It’s not too late to build out your summer reading list.
Affordable Housing Finance asked a number of leaders to share the books that they’ve been spending time with this season.
The list, heavy on nonfiction, offers a good mix of business, history, social justice, self-improvement, and books you won’t want to put down.
“Doughnut Economics: 7 Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist” by Kate Raworth
On my nightstand: Doughnut Economics by the self-described “renegade economist” Kate Raworth. Essentially she maps out how we have to balance the needs of humanity and the environment when we talk about economics. As an advocate for more sustainable and resilient homes and communities, it is great to see economists like Raworth reckon with how we can live with a strong social foundation but also within the ecological and planetary limitations of our world. —Priscilla Almodovar, president and CEO, Enterprise Community Partners
“His Name is George Floyd: One Man’s Life and The Struggle for Racial Justice” by Robert Samuels and Toluse Olorunnipa
A heartbreaking depiction told by investigative reporters. I continue to be curious about how we can learn from this tragedy and the life and legacy of George Floyd.” —Ken Lombard, president and CEO, BRIDGE Housing
“Trammell Crow: A Legacy of Real Estate Business Innovation” by William Bragg Ewald Jr.
The book recounts the indelible mark Trammell Crow had on the people and culture he created that ultimately translated into business success. It talks about the principles that stood the test of time, the adversity that he and his organization had to overcome, and the innovations that allowed them to sustain and become a market leader. What was most impressive is the relationships that were built over decades as they nurtured and created value to the people and businesses in Trammell’s orbit and was the real secret sauce that created his legacy. —Antonio Marquez, managing partner, Comunidad Partners
“Freewater” by Amina Luqman-Dawson
“Freewater” is a historical novel about two enslaved children’s escape from a plantation and the many ways they find freedom. The story is an homage to the maroon communities in the Great Dismal Swamp—one of the least told stories of resistance to slavery in American history—and speaks to the survival and courage of self-emancipated Black people who rejected slavery and created a community of their own. A must read for young readers and anyone who loves a good adventure. —Renee M. Willis, senior vice president for racial equity, diversity, and inclusion, National Low Income Housing Coalition
“We Do This 'Til We Free Us: Abolitionist Organizing and Transforming Justice” by Mariame Kaba
A collection of essays written by and with Mariame Kaba, “We Do This ’Til We Free Us” is a deeply thought-provoking book for anyone who thinks we can reform our way out of oppression. Her book provides a vision for the kinds of transformations required in the struggle for collective liberation. Kaba reminds us that organizing is built on hope, gratitude, creativity, and relationships as well as a clear understanding of the failures of our current society. —Willis
”Say Nothing: A Trust Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland”
by Patrick Radden Keefe
“Say Nothing” is about the conflict in Northern Ireland but specifically on the abduction of a mother of 10 children from her home, in front of her kids. The book goes into the background of the conflict between the Protestants/British government and the Catholics of Northern Ireland. A lot of history, but it comes back to the story of those that were “disappeared” during the troubles. The truth of what happened to them comes out of a project at Boston College to interview participants in the conflict with a promise no interviews will be released until the participant has died. Scotland Yard hears about the Boston College project and, through the legal process, obtains all of the interviews, leading to many revelations. —David Gasson, partner, MG Housing Strategies
“Inside Game/Outside Game: Winning Strategies for Saving Urban America” by David Rusk
I took a particular interest in this book because it expands on beneficial strategies I implement in my career working with urban and suburban housing agencies; specifically, this book supported my work with regional housing initiatives in the Chicago region. One of the key points Rusk makes: Achieving real improvement requires matching the "inside game" with a strong "outside game" of regional strategies to overcome growing fiscal disparities, concentrated poverty, and urban sprawl.
This is a must-read if you are in the housing industry (or plan on being in the industry) and passionate about supporting regional housing policies and ensuring all new developments have their fair share of low- and moderate-income housing. —David A. Northern Sr., president and CEO, Houston Housing Authority
“We Don’t Know Ourselves: A Personal History of Modern Ireland” by Fintan O’ Toole
Earlier this summer I finished “We Don’t Know Ourselves” by Fintan O’Toole. It’s a history of Ireland’s difficult but ultimately triumphant journey from an agrarian and deeply conservative country to a modern society over a short 60 years, told as an overlay on the author’s life growing up in Ireland. It reads like a novel. Its title is a colloquial expression among the Irish for having a bit too much fun at a party, which of course finds its double meaning in Ireland’s period of self-examination and rebirth. As an Irish friend put it to me recently, “the Irish will now define themselves by who has read the book and who has not.” —Stephen Whyte, president and CEO, Vitus
“Crying in H Mart: A Memoir” by Michelle Zauner
This book excelled at what I seek most in books: to relate on some level and to be introduced and exposed to a new world. Zauner’s experience growing up with an Asian mom, living in a white community and being one of the only Asian-Americans, struggling with her parents’ failing health, and finding comfort in her mother’s food were relatable and cathartic. Fascinating and provocative are her millennial lifestyle and perspective, including leading a band, drifting away from her father, and coping with grief. —Priya Jayachandran, CEO and president, National Housing Trust
“Impact With Integrity: Repair the World Without Breaking Yourself” by Becky Margiotta
Here’s a book written for activists, nonprofit leaders, government administrators, and other social change leaders, including affordable housing providers. Margiotta shares a framework for doing the inner work of social change and digs into common organizational challenges that she’s observed through her work at the Billions Institute, which helps social change leaders maximize their impact.
Throughout the book, she shares valuable leadership lessons she’s learned during her life, including when she was leading Community Solution’s ambitious 100,000 Homes Campaign, which mobilized cities across the United States to house 105,000 people who had been living on the streets in just under four years.
Margiotta was the keynote speaker at the AHF Live conference in 2019, and this book expands on some of the themes she spoke about at the event. —Donna Kimura, deputy editor, Affordable Housing Finance
“Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI” by David Grann
In the 1920s, members of the oil-rich Osage Nation in Oklahoma were being killed. As the number of deaths climbed to double digits, the newly established Federal Bureau of Investigation sent an undercover team to find out what was happening.
Martin Scorsese is adapting the nonfiction book, which came out several years ago, into a movie. —Kimura
“Last Summer on State Street” by Toya Wolfe
This debut coming-of-age novel from author Toya Wolfe is both heartbreaking and uplifting at the same time. Wolfe, who grew up in the Robert Taylor Homes on Chicago’s South Side, tells the fictional story of Felicia “Fe Fe” Stevens and her friends in the summer of 1999 when the massive public housing development’s high-rises were wrought with crime and being demolished building by building. While Wolfe paints an eye-opening and sometimes difficult picture of the time and place, you’ll also find a story about friendship, family, the meaning of home, and resiliency. —Christine Serlin, editor, Multifamily Executive
“Laundry Love: Finding Joy in a Common Chore” by Patric Richardson
As a mom, I probably do an average of nine loads of laundry each week. I’m all for learning how to improve my skills (and the longevity of our clothes and linens), be more efficient, and find some joy in such a mundane task. And, in addition to that, the book is inspiring me to clean out the clutter in my laundry room and make it a more inviting space. —Serlin