Finding that perfect gift for a friend, colleague or loved one can often prove easier said than done. With the holiday season now upon us, we hope these suggestions will help you make a positive impact…
Michele Jolin, CEO and Co-Founder, Results for America
A terrific antidote to all the cynicism about government today is American Amnesia: How the War on Government Led Us to Forget What Made America Prosper by Jacob S. Hacker and Paul Pierson. The book reminds us how smart public investments have been the driving force behind some of the greatest achievements of the last century.
Along the same lines, don’t miss the new book by former mayor and Harvard University professor Stephen Goldsmith and NYU professor Neil Kleiman, A New City O/S: The Power of Open, Collaborative, and Distributed Governance. It lays out how cities can create a “virtuous cycle” of citizen engagement and rising trust in government by taking advantage of advances in technology, data analytics and social engagement to improve services for the public.
Beth Blauer, Executive Director, Johns Hopkins University Center for Government Excellence
Tim O’Reilly’s WTF is a great tale of what we need to do to be prepared for the changing realities of our world. A splash of panic and an ocean of good ideas and hope.
Everyone should (re)listen to Pod Save America’s debut episode featuring Barack Obama’s last official interview as US President.
And maybe it’s because she has songs dedicated to cities maybe because she’s radical but I am loving St. Vincent’s latest release Masseducation. It is a bit explicit so not for the kids.
Tom Fletcher, Author, Advisor and former British Ambassador
I’m confident that the book of 2018 will be New Power: How It’s Changing The 21st Century – And Why You Need To Know, by Henry Timms and Jeremy Heimans.
Not out until April, so maybe get a pre-order as that Christmas present for the politics and campaigns geek in your life. A manifesto for organising our world with more humanity and purpose, you’ll either hate it or wish you had written it, depending on whether you believe in old or new power.
We need to set aside Tetris thinking in a Minecraft world, with Obama’s ‘Yes, We Can’ as the motto, rather than Trump’s ‘I alone can fix this’. Reading the chapters on Macron, Podemos and AirBnB made me wonder what could be achieved by a progressive British movement for tolerance, fairness, reason and opportunity, focused on putting as much power as possible in the hands of the citizen. After all, the Brits were thinking about this before anyone had a word for it.
(*Pretentious parent claxon*). Until it comes out, I’m giving friends and family ‘Poems To Give You The Hair Cups’, a book of nonsense poetry by Theo Fletcher (6) and illustrated by his grandpa.
Jeremy Hillman, Director of Corporate Communications, The World Bank
This year I’m recommending a life-changing experience. That is to treat yourself, or a close friend / family-member, to a Little Free Library (www.littlefreelibrary.org). I installed one in my front yard earlier this year and it has transformed our daily existence helping us to meet dozens of new neighbors, and many of their kids, and helping build a little community that has enriched our lives. If the outright purchase of a Little Free Library is not for you then this amazing not-for-profit also accepts donations which it uses to supply libraries and books to underprivileged kids in high-needs areas around the country who just don’t have access to them. Low literacy levels permanently affect the life opportunities for these kids.
*full disclosure – after installing my own library I so fell in love with the idea that I have now joined the Board of the charity to support its amazing work.
Larry Kamener, Founder and Chairman, Centre for Public Impact
I’d like to recommend The Future of the Professions by Richard and Daniel Susskind. This is a really well argued account of why our professions are structured the way they are today, and how they will be significantly disrupted by artificial intelligence
Nadine Smith, Global Director of Communications, Centre for Public Impact
It’s always upsetting that 25th December is now the anniversary of the death of George Michael. There’s no better way to remember him, his songs and his voice, than buying one of his CDs, like his Greatest Hits CD, for example.
Sir Michael Barber, Chairman, Centre for Public Impact
I’d recommend binoculars. The pair I bought this year enable me to see Devon wildlife from afar. The next generation, I was hoping, might enable sharper focus and bigger scale gazing into time as well as distance.
Dr Vanessa Kerry, Founder and Chief Executive of Seed Global Health
Mike Bracken, Fellow, Centre for Public Impact and co-Founder, UK’s Government Digital Service
I would recommend Tim O’Reilly’s new book, WTF. It is outstanding for those trying to make sense of the modern technology world and its effects
Vincent Chin, Global Public Sector Leader, The Boston Consulting Group
2017 is the 50th anniversary of the genre changer Sgt Peppers and the Hearts Club Band. Everyone should have one and if you don’t yet have one, this is the ideal present to get for self and to get for others too!
Aaron Snow, US digital leader and co-founder of 18F
The best book I read this year came out late last year: Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography Born to Run. He wrote the book the way he writes his songs: soul-stirring, packed, evocative, confessional, playful, redemptive, alternately ruthlessly precise and joyously rambling. His gift for sharing wide-eyed enthusiasm, righteous anger and raw empathy made it hard to put down.
Dr. Leila Hoteit, Partner and Managing Director, The Boston Consulting Group
Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. He writes about human behavior and how it affects decisions. It’s really a great introduction to behavioral psychology and to some extent behavioral economics. It’s a very rich book based on science (as written by a psychologist) and you find yourself really understanding how the brain (or the “two brains”) works to make the decisions we make on a daily basis.
More generally, I’m finding the topic of behavior economics fascinating and with such a wide span of applications. Other books on the topic include Nudge and Misbehaving by Richard Thaler.
I’d also put forward The Global Achievement Gap by Tony Wagner. The book examines the gap between what even the best schools in the US teach vs. the skills that will be needed for careers and life in the 21st century.
It is data-driven (lots of surveys with employers, college students, etc.) and then provides pragmatic advice about the skills students will need to survive in the future and how to develop those skills in our classrooms (e.g. critical thinking and problem-solving, initiative and entrepreneurship, curiosity and imagination, collaboration across networks and leading by influence, agility and adaptability, etc.).
From our work in education, we know this is one of the largest issues schools and education system around the world are struggling with. How to develop the curriculum and testing for these skills and how to train teachers to teach these skills effectively.
Eli Attie, writer, producer and former speechwriter to Al Gore
The Beatles – Eight Days A Week DVD. This is Ron Howard’s great documentary on The Beatles’ touring years, which, let’s face it, is all about the concert footage itself and holds up amazingly well.
I’d also recommend Designed for Hi-Fi Living: The Vinyl LP in Midcentury America by Janet Borgerson. This is a really fun coffee-table volume about the role and importance and cultural resonance of vinyl albums and in particular vinyl-album cover art in the mid-20th century. A highly evocative trip down memory lane, even for those of us who weren’t yet here.
And finally, I can’t help but plug this terrific volume of my late father’s photographic work, which is still stunning after many decades: Brooklyn: A Personal Memoir, by Truman Capote, With The Lost Photographs of David Attie, which reunites incredible street photography of 1950’s Brooklyn with the iconic Truman Capote essay it was taken to illustrate. The Independent named it one of the eight best art books of 2015 and wrote “when it comes to illustrated works, [this] one relatively slim volume stands out… a real gem of a find.”
Martin Stewart Weeks, independent consultant, Public Purpose Pty Ltd
Geoff Mulgan’s new book, Big Mind, which looks at “collective intelligence assemblies”, might turn out to be one of the most important policy and “think” books of the year as we push into a complex, confusing but increasingly connected world.
And Small Arcs of Larger Circles by Nora Bateson, daughter of the famed system thinker and writer Gregory Bateson, takes systems thinking and gives it a great big shove into some pretty challenging space that suggests we need to move beyond systems to understanding transcontextuality.
Bateson and Mulgan both offer demanding, compelling frames for thinking and practice as we keep searching for better ways to think and act in ever more complex and connected networks and communities for fair, sustainability and inclusive prosperity.
Don Kettl, Professor and former Dean in the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland
Let me respond in two ways. First, some Trump (and anti-Trump) items, for people who want to embrace or annoy their friends:
A Make America Great Again hat and a Make America Great Again tree ornament. Alternatively, The Resistance t-shirts and a Deep State t-shirt.
I’d also like to suggest a book, One Nation After Trump: A Guide for the Perplexed, the Disillusioned, the Desperate, and the Not-Yet Deported by EJ Dionne, Norman Ornstein and Thomas Mann.
Mark Aesch, Senior Advisor to The Boston Consulting Group
My Christmas recommendation for others consideration would be The Five Invitations by Frank Ostaseski. While some might read the story of a man who has built an eastern culture hospice in the Western Hemisphere as sad and depressing, the book captures the essence of living.
The Five Invitations provides a framework to really think through how we are each using the days that we are given to lead ourselves, and the organisations we engage in, in a purpose-filled exercise to deliver value. Such that when we all wind up at the end, we can look back with honour and the knowledge that we maximised the great value we have to contribute to today