Peter & John's List

The Abundant Community is a book born of our experience and way of thinking. In this list are the books and articles that have most helped us to form the ideas we have given voice to in the book; it also contains a couple of our own previous works.

We are interested in hearing about whose writing has influenced your thinking and work. Send us your recommendations, and we will include them in an ongoing list of community-minded reading.

~ John and Peter ~

 

Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture 

For decades Wendell Berry has documented in poetic and compelling detail the loss of local economy and the communal life that accompanies it. In this book he speaks of corporatization and its cost to our lives and the promise of democracy. All of his books are worth reading for the quality of the writing alone. Rev. ed. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1996. Originally published 1977. 

Peter Block, Community: The Structure of Belonging 

The theme here is how communities are built by changing the nature of the narrative we hold about them. If we want an alternative future we also need to rethink how we come together for the sake of the whole. The book is very specific about how to restructure our gatherings and exactly which conversations (six in total) have the capacity to create more commitment and accountability for our organizations and communities. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler, 2008.   

Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America 

In 1831 a young French count toured America for less than a year.  This is the great book he wrote about the country when he returned to his homeland. It is still the most important book written about the nature of democracy in the United States.  It vividly demonstrates how the nation was built from the very abundant local resources used by productive citizens. Tocqueville realized that the foundation of democracy is the ability of local citizens, through their local associations, to implement their collective visions.New York: Vintage Books, 1945. Originally published in two vols. 1835, 1840.

Mike Green, with Henry Moore and John O’Brien, ABCD in Action: When People Care Enough to Act 

This is a wonderful working guide that shows how to organize local people so they can produce the future they envision with their abundant local resources. Toronto: Inclusion Press, 2006. See also http://www.abcdinstitute.org/publications/related

Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society 

Ivan Illich was a great social critic who wrote about the methods institutions use that invade citizens’ space and disable community capacity.  It is worth reading any of the books he has written but this is his most famous.  Here, Illich demonstrates how "the hidden curriculum of schools" transforms young citizens into students learning how to function institutionally.  The result, he argues, is the loss of an adult population skilled in citizenship and community building.  He would say that today's school reform is actually a movement to replace citizen centers with trade schools. World Perspectives, vol. 44. New York: Harper & Row, 1971.

Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities 

Jane Jacobs was amazing. She is required reading for anyone who wants to understand what has created the isolation and contentiousness that seems so common in modern communities. Her groundbreaking thinking about the power of street life is still so relevant. She also was instrumental in saving Washington Park in New York City from the automobile obsession of Robert Moses. In the end, she moved to Canada, a thought that has occurred to quite a few Americans in the last decade. Reprint ed. New York: Modern Library, 1993. Originally published 1961. See also Dark Age Ahead (New York: Random House, 2004) and “Healthy Cities, Urban Theory, and Design: The Power of Jane Jacobs,” http://bss.sfsu.edu/pamuk/urban/ (last accessed September 21, 2010).  

Jeffrey Kaplan, “The Gospel of Consumption: And the Better Future We Left Behind” 

This article is a classic in the making. Kaplan takes us to the origins of today’s consumer society in an engaging and interesting way. He chronicles how we have been sold a bill of goods. Literally. We did not always believe that we needed another pair of shoes to fully express ourselves and be all who we can be. We have been sold the idea that we have more needs than we imagined, and so when the going gets tough, the tough go shopping. Great article, a must read. Orion, May/June 2008. http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/article/2962 (last accessed September 21, 2010).  

Alfie Kohn, No Contest: The Case against Competition and Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes 

If we care about the learning of our children and the success of our organizations, we need to listen to Kohn. These books make clear the learning costs and social costs of the competitive assumptions that riddle our thinking about schools, organizations and society. All the evidence about what motivates people to learn and perform makes clear that cooperation wins. It makes plain that reward-and-punishment doesn’t work. Kohn is the clearest voice around to guide us to real school reform and more humane and productive institutions. No Contest: Rev. ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1992.Punished by Rewards: Rev. ed. New York: Mariner Books, 1999.See also http://www.alfiekohn.org (last accessed September 21, 2010).

John P. Kretzmann and John L. McKnight, Building Communities from the Inside Out: A Path toward Finding and Mobilizing a Community’s Assets 

This is America's best selling guide to building communities with local resources.  It identifies the five basic assets or building blocks used world-wide to create productive neighborhoods. Included are tools for identifying local assets and stories of how they are used when connected to each other. Evanston, IL: The Asset-Based Community Development Institute, 1993. Distributed by ACTA Publications, Chicago, IL.

John P. Kretzmann and John L. McKnight, with Sarah Dobrowolski and Deborah Puntenney, Discovering Community Power: A Guide to Mobilizing Local Assets and Your Organization’s Capacity 

This book is a practical guide for planning an initiative that will utilize the assets of a local neighborhood.  Step by step it leads local citizens down the path to discovering what and how they can use what they have to achieve what they need. Evanston, IL: Asset-Based Community Development Institute, Northwestern University, 2005. Available at http://www.abcdinstitute.org/docs/kelloggabcd.pdf (last accessed September 21, 2010).

John L. McKnight, The Careless Society: Community and Its Counterfeits 

This book describes how the world of service systems can create colonies of dependence in local communities.  Analyzing medical social service and criminal justice systems, it clarifies the disabling effects of modern professionals.  The final chapters point toward constructive approaches to recovering community capacities that can replace service with care. New York: Basic Books, 1995.

Henri J. M. Nouwen, Reaching Out: The Three Movements of the Spiritual Life 

Nouwen was one of the great recent translators of the spiritual path and grounded his faith in the realities of modern life. This book is about living with the polarities of loneliness and solitude, hostility and hospitality and illusion and prayer. His thinking explores the cost and possibility that is embedded in contemporary life. He honors the shadow side in each of us and our culture and creates an opening to accept what formerly we might have tried to fix or deny. The writing is accessible and is sure to upend your thinking and in that way is transformational. New York: Doubleday, 1975.    

Robert D. Putnam, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community and Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy

Robert D. Putnam and Lewis Feldstein, Better Together: Restoring the American Community 

Putnam did the research over a long period of time across wide variety of cultures that indicated the enormous power of social fabric. His work, especially Bowling Alone, is foundational to most of our efforts to rebuild our communities and make them habitable and useful. He shows how almost every measure of community well being –– health, economy, schools, safety, arts and happiness –– is associated with a strong social fabric. Social fabric, as Putnam uses the term, is the propensity of citizens to trust each other and have a positive attitude about their neighbors and local culture. He discovered that this idea transcends a community’s geography, wealth, natural assets, political traditions and history. All of which, it turns out, explain very little about why some communities thrive more than others. Bowling Alone: New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000. Making Democracy Work:  Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992. Better Together: Restoring the American Community: New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003. See also http://www.bowlingalone.com (last accessed September 21, 2010). 

E. F. Schumacher, Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered 

This highly readable book was one of the first to question the basics of modern economic thinking. Namely, the adoration of : Scarcity. Scale. Speed. Compulsive Consumption. The Devine Rights of Business. Uncontrolled markets. The work begun by Schumacher forty years ago has been carried on by the New Economics Institute. Formerly named the Schumacher Society, this is your source for some of the best thinking and practices about building local economies and strengthening local community. They publish lectures and papers on a regular basis and getting on their mailing list is a must. Paper ed. Vancouver, BC: Hartley & Marks, 1999. Originally published 1973.See also http://neweconomicsinstitute.org/ (last accessed September 21, 2010).