Back by popular demand, RW Staff Picks lists some of the books that are guiding and shaping our perspectives, our lives and our work right now at RW! From personal development to social impact to history and even a children’s book for all the working parents out there, this list will set you up to get the best out of life – and rainy days. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: We are a team of readers, so we forced ourselves to pick only a few recent favorites rather than listing every book we love. If you want more, check out our first edition of RW Staff Picks where we dove into books that are core to RW – or just ask us!
From Megan Strand
The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters by Priya Parker
Gathering is a basic human point of connection. We do it all the time – at work, in communities we belong to and for personal reasons. But we don’t often do it as intentionally as we could! Priya Parker’s book provides us with both the motivation and the tools to create real human connection any time we gather – whether it’s for a mundane, routine reason, or a once-in-a-lifetime special occasion. To infuse more meaning in every facet of your human gatherings, be sure to spend some time with this treasure!
From Justin D’Angelo
Energy and Civilization: A History by Vaclav Smil
The convenience of reading this on a screen powered by ancient plants eating food from a thousand miles away can obscure energy’s fundamental role. This fantastically readable history changed the way I look at the world by showing me how we captured more of it, how that shaped societies around the world, and what it means to transition from one source to another. If you’re like me and hopeful for a transition away from fossil fuels, this book gives a brutally honest but deeply positive perspective on what that means. Be prepared to have your mind blown by ploughs, though.
From Angela Parker
In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts by Gabor Maté
Dr. Gabor Maté practiced medicine for over a decade in the Downtown Eastside area of Vancouver, British Colombia, North America’s most concentrated area of drug use. In this book, he compassionately tells the stories of his patients who faced the extreme effects of drug addiction as he weaves his own story through theirs. This book brings me uniquely face to face with the work of Realized Worth and why it matters. It asks us, the reader, to see ourselves in the faces of those whom society has marginalized, judged, and rejected. It reminds us of our shared human experience and the fact that we are all, in fact, the same. One of my favorite quotes from the book says, “We see that substance addictions are only one specific form of blind attachment to harmful ways of being, yet we condemn the addict’s stubborn refusal to give up something deleterious to his life or to the life of others. Why do we despise, ostracize and punish the drug addict, when as a social collective, we share the same blindness and engage in the same rationalizations?” I highly recommend this read for anyone in social impact work who needs to reconnect with their why.
From Kristen Guttilla
Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae
For all the working mommas and papas out there, this is my favourite book to read with my baby boy. It’s heart-warming, beautifully illustrated, and best of all – it rhymes. Enjoy reading this (a thousand times) with your toddlers! Spoiler alert: Giraffes CAN dance.
From Natalie Norton
Uncharitable by Dan Pallotta
This book is critical for anyone who works with, for, or aspires to work in the nonprofit sector. Uncharitable dives into why the nonprofit sector has been held back or limited from achieving true and lasting change by not being able to participate in traditional business sector strategies, all while being tasked with solving the world’s most significant dilemmas. For those dedicated to creating impact in our work, this book is a manifesto for how we can create powerful cross-sector partnerships.
From Kelly Lynch
Bittersweet by Susan Cain
If you are a person who cries when you see a waterfall, or who feels better when you listen to sad music, or who feels lonely when you look at big pieces of art, this book is for you. I am obsessed with understanding myself and this book gave me a lexicon and a vocabulary for tendencies and feelings I’ve had all my life but never knew how to name – bittersweet. To feel or be bittersweet is to feel the tension of what it is to be truly human: the understanding that beauty, epiphany, joy are all momentary, but that they inevitably change us (and those around us) when we bring those experiences back to the world.
Thinking in Systems by Donella Meadows
This book is crucial for people who want to go beyond thinking about problems in isolation. How do we identify problems by visualizing – and understanding – the ecosystem within which they live?
“Some of the biggest problems facing the world—war, hunger, poverty, and environmental degradation—are essentially system failures. They cannot be solved by fixing one piece separate from the others, because even seemingly minor details have enormous power to undermine the best efforts of too-narrow thinking.
While you’ll learn the conceptual tools and methods of systems thinking, the heart of this book is more than methodology. Donella Meadows was known as much for nurturing positive outcomes as she was for delving into the science behind global dilemmas. She reminds readers to pay attention to what is important, not just what is quantifiable, to stay humble, and to stay a learner.”
I love a badass pioneering woman and Donella is all that and more.
From Jessica Jenkins
Good to Great by Jim Collins
This title is probably familiar to a lot of our people – it’s a classic for those concerned with business transformation and growth. Spoiler alert: going from good to great isn’t as sexy as it sounds. It’s most often slow, iterative, and quiet. Above all, we accomplish great by being disciplined, honest, and intentional. It’s about putting the right people in the right roles, and giving them the right leaders (what Collins calls Level 5 leaders). So many of these principles apply to social impact work and the work we do with building, scaling and sustaining volunteer leadership networks.
From Kostapanos Miliaresis
Behavioral Insights by Michael Hallsworth and Elspeth Kirkman
Leading Nudge the Good Initiative for RW Institute, I couldn’t start from a different book than one of our go-tos on how we can apply Behavioral Insights & Nudge Theory to make a difference. By changing the process that governments, businesses, and nonprofits operate, we can shape contextual factors and and factors outside of conscious awareness to solve persistent problems and achieve desired pro-social behaviors and results.
Serendipity Mindset: The Art and Science of Creating Good Luck by Dr. Christian Busch
Motivational, practical, modern, fresh, and to the point! This book explores a life-changing perspective on how you don’t have to wait for luck – you can make it happen. Through a variety of stories, Dr. Christian Busch guides you to develop effective practices for this perspective shift, including how you can turn volunteering into good luck. Bonus value: the checklist at the end of each chapter to move from theory to action!
Prisoners of Geography by Tim Marshall
Do we have any fans of geography, history, politics (and maps)? Let me see those hands!
We read history books and listen to the news about repeatable conflicts globally, but how do the physical characteristics of each country affect their strengths and vulnerabilities and the decisions made by their leaders? Weather, seas, mountains, rivers, deserts, and borders provide a context often missing from political reportage to understand the world better and the global events for the past, present, and future.
From Dana Jenkins
Bonus Pick: Transforming Disruption to Impact: Rethinking Volunteer Engagement for a Rapidly Changing World by Doug Bolton, Beth Steinhorn, Jerome Tennille, and Craig Young
I’m so excited to include this bonus pick on our list. Why? Because it features a chapter written by our very own Co-Founders, Angela Parker, CEO, and Chris Jarvis, CSO! Coming this November, the book discusses the different mechanisms used to engage people in volunteering to address the world’s most critical issues with essays and contributions from globally recognized social impact professionals. We can’t wait to share!