Community-minded books to read during the 2020 quarantine

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We at Shareable are guessing that you might have some extra reading time these days during the worldwide makeshift quarantine. With that in mind, we’ve rounded up a list of books that aren’t necessarily new; although there are a couple of news books like The Buy Nothing Book (available April 14, 2020).

We’ve focused on books relevant to the global COVID-19 pandemic like Rob Hopkin’s From What Is To What If. We’re also plugging our latest free ebooks “The Response” and “Beyond Waste.” “The Response” is particularly relevant these days as it’s all about community responses to disasters. Finally, we asked each member of team Shareable what they’re reading, so check those selections out too.

With many libraries and bookstores closing, you may need to source books creatively. You can still buy books online, but why not go one better? Depending on where you live, you may be able to check out an ebook online from your local library at no cost through systems like Hoopla, Libby, and Overdrive. Your local library’s website should provide information on which system they use and instructions on how to download ebooks. We’ve included links to ebooks where possible for each of our recommended books.

What books are you reading right now? Let us know at! Below are summaries excerpted from each book’s website:

The Response: Building Collective Resilience in the Wake of DisastersThe Response: Building Collective Resilience in the Wake of Disasters by Shareable

When disasters occur, the majority of news coverage teeters on the edge of “disaster porn” at best, emphasizing the sheer mass of destruction in the affected area while celebrating a few token “heroes.” News reporting routinely underplays how local communities come together to recover from the immediate devastation and collectively rebuild the community, often on a new foundation of sustainability and justice. It’s a good thing that people collaborate instead of competing during a crisis because all signs point towards an increase in climate change-fueled disasters in the coming years.

This collection of interviews, articles, guides, and personal stories is designed to deepen the understanding of community led disaster response and support deeper engagement between neighbors, family, and friends In preparation for a future together.

Community-minded books to read during the 2020 quarantineFrom What Is to What If: Unleashing the Power of Imagination to Create the Future We Want by Rob Hopkins

The founder of the international Transition Towns movement asks why true creative, positive thinking is in decline, asserts that it’s more important now than ever, and suggests ways our communities can revive and reclaim it. 

In these times of deep division and deeper despair, if there is a consensus about anything in the world, it is that the future is going to be awful. There is an epidemic of loneliness, an epidemic of anxiety, a mental health crisis of vast proportions, especially among young people. There’s a rise in extremist movements and governments. Catastrophic climate change. Biodiversity loss. Food insecurity. The fracturing of ecosystems and communities beyond, it seems, repair. The future — to say nothing of the present — looks grim.

But as Transition movement cofounder Rob Hopkins tells us, there is plenty of evidence that things can change, and cultures can change, rapidly, dramatically, and unexpectedly — for the better. He has seen it happen around the world and in his own town of Totnes, England, where the community is becoming its own housing developer, energy company, enterprise incubator, and local food network — with cascading benefits to the community that extend far beyond the projects themselves.

Community-minded books to read during the 2020 quarantine

After Now: When We Cannot See the Future Where Do We Begin? by Bob Stilger

On the afternoon of March 11, 2011, massive, overwhelming, incomprehensible disaster struck the northeast coast of Japan. Life for those in the region would never be the same.

This book is about the awakening that follows disaster. About the minutes and hours and months and years that come after now. It is about what happens when we’re smacked on the side of the head and open our eyes, startled out of the trance in which we have been living our days. It is about the opportunities always present, often invisible, to create the lives we want, now.

Community-minded books to read during the 2020 quarantine

A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster by Rebecca Solnit

Why is it that in the aftermath of a disaster, whether manmade or natural, people suddenly become altruistic, resourceful, and brave? What makes the newfound communities and purpose many find in the ruins and crises after disaster so joyous? And what does this joy reveal about ordinarily unmet social desires and possibilities?

In “A Paradise Built in Hell,” award-winning author Rebecca Solnit explores these phenomena, looking at major calamities from the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco through the 1917 explosion that tore up Halifax, Nova Scotia, the 1985 Mexico City earthquake, 9/11, and Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. She examines how disaster throws people into a temporary utopia of changed states of mind and social possibilities, as well as looking at the cost of the widespread myths and rarer real cases of social deterioration during crisis. This is a timely and important book from an acclaimed author whose work consistently locates unseen patterns and meanings in broad cultural histories.

Related story: Coronavirus catalyzes a growing wave of grassroots action despite social distancing

The Buy Nothing, Get Everything Plan: Discover the Joy of Spending Less, Sharing More, and Living Generously by Liesl Clark, Rebecca Rockerfeller (available April 14, 2020)

Inspired by the ancient practice of gift economies, where neighbors share and pool resources, “The Buy Nothing, Get Everything Plan” introduces an environmentally conscious 7-step guide that teaches us how to buy less, give more, and live generously. At once an actionable plan and a thought-provoking exploration of our addiction to stuff, this powerful program will help you declutter your home without filling landfills, shop more thoughtfully and discerningly, and let go of the need to buy new things. Filled with helpful lists and practical suggestions including 50 items you never need to buy (Ziploc bags and paper towels) and 50 things to make instead (gift cards and salad dressing), “The Buy Nothing, Get Everything Plan” encourages you to rethink why you shop and embrace a space-saving, money-saving, and earth-saving mindset of buying less and sharing more.

Community-minded books to read during the 2020 quarantine

Reimagining Capitalism in a World on Fire by Rebecca Henderson (available April 28, 2020)

Free market capitalism is one of humanity’s greatest inventions and the greatest source of prosperity the world has ever seen. But this success has been costly. Capitalism is on the verge of destroying the planet and destabilizing society as wealth rushes to the top. The time for action is running short.

Rebecca Henderson’s rigorous research in economics, psychology, and organizational behavior, as well as her many years of work with companies around the world, gives us a path forward. She debunks the worldview that the only purpose of business is to make money and maximize shareholder value. She shows that we have failed to reimagine capitalism so that it is not only an engine of prosperity but also a system that is in harmony with environmental realities, striving for social justice and the demands of truly democratic institutions.

Our Throwaway Society: Raising Children to Consume Wisely by Anya Hart Dyke

‘Our throwaway society’ is an ebook for parents of children aged 2+ exploring how to set ‘planetary’ boundaries for our children and challenge the endemic consumerism and ‘culture of convenience’ that is threatening our world. Full of fun activities, practical tips and stories of children who are changing the world, this will transform your family’s life. Fifteen percent of profits will go to relevant charities.

Beyond Waste: Community Solutions to Managing Our Resources by Shareable

The ebook “Beyond Waste: Community Solutions to Managing Our Resources” features our editorial series outlining ways individuals, organizations and communities are reducing waste around the world.

Arvind Dilawar brought us the story of how Bonnie Linden set up a community cupboard in her California neighborhood; Paige Wolf explained how to start a reusable party pack; and Mirella Ferraz told us about the Fashion Detox challenge and the Right to Repair movement. We featured the Eunpyeong Sharing Center in Seoul, South Korea along with other initiatives such as Oakland’s O2AA maker village, the Japan-based MyMizu app, and Precious Plastic’s DIY recycling module. Finally, writer Marina Kelava described how the small Crostian island of Zlarin is getting rid of single-use plastics; and Nithin Coca highlighted how Japan’s Seikatsu Club Cooperative is challenging consumerism. In fact, Seikatsu Club may be the only retailer with anti-consumerist slogan — Stop Shopping. Download our free ebook here

Related story: Coronavirus catalyzes a growing wave of grassroots action despite social distancing

A Chance For Everyone : The Parallel Non-Monetary Economy by Kendal Eaton

As close as neoliberalism has brought us to real and prospective extinction of species, six years of research into 71 publications and 649 global networking organisations reveals something shocking — it has also brought us to the cusp of an immediately implementable parrallel non-monetary economy. This economy already exists and using familiar methods, organisations and practices, can revolutionise global commerce. It will afford every living human being the inalienable right to earn for anything that society decides constitutes work or labour. Without conflict or coercion with existing capitalist business, it will transform working relationships and liberate all people, including capitalists, from the inhibiting and disempowering effects of monetary dependency, forming the new non-monetary economic market of the 99 percent. This is the only realistic route to rapid recovery of Earth’s climate crisis, by generating the Fifth Industrial (Eco) Revolution.

Wanderlust: A History of Walking by Rebecca Solnit

Drawing together many histories-of anatomical evolution and city design, of treadmills and labyrinths, of walking clubs and sexual mores-Rebecca Solnit creates a fascinating portrait of the range of possibilities presented by walking. Arguing that the history of walking includes walking for pleasure as well as for political, aesthetic, and social meaning, Solnit focuses on the walkers whose everyday and extreme acts have shaped our culture, from philosophers to poets to mountaineers. She profiles some of the most significant walkers in history and fiction-from Wordsworth to Gary Snyder, from Jane Austen’s Elizabeth Bennet to Andre Breton’s Nadja-finding a profound relationship between walking and thinking and walking and culture. Solnit argues for the necessity of preserving the time and space in which to walk in our ever more car-dependent and accelerated world.

Shareable’s Executive Director, Neal Gorenflo, is reading:

Leaves of Grass : Bold-Faced Thoughts on the Power and Pleasure of Self-Expression by Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman’s powerful poetry continues to inspire with its rich language, all-embracing populism, and boundless spirit.

Whitman took it upon himself to establish a bold, sensual, new literary tradition that was distinctly American — and consciously set out to be at once the quintessential American poet and the voice of the common man. “Leaves of Grass” remains an enduring touchstone for writers everywhere, and for anyone who wants to get in touch with his or her own creative spirit.

Shareable’s Operations Director, Joslyn Beile, is reading:

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson

Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The case drew Bryan into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, and legal brinksmanship — and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever.

“Just Mercy” is at once an unforgettable account of an idealistic, gifted young lawyer’s coming of age, a moving window into the lives of those he has defended, and an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of true justice.

Shareable’s Director of Partnerships, Tom Llewellyn, is reading:

Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse

Authored by Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha is one of the most influential spiritual works of the twentieth century. It is the story of a young man who decides to leave his wife and kids and embark on a journey of suffering and rejection to finally find peace within and attain salvation.

The story revolves around a young man who leaves his home and family on a quest for the Truth. Embarking on a journey that takes him from the austerities of renunciation to the profligacy of wealth. That leads him through the range of human experiences from hunger and want, to passion, pleasure, pain, greed, yearning, boredom, love, despair and hope. A journey that leads finally to the river, where he gains peace and eventually wisdom.

Shareable’s Editorial and Communications Manager, Courtney Pankrat, is reading:

Wanderlust: A Traveler’s Guide to the Globe by Moon Travel Guides

Moon Travel Guides takes you on a journey around the world with Wanderlust: A Traveler’s Guide to the Globe.Get inspired with lists of mythic locations, epic trails, ancient cities, and more that span the four corners. This stunning, hardcover book is packed with full-colour photos, charming illustrations, and fascinating overviews of each destination, making it the perfect gift for dreamers and adventurers alike.

Walk along the Great Wall of China, climb the Atlas Mountains, or trek through Patagonia. Visit stunning national parks from Yellowstone in the US to Tongariro in New Zealand, explore the Gobi Desert, or set sail to the Greek Islands. Eat your way through the best street food cities in the world, follow wine trails from Spain to Australia, and shop famous markets from the Grand Bazaar to the Marrakech souks.Find the best places to stargaze from Chile to France, or witness jaw-dropping phenomena from reversing rivers and blooming deserts to fluorescent blue haze and the Aurora Boreales. Filled with natural wonders, dazzling celebrations, quirky festivals, road trips, bucket-list sites, epic outdoor adventures, and cultural treasures, Wanderlust is the definitive book for the curious traveller. Where will you go?


This article is part of our reporting on The People’s COVID-19 Response. Here are a few articles from the series:





Courtney Pankrat


Courtney Pankrat |

Courtney is the editorial and communications manager at Shareable. She also works as a freelance writer and is currently based out of Denver, Colorado. Her work has appeared in Shareable,