To quote George Orwell, "It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen." We just thought you'd like to meet some of our great people here at TechSoup, through the books we're excited about. I think you'll find some surprising and wonderful recommendations, many of which decidedly veer toward the dystopian this year.

We got the idea for doing this from Denise McMahan, Founder & Web Publisher at CausePlanet. Because December has been "Read a New Book Month" they invited submissions on their Facebook page to encourage the people of nonprofitlandia to share book titles with each other.  

Here's what TechSoup has to share:

William Coonan

William Coonan, Web Producer

William is reading The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood by James Gleick. It's an intellectual journey through the history of communication and information, from the language of Africa's talking drums all the way up to modern information theory and the information age with its deluge of news, tweets, images, and blogs.

 

Tyler Benari

Tyler Benari, Senior UX Designer

Tyler is reading Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. He says, "This book is an amazing escape into the not too distant future with a serious focus on the 1980s. What could be better? The story combines a resource depleted Earth surviving by the international community's use of virtual worlds. It's an adventure of a teenager thrown, by chance, into a life and death treasure hunt that becomes a real life and death survival challenge where all the clues have to do with life and pop culture of the 1980s."

 

Ginny Mies

Ginny Mies, Global Content Curator

"I'm reading The Circle by Dave Eggers. It's about a fictional company in a fictional Bay Area town (though it is clearly based on Google). The story focuses on a bright and eager 20-something-year-old who gets a job at this highly coveted place to work that offers luxuries such as free concerts, volleyball courts, and a spa. Though I'm only 80 pages in, the gist of it is that she discovers the company is up to some nefarious surveillance activities. A theme so far is the tracking and documentation of EVERYTHING. The company's biggest product is a log-in service that forces you to use your real identity – basically killing the privacy of the Internet. So far, so good!"

 

Karen Coppock

 

Karen Coppock, Vice-President of Strategy and Impact

Karen likes Steve Blank's Startup Owners Manual, which offers step-by-step instructions on building successful startups.  It's taught at Stanford, Berkeley, Columbia, and more than 100 other leading universities worldwide. She also likes Steve Blank's blog. She also recommends The Lean Startup by Eric Ries and the Lean Impact for Social Good blog. Finally, she recommends the Business Model Generation: A Handbook for Visionaries, Game Changers, and Challengers by Alex Osterwalder & Yves Pigneur.

 

Carlos Bergfeld

Carlos Bergfeld, Lead Web Content Developer

"I would add that The Lean Startup by Eric Ries is a hugely informative book that isn't just for startup founders -- it provides principles that can and should be used by nonprofits to foster new, innovation-driven, and data-validated solutions for their constituents. The text promotes a broader definition of entrepreneurs that also applies to 'intrapraneurs' within existing organizations and gives specific examples of philanthropy-related programs where the framework could be applied.."

Carlos also recommends Burning Chrome by Wiliam Gibson. This book contains 10 short stories from the father of cyberpunk. As usual, Gibson's view of a dystopian future dominated by megacorporations and rampant with cybercrimes remains terribly, captivatingly, relevant today.

 

Dulcey Bowers

Dulcey Bower, Senior Media Strategist

"I love reading Wired magazine. It's my primary means of tracking tech trends and finding out about a whole host of science-related anything that always leaves me marveling at what innovations are happening around the globe. I also am pretty smitten with their infographics."

 

Doug Jacquier

Doug Jacquier, Vice-President of TechSoup Asia-Pacific

"I'm reading How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid. This book taps into both the dark heart and the irrepressible hope of many of the communities TechSoup Global serves. It is an inventive novel with a plot wrapped around a love story, and disguised as a self-help book. I found it one of the most engaging books I've read in many a year."

 

Allyson Bliss

Allyson Bliss, Relationship Manager

Allyson really likes Jarod Lanier's You Are not a Gadget: A Manifesto. Jarod Lanier is regarded as the father of virtual reality technology. In his best selling book he offers a provocative critique of how digital design is shaping society, for better and for worse. You Are Not a Gadget discusses the technical and cultural problems that have unwittingly risen from programming choices - such as the nature of user identity - that were "locked-in" at the birth of digital media. He imagines what a future will be for us in light of social networks, cloud-based data storage systems, and Web 2.0 designs that elevate the wisdom of mobs and computer algorithms over the intelligence and wisdom of individuals.

 

Ross Braden

Ross Braden, Senior Systems and Network Engineer

Ross just finished Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth by R. Buckminster Fuller. The book compares the earth to a spaceship flying through space. The spaceship has a finite amount of resources and cannot be resupplied. Ross says "quite possibly this book is more relevant today than when it was released in 1967. Fuller takes us on a journey of thinking on a grand scale. He calls it General Systems Theory, and I really appreciate how he zooms out both in space and time to look at the challenges facing humanity, and what it will take to build a sustainable, equitable and just society. At his core, Fuller was a humanitarian technologist. This is one of my favorite quotes from him: "You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete."

 

Ariel Gilbert Knight

Ariel Gilbert Knight, Senior Content Manager

"My nomination is Cory Doctorow's book, Little Brother. It's a dystopian vision of the not-too-distant future where the government monitors all digital communications and your every movement is tracked. When a terrorist attack on San Francisco leads to radically increased surveillance (and much, much worse), a group of hackers decides to fight back. I especially like that the book is available free to all on the author's website. The San Francisco Public Library also did an amazing One City One Book program around it, with events ranging from how-to sessions on protecting your privacy online to encryption basics."

 

Kevin Lo

Kevin Lo, Lead Technology Analyst

Kevin is reading the book, Data Science for Business, What you need to know about data mining and data-analytic thinking. He says: "I am enjoying this book because it's not all about data being 'big' and myriad technologies and algorithms, but rather the problem-solving aspects of data science. The diagrams are also very helpful and not overly obtuse."

 

Marnie Webb

Marnie Webb, CEO of TechSoup's Caravan Studios

Marnie recommends Change By Design by Tim Brown, the CEO of the celebrated innovation and design firm IDEO. This book introduces IDEO's design thinking method, in which the best designers rely on rigorous observations of how we use spaces and objects. This is not a book by designers for designers; this is a blueprint for creative leaders interested in incorporating creative problem solving via design thinking into all facets of their organizations.

 

Eli van der Giessen

Elijah van der Giessen, TechSoup's Netsquared Community Organizer and Curator

Eli recommends the free e-book, GreenMemes Online Organizer's Guide. The guide has over 30  top online organizer contributors from a spectrum of progressive movement groups including from 350.org, Freedom to Marry, New Organizing Institute, Avaaz, GetEqual, Greenpeace, Idle No More, Open Media, and many others. The e-book was created with sponsorship from NetSquared. The whole guide is Creative Commons licensed so charities are encouraged to use it however you'd like for your nonprofit movement-building.

 

Cliff Figallo

Cliff Figallo, Interim Community Manager

"I'm recommending Net Smart, How To Thrive Online by Howard Rheingold because it examines how we've suddenly become immersed in the technologies of the Net without having critically considered where we're putting our attention. He describes processes by which we can become more mindful and intentional with the time we spend in technical environments." In other words, this books describes how to how to make use of the increasing array of online tools without getting overloaded.

 

Christopher Postoloff

Christopher Postoloff, Systems and Network Engineer

Christopher is one of our serious intellectuals. He is reading Astrotheology & Shamanism: Christianity's Pagan Roots. A Revolutionary Reinterpretation of the Evidence by Jan Irvin and Andrew Rutajit. It is an exploration of Judeo-Christian symbolism and mythology to discover its origins in the traditions of shamanism.

 

Frank Babbitt

Frank Babbitt, Director of Integrated Operations

"Right now I am in the middle of reading Iain M. Banks' Culture Series which explores a future 'post scarcity' society where its members want for nothing and are free to explore, create, and help other worlds move forward. Another interesting aspect of The Culture is that sentient artificial intelligent 'Minds' are considered equal members of their society. The books are fun, well-written, and often mind-blowing! This series is a perfect example of what I love about science fiction: Change one aspect of society and see how that change affects everything else. I'm reading the e-books on my tablet and phone, which somehow seems quite appropriate."

 

George Tilesch

George Tilesch, Senior Communications Director

George recommends Andrew Keen's Digital Vertigo: How Today's Online Social Revolution Is Dividing, Diminishing, and Disorienting Us. Andrew Keen is a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and writer. His book, Digital Vertigo, maintains that the social media revolution is the most important and disruptive cultural transformation since the industrial revolution. It reveals the perils of Web 3.0 and the corporate strategies designed to decipher and commercialize our most intimate thoughts.

 

Bob McDiarmid

Bob McDiarmid, Drupal Developer

Bob recommends the WordPress Visual QuickStart Guide to first time WordPress users or people new to the idea of using a content management system to drive their website. WordPress is the most commonly used web platform in the world that is useable by non-technical people. He's a big fan of the Visual Quickstart series of technical books for their ease and visual clarity.

 

Kyle Reis

Kyle Reis, Senior Director and East Coast Representative

Kyle likes Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall. Here’s what he says: “Beneath every history, another history.” With these words, Hilary Mantel seduces us into this wonderful reimagining of the rise of Thomas Cromwell in 1520s Britain.  Henry VIII has no son to succeed him, but Pope Clement will not accede to his request to annul his marriage to Katherine so that he can wed and bed his obsession, Anne Boleyn.  Into the scene steps Thomas Cromwell, a man with high EQ who knows how to navigate the halls of power, both in the light and behind the scenes. Mantel’s writing is as crisp and exhilarating as the greatest works of fiction.  And the plot? Well, what could be more enticing than a true tale of love, devotion, political intrigue, and everything in between.  At 600+ pages, this is not light summer reading. But then again, it’s not summer!  This tome is worth the journey as you will tear through the pages once pulled into the story and you will, he guarantees, run out to get the second book in the trilogy, Bring Up The Bodies, as soon as you’ve finished with this one.”

 

 

 

Daniel Ben-Horin

Daniel Ben-Horin, Founder and Chief Instigator

As you'll see below, Daniel Ben-Horin is one of our more voracious readers. Here is what is on his reading table. "Winter holidays + Unseasonably warm weather  = reading fiction in the yard. Paul Auster's Brooklyn Follies is wonderful, and Invisible is pretty great. I've also been gorging on the amazing Chinese Nobel Laureate Mo Yan's Big Breasts and Wide Hips and LIfe and Death Are Wearing Me Out. I still haven't gotten to his best known novel, Red Sorghum. I recently detoured into (Dr.) Josh Bazell and his Carl Hiassen-ish Wild Thing, which is a gonzo thriller that is enjoyable in its own right, and especially so for the 27 pages of 'sources' he includes at the end to bolster his many and varied claims and opinion on global warming, the Mideast and pretty much everything else.

I am also spending time in the former Soviet Union, via Frances Spufford's Red Plenty and Andrey Kurkov's The Milkman In The Night. My jury is still out on both but they are each certainly interesting and I'll keep going a while on them and see if the reading magic clicks in or not. I am, by the way, a huge fan of Kurkov, a Ukrainian whose plots combine elements of magical realism, post-Soviet cynicism, compelling stories, humor and relateable people. Dark stuff but engrossing.

A final note on Russian literature. I love the thrillers of Boris Akunin. They are set in Romanoff era Russia but are clearly commentaries on modern Russia and Akunin has emerged as a leader of the anti-Putin struggles."

 

Jim Lynch Reading

  Jim Lynch, Your Humble Writer

What about me? I'll be in 16th century Spain with Ildefonso Falcone's The Hand of Fatima.

Do you have any reading suggestions for nonprofit techies? Please log in to comment on this blog post.

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