If you love to read new books to inspire your community work, then 2019 was an incredible year. So many new books arrived that talk about community and community-building work. To help you gear up for some fun and productive 2020 reading, I put together my top 5 recommended books for community managers this year. These also make great gifts for your team or colleagues! Enjoy!
1. People Powered by Jono Bacon
Jono Bacon writes his second book about communities (a follow-up to his The Art of Community). This one is an overview of his framework for building communities. Using his depth and breadth of experience with developer and open-source communities (Github, Ubuntu, and more), he packs this book with wisdom and wry humor.
Though at times you may find that Bacon’s definition of community spans across many types of groups (is it a network? A marketplace? A neighborhood? An open-source project’s contributors?), this book contains solid advice, especially for newcomers. A good read to share with your team if you are starting from scratch or hiring new team members in 2020.
2. Make Time by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky
The creators of Sprint: How to Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just Five Days, bring us a book on time management.
This book is packed with tactical tips for maximizing your days. It is a fantastic book for learning tactics to maximize your deep work time versus collaborative time to get effective community building done. It’s a welcome book for our busy times. I ended up meeting John and discovering this book after he hosted Milwaukee’s first OFF/Line event, bringing people together across the city. Turns out, he was working on creating an online community for the first-ever online course he and Jake were building!
3. Behind the Screen: Content Moderation in the Shadows of Social Media by Sarah T. Roberts
I’m a major Sarah T. Roberts fangirl, and I don’t care who knows it.
She writes about digital labor, capitalism, and what the future may hold for content on the Internet. Roberts’ writing style is approachable and vivid, which I found a welcome surprise from such an accomplished academic voice. This book introduces readers to the history of content moderation, both volunteer and paid, that keep the internet palatable and viewable (rather than hateful, horrifying, and trauma-inducing). The book discusses the various ways sites are moderated and the labor implications of each. If you manage, hire, or work with content moderators, it will give you much to consider and apply.
4. The Second Mountain by David Brooks
Brooks’ latest book discusses both the professional and the personal. He introduces a new concept: that we have two possible mountains to climb in our lives. Everyone climbs the first mountain, aspiring to rise up the corporate ladder, achieve, and make money. Few then move on to the second, but a wholly more fulfilling mountain. Brooks argues that most great thinkers, community builders, and creators climb this second mountain and gives us questions that form a path to consider what our second mountain might be. Inspiring, poetic, and vivid, this is Brooks at his best.
5. Small Creatures Such as We: Rituals for Finding Meaning in Our Unlikely World by Sasha Sagan
Ahh, rituals. There is no explicit guide to creating community rituals (let alone online community rituals), outside of a spiritual context. This book gets us much closer. Rituals are essential in our lives and communities, and this book will inspire you with lots of new ideas. Like other books that deal with rituals, it may be quite broad in its discussions, but you will find ways to apply what you learn to your specific professional context.
Bonus: The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker
Technically this book came out in 2018, but the paperback released this year, so I had to sneak it in. Parker shares both broad and specific tactics and strategies for gathering people. The book is filled with vivid stories, applicable principles, and advice that makes you realize you may have been thinking of your work all wrong, but that there’s a way to fix it.
If you only read one book for work in 2020, make it this one.
It’s always great to find books to guide your work. Finding a helpful one is like discovering an ally or guide for your journey. I hope these serve you well, as they have me this year.