We've been reading some excellent books on social change. Last year, we published "Sharing Cities: Activating the Urban Commons," and turned to many of these books — some written by former Shareable contributors — for inspiration. From tackling economic injustice to environmental inequities, these books are filled with hope for a better future, one that's based on shared, community-based solutions as opposed to top-down fixes that don't work for everyone. Below are summaries, excerpted from each book's website, that give a taste of what's inside. If you're looking for thought-provoking reads in the New Year, look no further.
Do you have any recommendations for books we should check out this year? Leave a comment below or drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy reading!
"Team Human is a manifesto — a fiery distillation of preeminent digital theorist Douglas Rushkoff's most urgent thoughts on civilization and human nature. In one hundred lean and incisive statements, he argues that we are essentially social creatures, and that we achieve our greatest aspirations when we work together — not as individuals. Yet today society is threatened by a vast antihuman infrastructure that undermines our ability to connect. Money, once a means of exchange, is now a means of exploitation; education, conceived as way to elevate the working class, has become another assembly line; and the internet has only further divided us into increasingly atomized and radicalized groups." (Now available for pre-order.)
"As Nathan Schneider shows, an alternative to the robber-baron economy is hiding in plain sight; we just need to know where to look. Cooperatives are jointly owned, democratically controlled enterprises that advance the economic, social, and cultural interests of their members. They often emerge during moments of crisis not unlike our own, putting people in charge of the workplaces, credit unions, grocery stores, healthcare, and utilities they depend on. Everything for Everyone chronicles this revolution–from taxi cooperatives keeping Uber at bay, to an outspoken mayor transforming his city in the Deep South, to a fugitive building a fairer version of Bitcoin, to the rural electric co-op members who are propelling an aging system into the future. As these pioneers show, co-ops are helping us rediscover our capacity for creative, powerful, and fair democracy."
"In today's economy, we have far too much dismay along with our amazement, and technology bears some of the blame. In this combination of memoir, business strategy guide, and call to action, Tim O'Reilly, Silicon Valley's leading intellectual and the founder of O'Reilly Media, explores the upside and the potential downsides of today's WTF? technologies. The core of the book's call to action is an exhortation to businesses to DO MORE with technology rather than just using it to cut costs and enrich their shareholders. Robots are going to take our jobs, they say. O'Reilly replies, "Only if that's what we ask them to do! Technology is the solution to human problems, and we won't run out of work till we run out of problems.""
"According to conventional wisdom, innovation is best left to the dynamic entrepreneurs of the private sector, and government should get out of the way. But what if all this was wrong? What if, from Silicon Valley to medical breakthroughs, the public sector has been the boldest and most valuable risk-taker of all?"
Another related book to check out is: Our Common Wealth: The return of public ownership in the United States by Thomas M. Hanna
"With research and insight, Charles Eisenstein details how the quantification of the natural world leads to a lack of integration and our "fight" mentality. With an entire chapter unpacking the climate change denier's point of view, he advocates for expanding our exclusive focus on carbon emissions to see the broader picture beyond our short-sighted and incomplete approach. The rivers, forests, and creatures of the natural and material world are sacred and valuable in their own right, not simply for carbon credits or preventing the extinction of one species versus another."
"In this revolutionary book, world-renowned trust expert Rachel Botsman reveals that we are at the tipping point of one of the biggest social transformations in human history — with fundamental consequences for everyone. A new world order is emerging: we might have lost faith in institutions and leaders, but millions of people rent their homes to total strangers, exchange digital currencies, or find themselves trusting a bot. This is the age of "distributed trust," a paradigm shift driven by innovative technologies that are rewriting the rules of an all-too-human relationship. If we are to benefit from this radical shift, we must understand the mechanics of how trust is built, managed, lost, and repaired in the digital age. In the first book to explain this new world, Botsman provides a detailed map of this uncharted landscape–and explores what's next for humanity."
"As mayor of one of America's most improved cities, Cornett used a bold, creative, and personal approach to orchestrate his city's renaissance. Once regarded as a forgettable city in "flyover country," Oklahoma City has become one of our nation's most dynamic places — and it is not alone. In this book, Cornett translates his city's success — and the success of cities like his-into a vision for the future of our country."
"This book is an interdisciplinary study of cooperative development and is designed to inform members of the academic community, government, public policy makers and cooperative managers that are primarily interested in economic democracy, economics of the cooperative enterprise, cooperative networks and economic development, cooperative legislation, democratic governance, job creation programs, politics of inclusion and how wealth can be more equitably distributed."
"As this groundbreaking study demonstrates, the answer to all these hinges on inequality. In The Spirit Level Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett put inequality at the centre of public debate by showing conclusively that less-equal societies fare worse than more equal ones across everything from education to life expectancy. The Inner Level now explains how inequality affects us individually, how it alters how we think, feel and behave. It sets out the overwhelming evidence that material inequalities have powerful psychological effects: when the gap between rich and poor increases, so does the tendency to define and value ourselves and others in terms of superiority and inferiority.”
"The San Francisco Bay Area is currently the jewel in the crown of capitalism — the tech capital of the world and a gusher of wealth from the Silicon Gold Rush. It has been generating jobs, spawning new innovation, and spreading ideas that are changing lives everywhere. It boasts of being the Left Coast, the Greenest City, and the best place for workers in the USA. So what could be wrong? It may seem that the Bay Area has the best of it in Trump's America, but there is a dark side of success: overheated bubbles and spectacular crashes; exploding inequality and millions of underpaid workers; a boiling housing crisis, mass displacement, and severe environmental damage; a delusional tech elite and complicity with the worst in American politics. This sweeping account of the Bay Area in the age of the tech boom covers many bases."
"As human activity and environmental change come to be increasingly recognized as intertwined phenomena on a rapidly urbanizing planet, the field of urban ecology has risen to offer useful ways of thinking about coupled human and natural systems. On the forefront of this discipline is Marina Alberti, whose innovative work offers a conceptual framework for uncovering fundamental laws that govern the complexity and resilience of cities, which she sees as key to understanding and responding to planetary change and the evolution of Earth. Bridging the fields of urban planning and ecology, Alberti describes a science of cities that work on a planetary scale and that links unpredictable dynamics to the potential for innovation. It is a science that considers interactions — at all scales — between people and built environments and between cities and their larger environments."
"Why do some leap ahead while others fall behind in our chaotic, connected age? In New Power, Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms confront the biggest stories of our time — the rise of mega-platforms like Facebook and Uber; the out-of-nowhere victories of Obama and Trump; the unexpected emergence of movements like #MeToo — and reveal what's really behind them: the rise of "new power." New Power shines fresh light on the cultural phenomena of our day, from #BlackLivesMatter to the Ice Bucket Challenge to Airbnb, uncovering the new power forces that made them huge. Drawing on examples from business, activism, and pop culture, as well as the study of organizations like Lego, NASA, Reddit, and TED, Heimans and Timms explain how to build new power and channel it successfully."
"For three decades we've been living through a paradigm shift. Our world is moving from the fading Fordist age to the ever-strengthening digital age. This shift is as unstoppable as the one that once brought us from railroads and steel mills to Fordist factories. And its impact on our lives is just as radical. In this context, the lessons from history are clear: Providing economic security for the many generates prosperity for all. But this can only be done with the right safety net supporting both households and businesses against the risks brought about by the digital age. There are those who long to re-establish the standards and regulations that marked the post-war boom."
"In this decentralization manifesto, futurist Max Borders shows that humanity is already building systems that will "underthrow" great centers of power. Exploring the promise of a decentralized world, Borders says we will: Reorganize to collaborate and compete with AI; Operate within networks of superior collective intelligence; Rediscover our humanity and embrace values for an age of connection."
"Building on his popular blog of the same name, Copenhagenize offers vivid project descriptions, engaging stories, and best practices, alongside beautiful and informative visuals to show how to make the bicycle an easy, preferred part of everyday urban life. Copenhagenize will serve as inspiration for everyone working to get the bicycle back into our cities. It will give planners and designers the ammunition to push back against the Automobile Age and convince the skeptics of the value of the life-sized city. This is not a guide on how to become Copenhagen, but how to learn from the successes and failures (yes, failures) of Copenhagen and other cities around the world that are striving to become more livable."
Another related book to check out is: Building the Cycling City: The Dutch Blueprint for Urban Vitality by Chris Bruntlett and Melissa Bruntlett
"In a world where story has become everything, organizations are finding it increasingly hard to compete. That's because stories can only take you so far. The real power lies in narratives. We are surrounded by noise. We are overwhelmed by information from social media, news and advertising. In this environment, it can be impossible for a brand, cause or individual to be heard. Organizations have traditionally used stories to try and connect with their audiences. But now, stories aren't enough. To be heard and to authentically connect to an audience, organizations need to embrace narrative."
"Building on Gregory Bateson's famous book Towards an Ecology of Mind and her own film on the subject, Nora Bateson here updates our thinking on systems and ecosystems, applying her own insights and those of her team at IBI to education, organisations, complexity, academia, and the way that society organizes itself. The book offers important advice and new thinking on issues like immigration, systems thinking, new economic and financial models, future thinking and strategic planning, sustainability and governmental ethics, agency in organizational leadership, the education system and organizational governance."
"Ashley Dawson argues that cities are ground zero for climate change, contributing the lion's share of carbon to the atmosphere, while also lying on the frontlines of rising sea levels. Today, the majority of the world's megacities are located in coastal zones, yet few of them are adequately prepared for the floods that will increasingly menace their shores. Instead, most continue to develop luxury waterfront condos for the elite and industrial facilities for corporations. These not only intensify carbon emissions, but also place coastal residents at greater risk when water levels rise."
Another related book to check out is: Global Cities: A Short History (The Short Histories) by Greg Clark
"Millennials have been stereotyped as lazy, entitled, narcissistic, and immature. We've gotten so used to sloppy generational analysis filled with dumb clichés about young people that we’ve lost sight of what really unites Millennials. Kids These Days, is about why. In brilliant, crackling prose, early Wall Street occupier Malcolm Harris gets mercilessly real about our maligned birth cohort. Examining trends like runaway student debt, the rise of the intern, mass incarceration, social media, and more, Harris gives us a portrait of what it means to be young in America today that will wake you up and piss you off. Millennials were the first generation raised explicitly as investments, Harris argues, and in Kids These Days he dares us to confront and take charge of the consequences now that we are grown up."
"Carl Cederström traces our present-day conception of happiness from its roots in early-twentieth-century European psychiatry, to the Beat generation, to Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump. He argues that happiness is now defined by a desire to be "authentic", to experience physical pleasure, and to cultivate a quirky individuality. But over the last fifty years, these once-revolutionary ideas have been co-opted by corporations and advertisers, pushing us to live lives that are increasingly unfulfilling, insecure and narcissistic. In an age of increasing austerity and social division, Cederström argues that a radical new dream of happiness is gathering pace. There is a vision of the good life which promotes deeper engagement with the world and our place within it, over the individualism and hedonism of previous generations. Guided by this more egalitarian worldview, we can reinvent ourselves and our societies."