Matthew Desmond’s latest book. “Poverty, By America,” is one of the year’s top reads.
The acclaimed sociologist follows up his Pulitzer Prize-winning book “Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City” with a tough, thoughtful examination of why poverty persists in this country.
Desmond looks at the policies and systems that keep poor people down often to the benefit of others. Going beyond explaining what’s so frustratingly wrong, he then calls on readers to be “poverty abolitionists.”
“Desmond’s compelling writing style, deep research, and empathetic approach to his subject make this important book a captivating read,” says Dee Walsh, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Mercy Housing. “Despite increased spending on anti-poverty programs over the past several decades, the percentage of those living in poverty has remained fairly constant. Desmond takes a hard look at where those dollars are going, and how our society exploits, both intentionally or unintentionally, those with the least among us. This book is a must read for anyone hoping to move the needle on poverty in our lifetime.”
Desmond will deliver the keynote address at AHF Live: The Affordable Housing Developers Summit, Nov. 13-15, in Chicago. For attendees who have read or plan to read the book prior to the conference, please join AHF editors Donna Kimura and Christine Serlin for an informal book club discussion during breakfast in the exhibit hall in advance of Desmond’s presentation Nov. 14.
Affordable Housing Finance asked several industry leaders to share their latest book recommendations as we count down the final days of summer and head into the fall.
“Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup” by John Carreyrou
This book about the rise and fall of Theranos was written several years ago, but is very timely right now with the recent sentencing of Elizabeth Holmes and Sunny Balwani. Written as a firsthand account by an investigative journalist who exposed their fraud and was subsequently threatened, it’s also a gripping story about persuasion and power, and how what started as good intentions transformed into unfulfilled promises and eventually outright deception and intimidation. As someone who follows politics closely, I found a lot of insights to be gained and applicable lessons from the dark side of Silicon Valley. —Emily Cadik, CEO, Affordable Housing Tax Credit Coalition
“An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us” by Ed Yong
If you prefer that your summer reading provides an escape from the rigors of your job, “An Immense World” by Ed Yong provides a truly enjoyable escape by giving us a glimpse into the unknown realm of how animals perceive the world. The book dispels so many of our assumptions about how animals see, hear, feel, and smell that you will never look at a cow, turtle, or dog the same way again. You will also gather so many interesting factoids that you will have cocktail conversation fodder for months to come. This book is an easy and entertaining read, despite its deep scientific basis, and you will likely walk away less inclined to make assumptions about animal behavior. —Walsh
“Speed & Scale: An Action Plan for Solving Our Climate Crisis Now” by John Doerr and Ryan Panchadsaram
Not a day goes by that we don’t experience the impacts of climate change in our personal and professional life. From the record setting temperatures, floods, hurricanes and fires to soaring insurance and energy costs, our portfolios and our residents are experiencing the fall out. John Doerr’s most recent book, Speed and Scale, offers a practical and doable action plan for solving our climate crisis. Based on his knowledge and experience as an investor in energy tech, and his research and interviews with climate experts, Doerr provides solutions and advice on what your business and you can do to reduce climate impacts.—Walsh
“Golden Gates” by Conor Dougherty
I am rereading this book because it is a cautionary tale of what we don’t want the rest of world to experience when it comes to housing affordability. This book looks at the history of housing in California and the forces that have led to its housing crisis. It looks at the issue through the eyes of activists fighting for relief. Very well written, informative, and inspiring.” —Debra Guerrero, senior vice president, strategic partnerships and government affairs, The NRP Group
“Olga Dies Dreaming” by Xochitl Gonzalez
A fictional summer treat. I am currently reading this debut novel that mixes a couple of genres including rom-com, cultural history, and political events. It is the story of a successful wedding planner from Puerto Rico who, along with her brother, was raised in New York by their grandmother. Her brother is a popular congressman. The story focuses on the impact their mother, who was not a part of their lives, continues to have on the decisions that they make as adults. —Guerrero
"Homelessness is a Housing Problem: How Structural Factors Explain U.S. Patterns" by Gregg Colburn and Clayton Page Aldern
Just recently released in paperback, this book demonstrates what many of us in development already know: Homelessness in our cities is caused by our inability to build affordable housing for those who need it most. —Welton Jordan, chief real estate development officer at EAH Housing
“The Creative Act” by Rick Rubin
Rick Rubin is an influential record producer, former president of Columbia Records, and co-founder of Def Jam Recordings with Russell Simmons. Throughout his career, he has been sought out by the most talented artists across the music industry to help them break through their mental blocks and reach new creative heights. The eclectic list of artists he has helped reads like an encyclopedia: Johnny Cash, Run DMC, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Neil Diamond, Metallica, and Adele … just to name a few. While the real estate industry is clearly not the music industry, the need to innovate, create, and improve is just as relevant. In fact, I would argue that it is one of the most important things we can be doing given the critical role our industry plays in improving lives and addressing climate change. This book helps us get out of our own way and challenge convention—for the sake of making things better. —Bob Simpson, president and CEO, Multifamily Impact Council
“Sing Her Down” by Ivy Pochoda
If you’re in the mood for fiction, there’s Ivy Pochoda’s latest novel. Set during the peak of the pandemic in 2020, two women are unexpectedly released from an Arizona prison, setting off a cat-and-mouse chase through the streets of Los Angeles. The story is a modern Western with a mystical mural thrown into the tale. —Kimura, deputy editor, Affordable Housing Finance
Appalachia Pairing: “Demon Copperhead” by Barbara Kingsolver and “Hang the Moon” by Jeannette Walls
Kingsolver’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book was my first five-star read of 2023. A modern retelling of “David Copperfield,” it is a heartbreaking look at a boy’s journey in the mountains of southern Appalachia amid poverty and the opioid crisis. You can’t help to be rooting for the main character Demon Copperhead to overcome the circumstances he was born into and the choices he makes. “Hang the Moon” is set about 70 years earlier in Prohibition-era Virginia. Sallie Kincaid is another main character to cheer for as she becomes a young adult, navigating everything from family trauma to a life as a bootlegger.—Serlin, editor, Affordable Housing Finance