Part I featured books with pirates, philosophers, and innovative solutions for a better world. Here are more summer reading ideas from leaders in nonprofits, social impact investing, business, and corporate social responsibility.
Sal Giambanco, Partner, Omidyar Network: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty, by Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo: Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo is fascinating and captivating. Their work reads like a version of Freakonomics for the poor. There are insights into fighting global poverty from the remarkable and vital perspective of those whom we profess to serve. Great insights like, “It is no surprise that the poor choose their foods not mainly for their cheap prices and nutritional values, but for how good they taste.” They remind us, I think, of our shared humanity and how at some fundamental levels we really do think alike.
God is Not a Christian: And Other Provocations, by Desmond Tutu. A personal hero, Desmond Tutu, embodies the potential for action that every person can potentially have. Most importantly, for me, Tutu reminds us of the universality of the great messages that the world’s religious traditions have for us all–that whether Eastern or Western, we all just might be called to be spiritual enlightened mystics.
Christine Bader, Advisor to the U.N. Special Representative for business & human rights; Advisory Board Member, The Op-Ed Project: I’m a David Foster Wallace devotee, so just read his unfinished novel, The Pale King. I thought it would be a non-work read, but it includes a long riff on corporate responsibility: One of his characters calls “the whole dark genius of corporations” and how they diffuse liability “a fugue of evaded responsibility.” Brilliant.
I’m now in the middle of Country Driving by Peter Hessler. Having spent a year working in China, I can never read enough about the place, and love Hessler’s eminently readable mix of personal narrative and reportage.
Even though it’s ten years old, I find myself reaching for Mary Ann Glendon’s A World Made New: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights a lot these days. Glendon debunks the myth that human rights are a Western concept, recounting the intense debate and collaboration–ably led by Eleanor Roosevelt–among the Chinese and other non-Western diplomats who created the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Mari Kuraishi, Co-Founder and CEO, GlobalGiving: Philanthropy and Social Investing Blueprint 2011, by Lucy Bernholz. Notwithstanding that we’re halfway into 2011, Lucy points out some deep secular developments affecting the way philanthropy is being shaped, among them the growth of for benefit corporations and the maturing of impact investing. Add to that the fact that millennials have lots of choices when it comes to socially rewarding work–from innovative alternative energy companies to organic farming, both labor and capital have far broader choices than before when it comes to serving the public good. This could fundamentally change the landscape of philanthropy and nonprofit work for decades to come.
On a lighter note, I loved Tina Fey’s Bossypants. But what woman–of any age really–could not love Tina explaining that the fundamental difference between men and women in comedy is that men feel free to pee in jars in their office?
Aaron Hurst, Founder and CEO, Taproot: The Design of Business: Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage, by Roger L. Martin. As an entrepreneur, it has been really challenging to collaborate with others around new programs and products. I struggled to find a way to explain my process that felt so intuitive to me – that is until I read this book. Martin nailed it.
In The Power of Pro Bono, John Cary and his friends at Public Architecture beautifully show the impact that pro bono design can have for a nonprofit. It not only tells the story from the architects’ perspective, it tells the client’s story, too.
Susan McPherson, Sr. Vice President, Fenton; Board Member, bPeace: One business book that I just completed was Embedded Sustainability: The Next Big Competitive Advantage by Chris Laszlo and Nadya Zhexembayeva. It powerfully stressed that sustainability can be a key driver for global change and that is something that all of us at Fenton (Communications) push every day. Instead, the authors described through many examples how embedding sustainability into the DNA of business strategy and operations will lead to future business success.
The next one on my bookshelf is The Responsible Business: Reimagining Sustainability and Success, by Carol Sanford. From the forward, “No longer just the role of a department or the job of CSR professionals, successful responsibility and business efforts start at the business level, are then taken to the corporate level, and are finally applied throughout the organization.” Carol was a speaker at the recent Sustainable Brands 2011 Conference that I attended and her presentation really piqued my interest.
For my when I’m not in business mode, I am planning to pick up The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding from You, a provocative read by my friend, Eli Pariser and The Wanderlust: A Love Affair with Five Continents, by my friend Elisabeth Eaves (both Brooklyn authors I might add). Lastly, when those are finished, I might just start working on my own.
Nancy Lublin, Founder and CEO, DoSomething: I’m halfway through Ron Chernow’s Washington: A Life. It’s a big, long book detailing the life of our nation’s father. Did you know he was plagued by illness? That he had no children? That he was meticulously organized? Fascinating to learn more about a historical icon and also useful for modern leadership lessons.
I’m planning on re-reading the Odyssey by Homer this summer. I like going back and re-reading the books that tortured me in high school…to find that I actually like them when there isn’t an exam looming in a few days.
Speaking of reading, be sure to stay tuned here for fresh perspectives and insights on nonprofit board governance, corporate social responsibility, and sustainability, and ways that you can help to make the world a better place.