By Janine Vanderburg, President, CEO/Joining Vision and Action 

Changemakers summer reading list

Looking for something to download on your Kindle before you head out of the office? Or for a leisurely thinking day?

We’ve taken the favorite books of nonprofit leaders we’ve interviewed this year for our changemakers blog series and compiled this summer reading list for changemakers.

In their own words, hear about the favorite books of these nonprofit leaders.

Chris Wanifuchi, just-retired Chief Executive Officer of the Asian Pacific Development Center

“Recently I was given a very interesting book to read, Thank You For Being Late, An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations by Thomas L. Friedman. To summarize simply, what I got out of this book was a reminder that in today’s world, things are changing at an unprecedented pace. Friedman explains the tectonic movements that are reshaping our world now and explains how to get the most out of them and cushion their worst impacts. After reading this book, you will have a completely different view of understanding the news, how you work, the kind of education our youth will need in the future, and the moral and geopolitical choices our country has to navigate. The author argues that pausing and ‘being late’ will allow us to reflect on some of these possibilities and dangers.”

Claire Clurman, Executive Director, Attention Homes

“Being in the field I am, a book I encourage others to pick up is called An Unquiet Mind by Kay Redfield Jamison. It’s a book about managing bipolar depression on its face, but it’s just an incredible book about learning to live with a mental illness and how to live a very fulfilled life with it. Whether you or someone you know struggles with mental health, it’s a beautifully written book that provides hope, strategy and clarity and focuses on how you can lead a very full and fulfilling life even when you struggle with certain barriers.”

Stephen LeFaiver, Executive Director, TEENS, Inc.

“Unfortunately with my work life and two young kids, reading a book is kind of like a fantasy of mine. I do get to read articles because they’re less of a time commitment. One article I read recently that I found very valuable is by Jim Collins about your core ideology and core values, called ‘Good to Great’ (there is also a book by him of the same title). I also recommend his article, ‘Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies.’ His work was very influential to how we developed our own core values at Teens, Inc.”

Elycia Cook, Executive Director, Friends First

“I love Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. I love it because I think people are not born with the same opportunities and chances in life, despite the myths we may hold about America. Especially if we’re trying to produce social change or social justice or social advocacy, we have to understand that people of color or people who live in poverty, they don’t want things for free—they just want to make the playing ground as even as possible. Some people would want to push the responsibility onto parents, but a child cannot help if it was born into a certain situation. It is on us as a society to acknowledge the inequalities that exist in accessing resources.”

Angelle Fouther, board member, Montbello Organizing Committee

“I’ve been incredibly moved by the books of Malcolm Gladwell. They offer a unique perspective. … I’m torn between several, but I’d have to say the book Outliers stands out. It’s about taking a look at what creates excellence, what’s the environment for success, and how different it is than what we tend to believe. That’s a book I encourage people to read to step back and examine their assumptions about what causes success, and maybe readjust and write their own narrative.”

Sonrisa Lucero, Sustainability Strategist, Denver Office of Sustainability

“I recommend The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho. It’s all about having the courage to follow an idea, follow a dream and persist even through setbacks. You realize the universe will both test you and conspire in your favor when you go after your dreams. Your dreams may lead you to unexpected places, but you wouldn’t go on the journey without the dream.”

Toni Saiber, Founder and Board President, Eating Disorder Foundation

“To anyone, I would recommend Susan Kenney Stevens’ book, Nonprofit Lifecycles: Stage-based Wisdom for Nonprofit Capacity. I also recommend a book by Mark Nepo called Book of Awakening. He is one of Oprah’s regular guests. He is a very spiritual man; my husband and I take turns reading passages from his book out loud to each other. The book has one passage for each day, it is full of inspirational snippets and it’s a great way to start your day.”

Damon McLeese, Executive Director, Access Gallery

“I recommend the book Let my People go Surfing, written by Yvon Chouinard, who founded the company Patagonia.”

Guadalupe “Pep” Torres, JVA alum and former Executive Director of Dress for Success

“I recommend Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman. It’s about how to connect with people, something I think is critical to any person moving into any professional position, being able to engage and being genuine but also being mindful of your environment. It has really helped me understand myself better and how I might be perceived by others. It also helped me understand how to listen and be more present in a conversation and how to connect to others on an emotional level.”

Ben Levek, Grants Manager, Denver Department of Human Services

“On my list is a book called Change or Die by Alan Deutschman. It really lends itself to personal life, professional life, business, service, etc. The author’s premise is that we all have the ability to change our behavior, but we rarely do. Some examples he gives are: repeat offenders of the criminal justice system, businesses trapped in unsuccessful business practices, chronic heart disease, and so on. We have the power to change these things by changing our mindset. ‘Relate, Repeat and Reframe’ is his framework.”

Ten nonprofit leaders. Twelve books for changemakers summer reading lists. What’s on yours?