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Books We Like
Nourishing Ideas > Books We Like

Here are some books that speak to Philia concepts, values and/or themes. We'd love to know about others. If you have any books you'd like to recommend, please send us its title, author, and a few lines about its content. You can write us at or post the title directly in the 'Have Your Say' section at the bottom of this page. We also welcome book reviews!

Getting to Maybe: How the World is Changed, by Frances Westley, Brenda Zimmerman and Michael Patton
The secret of great social movements is to stop looking at their discrete elements and start trying to understand the complex relationships between them. Getting to Maybe is a practical, inspirational guide to social innovation that looks at the real-life examples of a wide range of people and organizations, and applies the insights of complexity theory to lay out a new way of thinking about making change in communities, business, and the world.

Becoming Human, by Jean Vanier
In this provocative work, Jean Vanier shares his profoundly human vision for creating a common good that radically changes our communities, our relationships, and ourselves. He proposes that by opening ourselves to outsiders, those we perceive as weak, different, or inferior, we can achieve true personal and societal freedom.

Bowling Alone, by Robert Putnam
Drawing on two huge sets of new data detailing how Americans really live, Robert Putnam shows how we've become increasingly disconnected from family, friends, neighbours, and the democratic process - and suggests how we may reconnect and reinvent common enterprise.

The Careless Society,  by John McKnight
The 17 essays in this book focus on four "counterfeiting" aspects of society: professionalism, medicine, human service systems, and the criminal justice system. Each is called counterfeit because it attempts to produce, provide and manage care - the one thing a system cannot produce. McKnight follows his analysis with his own prescription for generating "authentic citizen communities of care."

The Clock of the Long Now, by Stewart Brand
"Civilization is revving itself into a pathologically short attention span. The trend might be coming from the acceleration of technology, the short-horizon perspective of market-driven economics, the next-election perspective of democracies, or the distractions of personal multi-tasking. All are on the increase. Some sort of balancing corrective to this short-sightedness is needed - some mechanism or myth that encourages the long view and the taking of long-term responsibility..."

Common Fire, by Laurent A. Parks Daloz et al.
As society becomes ever more global and fragmented, the need for citizens who are able and willing to deal with complex issues and diverse communities grows ever greater. But how do people acquire such commitments and skills? And how can we nurture those qualities in the next generation?

The Company of Others: Stories of Belonging, by Sandra Shields and David Campion
Foreword by John Ralston Saul
This moving book, produced by PLAN Institute, shows the transforming power of family and community on "vulnerable" individuals - the mentally challenged, the mentally ill, the elderly - and how these efforts enrich us as a society. It tells the stories, interwoven with photographs, of five such individuals who are surrounded by social "circles" - friends and family whose respect, encouragement and unconditional love gives them a sense of purpose and belonging. Read a review of this book.

The Cult of Efficiency, by Janice Gross Stein
Efficiency in the raging debate about public goods is often used as a code word to advance political agendas. Stein argues that what will define the quality of education and healthcare around the world is whether citizens and governments can negotiate new standards of accountability. Read a review of this book

The Dignity of Difference, by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks
This book introduces a new paradigm into the search for co-existence. In looking at how religious values can unite rather than divide us, the author argues that we must do more than search for common human values. We must also learn to make space for difference. The global future will call for something stronger than earlier doctrines of toleration or pluralism. It needs a new understanding that the unity of the Creator is expressed in the diversity of creation.

The Ethical Canary, by Margaret Somerville
According to Margaret Somerville, a leading international authority on medicine, ethics and the law, society must set ethically acceptable limits on scientific advances. In this controversial and timely book, Professor Somerville sheds light on the urgent ethical and legal questions that vie for our attention.

The Impossible Will Take a Little While, by Paul Rogat Loeb
People need hope more than ever in difficult political times. This book brings together the voices of eloquent writers and activists to talk about how we replenish the wells of commitment. It explores what keeps us going as we work for a more humane world, with a look at the historical, political, ecological, and spiritual frameworks that help us to persist, and examples of people who have faced despair and overcome it.

In Praise of Slow, by Carl Honore
These days, many of us live in fast forward - and pay a heavy price for it. Over-stimulated, over-scheduled and overwrought, we struggle to relax, to enjoy things properly, to spend time with family and friends. The Slow movement offers a lifeline by striking a balance between fast and slow. In Praise of Slow explains how the world got so fast and why slowing down can pay dividends in every walk of life.

Me to We, by Craig Kielburger and Marc Kielburger
Me To We helps readers redefine success, work on behalf of their community, and create a meaningful and fulfilling life, revealing the simple truth that by helping others, you help yourself. Authors Craig and Marc Kielburger provide a unique insight into our self-help culture and share remarkable stories written by individuals who have followed the "Me To We" philosophy, including Richard Gere, Jane Goodall, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

The Mismeasure of Man, by Stephen Jay Gould
Gould's brilliant demolition of the IQ industry dissects the motivations behind those who would judge intelligence, and hence worth, by cranial size or scores on extremely narrow tests. How did scientists decide that intelligence was quantifiable, and why did the standard keep changing over time? Gould's answer is clear and simple: power maintains itself...

The Needs of Strangers, by Michael Ignatieff
This thought-provoking book uncovers a crisis in the political imagination, a widespread failure to provide a profound sense of community in which our need of belonging can be met. Seeking the answers to fundamental questions, Michael Ignatieff writes vividly both about ideas and about people who tried to live by them. This incisive and moving book returns philosophy to its proper place, as a guide to the art of being human.

On Equilibrium, by John Ralston Saul
On Equilibrium presents us with a virtual 'how to' of the ways ideas can translate to action. Saul explains how our different qualities give us the intelligence, self confidence and ability to think and act as responsible individuals.."

Presence: An Exploration of Profound Change in People, Organizations, and Society, by Peter Senge, Otto Scharmer, Joseph Jaworski and Betty Sue Flowers
In this book the authors explore the nature of transformational change and the fresh possibilities it offers a world dangerously out of balance. The book introduces the idea of "presence" - the idea that the whole is entirely present in any of its parts - to the worlds of business, education, government and leadership. By encouraging deeper levels of learning, we create an awareness of the larger whole, leading to actions that can help to shape its evolution and our future.

The Rights Revolution, by Michael Ignatieff
"Rights are not abstractions," writes Ignatieff. "They are the very heart of our community and the very core of our values. We have them because those who went before us fought for them, and in some cases died for them. Our commitment to rights is a commitment to our ancestors. We owe it to them to maintain the vitality of the right to dissent, the right to belong, and the right to be different."

Slow Dance: A Story of Stroke, Love and Disability, by Bonnie Sherr Klein
In 1987 filmmaker Bonnie Sherr Klein suffered two strokes that nearly killed her. Slow Dance is the story of her illness and recovery - and of her growing awareness of the plight of those society labels "disabled". It is also the heartwarming story of a loving marriage, and of Bonnie's awakening to a fuller appreciation of her many gifts. Read a review of this book.

Soul of a Citizen, by Paul Rogat Loeb 
In this book Paul Loeb presents an alternative vision of hope and courage, describing how ordinary citizens can make their voices heard and their actions count in a time when we're often told that neither matter. He looks at what leads people to get involved in community issues, what it takes to maintain commitment for the long haul, and how community involvement and citizen activism can give back a sense of connection and purpose rare in purely personal life.

The Spell of the Sensuous, by David Abram
For 1000 generations, human beings saw themselves as part of the wider community of nature. How did we sever our reciprocity with the natural world? What will it take for us to recover a sustaining relation with the breathing earth? In this exploration of our relationship with the natural environment, Abram has written "the best instructional manual yet for becoming fully human." Read a review of this book

Technopoly, by Neil Postman
From a renowned social critic, an intriguing look at how high technology is changing our society and culture, and what this means for our future. Postman suggests ways in which a true democracy can use its technical skills not to control but to enhance human endeavor and preserve freedom and individuality.

The World of the Gift, by Jacques T. Godbout
In an age dominated by consumerism and government agencies, many people believe that self-interest is the dominant motive in society. Gifts are seen as, at best, irrelevant frills.  The authors of this book reclaim the central place of the gift, describing it not as an object but as a social connection - perhaps the most important social connection, because it creates a sense of obligation to respond in kind. Read a review of this book

The World We Want, by Mark Kingwell
In this, his sixth book, Kingwell asks what citizenship means in an age of broken identities and disintegrating nationalism. There are no simple answers, but Kingwell envisions a new, more inclusive understanding of the concept. While affirming the citizen's commitment to the public good, Kingwell redefines citizenship as an ethical commitment of care and respect, which fosters justice among people and a sense of belonging. Read a review of this book

Date / Author
Subject Add Your Comment
Mar 11, 2021
08:31 PM
Books We Like
David King The Courage To Teach, by Parker Palmer, is highly recommended as an addition to your list of valuable books. Briefly, Palmer makes three arguments. The first is, eduation is not an objective activity, but a subjective one -- we want teachers and students to love knowledge and the fruits of knowlege. The second is, the core of education is about building relationships, between people, between persons and knowledge, skills, ideas, imagination. The third is, education is about the moment and the persons; it is a natural/circumstantial event, not an industrial process.

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