Your 2015 Summer Impact Reading List | Net Impact

Your 2015 Summer Impact Reading List

Net Impact summer books
Readers love to read. From left to right: Kathara Green, Cuong Nguyen, Linda Gerard, Lily Mathews, Nora Traughber, Laura Diez, Will Russell (Not pictured: Harris Bostic II and Jessica Fleuti)

One thing we love about our community is how widespread your interests are. Some of you are social entrepreneurs, some of you are corporate intrapreneurs, and some of you are students preparing to tackle tough social and environmental problems. The same is true of those of us who work at Net Impact. Some of us are in MBA programs, some of us are at the forefront of business innovations, and some of us run socially conscious businesses on the side.

You can see that diversity of interest in this summer’s reading recommendations. Business innovation? Check. Creativity? Check. The meaning of life? Yep. Racism and feminism? Definitely. Literary memoirs and poetry? Yes, that too. We asked our staffers what books have made a positive impact on them, whether the book affected their view of the workplace or the world. Our list is a mix of new books and all-time favorites, and we hope you enjoy them as much as we have.

Business & Innovation

To Sell Is Human by Dan Pink

Pink tells us that the days of the slimy used car salesman are over, and we're all salespeople in our own ways – employees pitching colleagues on a new idea, friends persuading friends to go on a trip or to an event, or parents getting their children to study. We all spend our days trying to move others. This book teaches specific traits and techniques that will improve your sales and your ability to navigate the professional world – and might also improve your life. – Will Russell

Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur
Value Proposition Design: How to Create Products and Services Customers Want by Alexander Osterwalder, Yves Pigneur, Greg Bernarda, and Alan Smith

Solving the big issues of our generation requires bold new business models. Thankfully, these two innovative reads provide us with essential guidance: Business Model Generation and the latest in the series, Value Proposition Design. Both draw from the best of the worlds of innovation, strategy, and entrepreneurship, providing us with invaluable frameworks to design human-centered business models that can be adapted for a changing world. Impact leaders can apply handy tools like the business model canvas not only to businesses, but also to social enterprises or nonprofits to transform organizations and the world. – Linda Gerard

Do the KIND Thing: Think Boundlessly, Work Purposefully, Live Passionately by Daniel Lubetzky

This is a great, honest read by Daniel Lubetzky, 2015 Net Impact Conference keynote speaker and the founder of KIND. It tells the origin story of KIND, but also digs deep into Daniel’s personal story as a child of a Holocaust survivor. He doesn’t shy away from talking about his failures and how they were instrumental to his eventual success. This book is a compelling read for anyone considering starting their own business with purpose, or just interested in bringing a little more kindness into their life. – Jessica Fleuti

Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose by Tony Hsieh

We've all heard about the fun and zany organizational culture that exists at Zappos, an online retailer that was acquired by Amazon in 2009 for $1.2 billion. In this book, Tony Hsieh tells Zappos' story and how "using happiness as a framework can produce profits, passion, and purpose both in business and life." – Cuong Nguyen

Little Bets by Peter Sims

Sims identifies how successful people (focusing particularly on a few key examples, including Steve Jobs and Chris Rock) make series of little bets in their work and lives, rather than launching a big idea or plan in one fell swoop. Through such little bets, they learn critical information from lots of little failures and from small wins, driving more significant success down the road. In this book, you'll find actionable information that will help you cultivate creativity in business and in your life. – Will

Environmentalism & the Natural World

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate by Naomi Klein

“One way or another, everything changes” is the line of introduction in Klein’s analysis of the brooding climate catastrophe in the throes of capitalism. This book grabs the reader from the very beginning with quotes from two very different camps: "Most projections of climate change presume that future changes – green house gas emissions, temperature increases and effects such as sea level rise – will happen incrementally..." from the American Association for the Advancement of Science; and "I love that smell of the emissions," a quote from Sarah Palin. – Harris Bostic II

Wild Ones: A Sometimes Dismaying, Weirdly Reassuring Story About Looking at People Looking at Animals in America by Jon Mooallem

Wild Ones takes an interesting look at the intersection of American culture, history, and wildlife conservation. As the environment has rapidly changed in the last century, Americans have adopted a strange relationship with our wild animals. We are simultaneously responsible for their disappearance and completely dedicated to their survival. This is a great read about how that relationship manifests itself, with a ton of fun anecdotes and sobering facts. Plus, there's a great recording of Jon Mooallem reading an excerpt of the book in a stage production, accompanied by a live band. – Nora Traughber

Creativity & Meaning

The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp

For someone dipping their toes into the creative world, Twyla Tharp can seem like an intimidating figure: a prolific modern dancer and choreographer who has created original work well into her seventh decade. Yet in her unpretentious, no-nonsense book, Tharp shatters these expectations. Creativity is not innate, she says – it's the result of hard and often unglamorous work. In The Creative Habit, Tharp outlines a number of simple ways to cultivate our own creativity with exercises and examples that go beyond the dance world (yes, even business folk can learn something new). The book is approachable, easy to read, and empowering. – Lily Matthews

Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl

Where do I start? One of the best books I've ever read. And really short, too, for those who don't necessarily have a lot of reading time. In part one, Frankl chronicles his experiences as an Auschwitz concentration camp inmate during World War II. And in part two, he goes on to describe his psychotherapeutic method, logotherapy, which enables the patient (and in this case, the reader, too) to identify meaning and purpose in their lives. If you've ever pondered the meaning of life, this book is for you. – Will

Literary & Cultural

Fire Shut Up in My Bones by Charles M. Blow

This highly introspective memoir uses vivid imagery and language to share Blow’s transcendence above and beyond the hardships of racial segregation and sexual abuse. In Blow’s own words, he reflects, “The first memory I have in the world is of death and tears. That is how I would mark the beginning of my life: the way people mark the end of one.” Indeed overcoming this, Blow, at the age of 24, became the youngest person ever to head a department at the New York Times. – Harris

Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay

If you read the title and thought, Eh, not for me, please reconsider. A series of compelling, witty, expertly crafted essays, the book offers honest and intelligent deconstructions of nearly every cultural, gender-based, and racial issue the U.S. has seen recently – from Lean In, to Anderson Cooper's coming out, to Chris Brown's still (somehow) thriving community of female fans. Bad Feminist explores what feminism means in 2015, touching on why feminism, an ideology among many, is often placed under the harshest incongruity-seeking spotlight, and how women experience the paradox of identifying as feminists but feeling pressure to satisfy conventional gender expectations. Gay owns up to the contradictions between her feminist identity and her actions, and she invites us to explore that imperfection with her. In an age of cacophonous Twitter-storms and increasingly polarized sociopolitical opinions, I've found Bad Feminist to be a refreshing source of imperfection-embracing comfort. – Laura Diez

The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky and Death by Colson Whitehead

Whitehead, a gifted writer, was presented an assignment to see how far he could go in a high-stakes poker tournament. Not only does this amusing memoir of his search for meaning at the poker tables have an intriguing title, it is also chockfull of Whitehead’s sheer love of words and how to exact multilevel meanings from them. Take his opening line that ranks up there with the best of them: “I have a good poker face because I am half dead inside." – Harris

Americanah by Chimamanda Adichie

This amazing novel explores race and identity in Nigeria and the United States through a handful of complex characters paving their way in these two countries. As the reader, we get to view the U.S. and the many (often ridiculous) nuances surrounding race and nationality through the lens of an immigrant, Ifemelu, whose honest reflections are eye-opening. I recommend this book for anyone looking for an entertaining read that challenges them to see the world a little differently. – Kathara Green

Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine

Citizen uses poems and essays to delve into how racial macro- and micro-aggressions affect Blacks here in the U.S., including how people like tennis star Serena Williams negotiate racism on a public stage. In this 2014 winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award in poetry, Rankine follows up her 2004 book Don’t Let Me Be Lonely. As she states, “Both books reside in the realm where one’s attempts to negotiate a day are complicated by racial interactions.” – Harris

Want more book recommendations? See last year's summer reading list.