10 Books for Understanding Pathways and Roadblocks to Social Change

toasting good
Published in
6 min readJan 29, 2020


Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Some of these titles are personal favorites that have made me see the world differently, and others I’m still eyeing in my shopping cart (we’ll get there someday). Regardless, reviews and testimonies evidence that the words in these texts have either been inspired by stories of innovative social change or have inspired millions of readers to take small steps towards a better world in their day-to-day lives.

So, take this list as a launchpad for your personal ethical shopping and green home, closet and mindfulness journey. Or, take it as a learning opportunity to become a social entrepreneur or someone who is just wondering what makes the world tick. Whatever your goals may be, happy reading.

1–3: Books on Conscious Living

Sustainable Home

by Christine Liu

Christine Liu isn’t just another how-to author. Her industrial and packaging sustainability career at Cisco Systems led her to share this informed perspective on an eco-friendly lifestyle. With 18 detailed projects that cover every room of the house and plenty of additional tips and tricks, this book is the perfect place to start for creating a home that aligns with your journey to a low-impact lifestyle.

101 Ways to Go Zero Waste

by Kathryn Kellogg

101 Ways to Go Zero Waste is a non-judgmental, starter guide for eco-friendly and sustainable living. If you need tips on food scraps, beauty products, eliminating plastic or buying in bulk — you won’t be disappointed. It’s the handbook Kathryn wishes she had at the beginning of her zero waste journey. While Kathryn grew quite a following by blogging about her DIY mouthwash and cleaning recipes, you’re in for a treat with all her newest concoctions that were saved for the book.

The Conscious Closet: The Revolutionary Guide to Looking Good While Doing Good

by Elizabeth Kline

Elizabeth’s breakout book, Overdressed, exposed fast fashion’s intolerable effect on garment workers and the environment. (Did you know that clothing is responsible for 8% of all carbon emissions?) The Conscious Closet lets us know what to do about it. Her how-tos and celebrity interview features discuss building, swapping and recycling a wardrobe with intention and awareness. It’s a manifesto on how to connect to a growing global community of fashion revolutionaries changing the way we think about style.

4–6: Books on Social Impact and Systematic Change

Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World

by Anan Giridharadas

I’m three chapters in and can’t get enough. Anan’s Winners Take All is incredibly well researched, gripping to read and painfully relatable at times. He challenges us to see through philanthropic celebrity and notice how the global elite only changes the world in ways that do more good, but rarely create less harm. The book seeks to answer grueling questions like why our biggest problems are being “solved” by an unelected upper class instead of the public institutions it undermines by lobbying and dodging taxes? It’s a powerful call to public action and change from the ground up.

How to be Great at Doing Good: Why Results Are What Count and How Smart Charity Can Change the World

by Nick Cooney

When I was given this book as part of a campus outreach program for The Humane League, there were parts that made me uncomfortable. At times, Nick Cooney’s are almost so rational that it seemed he was forgetting the humanitarian purpose of non-profit work. However, as the ideas sunk in, I realized that his strategy for smart charity is one that every do-gooder should implement. This book makes you see the larger picture and emphasizes that change must occur at the largest scale to be effective, which sometimes means making small sacrifices.

Lean Impact

by Ann Mei Chang

If you’ve spent any time in Silicon Valley or near a traditional entrepreneur, you’ve probably heard of The Lean Startup. Well, this is the toasting good version. Ann Mei writes with an understanding of how social change is far more complicated than building a new app. Her experience as an executive and at USAID, along with 200 organizational interviews, informs Lean Impact’s bold ideas to reach audacious goals through customer insight, rapid experimentation and a start-up mindset in the pursuit of impact at scale.

7–9: Books on Inspiring Social Entrepreneurship Stories

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

by David Bornstein

I was assigned this book during my first semester of college, in a Business Fundamentals course no less! It’s known as one of the first books to cover the innovative model of social enterprise, and is a testimony to how far the sector has grown since its release. Bornstein’s accounts of social entrepreneurs in South Africa, Brazil and the United States demonstrate the incredibly large potential impact that pioneers for change can achieve. It has been positively reviewed by Nelson Mandela and Jeff Skoll (Skoll Foundation).

The Third Law

by Tamra Ryan

Want to learn more about one of toasting good’s regular brand partners, Women’s Bean Project? The Third Law was written by none other than CEO Tamra Ryan, and covers stories of over 100 women she has learned about during her time as CEO of Women’s Bean Project. Through touching and intensely human stories, she explores the pathways of chronically unemployed and impoverished women in creating new lives for themselves and their families.

Do the KIND Thing: Think Boundlessly, Work Purposefully, Live Passionately

by Daniel Lubetzky

If you’re aware of KIND bars you know they’re not only tasty, but committed to doing good through business. This testimony from Daniel Lubetzky shares the revolutionary principles that have shaped KIND’s business model into a granola sensation. By sharing stories of failure and success, Do the KIND Thing inspires and equips readers with practical ways to challenge assumptions and avoid false compromises every day.

10: A Book on Community

If you’ve been counting, you know that only 9 titles have been listed.

The 10th book, however, is from you. What stories have you heard lately that are navigating social problems with innovative solutions? What tips & tricks have you learned about reusing products and reducing your carbon footprint?

The 10th book is from your friends. What conversation-sparking novel or non-fiction is sitting on their nightstand and when will you borrow it?

The 10th book is from your mentors and your challengers. What thought leaders do they believe in and follow? What’s your take, what can you learn from a disagreement?

Reading is about consumption, but it’s also about distribution. I find it amazing how many people become interested in social enterprise and reducing personal waste when they see the potential for compounding, systematic change. We’re all pieces of a global puzzle, and by learning from these books and others, I believe we’ll start to see how all the pieces connect.

toasting good is all about providing you with resources and toolkits to live consciously, in line with your values and in a way that encourages others to do the same. That said, we’re not experts on the subject (yet). Everyone needs a little support from those who have done the research and written the books — literally!

toasting good is a conscious lifestyle platform powered by Social Enterprise Alliance. Our mission is to inspire a movement of people passionate about social impact and eager to create change with their daily actions.

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