These days, access to information is virtually unlimited. From 140 character tweets, to videos, articles, blog posts, longreads, online courses, and podcasts, we can learn about whatever we want with the click of a button. But books provide us a unique opportunity to do a self-paced, deep exploration into topics.
Team Shareable rounded up 22 of the top new books that explore topics near and dear to our collective heart including sharing cities, social justice, waste reduction, ecovillages, economic transformation, local currencies, the Transition movement, cooperatives, coworking, and more. Pick up one or more of these books for holiday reading or giving.
1. Sharing Cities: A Case for Truly Smart and Sustainable Cities, by Duncan McLaren and Julian Agyeman (MIT Press): In Sharing Cities, authors Duncan McLaren and Julian Agyeman explore the premise that the future of humanity is in cities and that such a future necessitates sharing resources, goods, services and experiences. But traditional sharing has been undermined in urban areas by “social fragmentation and commercialization of the public realm.” The book proposes a new sharing paradigm which extends beyond commercial sharing platforms like Airbnb and envisions more community-focused, sustainable, and just models of sharing.
2. Patterns of Commoning, edited by David Bollier and Silke Helfrich (The Commons Strategy Group and Off the Common Press): The second in a series of three books by the Commons Strategy Group, Patterns of Commoning is a collection of over 50 essays that explore the spread of commoning and collaboration, the most successful commons strategies and projects, and the role of the commons and commoning in building a “fair, humane, and Earth-respecting social order.” Projects profiled include alternative currencies, open design and manufacturing, community forests, co-learning commons, the digital commons, and many more.
3. How to Thrive in the Next Economy: Designing Tomorrow's World Today, by John Thackara (Thames & Hudson): In How to Thrive in the Next Economy, John Thackara, who is the founder and director of the Doors of Perception, a design organization specializing in sustainability and social innovation, explores creative, bottom-up solutions to pressing global challenges, including climate change, poverty, and insufficient health care. He argues that it’s important to look, not just to big tech-enabled solutions, but to also look to communities who have developed their own innovative, everyday solutions to local issues.
4. Raw Deal: How the "Uber Economy" and Runaway Capitalism Are Screwing American Workers, by Steven Hill (St. Martin's Press): An exposé of the dark side of the sharing economy, Raw Deal looks at the “weird yet historic mash-up of Silicon Valley technology and Wall Street greed” that defines the new giants of the economy, such as Uber, Airbnb, and TaskRabbit. In the book, author and veteran journalist Steven Hill proposes pragmatic policy changes to transform the U.S. economy and launch a new kind of deal to “restore power back into the hands of American workers.”
5. Democratic by Design: How Carsharing, Co-ops and Community Land Trusts Are Reinventing America, by Gabriel Metcalf (St. Martin's Press): In Democratic by Design, author Gabriel Metcalf looks at how small-scale, living examples of a better society, such as community land trusts, credit unions, worker coops, mission-driven corporations, community-supported agriculture farms and more, can ultimately scale up to widespread social transformation. As we face widespread economic inequity, political gridlock and daunting environmental challenges, Metcalf argues that we sorely need a fresh approach to social and political change.
6. Co-operatives for Sustainable Communities: Tools to Measure Co-operative Impact and Performance, edited by Leslie Brown, Chiara Carini, Jessica Gordon-Nembhard, Lou Hammond-Ketilson, Elizabeth Hicks, John McNamara, Sonja Novkovic, Daphne Rixon, and Richard Simmons (The Centre for the Study of Co-operatives at the University of Saskatchewan): The seed idea for the book Co-operatives for Sustainable Communities: Tools to Measure Co-operative Impact and Performance was planted during an international conference focused on how and why co-operatives assess their performance and their impacts on society. Conference topics included statistics and data collection; putting cooperative principles into practice; community impact; member and stakeholder engagement; and reporting practices. The book is organized according to these five themes and offers an “international snapshot of the work being undertaken in these areas.”
7. Creating Cities, by Marcus Westbury (Niche Press): In 2008, Newcastle, Australia had more than 150 empty buildings lining its two main streets. Three years later, travel guide publisher Lonely Planet named it one of the top ten cities in the world to visit and has become a model for cities and towns around the world. In Creating Cities, Marcus Westbury, who grew up in Newcastle, details the transformation and argues that “most towns and cities are wasting their most obvious opportunities: the talent, imagination, and passion of the people that live there.”
8. Everything Gardens and Other Stories: Growing Transition Culture, by Luigi Russi (University of Plymouth Press): Everything Gardens is an account of the cultural politics of Transition Town initiatives in the UK. In it, author Luigi Russi argues that the Transition movement is more than an instrumental strategy to address climate change and fossil fuel shortage—it is a collective form of life. The book focuses on the body as “the site where politics begins, engaging with the disquiets and anxieties that instigate the development of Transition practices: from Inner Transition, to food and currency activism, down to the REconomy project.”
9. No More Sink Full of Mugs, by Tony Bacigalupo (self-published): No More Sink Full of Mugs is an insider’s view of how to effectively manage a coworking space and create community with members. In the book, author Tony Bacigalupo offers tips, insights, and creative problem-solving techniques and tackles the most common challenges of running a coworking space, including how to build community; set work hours; handle troublesome members; keep up with the never-ending demand for coffee; and, of course, how to keep the kitchen sink from constantly filling with dishes.
10. Vermont Dollars Vermont Sense: a Handbook for Investors, Businesses, Finance Professionals, and Everybody Else, by Michael H. Shuman and Gwendolyn Hallsmith (Post Carbon Institute): Vermonters purchase the most local food per capita in the country, and the state’s chapter of Businesses for Social Responsibility has the most members of any state. This focus on investing and spending locally makes Vermont a valuable model for other states to follow. Vermont Dollars Vermont Sense is a handbook filled with examples and information about local investing. A project of the Post Carbon Institute, the book is the first in what its creators hope will be a “series of state-speciﬁc handbooks to spur local investment across the United States.”
11. The Circular Economy: A Wealth of Flows, by Ken Webster (Ellen MacArthur Foundation): In The Circular Economy, author Ken Webster, who is is Head of Innovation at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, poses a question: Where will prosperity come from in a global economy facing rising consumer demands, environmental challenges, volatile resource prices, and the end of easy credit? He argues that our linear “take-make and dispose” economy is a 19th century heritage and that the time is right to move towards a circular economy—a regenerative model based around feedback-rich flows allied to new business models.
12. Lean Startups for Social Change: The Revolutionary Path to Big Impact, by Michel Gelobter (Berrett-Koehler Publishers): The lean startup movement has seen countless businesses work with less waste, learn what works more quickly, and discard that which doesn’t work. In Lean Startups for Social Change, author and serial social entrepreneur Michel Gelobter shows how lean startup principles can have the “same transformative impact in non-profits, government, faith institutions and across the social sector.”
13. The Just City Essays: 26 Visions for Urban Equity, Inclusion and Opportunity, edited by Toni L. Griffin, Ariella Cohen and David Maddox (NextCity): A collaborative project between three organization focused on the contemporary city—the J. Max Bond Center on Design for the Just City at the City College of New York; The Nature of Cities; and Next City)—The Just City Essays collects 26 essays that provide “both aspirational and practical strategies for building livable, sustainable, resilient and just cities.”
14. Waste to Wealth: The Circular Economy Advantage, by Peter Lacy and Jakob Rutqvist (Palgrave Macmillan): Defined by one reviewer as the “definitive book on the circular economy for the next decade,” Waste to Wealth explores the circular economy—which is defined by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation as an economy that is “restorative and regenerative by design, and which aims to keep products, components and materials at their highest utility and value at all times—from a business perspective. It argues that, as cultural habits change, companies would be wise to adopt a circular perspective for products and services.
15. Scaling Up: the Convergence of Social Economy and Sustainability, by Mike Gismondi, Sean Connelly, Mary Beckie, Sean Markey, Mark Roseland (Athabasca University Press): Scaling Up is an exploration of the ways that citizens can take collaborative action to meet the needs of their community. This social economy, which is built with coops, community-based social services, nonprofits, and more, prioritizes mutual benefit over profit. As a whole, it creates an alternative to the endless growth, capitalistic market economy. Through case studies and a variety of voices, Scaling Up illustrates the power of this economy to address social and environmental challenges.
16. Holacracy: The New Management System for a Rapidly Changing World, by Brian J. Robertson (Henry Holt and Co.): Holacracy is a management system that distributes authority and decision-making throughout an organization, defining people, not by hierarchy and titles, but by roles. In the book, Holacracy, Brian J. Robertson, who created the system, demonstrates how his approach “turns everyone in an organization into a leader and creates organizations that are fast, agile, and that succeed by pursuing their purpose, not following a dated and artificial plan.”
17. The End of Banking: Money, Credit, and the Digital Revolution, by Jonathan McMillan (Zero/One Economics): Jonathan McMillan is a pseudonym for two unnamed people: an investment banker in a global bank, and an academic and economist. In the book The End of Banking, the two reveal the inner workings of banking, cutting through the “complexity of modern finance and explaining how banking almost crashed our financial system” At the core of the book is the argument that banking is irreparably broken.
18. Tactical Urbanism: Short-term Action for Long-term Change, by Mike Lydon (Author), Anthony Garcia (Island Press): As cities face numerous challenges, tactical urbanism—defined as short-term, community-based projects, from pop-up parks to Open Streets initiatives—has emerged as a low-cost, bottom-up approach to city-making. Because this approach has proven to be effective, it has been embraced by urban activists, city planners, and policymakers alike. In Tactical Urbanism, authors Mike Lyndon and Anthony Garcia present what is described as the “foundational guide for urban transformation.”
19. The Ecology of Law: Toward a Legal System in Tune with Nature and Community, by Fritjof Capra and Ugo Mattei (Berrett-Koehler Publishers): The Ecology of Law is being celebrated as the first book to trace the parallel history of law and science, showing how, until recently, the two disciplines have influenced each other. In the book, authors Fritjof Capra and Ugo Mattei argue that our current legal system is based on “an obsolete worldview.” As science has shifted to a from a mechanistic perspective of the natural world to a systems perspective that recognizes complex networks, law is still stuck in the “old mechanistic paradigm.”
20. Ecovillage: 1001 Ways to Heal the Planet, edited by Kosha Joubert and Leila Dregger (Triarchy Press): With their focus on community, culture, and low-impact living, ecovillages offer alternatives to a culture of consumption and exploitation. Ecovillage, which was released to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the Global Ecovillage Network, is full of interviews with founders of ecovillages, or long-time members. The book is designed to serve as an inspiration and a learning resource.
21. Land: A New Paradigm for a Thriving World, by Martin Adams (North Atlantic Books): In Land, author Martin Adams poses the question: What if we lived in a world where everyone had enough? A world where everyone mattered and where people lived in harmony with nature? He argues that throughout history, the act of owning land causes “economic booms and busts, social and cultural decline, and environmental devastation.” Adams presents what is described as a “radically new economic model that ensures a more fair and abundant reality for everyone.”
22. 21 Stories of Transition: How a Movement of Communities is Coming Together to Reimagine and Rebuild Our World, harvested by Rob Hopkins (Transition Network): Released in advance of the COP21 climate negotiations in Paris, 21 Stories of Transition is what’s described as a “joyous and inspiring celebration of what the Transition movement has become.” The book tells 21 stories of 39 Transition projects in 15 countries. The projects presented include REconomy in Luxembourg, the growing local currency movement, harvesting rainwater in São Paulo, Brazil, repair cafes, Transition Streets in Australia, community energy, and more.
Many of the above book links include an Amazon affiliate link. Resulting purchases support Shareable, a nonprofit. The books may be available at local, independent bookstores, a choice we recommend too. Top photo: Bernhard Frank (CC-BY-20). Follow @CatJohnson on Twitter