70 books like The Cost of Good Intentions

By Charles R. Morris,

Here are 70 books that The Cost of Good Intentions fans have personally recommended if you like The Cost of Good Intentions. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Maximum Feasible Misunderstanding: Community Action in the War on Poverty

Greg Berman Author Of Gradual: The Case for Incremental Change in a Radical Age

From my list on if you want government to work better.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have spent my professional career attempting to reform the justice system and create safer communities. For nearly two decades, I served as the executive director of the Center for Court Innovation (now the Center for Justice Innovation). Now, I co-edit a policy journal called Vital City that attempts to spark new thinking about how to achieve public safety. Over the years, I have worked with numerous city, state, and federal officials. I have seen that most of the people working within government are trying their best in difficult circumstances. I have also seen that it is enormously difficult to change government systems and solve complicated social problems.

Greg's book list on if you want government to work better

Greg Berman Why did Greg love this book?

What would it look like if the federal government launched an ambitious campaign to mobilize community residents to reduce poverty? 

Daniel Patrick Moynihan offers an insider’s account of one such effort, launched in the 1960s as part of the War on Poverty. What he finds is a fundamental disconnect between the ambitions and high-minded theories of reformers in Washington DC, and the hard realities of practice on the ground.

Maximum Feasible Misunderstanding is a cautionary tale and a heartbreaking catalog of missed opportunities, unintended consequences, and wasted resources. I wish someone had handed me this book at the start of my career to help temper my youthful idealism.

By Daniel Patrick Moynihan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Maximum Feasible Misunderstanding as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Describes the origin, implementation and results of the sociological theory, incorporated in the 1964 Opportunity Act, that anti-poverty programs be carried out with the maximum participation of community residents


Book cover of The Revolt of The Public and the Crisis of Authority in the New Millenium

John Iceland Author Of Why We Disagree about Inequality: Social Justice vs. Social Order

From my list on explaining political polarization.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a Penn State professor of sociology and demography who is interested in social inequality, demography, and public opinion. My family moved frequently when I was growing up—I lived in Colombia, Greece, and Mexico. I attended Brown University and worked at the U.S. Census Bureau as an analyst and Branch Chief for several years before returning to academia. My interest in inequality dates back to living in different countries with different cultures, politics, and standards of living. While I have long been interested in the demographics of poverty and inequality, in more recent years I’ve become interested in political polarization and why people disagree about a variety of social issues.

John's book list on explaining political polarization

John Iceland Why did John love this book?

Have you wondered why there has been such a dramatic decline in trust in public institutions in recent years?

In The Revolt of the Public, Gurri argues that the rise of digital technology has allowed people to more easily share information and bypass traditional gatekeepers. Gone are the days from my own youth when most people relied on just a few established news sources. People today are more exposed to stories—either real or imagined—of corruption, incompetence, and misinformation from established institutions.

This has contributed to the rise of populism and political extremism, facilitated by social media where people can organize and coordinate their activities. 

By Martin Gurri,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Revolt of The Public and the Crisis of Authority in the New Millenium as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

How insurgencies-enabled by digital devices and a vast information sphere-have mobilized millions of ordinary people around the world.

In the words of economist and scholar Arnold Kling, Martin Gurri saw it coming. Technology has categorically reversed the information balance of power between the public and the elites who manage the great hierarchical institutions of the industrial age: government, political parties, the media. The Revolt of the Public tells the story of how insurgencies, enabled by digital devices and a vast information sphere, have mobilized millions of ordinary people around the world.

Originally published in 2014, The Revolt of the Public…


Book cover of Tilting at Mills: Green Dreams, Dirty Dealings, and the Corporate Squeeze

Greg Berman Author Of Gradual: The Case for Incremental Change in a Radical Age

From my list on if you want government to work better.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have spent my professional career attempting to reform the justice system and create safer communities. For nearly two decades, I served as the executive director of the Center for Court Innovation (now the Center for Justice Innovation). Now, I co-edit a policy journal called Vital City that attempts to spark new thinking about how to achieve public safety. Over the years, I have worked with numerous city, state, and federal officials. I have seen that most of the people working within government are trying their best in difficult circumstances. I have also seen that it is enormously difficult to change government systems and solve complicated social problems.

Greg's book list on if you want government to work better

Greg Berman Why did Greg love this book?

My friend and co-author Aubrey Fox recommended this book to me not long after we met. 

I liked it so much that I think it is actually one of the reasons we became friends in the first place. Tilting at Mils is the story of an innovative effort by the Natural Resources Defense Council, a leading environmental nonprofit, to create a paper mill in the Bronx in the 1990s. 

The initiative attracted millions of dollars and high-level political support, both in New York City and Washington DC. But the project never happened.

Tilting at Mills is a gripping story of failure, not due to malfeasance or incompetence, but because achieving anything is difficult and lots of things can go wrong, including rotten luck and bad timing. 

By Lis Harris,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Tilting at Mills as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Describes the efforts of Allen Hershkowitz to build a large, environmentally friendly paper mill in the South Bronx, and the local politics, neighborhood activists, corporate greed, and other obstacles that derailed the project.


Book cover of A Thousand Small Sanities: The Moral Adventure of Liberalism

Greg Berman Author Of Gradual: The Case for Incremental Change in a Radical Age

From my list on if you want government to work better.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have spent my professional career attempting to reform the justice system and create safer communities. For nearly two decades, I served as the executive director of the Center for Court Innovation (now the Center for Justice Innovation). Now, I co-edit a policy journal called Vital City that attempts to spark new thinking about how to achieve public safety. Over the years, I have worked with numerous city, state, and federal officials. I have seen that most of the people working within government are trying their best in difficult circumstances. I have also seen that it is enormously difficult to change government systems and solve complicated social problems.

Greg's book list on if you want government to work better

Greg Berman Why did Greg love this book?

When I was the executive director of the Center for Court Innovation (now the Center for Justice Innovation), I made a habit of sharing interesting essays with the rest of the team.

One of my all-time favorites was Adam Gopnik’s “The Caging of America.” In the essay, Gopnik offers this analysis of how crime was reduced in New York City throughout the 1990s and 2000s: “There was no miracle cure, just the intercession of a thousand smaller sanities.”

The idea that small changes can make a big difference has been a bit of a personal crusade for me ever since. 

In A Thousand Small Sanities, Gopnik expands upon this argument, offering a full-throated defense of liberalism against critics on both the right and the left. 

By Adam Gopnik,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Thousand Small Sanities as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'WITTY, HUMANE, LEARNED' NEW YORK TIMES

The New York Times-bestselling author offers a stirring defence of liberalism against the dogmatisms of our time

Not since the early twentieth century has liberalism, and liberals, been under such relentless attack, from both right and left. The crisis of democracy in our era has produced a crisis of faith in liberal institutions and, even worse, in liberal thought.

A Thousand Small Sanities is a manifesto rooted in the lives of people who invented and extended the liberal tradition. Taking us from Montaigne to Mill, and from Middlemarch to the civil rights movement, Adam…


Book cover of Sandman Mystery Theatre Compendium One

François Vigneault and Jonas Madden-Connor

From my list on graphic novels begging to be on the screen.

Why are we passionate about this?

We’re a couple of award-winning graphic novel creators who happen to have been friends since middle school. We’ve been enmeshed in films and comic books for our entire lives, and always enjoyed discussing them with each other, sharing hidden gems, and staying up late to pore over what went right (or wrong) when a favorite comic was made into a movie or TV show. We’re in the middle of an ongoing wave of cinematic adaptations, with billion-dollar blockbusters and indie gems alike looking to graphic novels for inspiration. Read these five books now before they show up on a screen near you, and you’ll have the sweet pleasure of pronouncing “The graphic novel was better!”

François' book list on graphic novels begging to be on the screen

François Vigneault and Jonas Madden-Connor Why did François love this book?

While Neil Gaiman’s much-beloved classic The Sandman was finally brought to the screen recently, we’re really champing at the bit to see this killer spinoff series adapted. Following the dream-inspired investigations of masked crimefighter Wesley Dodds in 1930s New York, the series is a mix of methodical detective work, believable action, and memorable characters that would translate seamlessly to the small screen. This two-decade-old story is shockingly ahead of its time, foregrounding thorny issues of racial prejudice, violence against women, and the rise of fascism that are more resonant now than ever. Out of print for years, this series is finally getting a massive collection bringing together the first 1000 pages (!) of the series in a single volume… Don’t sleep on this hidden gem.

By Matt Wagner, Guy Davis (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sandman Mystery Theatre Compendium One as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In this noir collection, millionaire Wesley Dodds becomes the Sandman to fight injustice in 1930s New York City, going after kidnappers, blackmailers and predators who prey on rich socialites. The year is 1938, and the world is holding its breath-mesmerized by the onrushing storm that will soon engulf it in fire and steel. In New York City, one man's sleep is filled with tormenting visions of the evils that mankind visits upon itself, compelling him to act. And so, by night, Wesley Dodds lays aside the trappings of his inherited wealth to roam the shadows as the Sandman, armed with…


Book cover of Marjorie Morningstar

Stephanie Newman Author Of Barbarians at the PTA

From my list on mom culture.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a practicing clinical psychologist, teacher of psychotherapy theory and technique, and author (Barbarians at the PTA, Madmen on the Couch, Money Talks) who writes about the psychopathology of daily life for various online and print publications, I am a participant in/observer of mom culture. I love a juicy mother-child story. 

Stephanie's book list on mom culture

Stephanie Newman Why did Stephanie love this book?

One of my favorite novels is Herman Wouk’s Marjorie Morningstar, a coming of age story of Marjorie and Mrs Morgenster, a/k/a the original helicopter mom.

This Pulitzer Prize-winning author was male but managed to get into the head of both teenage girl and indomitable mother–and the results are funny and poignant. There’s all kinds of bonus detail about 1930s-1940s NYC: college, dating, and theater scenes.

As someone who is fascinated by mom culture, I like to recommend mother-daughter stories that illustrate how parenting styles and family relationships have changed over time. While it all started with Marmee, Louisa May Alcott (Jo’s) idealized supermom, I have a fondness for the ambivalently modern struggles between Mrs. Morgenstern and Marjorie, the female leads in Herman Wouk’s classic novel, Marjorie Morningstar. 

This is a coming of age story that has it all: beautiful and ambitious heroine, handsome love interest, colorful best friend, and the…

By Herman Wouk,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Marjorie Morningstar as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"I read it and I thought, 'Oh, God, this is me.'" - Scarlet Johansson

Now hailed as a "proto-feminist classic" (Vulture), Pulitzer Prize winner Herman Wouk's powerful coming-of-age novel about an ambitious young woman pursuing her artistic dreams in New York City has been a perennial favourite since it was first a bestseller in the 1950s.

Sixteen-year-old Marjorie Morgenstern lives a quiet life in New York City. Her mother hopes for a glittering marriage to a good man, but Marjorie has other ideas.

When she falls desperately in love with Noel Airman, a musician as reckless as he is talented,…


Book cover of Capital City: New York City and the Men Behind America's Rise to Economic Dominance, 1860-1900

Lynne B. Sagalyn Author Of Times Square Remade: The Dynamics of Urban Change

From my list on exciting a passion for understanding cities.

Why am I passionate about this?

I fell in love with understanding cities toward the end of my college studies. It was the late 1960s and urban issues were foremost in the nation’s consciousness. The times were difficult for cities and many of the problems, seemingly intractable. That drew me to graduate work in urban studies and afterward, teaching about real estate development and finance. My work on public/private partnerships and the political economy of city building has drawn a wide audience. In explaining how cities are built and redeveloped, my goal has been to de-mystify the politics and planning process surrounding large-scale development projects and how they impact the physical fabric of cities.

Lynne's book list on exciting a passion for understanding cities

Lynne B. Sagalyn Why did Lynne love this book?

It’s near impossible not to fall for the lure of urban history when a skilled writer brings to light compelling stories of the men (atlas no women in this book) who transformed New York into an economic powerhouse, the capital of capitalism, in the late 19th century.

Their names are familiar but not so their complete stories: J.P. Morgan, Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, Jay Gould, Samuel Gompers, Theodore Roosevelt. The writing is so good, it’s hard to put the book down.

By Thomas Kessner,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Capital City as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Describes the emergence of post-Civil War New York City, as it evolved from a port city to metropolis via the birth of capitalism, and how such moguls as Rockefeller, Carnegie, and J. P. Morgan helped define the foundation of twentieth-century financial institutions. By the author of Fiorello H. LaGuardia and the Making of Modern New York.


Book cover of Skyscraper Dreams: The Great Real Estate Dynasties of New York

Jason M. Barr Author Of Cities in the Sky: The Quest to Build the World's Tallest Skyscrapers

From my list on real estate titans built New York skyline.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an economics professor, I’ve spent the past twenty years researching why cities build upward. Though I mostly look at cities through the lens of statistics and data, every building has a personal and dramatic story that exists behind the numbers. And no matter where you go in the world, great cities with their towering skyscrapers all owe a debt to New York—every city wants its own version of the Empire State Building to signal its economic might. New York is the world’s metropolis. As the (now cliché) song line goes, “If I can make there, I’ll make it anywhere,” is a true today as a century ago.

Jason's book list on real estate titans built New York skyline

Jason M. Barr Why did Jason love this book?

When I walk through the streets of Manhattan, I’m constantly awed by the variety and density of its buildings. I wonder how such a city could have ever been built. New cities today lack the soul and character. But when you look at why these buildings exist, you see that they are there for a more mundane purpose: as shelter. The Garment District, for example, was created to house massive sweatshops to clothe America. Gotham’s apartment towers enclose the beds on which residents sleep. 

Many of these structures were built by a group of family-run development companies. The founders of these enterprises invariably began as immigrants trying to hustle their way up the economic ladder. They started as teenagers working in the sweatshops or hawking newspapers and, bit by bit, erected their own real estate empires. Tom Schactman’s book tells how entrepreneurial spirit, along with New York’s rapid economic growth,…

By Tom Shachtman,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Skyscraper Dreams as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A portrait of Manhattan real estate and of the multimillionaires who are its masters, describing a world of high risks and huge rewards. Skyscrapers embody the romance of our times. The inspired gamblers who built the structures that transformed not only Manhattan but also the world took great risks. Some of the most colourful failed, while others founded family dynasties among the wealthiest in America, from the Astors and Rockefellers to the Roses and Trumps. From penniless Russian Jewish immigrants to society patricians, from penthouses to tenements, real estate and its manipulations - the buildings, the strategies, even the disasters…


Book cover of The Gilded Age in New York, 1870-1910

John Oller Author Of Rogues' Gallery: The Birth of Modern Policing and Organized Crime in Gilded Age New York

From my list on crime and punishment in the Gilded Age.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’d written modern true crime before—a book that helped solve a 40-year-old cold case—and wanted to try my hand at historical true crime. I live in Manhattan, home to the greatest crime stories of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, so I was able to see the actual locations where the grisliest murders, the biggest bank heists, and the crookedest con games took place. What really drew me in, though, were the many colorful, unforgettable characters, both good and bad, cops and robbers, who walked the bustling streets of Old New York during the fascinating era known as the Gilded Age. 

John's book list on crime and punishment in the Gilded Age

John Oller Why did John love this book?

A lavishly illustrated and engagingly written history of New York during the Gilded Age that covers not just crime, sin, and policing but also such topics as rich vs. poor, the immigrant wave, the early women’s movement, and theater and entertainment. You’ll be entranced by the many beautiful photographs and illustrations alone; I know I was!

By Esther Crain,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Gilded Age in New York, 1870-1910 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Mark Twain coined the term the "Gilded Age" for this period of growth and extravagance, experienced most dramatically in New York City from the 1870s to 1910. More than half of America's millionaires lived in the city. Previously unimaginable sums of money were made and spent, while poor immigrants toiled away in tenements. Author Esther Crain writes, "There was an incredible energy, a sense of greatness and destiny. Things were literally going up-skyscrapers, elevated train tracks, new neighborhoods and parks. Accompanying all of that was an equal amount of greed and lust. Crime, vice, political scandals-the Gilded Age produced an…


Book cover of Side Walk: 6' apart in New York City

Victoria Noe Author Of What Our Friends Left Behind: Grief and Laughter in a Pandemic

From my list on friendship and grief (and pandemics).

Why am I passionate about this?

In 2006, I told a friend I wanted to write a book about grieving the death of a friend. Despite the fact that I’d never written a book before, she gave me her enthusiastic approval. Six months later she was dead. She inspired me to turn that book idea into a series of little books: the Friend Grief series. Just as I was finishing the last one, I began work on a full-length book that took me back to my work in the early days of AIDS. When COVID began, I returned to writing about friend grief. And I lost over a dozen friends while I wrote the book.

Victoria's book list on friendship and grief (and pandemics)

Victoria Noe Why did Victoria love this book?

One of the many wistful and beautiful photos in this book caught my eye in an exhibit at the New York Historical Society in 2021.

Her photography, and the attendant essays, evoke not only the isolation of quarantine, but the ways we rediscovered the desire for human connection. What could be easier than meeting a friend, careful to stay 6’ apart? Or sadder?

By Renate Aller,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Side Walk as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In April 2020, when New York was in lockdown and the epicentre of the pandemic, Renate Aller created the project side walk. She hosted friends and neighbors on her sidewalk or visited them in their street, her camera in self timer mode, recording these masked encounters at a safe 6 feet distance. With voices muted by masks we learn to communicate with our eyes and body language, finding our bearings in a new emotional landscape. These sidewalk visits created a deep sense of community where community had been forced apart. This project is in the spirit of Rainer Maria Rilke:…


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