to neuroscience through jurisprudence, and the clarity of argument for which he is renowned.”

Ableism in Academia: Theorising Experiences of Disabilities and Chronic Illnesses in Higher Education, edited by Brown and Leigh (2020)

Recommended by Carla Finesilver

“I wrote a chapter for this on the unacknowledged diversity of invisible Disability in academia, describing some of the unseen challenges, and also strengths, of academics with chronic illnesses. Of my publications, it’s the one that seems to have resonated the most, with many replies such as ‘As an academic with an invisible disability, I’ve never felt seen and understood this much.’

“But our wish is that more people who are not currently affected would take the time to better understand the experiences of their Disabled friends and colleagues, and this book is a great place to start – being written by rather than just about us. Better still, it’s completely free for anyone to download.”

The Problem with Work, by Kathi Weeks

Recommended by Liz Fouksman

“This is a feminist, Weberian and autonomist Marxist take on (you guessed it) the problem with work. Weeks argues that there's nothing natural or inherent about the work ethic and our attachment to productivity, and interrogates the ways in which we valorise and value work. The book points to the possibilities of alternative antiwork politics through a close historic analysis of the Wages for Housework movement, and a look at the utopian potential of demands for shorter working hours and a universal basic income (UBI) to decommodify work.

“I've been inspired in my own research on the blocks to postwork imaginaries by this book’s central political demand for more ‘time for what most pleases us’.”

The Invention of Jane Harrison, by Mary Beard

Recommended by Aisha Khan-Evans

“One of Dame Mary Beard’s early books, it explores the life of a leading feminist classical scholar of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I first read this when taking my MA in Education at King’s and knew very little about Harrison or her importance for the study of antiquity. (I knew only a little more about Mary Beard, for that matter.)

“Like her biographer, Harrison lectured at Newnham College, Cambridge and Beard provides an entertaining and thought-provoking read for anyone interested in the ancient world and/or in the history of academia.”

Reading, writing and speech problems in children, by Samuel Orton

Recommended by Philip Kirby

“Samuel Orton (1879-1948) was an American pioneer in research on specific learning difficulties, especially dyslexia. When he first published Reading, writing and speech problems in children in 1937, children with such difficulties were often ill-treated by ignorant educational and medical professionals. Orton’s book, alongside the work of his colleagues Anna Gillingham and Bessie Stillman, brought much greater understanding to the area.

“Orton’s book was part of a shift away from blaming individual children for their difficulties, and towards teaching methods by which such children might be helped. Not all of Orton’s science has stood the test of time, but the book remains a key text in the history of specific learning difficulties.”

Epistemologies of the south: Justice against epistemicide, by Boaventura de Sousa Santos

Recommended by Constant Leung

“It is becoming very clear that our increasing awareness of diversity in society along class, ethnic, gender, language and racial lines tells us to think out of the box. On a global level, many of us who live and work in the West, or the Global North, have been challenged to reflect on established norms and taken-for-granted political practices as they relate to other peoples and communities. This book offers a window into possibilities of re-framing and re-imagining our ways of knowing and seeing with a much wider lens.” 

Philosophical Investigations, by Ludwig Wittgenstein

Recommended by Polly Mitchell

“If you’ve heard of the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein, you might have a preconception of his work as abstract, inaccessible, even irrelevant. And there’s no doubt he’s an idiosyncratic thinker and writer. But in his Philosophical Investigations, he approaches questions of meaning and language with an almost childlike curiosity. He examines some of our most basic assumptions about how what we say relates to what we mean and how we can understand one another—taking nothing for granted.

“I am constantly returning to this book, to share in Wittgenstein’s wonder, enjoy his eccentric examples, and dwell on his often surprising insights.”

Methods Meets Art, by Patricia Leavy

Recommended by Marguerite Muller

"I recommend this book for anyone who is interested in arts-based research inquiry. It helped me shape my own interest in visual arts-based, poetic inquiry as well as fiction writing as a form of research inquiry. Patricia Leavey writes in an accessible way, and this is a great starting point for postgraduate students who are interested to find out more about arts-based research." 

Ministry for the Future, by Kim Stanley Robinson

Recommended by John Owens

“The book I would recommend to anyone interested in social responses to the environmental crisis is Ministry for the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson. This is a ‘close’ science fiction novel that starts from familiar circumstances of the near present and uses fictionalised eye witness accounts to imagine how the challenges of climate breakdown might be met.

“It is beautifully written and imagined, and draws on a really impressive range of contemporary academic research – from across climate science, engineering, politics, philosophy, economics and beyond – to paint a highly engaging picture of what may be coming down the line.”

Becoming a Teacher

Recommended by the PGCE team

Becoming a Teacher has been in existence now for 25 years and we are just preparing the 6th edition for publication in 2023. It is a comprehensive handbook for all those entering the teaching profession. It is heavily research-informed and is written exclusively by members (present, and in a few cases, past) of the School of Education, Communication & Society at King’s. Meg Maguire and Justin Dillon were the original editors; over the years the editorial team has evolved and currently consists of Simon Gibbons, Melissa Glackin, Lizzie Rushton, Emma Towers and Richard Brock.

The text introduces those training to teach to key educational issues in terms of research, policy and practice, and encourages the development of critical and reflective practitioners. 

The Global Beauty Industry: Colorism, Racism, and the National Body, by Meeta Rani Jha

Recommended by Aisha Phoenix

“This textbook provides a useful introduction to colourism and conceptualisations of beauty from an intersectional feminist perspective. Introducing readers to key terms and theories throughout, and providing valuable historical contextualisation, the book examines how colourism affects black American, Indian and Chinese women.

“There is also an exploration of beauty and cosmetic surgery in China, which presents the popularity of bodily modifications like rhinoplasty and blepharoplasty (double-eyelid surgery) as aspects of ‘cultural assimilation’ and ‘cosmetic Westernism’.”

The Language Instinct, by Steven Pinker

Recommended by Eloi Puig-Mayenco

“In The Language Instinct, Steven Pinker brilliantly addresses one of the core questions in linguistics: are we, humans, born with the capacity to acquire language? Is the language acquisition capacity hardwired in our brains? Or is it a mere product of our cultural environment?

“Pinker takes the reader through the origins and intricacies of languages, tackling core concepts and ideas in linguistics and crucially providing food for thought to all of those who have ever wondered why it is that we humans communicate via language.

“Some will disagree with some of the thought-provoking ideas raised in the book, though undeniably anyone remotely interested in language as a core component of our species will agree that it is a must read.”

Negotiating Identity in Modern Foreign Language Teaching, edited by Mathilde Gallardo

Recommended by Christina Richardson

“Inspired by one of the AHRC’s flagship transformative research projects, ‘Language Acts and World Making’, this edited book addresses an important and frequently overlooked topic: modern language teacher identity.

“The book offers diverse perspectives on language teacher identity from modern language practitioners working in Higher Education and in the compulsory schooling sector. It provides research insights into the lived experiences of MFL practitioners through reflections and narratives against the backdrop of contemporary political and social context of modern language teaching in the UK today.

“This book will be of interest to language teachers, researchers, teacher educators, applied linguists and students of Modern Foreign Languages themselves.”

Second Handbook of Information Technology in Primary and Secondary Education, edited by Voogt, Knezek, Christensen and Lai

Recommended by Dr Mary E. Webb

"This is a fairly vast tome that you can dip into to explore particular aspects or read the section introductions to get an overview. It is aimed at teachers, researchers and policymakers to enable insights into the complexity of successful implementation of IT in education, including supporting student learning with technology.

"Authors and section editors of the book include myself and other members of King’s. Our task, on the editorial team, was to identify important current developments in IT and education, find experts to write about them and work with these authors to ensure suitable coverage and synthesise research and practice as well as to project future developments." 

Teachers’ Know-How: A Philosophical Investigation, by Christopher Winch

Recommended by Chris Winch

"In this book, I use my own, extensive teaching experience in different contexts to try to answer the questions: what makes a good teacher? How are teaching practices good? What role should teachers play in society?

"Bringing in epistemological debates and philosophical reflections to situate teaching within the spectrum of professions, I explore and discuss the kinds of knowledge and ‘know-how’ that educators should possess. While I believe that purely craft-based and protocol-driven conceptions of teachers’ know-how are inadequate, I argue that ‘craft’ elements and theoretically based know-how are complementary and necessary elements of teachers’ know-how in high-performing educational systems."


In this story

Freya Aquarone

Freya Aquarone

Postgraduate research student

Steven Berryman

Steven Berryman

Visiting Research Fellow

Sara Black

Sara Black

Lecturer in Education and Society

Richard Brock

Richard Brock

Senior Lecturer in Science Education

Jenny Driscoll

Jenny Driscoll

Reader in Children's Rights

Carla Finesilver

Carla Finesilver

Senior Lecturer in Mathematics Education and Inclusion

Liz Fouksman

Liz Fouksman

Lecturer in Social Justice

Aisha Khan-Evans

Aisha Khan-Evans

Senior Lecturer in Classics Education

Philip Kirby

Philip Kirby

Lecturer in Social Justice

Constant Leung

Constant Leung

Professor of Educational Linguistics

Polly  Mitchell

Polly Mitchell

Post Doctoral Research Fellow in Bioethics and Public Policy

Marguerite Muller

Marguerite Muller

Lecturer in Education and Society

John Owens

John Owens

Senior Lecturer in Ethics and Public Policy

Aisha Phoenix

Aisha Phoenix

Lecturer in Social Justice

Eloi Puig-Mayenco

Eloi Puig-Mayenco

Lecturer in Applied Linguistics

Christina Richardson

Christina Richardson

Senior Lecturer in Language Education

Mary Webb

Mary Webb

Reader in IT in Education

Christopher Winch

Christopher Winch

Professor of Educational Philosophy and Policy

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