Sheena’s Book Club

It’s that time of year when everyone starts posting their “best of” lists. I’ve already seen some really great nonprofit reading lists come out, and they are pretty great. So much to read in the nonprofit world, whether you’re a fundraiser, communicator, or leader.

Likely, my list of nonprofit-ish books would look a lot like the rest, so my gift to you is a list of a few of the great books I’ve read over the past couple of years that will inform what you do without actually being specifically about what you do.

Assholes: A Theory – Aaron James – I received this one for Christmas last year and find myself thumbing through it often. A fairly dense read (James is a philosopher) but well worth it. What exactly is an asshole? Why are assholes such assholes? Let’s face it, we all work/deal with our share of them, and likely can’t do much about it. This book helped me get a better understanding, and ultimately gave me some tools to help deal with them.

The Heretic’s Guide to Best Practices: The Reality of Managing Complex Problems in Organisations – Paul Culmsee & Kailash Awati – I’ll admit I’m still working through this one (Phil and I are reading it together – our pillow talk is WILD!) So far it has been an incredibly enlightening read about how we manage projects, problems and people within organisations, and how we for the most part do a pretty crappy job at it. 

Story – Robert McKee & Screenplay: The Foundations of Scriptwriting – Syd Field – We need to tell stories, and while there are so many great resources out there for nonprofit storytelling, I think sometimes we need to let go of our professional discourse and look at a different storytelling media. As a filmschool dropout who wanted to be a scriptwriter, I think we can all learn a lot about storytelling by studying how great films are made.

The Hero’s Journey – Joseph Campbell – Speaking of which, if you haven’t read this one yet, you must. While you’re at it, pick up The Power of Myth, Hero with a Thousand Faces, and Pathways to Bliss. You can likely get a deal on all 4 because that’s how Amazon tricks me EVERY TIME! We’ve yet to apply a stronger archetype to the stories we tell, and understanding this archetype will only help you be a stronger organisational storyteller.

Manage Your Day-to-Day – The 99u Book Series – Great for when you’re procrastinating and hem-hawing over why you aren’t more productive. Likewise, check out REWORK.

Graphic Design: The New Basics – Ellen Lupton– Despite what my old boss told me, people do give a shit about what things look like. This book is a great introduction to the basics for creating visual appeal. Great design often goes unnoticed, and terrible design can make you want to cry-heave (when you cry and barf all at once.) While you’re at it, take the time to thumb through some Best Of graphic design books and lists and put sticky notes on everything you love, then ask yourself why you love it and what it would take to make your stuff look that good! 

What’s great books can you recommend for me? What’s on your list for 2014?