Nicole Zummach
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Writing this piece on the holiday Monday of a long weekend, I’m struck by the fact that the above title may sound like an oxymoron – what social entrepreneur has time for “summer reading”? Yet, there are lots of reasons why our ilk should be making time for books, not least of which is that they afford us new perspectives, often leading to new ideas and new solutions. So grab a cool drink, find a comfy chair, and settle in with one of these titles, sure to inspire you during these dog days of summer.

How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas

by David Bornstein

Destined to be a classic, it offers nine profiles of social change champions around the world. Bornstein also includes summaries of four practices of innovative organizations, and six qualities of successful social entrepreneurs. And watch for our review of his latest book, Social Entrepreneurship: What Everyone Needs to Know, in our September issue.

The Power of Unreasonable People: How Social Entrepreneurs Create Markets That Change the World

by John Elkington

Described as a “what’s-next business manifesto” by Publishers Weekly, this book is in the same vein as Bornstein’s, offering case studies of both for-profit and nonprofit social organizations and the unconventional entrepreneurs who are tackling the world’s biggest problems.

How to Spend $50 Billion to Make the World a Better Place

by Bjorn Lomborg

It’s an abridged edition of Global Crises, Global Solutions, which encompasses recommendations from the 2004 Copenhagen Consensus. The conference asked some of the world’s top economists, “If we had an extra $50 billion to put to good use, which problems would we solve first?” It’s a fascinating exploration that touches on disease, civil war, education, global warming, trade barriers, population migration, corrupt governance, and water scarcity.

Building Social Business: The New Kind of Capitalism That Serves Humanity’s Most Pressing Needs

by Muhammad Yunus

Long before he was a Nobel Prize winner, Yunus was pioneering microcredit programs in the developing world and proving that we can make a profit and make the world a better place. In his latest book, he shows how social business has gone from theory to practice, and offers practical guidance for those who want to create their own social business.

Enterprising Nonprofits: A Toolkit for Social Entrepreneurs

by J. Gregory Dees

Perhaps not “light” reading, but definitely essential, this book is exactly what it says it is, offering chapters on defining your mission, assessing new opportunities, mobilizing resources, understanding risk, managing money, and more.

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

by Malcolm Gladwell

While pretty much any of his offerings (Blink, Outliers, What the Dog Saw) make for interesting reading, this is the book that launched Gladwell into the spotlight. In it, he encourages us to think of the mysterious changes that mark everyday life and consider them as epidemics. “Ideas and products and messages and behaviours spread just like viruses do.” It begs the question, are we close to reaching the tipping point with social enterprise?

Linchpin: Are you indispensable?

by Seth Godin

Like Gladwell, Godin has written several books that any entrepreneur could benefit from reading (Purple Cow, Tribes, Unleashing the Idea Virus). This one focuses on the people who “invent, lead (regardless of title), connect others, make things happen… They figure out what to do when there’s no rule book.” If you’re a social entrepreneur, you will find yourself in this book.

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity

by David Allen

Considered by many to be the bible of productivity (it has a devoted following of GTDers), Allen’s book offers a simple and practical plan for organizing your desk, your life, and your headspace. While you may decide you don’t want to follow every suggestion to the letter, you’re sure to discover new productivity tools and ideas you’ll soon find you can’t live without. (For me, it’s colour-coded folders and a P-Touch labelmaker.)

Make Your Creative Dreams Real


The anti-thesis of Allen’s Getting Things Done, this is a whimsical guide for “procrastinators, perfectionists, busy people, and people who would really rather sleep all day.” If you’re tired of the usual business how-tos, this is the book for you. Filled with art and colour, it’s a departure from typical texts, but still offers practical, step-by-step advice to take you from the drawing board to the boardroom, or wherever else you dream of being. It includes chapters on how and where to start, finding support, dealing with difficulties, managing and growing your creative dreams, and serving others through those dreams.

A Light In The Attic

by Shel Silverstein

Sure to bring a smile to your face, Silverstein’s playful poetry and simple line drawings aren’t just for kids. Even the most mature among us can relate to feelings of apprehension (Everything seems swell, and then/The nighttime Whaifs strike again.), the danger of making assumptions (I thought that I had wavy hair/Until I shaved. Instead/I find that I have straight hair/And a very wavy head.), or the fleetingness of summer (Here comes summer/Here comes summer/Whoosh-shiver-there it goes.)

Enjoy it while it lasts!

Nicole Zummach is the co-founder of SEE Change Magazine. She has worked in the publishing industry for more than two decades, and has spent most of her career researching and writing about civil society and the nonprofit sector. Contact her at

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