Seaside Reads to Change the World

Last week at the seaside, while I was browsing in my favourite second-hand bookshop, the owner said to me “If I was going to create a shelf called ‘Change the World’, what books would you recommend to go on it?” I started reeling off the books that have most influenced me, soon realised that this could take quite a long time, then decided that it would be far more fun to ask Twitter. So I tweeted:

Within a week, thanks to the Twitterati, 300 fantastic recommendations came pouring in. Amongst all the tweets and replies, I was really lucky to meet Lucy Feibusch who very generously offered to compile the long stream of suggestions into one incredibly valuable list by clustering them into broad thematic categories – and she even topped off each one with a one-line summary and link (wow, thank you Lucy!)

So here’s a hive-mind response to the bookshop-keeper’s question.

You can download the complete list here as pdf or as a Googlesheet. Lucy and I stopped when we reached 300 books and we are not going to add any more to it here – but do feel free to download and start curating your own version. Better still, the clever folks at 7Vortex have since turned it into a fabulous ecosystem of ideas, which can be continually added to so do add more if you think something essential is missing.

Of course it doesn’t include everything (only what Twitter suggested last week) and, like any quirky second-hand bookshop, it does include a few anomalies (you can decide which ones they are). Many of the books could have been put under different categories – but remember this is a seaside list, not a library catalogue, so we hope you enjoy, use, and share it in that spirit.

And if you are wondering where this particular seaside bookshop is, well the owner is social-media shy so I promised not to tell. If you happen to know it, keep it to yourself. If you don’t, why not head to your own favourite bookshop (secondhand or new) or your local library, share the list, and suggest they create their own ‘Change the World’ shelf. Who knows what that might lead to…

Here’s to the power of books and the inspiration of the crowd. Get browsing.

Kate and Lucy

39 thoughts on “Seaside Reads to Change the World

  1. 24 August 2018 at 23:08

    I don’t know if your Doughnut Economics book is in the list. But although it deals with enormous amounts of interesting information, it is also a very very good read.
    Reads that want you to pick yourself up and start changing the world, those are the very special seaside bookshelf books I hope to find. And if the Doughnut Economics is not in there I shall be very upset.

    1. 24 August 2018 at 23:25

      Thanks Cyril – I’m very happy to say that someone added Doughnut Economics to the list, and it is fine company with a lot of other great books on New Economy. Cheers, Kate

  2. Lesley-Anne Long
    24 August 2018 at 23:09

    Kate this is fantastic. I’ve just completed Seth Godin’s alt MBA and we have compiled a list of ‘best reads’ for leaders, entrepreneurs, and folks wanting to make a difference in the world. I’m going to alert my fellow alumni to the great list you’ve compiled. Loved your book by the way – in fact we discussed it in one of our altMBA learning groups 🙂

    1. 24 August 2018 at 23:24

      Thanks Lesley-Anne – I’m delighted to hear that you discussed my book on your course – I couldn’t ask for more than that!

  3. 24 August 2018 at 23:52

    Browsed the list. I guessed that I have read about a third of the books. More keep coming. Wrote one myself called Compression in 2009. It sank from sight pretty quickly; not a subject busy people want to stop and consider.

    A prescient piece that’s not a book is “The Predicament of Mankind” by the Club of Rome in 1970. It favored looking at all our problems in a holistic way. The environment is a mess because we messed it. It can’t be fixed until we fix ourselves. But that is not what the Club of Rome 1972 report is remembered for; they foolishly assumed that humans are rational.

    That was written 48 years ago. The mess is worse. A movement is brewing, but it is still blowing into the expansionary winds. Now what?

    How can we pull all these threads together into a movement, something well beyond trying to modify the current system? Most of those favored by the present system are unlikely to ever understand that it has to go.

  4. 25 August 2018 at 00:14

    I have justposted a comment which went to ‘Dropbox’, which I don’t understand. It doesn’t appear here.

    Briefly, I read ‘Doughnut’ and did a weblog post on it: ‘Doughnut’ – what’s missing (the main relevance of the basic income) I tried to contact you.
    your list should include J. Porrit’s ‘Capitalism as if the World Matters’.

  5. Adam D Seitchik
    25 August 2018 at 03:42

    Thank you

  6. Simon
    25 August 2018 at 04:10


    Love the list.

    For the purposes of context as to what went wrong with our current system I would add The Road to Ruin by James Rickard , perhaps Creatures of Jekyll Island (Edward Griffin) and Grunch of Giants (Bukminster Fuller) to ensure that the current fiasco never happens again.

    The Venus Project: The Redesign Of A Culture and The Best That Money Can’t Buy: Beyond Politics, Poverty & War by Jacques Fressco could address a much better way forward


  7. 25 August 2018 at 04:46

    This is a great list of books and I have enjoyed many of them. However, when do we stop reading and start acting? Sorry for being the Devil’s advocate, but aren’t we suffering from paralysis by analysis? Which part of “we are simply using too many resources” don’t we get? This is why I am proposing an immediate consumer strike ( Perhaps you should also add Greta’s statement to the list:

    1. Hans Potters
      25 August 2018 at 17:14

      May be you should try B. Lietaer, Money and Sustainability – the Missing Link. It gives a wealth of practical examples of monetary reform in grass root economies, by money supporting real economy in stead of parasitizing on it, at the same time with a sound theoretical background. One of the experiments is going on now in the UK in Bristol. Information

    2. Rory Short
      25 August 2018 at 18:35

      You are absolutely correct and the way to do it is to individually only act in ways which will support our species long term survival and to work to get our collective behaviour to follow the same pattern. We are, after all, the products of evolution and as conscious beings we are already uncovering the laws of evolution which means that we can follow them.

  8. Jerry Hewes
    25 August 2018 at 04:47

    Dear Kate,

    The reason the world needs changing is because we view it incorrectly. Materialism is at its apex and if continued will destroy the intellect and will of mankind. Our minds are capable of developing existence as it should be if we use a correct perspective.

    I wish I could say I have my book in print but I am researching publishing houses at this time to get the proper match for such a controversial manuscript. I would like suggestions for such a publisher.

    My book’s title is “Brainwashed” and in it I detail many of the problems with our incorrect perspective and the consequences of such misperceived illusions. I am also refining the details of how to sustain interest and still be technical enough to address all the inevitable intellectual requirements. The ultimate observation is that we provably misperceive our existence and the result is a whole world on the drugs of a misperceived reality. It is to say that we all are brainwashed.

    I am a married farmer with children and grandchildren. I have no apparent intellectual credentials other than enough university hours to have a masters degree but have not accomplished this accolade because I studied only those subjects that answered my questions.

    My wife was raised in Korea which means that another culture has been introduced to my mind. I have experienced firsthand how Zen Buddhism, truly practiced, affects a person and incorporated it with a wholly new perception of both the universe and human existence that has taken 28 years to complete to the point of writing this manuscript.

    Like I said above, I know that conclusions in this book are provably true because proving them is what the ideas in this book accomplish.

    When it is published, I want to put my book on this shelf! And yes, I have set out to truly change the world. A change that will genuinely benefit everyone. It is not impossible except materially speaking. Materialism flummoxes our minds right there. Need more? Material things have no reason to do anything and by assuming a material reality, we completely debase the power of reason to identify and accomplish what is good.

  9. Nathan Hunt
    25 August 2018 at 04:48

    This is fantastic thanks for sharing. Yes we are trying to use Doughnut Economics too (and more on this list) to shake up IB Economics students at UWCSEA, Singapore.

  10. Neil swift
    25 August 2018 at 08:21

    Thank you so much & what a great use of twitter towards our most pressing issues

  11. 25 August 2018 at 10:32

    Blooming brilliant list Kate and Lucy – thanks for including the titles I had mentioned in a tweet.

    On Henrik’s comment ‘paralysis by analysis’, I prefer to analyse and act, in my personal life they aren’t mutually exclusive.

    Through reading I better understand how much has been understood and manipulated by those driving policies, from insightful books such as:

    ‘The Earthscan Reader in Environmental Values’ Edited by Linda Kalof & Terre Satterfield (2005) with topics that include ‘Economic Themes in Environmental Values. Or ‘Classics in Environmental Studies’ editors N. Nelissen, J.V.D.Straaten & L. Klinkers (1997) and an older gem *’Environment, Ideology and Policy’* by Francis Sandbach (1980) who chartered the social and political factors determining the environmental attitudes in society (not just Western), the methods of assessing problems ‘perceived as scientifically objective’ and the limitations imposed on environmental policy by the economic power structures.

    Although unhappy, heavy reading, such info did not cause a personal paralysis, it simply helped me act on what I know in my own personal footprint and the organisations with which I liaise, it also helped me to recognise some of the institutionalised NGOs, greenwash and the prevalence of neoliberal seeding in establishment think tanks and ‘elite’ universities.

    All power to the readers and creative / positive responses to the Doughnut cafe reading list 🙂

  12. Sue James
    25 August 2018 at 10:59

    A great list…can we now say that we have no excuses for the actions that we do or do not take for a sustainable, long term future?

  13. Pieter Ijzerman
    25 August 2018 at 12:00

    Very kind of you to share this list, it is super useful! Thank you!

  14. Roger Murray
    25 August 2018 at 12:30

    Nice mix of the familiar and the unknown. On Food politics, can I mention a title unpublished in UK, Nick Saul & Andrea Curtis, The Stop (Random House Canada,2013) – an account of an exemplary ‘anti-foodbank’ grassroots initiative. On the imbroglio of global warming, two books by Andreas Malm: Fossil Capitalism & The Progress of This Storm (both Verso).

  15. Elena Vallianatou
    25 August 2018 at 12:51

    Thank you so much, I found your list really a masterpiece. Great work, I’m glad to share it with open minded people that work for that purpose: to chance the world. Keep trying Kate!!!

  16. 25 August 2018 at 22:33

    Brilliant list – thanks both for putting it together.
    Encouraging to see that so many people are exploring similar ideas and possibilities, from so many different perspectives.
    Seaside reflections are a jumping off point for individual efforts to change the world, one pebble at a time… 🙂

  17. Tuan
    26 August 2018 at 01:48

    David Graeber’s Debt: The First 5,000 Years did not make the list… SOB..

  18. 26 August 2018 at 16:29

    Great list and beautiful to see the interactions.
    Henrik’s concern rings a bell.
    About seven years ago I started reading on poverty and empowerment.
    500 books and papers later we figured out that system dynamics could help us understand the complexity.

    Sorry the list is both English and Dutch.

    1. 27 August 2018 at 00:25

      I do wish the universal Basic (Citizens’) Income (UBI) figured in this discussion. It will certainly be relevant to system dynamics, but I have already tried to tell Kate Raworth (I think she missed it due to several K other mails) that she missed the UBI’s significance in enabling a culture change to lower growth.

      1. 27 August 2018 at 15:19

        Hi Clive, this list was created by hundreds of contributions from Twitter, so what is there is simply what people chose to contribute. Rutger Bregman’s Utopia for Realists is definitely on the list and it includes UBI so I would consider it very much included.

  19. 26 August 2018 at 21:59

    Dear Kate,

    Thanks so much for compiling this list and for including our forthcoming book!

    If you would be so kind as to tweak our title and the url, it is: How on Earth: Our future is not for profit –

    With thanks,

    Donnie (and Jen)

    1. 27 August 2018 at 15:17

      Hi Donnie, so sorry for that – we will indeed update this on the Googlesheet but we can’t change the pdf i’m afraid (because of the dedicated dropbox link) but i’m sure, in true seaside spirit, people will figure it out! Cheers Kate

  20. 27 August 2018 at 06:43

    What an impressive list. Impressive, because I have read some of the books or recognize the authors, but even more impressive, because of all the books I don’t know that were deemed relevant by others.

    It’s a hard choice. Do I move to the seaside in order to read or keep on working on behalf of sustainability?

    Thanks Lucy and Kate for the effort in putting this list together.

  21. David Harold Chester
    28 August 2018 at 10:26

    How can a such book change the world unless it is followed by some political action? It seems most unlikely to me that the majority of these listed titles could achieve this action. This degree of inaction includes my own 310 page book too “Consequential Macroeconomics–Rationalizing About How Our Social System Works” which being a bit more engineering that “Do-Nut Economics”. It should ideally have more influence, but I doubt it. In fact I’m beginning to get depressed over the fact that I spent about 20 years of spare time researching and writing it, (write to, for a free e-copy) and learn how our society truly functions.

    The books that thinking people like to read are more like those for which there is no implication about the need to do something as a result. So let us say, a book about plastic pollution of the seas (which is a crying shame), will not result in volunteers going on to create their own sea cleaning ship company.

    1. 28 August 2018 at 11:39

      David: I could not agree more. I had the fortune of switching to an international engineering company after finishing my first post-doc. This taught me the difference between studying a problem or solving it. Getting things done is difficult. Here is my suggestion for a solution:

      1. 29 August 2018 at 07:41

        Henrik, I try and apply your consume less, so to some extent obviously agree with you – I’ve taken 3 journeys by plane in 10 years (not easy with home in another country) and very rarely do I buy anything new, unless it is gifts for others then it’s from craftspeople or Fairtrade etc. but I am fortunate enough to have a limited choice.

        I’m presently in the UK and I know from experience that many people here do not have a choice, consuming less is something they have to do everyday, choosing between heating, paying the rent or healthy food is their dilemma.

        Seeing this reality comes from years of voluntary work and personally knowing organisers of food banks, there are millions in the UK who are suffering from our rapacious crisis capitalism in this way and that’s in a so-called rich country, many of whom work in poorly paid jobs and depend on other people buying ‘things’.

        You say you only buy when you need something, then I presume you already comfortably meet your basics needs, is your pension safe? What happens with an effective mass consumer strike to those who don’t have choice?

        What will happen when those who profit from crisis and manipulated hope see they may lose their control? Right wing fascism hasn’t died…

        Do you feel safe where you live? In contrast many defenders of land and their people who stand up against corporate greed are being killed (in large numbers daily), so how can we do our best to protect those already being crushed by the results of growth and profit at all costs – when we don’t buy? How can we cushion the effects for those with very little choice, they aren’t the minority?

        1. 29 August 2018 at 19:36

          Michelle: Thanks for your comments. I know that I am very privileged and have the choice to consume less. The people who already consume very little are not obliged to change anything. Actually, I think they might feel better in a society not defined by material status symbols.

          The problem is that a shrinking economy will increase unemployment, which will harm many poor people. On the other hand, I refuse to accept the idea that rich people shop in order to help the poor. This the “trickle down” myth. The only way to help the poor is through redistribution, which does not have to come in monetary form. Free healthcare, free education, and good public infrastructure are very helpful.

          The strange thing about our current society is that the rich people are not really rich. The are perceived to be rich because of the value of the shares they own. Facebook managed to lose $120 bn on one day. The same could happen to Google, Amazon, and the banks. A consumer strike might remove the wealth of the wealthy very quickly.

          1. 1 September 2018 at 09:20

            Hi Henrik,

            Thanks for your reply and patience, I wasn’t posing those questions to you because I accept or believe in the ‘trickle down’ myth’, I was asking them because of my concerns for masses of people in wealthy and non-wealthy countries who already struggle with our seductive, ugly economic & monetary system.

            The fact that you and I don’t accept trickle down and the value of blinking electronic zeros on gaudy stock market boards doesn’t impinge on the chimera of competition and exploit or be exploited!

            For those emotionally invested in the system as it is, a mass consumer strike / crisis isn’t going to produce positive reactions or more cooperative motivations.. how to educate people to more empathy…how to highlight the fact that rich whim driven lives trash the planet and others? Here’s something I wrote several years back:

            The Skyline’s Been Pierced

            How does the abstract drive us ever onward?
            The learned amongst us say the left hemisphere’s to blame
            while the right sits in silence, intuition has no game.
            But the poetry of honesty has no mention as yet,
            or how easily we learn to forget,
            uncomfortable truths
            the unfettered market and City rules.

            Skyline’s been pierced by virtual wealth
            myths dealt and traded, on 24/7 feral stealth.
            On a foundation of negatives,
            voraciously dreamt,
            in the pursuit of pure profit
            over a chasm of debt,
            just a concept, with derivatives
            but it entraps most it’s met.

            Less than nothing, has a price,
            finance is a control, the cuts hit people
            the stock market bell takes its toll,
            or is it collateral damage?

            Real lives, pawn brokered,
            we can no longer afford.
            Aid? Medicines, most for profit go abroad.
            Services, facilities, even books and their worth
            are shelved, for our cut-price,
            discounted, virtual world.

            The skyline’s been pierced,
            light could shine through,
            if we help one another and one another helps too.
            What makes us believe that’s so difficult to do?

            Has hope been imprisoned by imaginary wealth,
            so our souls know no empire,
            except all those dreams
            that persuade us to benefit the few.

            Michelle Thomasson ( 2010)

            Apologies for long post.

        2. 30 August 2018 at 16:13

          Not surprised that such a passionate community could not keep discussions focused on books alone.

          Michelle, I really appreciated reading about the UK and your observation about so many who don’t have the choice about consuming less etc. Others added similar comments regarding the current inequitable economic state.

          When thinking about actions (including learning more through reading the books), I would like everyone to avoid thinking about actions that are intending to penalize currently better off people. Hurting one through not consuming something and bringing down stock prices does not seem like a “sustainable” solution. Think hard about each interconnected system and its purpose. Making adjustments to major systems and realigning the feedback signals and purpose language we use to define and monitor them can lead to faster more productive change than any consumer boycott that is not also attempting to change the core system that this consumption is taking place within.

          Loving the discussions!

          1. Hans Potters
            30 August 2018 at 16:50

            For practical solutions you need circular money see how the Bristol Pound works with the Cyclos software.

    2. Tuan
      29 August 2018 at 01:36

      You are dead right about books being not enough to bring about changes. However, without books propagating ideas and philosophies, the world would have not known about Immanuel Kant and his uber ethical rule to rule them all, and that is YOU MUST NEVER EVER TREAT ANY ONE, INCLUDING YOURSELF, AS JUST A MEANS TO SOME OTHER END, BUT YOU MUST TREAT EVERYONE AS AN END IN THEMSELVES, AT ALL TIMES. That’s our shining guiding light for social change, if you so feel inclined that is…

  22. 28 August 2018 at 20:00


    Enjoyed looking at the list and groupings the twitter community came up with.

    Curious that the Bible or Koran don’t appear. I guess they are not “Beach Reads”.

    Our 2nd Edition of the Sustainable Enterprise Fieldbook was not out in time to make the list. Maybe in the future update!

  23. Econoclast
    28 August 2018 at 23:48

    Wonderful collection, thanks to Kate and all for publishing this.

    Perhaps I missed them, but I saw nothing of E.F. Schumacher or Ed Abbey in this list. Also missing is C. Wright Mills’ classic, The Power Elite. In the many of these books I’ve read I do not find an adequate discussion of how to grow democratic political power that counters the power elite, which I believe is essential if any of the hundreds of great change ideas are to have a chance. There are some excellent recent books on the power of corporate capital and I’ll try to post here a list of these soon.

  24. 29 August 2018 at 20:21

    Marvelous! Thanks to all of you who’ve put together the list. Will definitely share with friends, family and colleagues.

  25. 29 August 2018 at 21:14

    What a fantastic list. Thank you so much for doing this!

    As a “disagreeable giver” (Adam Grant’s term), I immediately made a copy on my Google Drive and made a few changes:

    1. Deleted the first row because it appeared to be empty.

    2. Selected the new first row with field titles (e.g., Title, Author, Summary) and selected Data/Create a filter so that it is easy to view subsets (e.g., the 25 books with multiple mentions on Twitter). I have only fully read 5 of these “multiple mentions” and they were all very influential on my thinking. Lots of great reading to look forward to!

    BTW, you stopped at row 300, but the first two rows don’t contain books, so you do have room for two more if you really want to add them!

    Thanks again for this labour of love. Much appreciated.