Books of the Year 2013

2013 was another strong year for books on themes central to philanthrocapitalism. These were our 10 favourites, in no particular order:

The Business Solution to Poverty: Designing Products and Services for Three Billion New Customers by Paul Polak and Mal Warwick. If you believe that business rather than government aid offers the best route for the world’s poor to escape from poverty, this is the book for you. Full of practical advice for entrepreneurs looking to serve the billions of potential customers living at the bottom of the economic pyramid.

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban, by Malala Yousafzai with Christina Lamb. In her own words, the horrifying and inspirational story of the young woman who really should have won the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize.

The Generosity Network: New Transformational Tools for Successful Fund-Raising.  Private-equity philanthropist Jeff Walker and Harvard academic Jennifer McCrea have written a stimulating practical guide to how to inspire and leverage your network to achieve social good.

Just Business: Multinational Corporations and Human Rights, by John Ruggie. An important book on an important topic, by the man who has been guiding the UN’s business and human rights work. As Unilever boss Paul Polman describes it, the book is a “true master class in the art of making the impossible possible”.

40 Chances: Finding Hope in a Hungry World. Warren Buffett’s son, Howard, has turned a career in farming into a philanthropist’s passion for solving the global hunger crisis. He and his son Howard Jnr (plus a forward by Warren – three Buffetts for the price of one) have written a hard-hitting but positive book, spelling out the scale and causes of this deadly problem and what needs to be done to solve it. We particularly enjoyed this insider perspective on an issue increasingly getting the attention of donors, activists and big business.

Richer Lives: Why Rich People Give, by Beth Breeze and Theresa Lloyd. A  fascinating study of 80 wealthy British donors and the people who work with them on their giving. Ideal reading for anyone planning to engage with a rich donor.

Mission in a Bottle: The Honest Guide to Doing Business Differently – And Succeeding, by Seth Goldman and Barry Nalebuff. The founders of Honest Tea tell their story and share their insights into how to build a mission-driven business. This is a business book with a difference: it takes the form of a comic book, illustrated throughout by Sungyoon Choi, which makes for an especially easy read as well as an inspiring one.

The Idealist: Jeffrey Sachs and the Quest to End Poverty, by Nina Munk. This controversial look at the work of one of the world’s most influential public intellectuals on tackling poverty should be read by everyone who cares about aid and development. Munk draws some conclusions that are extremely negative –  unfairly so,  fans of Sachs will contend. Read it, and decide for yourself.

From the Margins to the Mainstream:  Assessment of the Impact Investment Sector and Opportunities to Engage Mainstream Investors. Admittedly, a drily-written report by the World Economic Forum rather than a book, but this is an essential read for anyone interested in how to turn the mainstream capital markets into an unequivocal force for good.

Lean In: Women, Work & the Will to Lead. Yes, it was overhyped and self-promotional, but Sheryl Sandberg, the COO of Facebook, has written a timely and much needed analysis of the economic status and potential of women that rightly challenges all of us to do more.

Revised edition of the year. In 2013, Connor O’Clery published an updated edition of  The Billionaire Who Wasn’t: How Chuck Feeney Secretly Made and Gave Away a Fortune.  The original book was brilliant; the revised edition includes the remarkable, often painful and utterly gripping story of the efforts by the “James Bond  of Philanthropy” to wind down the Atlantic Philanthropies. Don’t miss it.

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