Friday, December 19, 2008

Favorite Do-Good Books of 2008

Below is my 4th annual list of Favorite Do-Good Books (in alphabetical order). You can also check out my lists from past years:

Favorite Do-Good Books of 2007
Favorite Do-Good Books of 2006
Favorite Do-Good Books of 2005

1. Chasing the Flame: Sergio Vieira de Mello and the Fight to Save the World by Samantha Power

I know she shouldn't have said what she said about Hillary Clinton during the presidential campaign, but as a writer, Samantha Power is amazing. Her, A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide was on my Favorite Do-Good Book of 2007 list. Her newest book, the story of a Brazilian diplomat who worked for the United Nations for 34 years, has inspired an upcoming documentary and feature film. Check out the Chasing the Flame blog for more details.

2. Grassroots Philanthropy by Bill Somerville and Fred Setterberg

As I wrote in my review, I Want to Be a Grassroots Philanthropist!, Bill Somerville makes the search for innovative funding opportunities sound like an Indiana Jones adventure. PhilanTopic included the book on its list of Best Philanthropy-Related Books of 2008.

3. Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations by Clay Shirky

What I loved about Shirky's book was that it wasn't about Web 2.0 tools, it was about how Web 2.0 tools can, and are changing our world. I've been opening a lot of talks about how nonprofits can use the social web with a line from his book, "Revolution doesn’t happen when society adopts new technologies -- it happens when society adopts new behaviors." Check out Billy Matheson's review of Here Comes Everybody on WorldChanging.

4. Just Call Me Mike: A Journey to Actor and Activist by Mike Farrell

Farrell's keynote at the Writing for Change Conference this year floored me, and everyone else in the room. The conference organizers had so many requests for copies of his speech that Farrell was nice enough to let them post it online. I immediately bought his book and relished every page. Who knew that the actor who played BJ Hunnicutt on M*A*S*H was such an incredible human rights activist? This was probably the book that moved me the most in 2008. Check out his website at

5. Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela by Nelson Mandela

What's not to love about the autobiography of Nelson Mandela? Come on. One of the projects he is involved with these days is The Elders. The Elders is, "a group of eminent global leaders, convened by Nelson Mandela and Gra├ža Machel to bring their experience and independent voices to the resolution of conflict and to innovative, cooperative efforts to address the great global challenges of our time."

6. Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

I liked this book so much that I gave away three copies to readers for Have Fun * Do Good Reader Appreciation Day. It's the do-good adventure story of a former mountain climber who has spent almost 15 years building schools in remote mountain villages of northern Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan and Mongolia. If you're going to purchase a copy on Amazon, buy it though the Three Cups of Tea site so that Mortenson's organization will get up to 7% of the proceeds. They'll be publishing a young readers' version of the book in late January 2009.

7. What Is the What by Dave Eggers

This is the only fiction book on my list, but it reads like a nonfiction book, probably because it a "novelized autobiography" of Valentino Achak Deng, a refugee of the Sudanese civil war. Proceeds from every copy of What is the What goes to The Valentino Achak Deng Foundation.

What are some your favorite do-good books from 2008?

All book cover images are from Powell's Books.

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  1. I love this list! I will be using it for my new year reading - thank you

  2. Anonymous8:33 AM

    Thanks for including our list of best philanthropy-related books in your post, and for putting together a great list of books! -- Regina

  3. Hi Sabrina -I'm glad you enjoyed the list!

    Regina- You had some great books on your list that I thought folks should know about.

  4. Anonymous3:20 AM

    I found your site on Google and was moved by this list of books...what a selection!

    I will read these in 2009. Thanks for the list!

  5. Great list, thank you. I also will be using it for my reading and gifts.

  6. Thanks for a great list, had read a few, and will buy others for mysself or gifts.

  7. Anonymous6:55 PM

    I second your choice of "What is the What" by Dave Eggers - I couldn't put that book down.

    I'd also add "Out of Poverty" by Paul Polak to your list -

    That book is amazing.

  8. Hi Christopher, Thanks for the suggestion! Looks like its gotten lots of good reviews on Amazon too. What is his central thesis?

  9. Britt - I can't even begin to explain! I will say that I read the famed Jeffrey Sachs book on the topic and Polak's is more grounded in reality and pragmatism.


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