Net Impact Amsterdam’s Summer Reading List

Published by Net Impact Amsterdam on

Each summer we share some of our favorite books to help keep you inspired. Check out our recommendations, from personal memoirs, to sustainability leadership icons, and older classics to the newest thinking.

Good Work: How to Build a Career that Makes a Difference in the World by Shannon Houde

Do you want to have a successful career that makes a positive impact? Packed with useful tools and exercises, this step-by-step guide will help you figure out your passion and purpose, and how to effectively harness it to make real and positive change. Whether you want to battle climate change, promote diversity and inclusion – or just want to leave things a little better at the end of every work day – this book supports you in turning passion into action.

Reimagining Capitalism in a World on Fire by Rebecca Henderson

A renowned Harvard professor debunks prevailing orthodoxy with a new intellectual foundation and a practical pathway forward for a system that has lost its moral and ethical foundation. Free market capitalism is one of humanity’s greatest inventions and the greatest source of prosperity the world has ever seen. But this success has been costly. Capitalism is on the verge of destroying the planet and destabilizing society as wealth rushes to the top. Henderson’s research in economics, psychology, and organizational behavior, as well as her many years of work with companies around the world, give us a path forward. She shows that we have failed to reimagine capitalism so that it is not only an engine of prosperity but also a system that is in harmony with environmental realities, the striving for social justice, and the demands of truly democratic institutions.

Designing Regenerative Cultures by Daniel Christian Wahl

This is a ‘Whole Earth Catalog’ for the 21st century: an impressive and wide-ranging analysis of what’s wrong with our societies, organizations, ideologies, worldviews and cultures – and how to set them right. The book covers the finance system, agriculture, design, ecology, economy, sustainability, organizations and society at large. Moving from patterns of thinking and believing, to our practice of education, design and community living, Wahl systematically shows how we can stop chasing the mirage of certainty and control in a complex and unpredictable world.

Principles by Ray Dalio

Dalio shares what he’s learned over the course of his remarkable career as a hedge fund entrepreneur. He argues that life, management, economics, and investing can all be systemized into rules and understood like machines. The book’s hundreds of practical lessons, which are built around his cornerstones of “radical truth” and “radical transparency,” include the most effective ways for individuals and organizations to make decisions, approach challenges, and build strong teams. Dalio describes the innovative tools the firm uses to bring an idea meritocracy to life, such as creating “baseball cards” for all employees that distill their strengths and weaknesses, and employing computerized decision-making systems to make believability-weighted decisions. While the book brims with novel ideas for organizations and institutions, Principles also offers a clear, straightforward approach to decision-making that Dalio believes anyone can apply, no matter what they’re seeking to achieve.

The Art of Happiness by Dalai Lama

It’s the book that started the genre of happiness books, and it remains the cornerstone of the field of positive psychology. Through conversations, stories, and meditations, the Dalai Lama shows us how to defeat day-to-day anxiety, insecurity, anger, and discouragement. Together with Dr. Howard Cutler, he explores many facets of everyday life, including relationships, loss, and the pursuit of wealth, to illustrate how to ride through life’s obstacles on a deep and abiding source of inner peace. Based on 2,500 years of Buddhist meditations mixed with a healthy dose of common sense, The Art of Happiness is a book that crosses the boundaries of traditions to help readers with difficulties common to all human beings.

How Boards Work: And How They Can Work Better in a Chaotic World by Dambisa Moyo

Corporate boards are under great pressure. Scandals at companies like Theranos, WeWork, Uber, and Wells Fargo have raised questions among regulators, shareholders, and the public about the quality of corporate governance. In How Boards Work, prize-winning economist and veteran board director Dambisa Moyo offers an insider’s view of boards as they are experience the turbulence of our times. She argues corporations need boards that are more transparent, more knowledgeable, more diverse, and more deeply involved in setting the strategic course of the companies they lead. This offers a road map for how boards can steer companies through tomorrow’s challenges and ensure they benefit employees, shareholders, and society at large.

Capital in the Twenty First Century by Thomas Pikkety

What are the grand dynamics that drive accumulation and distribution of capital? Questions about the long-term evolution of inequality, wealth, and economic growth lie at the heart of political economy. But satisfactory answers have been hard to find for lack of adequate data and clear guiding theories. In Capital in the Twenty-First Century, Piketty analyzes data from twenty countries, to uncover key economic and social patterns. His findings show that modern economic growth and the diffusion of knowledge have allowed us to avoid inequalities on the apocalyptic scale predicted by Karl Marx. But we have not modified the deep structures of capital and inequality as much as we thought in the optimistic decades following World War II. The main driver of inequality―the tendency of returns on capital to exceed the rate of economic growth―threatens to generate extreme inequalities that stir discontent and undermine democratic values. But economic trends are not acts of God. Political action has curbed dangerous inequalities in the past, Piketty says, and may do so again.

Impact: Reshaping Capitalism to Drive Real Change by Sir Ronald Cohen

Throughout the world, capitalism and democracy are being challenged with great force. The world must change, but we cannot change it by throwing money at old ideas that no longer work. We need a new path to a new world where inequality is shrinking, where natural resources are regenerated, and people can benefit from shared prosperity. This is the world being created by the Impact Revolution. Preeminent international investor, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and social finance innovator, Sir Ronald Cohen, has dedicated two decades to leading the Impact Revolution to achieve real social and environmental change. As one of the founders of venture capital, which ushered in the Tech Revolution, he builds on his years of personal experience to deliver a compelling account of how impact investing is reshaping capitalism.

Mission Economy: A Moonshot Guide to Changing Capitalism by Mariana Mazzucato

Global warming, pollution, dementia, obesity, gun violence, mobility—these environmental, health, and social dilemmas are huge, complex, and have no simple solutions. Mariana Mazzucato argues we need to think bigger and mobilize our resources in a way that is as bold as inspirational as the moon landing—this time to the most ‘wicked’ social problems of our time. We can only begin to find answers if we fundamentally restructure capitalism to make it inclusive, sustainable, and driven by innovation that tackles concrete problems. That means changing government tools and culture, creating new markers of corporate governance, and ensuring that corporations, society, and the government coalesce to share a common goal.

Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist by Kate Raworth

Economics is the mother tongue of public policy. It dominates our decision-making for the future, guides multi-billion-dollar investments, and shapes our responses to climate change, inequality, and other environmental and social challenges that define our times. Pity then, or more like disaster, that its fundamental ideas are centuries out of date yet are still taught in college courses worldwide and still used to address critical issues in government and business alike. That’s why it is time, says renegade economist Kate Raworth, to revise our economic thinking for the 21st century. In Doughnut Economics, she sets out seven key ways to fundamentally reframe our understanding of what economics is and does. Along the way, she points out how we can break our addiction to growth; redesign money, finance, and business to be in service to people; and create economies that are regenerative and distributive by design.

Grow the Pie: How Great Companies Deliver Both Purpose and Profit by Alex Edmans

What is a responsible business? Common wisdom is that it’s one that sacrifices profit for social outcomes. But while it’s crucial for companies to serve society, they also have a duty to generate profit for investors – savers, retirees, and pension funds. Based on the highest-quality evidence and real-life examples spanning industries and countries, Alex Edmans shows that it’s not an either-or choice – companies can create both profit and social value. The most successful companies don’t target profit directly, but are driven by purpose – the desire to serve a societal need and contribute to human betterment. The book explains how to embed purpose into practice so that it’s more than just a mission statement, and discusses the critical role of working collaboratively with a company’s investors, employees, and customers. Rigorous research also uncovers surprising results on how executive pay, shareholder activism, and share buybacks can be used for the common good.

Ishmael by Daniel Quinn

In Ishmael, which received the Turner Tomorrow Fellowship for the best work of fiction offering positive solutions to global problems, Daniel Quinn parses humanity’s origins and its relationship with nature, in search of an answer to this challenging question: How can we save the world from ourselves?