My favorite books on creating a thriving future

Why am I passionate about this?

All my life, I have been fascinated by nature, curious about society, and concerned about the impact we are having on the life of our planet. This interest has given me the opportunity to spend more than 30 years looking for solutions to our negative impacts on nature and society. As I have travelled to 77 countries and written 41 books, I have tried to capture and share what I have learned on my journey of exploration. I am especially inspired by the positive difference business can make by turning breakdowns into breakthrough innovation. My purpose is to share the science and practice of how to create a thriving future. 

I wrote...

Thriving: The Breakthrough Movement to Regenerate Nature, Society, and the Economy

By Wayne Visser,

Book cover of Thriving: The Breakthrough Movement to Regenerate Nature, Society, and the Economy

What is my book about?

The future will be better than you think. Thriving shows how innovation can regenerate nature, society, and the economy by taking us from degradation to restoration of ecosystems, from depletion to renewal of resources, from disparity to responsibility in communities, from disease to revitalization of health, from disconnection to rewiring through technology, and from disruption to resilience of infrastructure and institutions.

Thriving is not an exercise in blind optimism about technology or other miracle-cure solutions; rather, it is an accessible approach to systems thinking and an offer of pragmatic hope based on purpose-driven creativity and innovation. Whether you’re a progressive leader, a professional in the sustainability field, or someone who simply wants to be better informed about ways to take positive action, this thorough guide is for you.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Regeneration: Ending the Climate Crisis in One Generation

Wayne Visser Why did I love this book?

I like Regeneration because it is a book of science-based solutions. At a time when we are overwhelmed by global social and environmental problems and underwhelmed by ESG and sustainable business solutions, Paul Hawken continues to be the pioneering voice he has been for decades. His book, The Ecology of Commerce, was one of the books that inspired me over 30 years ago to pursue a career in sustainable business, and I use his book Drawdown in my teaching and workshops to illustrate the 100 best innovations for tackling climate change. Regeneration is aligned with the idea of thriving – as opposed to surviving – and gives practical insights into tried and tested ways to reverse the current degeneration of nature and society.

By Paul Hawken,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Regeneration as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A radically new understanding of and practical approach to climate change by noted environmentalist Paul Hawken, creator of the New York Times bestseller Drawdown

Regeneration offers a visionary new approach to climate change, one that weaves justice, climate, biodiversity, equity, and human dignity into a seamless tapestry of action, policy, and transformation that can end the climate crisis in one generation. It is the first book to describe and define the burgeoning regeneration movement spreading rapidly throughout the world.

Regeneration describes how an inclusive movement can engage the majority of humanity to save the world from the threat of global…

Book cover of Net Positive: How Courageous Companies Thrive by Giving More Than They Take

Wayne Visser Why did I love this book?

Net Positive adds to the growing movement on going beyond sustainability – doing less harm – to thriving, which is about doing good. The power of this book is that it is grounded in the leadership experience of former CEO of Unilever Paul Polman, and shares many practical insights and fascinating anecdotes on how he turned the multinational into a powerhouse for creating a better world. This is complemented by the research and additional case studies that co-author Andrew Winston brings to the table. Together, they have written a blueprint for how business can be a force for positive transformation in the world. Most crucially, it raises the bar from sustainability-as-usual to the more ambitious goal of having a positive impact.

By Paul Polman, Andrew Winston,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Net Positive as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Financial Times Best Business Book of the Year

Named one of 10 Best New Management Books for 2022 by Thinkers50

"An advocate of sustainable capitalism explains how it's done" - The Economist

"Polman's new book with the sustainable business expert Andrew Winston...argues that it's profitable to do business with the goal of making the world better." - The New York Times

Named as recommended reading by Fortune's CEO Daily

"...Polman has been one of the most significant chief executives of his era and that his approach to business and its role in society has been both valuable and path-breaking."…

Book cover of How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need

Wayne Visser Why did I love this book?

I must confess that I didn’t start out as a Bill Gates fan. But in the wake of his Microsoft career, his proactive investments in start-up companies that could transform our society for the better started to capture my attention. When I read his book climate solutions, I became convinced of his analytical and entrepreneurial genius. He approaches climate breakdown with the pragmatic optimism of a venture capitalist. One of his most compelling insights are his “green premium” calculations for major sectors, which effectively measure the price gap between current solutions and emerging technologies. This provides a clear indication of the most appropriate investment strategies for given technologies – all with the urgent goal of halving carbon emissions by 2030 and reaching net zero by 2050. 

By Bill Gates,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked How to Avoid a Climate Disaster as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this urgent, authoritative book, Bill Gates sets out a wide-ranging, practical - and accessible - plan for how the world can get to zero greenhouse gas emissions in time to avoid a climate catastrophe.

Bill Gates has spent a decade investigating the causes and effects of climate change. With the help of experts in the fields of physics, chemistry, biology, engineering, political science, and finance, he has focused on what must be done in order to stop the planet's slide toward certain environmental disaster. In this book, he not only explains why we need to work toward net-zero emissions…

Book cover of A Life on Our Planet: My Witness Statement and a Vision for the Future

Wayne Visser Why did I love this book?

It’s hard to ignore the personal testimony of Sir David Attenborough, based on 70 years of exploring and documenting the natural world. Like Attenborough’s films, this is a masterpiece in storytelling and making science and nature accessible. This has been his enduring legacy. But this book is different. Here, he combines a severe warning about the breakdown in the web of life with hopeful solutions aimed at rewilding the land and oceans. His message is clear: we can turn the precipitous decline of life on earth due to human impacts; but we need to act fast and at scale. I especially like how he distills the essence in a quote that says: “in this world, a species can only thrive when everything else around it thrives too.”

By David Attenborough,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Life on Our Planet as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

*Goodreads Choice Award Winner for Best Science & Technology Book of the Year* 

In this scientifically informed account of the changes occurring in the world over the last century, award-winning broadcaster and natural historian shares a lifetime of wisdom and a hopeful vision for the future. See the world. Then make it better.
I am 93. I've had an extraordinary life. It's only now that I appreciate how extraordinary.

As a young man, I felt I was out there in the wild, experiencing the untouched natural world - but it was an illusion. The tragedy of our time has been…

Book cover of Nature's Best Hope: A New Approach to Conservation That Starts in Your Yard

Wayne Visser Why did I love this book?

Global climate and environmental problems are so overwhelming that it’s hard to get our heads – let alone our hearts and hands – around them. We feel helpless to make a positive impact. This is where I found that Tallamy’s book steps into the breach. It answers the vital question: what I can do, especially as an individual or family, to protect and restore nature? Biodiversity loss is one of the most serious existential crises we face as humanity, along with climate change. The power of Tallamy’s approach is to offer solutions that can be applied in our backyard. Our gardens can provide species under threat with a vital lifeline; an oasis in the desert of agricultural, industrial, and urban wasteland. This is a book on how to take positive action.

By Douglas W. Tallamy,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Nature's Best Hope as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Douglas W. Tallamy's first book, Bringing Nature Home, sparked a national conversation about the link between healthy local ecosystems and human well-being. In his new book Nature's Best Hope, Tallamy takes the next step and outlines his vision for a grassroots approach to conservation. Tallamy advocates for homeowners everywhere to turn their yards into conservation corridors that provide wildlife habitats and mitigate the effects of development and corporate agriculture. This home-based approach doesn't rely on the federal government and protects the environment from the whims of politics. It is also easy to do, and readers will walk away with specific…

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The Managing People Practice Manual

By Neil Thompson,

Book cover of The Managing People Practice Manual

Neil Thompson Author Of The Managing People Practice Manual

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Writer Educator Adviser

Neil's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

This manual addresses the need to ensure that people are at the centre of the organisation. There has never been a timelier reminder of the need to ensure that leading, supporting and developing staff are critical aspects of creating the right organisational culture to grow and develop. Written with sensitivity, it brings together essential learning and underpinning theoretical knowledge and frameworks to promote effective practice.

This is an essential handbook for managers and leaders who want to develop the full potential of their people. It not only covers the fundamental issues of human resource management, but also highlights important topics that organisations find difficult to address, such as empowerment, stress management, mental health, equality, diversity, inclusion, and the promotion of well-being at work.

The Managing People Practice Manual

By Neil Thompson,

What is this book about?

It is refreshing to come across an HR book that bridges the gap perfectly between the academic theory and the practicality of ‘how to do it'. Dr Neil Thompson takes us on a humanistic journey that genuinely captures the human dimension of people management. This is an extremely helpful manual full of important and practical information about promoting well-being to achieve the best outcome for various everyday people management issues. The easy-to-understand inclusive language of this book calls to anyone interested in people management, meaning this is a perfect book for students, HR leaders, and practitioners. I know I will…

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5 book lists we think you will like!

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