The most recommended books about community

Who picked these books? Meet our 24 experts.

24 authors created a book list connected to community, and here are their favorite community books.
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What type of community book?


Book cover of The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland

Rohit Prasad Author Of The Pilgrim: Inferno Redux

From my list on the aftermath of 9/11 on people’s everyday lives.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have lived in the US, and particularly lived and worked in New York, for many years. How the events of 9/11 changed the city, its people, and the perceptions of the people all around the country and the world has always intrigued me. 9/11 has put up a prism through which experiences have emanated out in a kaleidoscopic range of stories. A banker by day and a cynical blogger by night, I have traveled the world and have met many interesting people with compelling backgrounds and have experienced many peculiar and beautiful things. I love to explore the confluence of fascinating narrative arcs and life-altering events. 

Rohit's book list on the aftermath of 9/11 on people’s everyday lives

Rohit Prasad Why did Rohit love this book?

This is the sole non-fiction recommendation on the list. However, with its message of hope and optimism, it seems like a fairy tale in these days of partisanship and hatred.

The book details how the small city of Gander in Canada rallied around to provide safe haven to the passengers of 38 airplanes which had been bound for the US on 9/11. The stranded travelers are greeted by a welcoming community, build lifelong friendships, and find solace and peace in a time of grave uncertainty.

The description of the small acts of kindness which positively impacted the lives of strangers and fostered a feeling of worldly brotherhood is heartwarming and uplifting. It also showcases how the world came together for America in its hour of need.

By Jim DeFede,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Day the World Came to Town as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The True Story Behind the Events on 9/11 that Inspired Broadway's Smash Hit Musical Come from Away, Featuring All New Material from the Author

When 38 jetliners bound for the United States were forced to land at Gander International Airport in Canada by the closing of U.S. airspace on September 11, the population of this small town on Newfoundland Island swelled from 10,300 to nearly 17,000. The citizens of Gander met the stranded passengers with an overwhelming display of friendship and goodwill.

As the passengers stepped from the airplanes, exhausted, hungry and distraught after being held on board for nearly…

Book cover of Community: The Structure of Belonging

Niki Harré Author Of Psychology for a Better World: Working with People to Save the Planet

From my list on living well together.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a psychologist with environmental interests people often ask me about hope. It goes something like this: “Climate change is pushing us toward disaster! What is your source of hope?”  I finally figured out that I only have one source of hope. It is that we, as people, are able to work together just well enough to keep it all afloat. There’s a lot involved in working together – learning to listen with compassion, run good meetings, empower everyone to give of their best, and rebuild trust when it starts to break down. I’ve been researching these topics in community settings for the past 15 years. 

Niki's book list on living well together

Niki Harré Why did Niki love this book?

This book describes what it takes to invite people into a conversation that leads to new ways of being together. Block is full of practical wisdom. For example, he discusses the importance of the physical setting – which is why I sometimes spend hours preparing for what a meeting will look and feel like. Our aim, he writes, is for people “to feel as if [they] came to the right place and are affirmed for that choice”. To do this, we need to gather everyone in – bringing them and their gifts to the centre of the process. Like my other recommendations, Block has huge optimism for what people can do when treated well.

By Peter Block,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

We need our neighbors and community to stay healthy, produce jobs, raise our children, and care for those on the margin. Institutions and professional services have reached their limit of their ability to help us.

The consumer society tells us that we are insufficient and that we must purchase what we need from specialists and systems outside the community. We have become consumers and clients, not citizens and neighbors. John McKnight and Peter Block show that we have the capacity to find real and sustainable satisfaction right in our neighborhood and community.

This book reports on voluntary, self-organizing structures that…

Book cover of The Human Swarm: How Our Societies Arise, Thrive, and Fall

Luke Heaton Author Of A Brief History of Mathematical Thought

From my list on grand, unifying ideas for how the world works.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a scientist and inventor, who has always been drawn to grand, overarching narratives, and unifying ideas. I have degrees in Mathematics and Architecture, a PhD in Biophysics, and spent 11 years studying fungal networks at the University of Oxford. I am currently working with the award-winning architect Ben Allen, to commercialize a patent for making POMB (poly-organic mycelium blend): a light-transmitting, thermally insulating, carbon-negative building material.

Luke's book list on grand, unifying ideas for how the world works

Luke Heaton Why did Luke love this book?

Moffett is a leading specialist on social insects, and the core of his penetrating insight is that we ought to clearly distinguish between collective behavior and social behavior. Our ability to see that one stranger belongs to our society, while another stranger does not, is utterly crucial, and Moffett speaks with authority when he claims that humans are the only animals where different societies merge over time. In particular, he correctly notes that time and time again there has been a fusion between human societies under the heel of a conquering force. By carefully considering our bee-like nature, as well as our chimp-like nature, The Human Swarm reveals how mankind has created sprawling civilizations of unrivalled complexity and provides some valuable insights into what it will take to sustain them.

By Mark W. Moffett,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Human Swarm as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A specialist on social insects writes about the origins and implications of our own vast social organisation, and the ways in which our ethnic and national distinctions mirror those of other animals.

In this paradigm-shattering book, biologist Mark W. Moffett draws on findings in psychology, sociology and anthropology to explain the social adaptations that bind societies. He explores how the tension between identity and anonymity defines how societies develop, function, and fail. In the vein of Guns, Germs, and Steel and Sapiens, The Human Swarm reveals how mankind created sprawling civilizations of unrivalled complexity - and what it will take…

Book cover of At Home in Mitford

D.V. Stone Author Of Kisa: Shield-Mates of Dar

From my list on with a war between humans and shifters.

Why am I passionate about this?

My passion for books began at a very early age. My mom will tell you I never played with toys but toddled around, always with a book in my hand. From the Little Golden books of childhood, I grew into children's literature like Heidi and Black Beauty. Then came the horse books. Seabiscuit and War Admiral. Misty of Chincoteague was a particular favorite. Animal books have always been one of my go-to genres. All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot started me on a series that I still return to from time to time. J. R. R. Tolkien is one of my inspirations as a fantasy author, along with C. S. Lewis.

D.V.'s book list on with a war between humans and shifters

D.V. Stone Why did D.V. love this book?

This book is a bit different from my other recommendations. It’s not a fantasy. What it is is a series of books to make you laugh, cry, think, and most of all, want to go live in the imaginary town of Mitford, North Carolina. This is a small town where the phrase “Mitford takes care of its own” is sometimes hard but always rewarding. Reverend Tim Cavanough is a flawed man with a heart of gold who is in the mid to later stage in life and takes care of his flock of often eccentric, lovable townsfolk with a heart of love. I was with a friend one time walking through a little town in West Virginia, and we had both finished Ms. Karon’s books. The town and its folks reminded us of Mitford with its quaint charm. 

By Jan Karon,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked At Home in Mitford as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The first novel in #1 New York Times bestselling author Jan Karon's beloved series set in America's favorite small town: Mitford.

It's easy to feel at home in Mitford. In these high, green hills, the air is pure, the village is charming, and the people are generally lovable. Yet, Father Tim, the bachelor rector, wants something more. Enter a dog the size of a sofa who moves in and won't go away. Add an attractive neighbor who begins wearing a path through the hedge. Now, stir in a lovable but unloved boy, a mystifying jewel theft, and a secret that's…

Book cover of High Tide in Tucson: Essays from Now or Never

Sarah Williamson Author Of Elevator Bird

From Sarah's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Artist Nature lover Walker Reader Traveler

Sarah's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Sarah Williamson Why did Sarah love this book?

I picked up this book randomly at a bookstore and fell in love with the intriguing cover (a hermit crab emerging from some nopales cactus in a wide open desert setting).

The book is as unexpected as this cover with the author touching on many subjects and making keen observations – her life in Tucson, Kentucky, and even Thoreau. Her writing is thoughtful and intelligent and this book still sits prominently on my bookshelf. 

By Barbara Kingsolver,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked High Tide in Tucson as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"There is no one quite like Barbara Kingsolver in contemporary literature," raves the Washington Post Book World, and it is right. She has been nominated three times for the ABBY award, and her critically acclaimed writings consistently enjoy spectacular commercial success as they entertain and touch her legions of loyal fans.

In High Tide in Tucson, she returnsto her familiar themes of family, community, the common good and the natural world. The title essay considers Buster, a hermit crab that accidentally stows away on Kingsolver's return trip from the Bahamas to her desert home, and turns out to have manic-depressive…

Book cover of Stella Peabody's Wild Librarian Bakery and Bookstore: A Novel-in-Stories

Mary Camarillo Author Of The Lockhart Women

From my list on life in the real Southern California.

Why am I passionate about this?

My father was transferred to Southern California from Charlotte, North Carolina when I was fourteen years old. I was excited and my friends were jealous. At that point, all I knew about California was the music of the Beach Boys and the Gidget television series. I thought everyone lived on the beach and knew movie stars. I didn’t know there were neighborhoods like Reseda and Anaheim and Fountain Valley, places where people live lives that have nothing to do with the glamour and celebrity of Hollywood. California has been my home for more than fifty years. I still find it fascinating and puzzling, and I still feel like an outsider.

Mary's book list on life in the real Southern California

Mary Camarillo Why did Mary love this book?

Stacy Russo is a librarian, professor, artist, poet, novelist, children’s book writer, vegan baker, punk rock historian, dog whisperer, and a friend. Her novel told in stories is a close observation of modern life in Santa Ana, California where her protagonist, Stella Peabody runs a bakery and bookstore. The lives of her customers intertwine and create an enviably close community. The sense of place is vivid, and the characters are finely drawn. I wish this bookstore was real and in my neighborhood. Recipes included. 

By Stacy Russo,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Stella Peabody's Wild Librarian Bakery and Bookstore as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Welcome to the magical world of Stella Peabody's Wild Librarian Bakery and Bookstore!

Stella Peabody, an independent and free-spirited "Wild Librarian," follows her dream and opens a vegan bakery/bookstore where she and her literary-inspired baked goods form the heart of a diverse community full of beloved characters, including Robert Gonzales, a romance novel devotee and loving husband, who finds solace in Stella's "Poet's Beer Bread" when his wife goes missing under mysterious circumstances; solitary psychologist Mary Chin who leans upon her experiences with Stella's "Women Who Run With the Wolves" Book Club to find comfort and meaning following a life-changing…

Book cover of A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster

Daniel P. Aldrich Author Of Building Resilience: Social Capital in Post-Disaster Recovery

From my list on the importance of community during disasters.

Why am I passionate about this?

We moved to New Orleans in July 2005. We had six weeks in our first home, filling it with furniture, buying a new car, and taking advantage of my first job. When Hurricane Katrina collapsed the levees holding back the nearby lakes, our home – and those of 80% of the city – filled with water. As I waited for FEMA and insurance to help us, I saw instead it was our friends, friends of friends, and faith-based organizations that helped us get back on our feet. Using our own experiences as a start, I traveled to India and Japan to study how communities around the world survived and thrived during shocks. 

Daniel's book list on the importance of community during disasters

Daniel P. Aldrich Why did Daniel love this book?

We have all seen disaster movies and TV shows with people screaming and running around as the earthquake, tsunami, or Godzilla strikes. But Rebecca Solnit argues instead that normal people don’t panic during disasters – it is the elite, the wealthy, and the decision-makers who lose their minds. For normal people, altruism and mutual aid help all of us get through shocks, whether fire, car accident or COVID19. Her writing is excellent and she uses examples across time and space, ranging from the San Francisco earthquake at the start of the 20th century to the Mexico City earthquake at its end.

By Rebecca Solnit,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked A Paradise Built in Hell as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"The freshest, deepest, most optimistic account of human nature I've come across in years."
-Bill McKibben

The most startling thing about disasters, according to award-winning author Rebecca Solnit, is not merely that so many people rise to the occasion, but that they do so with joy. That joy reveals an ordinarily unmet yearning for community, purposefulness, and meaningful work that disaster often provides. A Paradise Built in Hell is an investigation of the moments of altruism, resourcefulness, and generosity that arise amid disaster's grief and disruption and considers their implications for everyday life. It points to a new vision of…

Book cover of Disappearing Earth

Nicholas Ponticello Author Of The Secret Order of the Scepter & Gavel

From Nicholas' 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Writer Teacher Reader Lego builder Musical connoisseur

Nicholas' 3 favorite reads in 2023

Nicholas Ponticello Why did Nicholas love this book?

What is not to like about this book?

Although it is not science fiction like my other two picks, it makes the top three list for its sheer humanity. The book is told as a series of vignettes, each from the perspective of a different character loosely affiliated with the kidnapping of two young girls in a remote part of Russia.

The mystery of what happened to the girls is secondary to the exploration of how a kidnapping in a small community can impact the psyches of those left behind.

I loved this book for its well-drawn characters and deep insight. And it all comes together in the end in a way that makes the reader feel like the journey was worth every minute.

By Julia Phillips,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

One of The New York Times 10 Best Books of the Year

National Book Award Finalist
Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle John Leonard Prize
Finalist for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize
Finalist for the New York Public Library's Young Lions Fiction Award 

National Best Seller

"Splendidly imagined . . . Thrilling" --Simon Winchester
"A genuine masterpiece" --Gary Shteyngart

Spellbinding, moving--evoking a fascinating region on the other side of the world--this suspenseful and haunting story announces the debut of a profoundly gifted writer.

One August afternoon, on the shoreline of the Kamchatka peninsula at the northeastern edge…

Book cover of Political Loneliness: Modern Liberal Subjects in Hiding

Michael Cholbi Author Of Grief: A Philosophical Guide

From my list on philosophy for dealing with difficult emotions.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a philosopher, I’m not just interested in solving ‘academic’ problems that arise from philosophical inquiry. I also think philosophy should return to the role it often had in the ancient world, as a tool for helping us navigate the perennial challenges that being human presents us. Much of my own philosophical work has sought to help us figure out how to relate to arguably the biggest challenge we face: that we inevitably die. The books on this list are powerful examples of how philosophy can provide us with an emotional compass!

Michael's book list on philosophy for dealing with difficult emotions

Michael Cholbi Why did Michael love this book?

We live in a very interconnected world, and yet loneliness is rampant. How can that be? Gaffney’s Political Loneliness helps us see that today’s loneliness is the byproduct of our specific political moment. Modern political life, she argues, alienates us from one other and fosters anonymity while also priming us to value belonging and inclusion. Gaffney’s purpose is less to offer us advice about how we can overcome this ‘political loneliness’ on an individual level. Rather, her uncomfortable message is that, with respect to loneliness at least, the personal is indeed the political, and she warns us that many will find totalitarianism an appealing antidote to the loneliness endemic to contemporary life.

By Jennifer Gaffney,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Political Loneliness: Modern Liberal Subjects in Hiding examines the political significance of the experience of loneliness. The book conceives of loneliness as a symptom of the political alienation of modern life. Its central claim is that neoliberal subjectivity has rendered us lonely. That is, that the political structures we have inherited from the liberal tradition-such as the anonymity of the vote, or the emphasis on representation rather than deliberation-have left us hidden from one another, unable to appear as members of a common world. In view of this, the author suggests that it is precisely this experience of loneliness that…

Book cover of Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World

Matthew Hinsley Author Of Creativity to Community: Arts Nonprofit Success One Coffee at a Time

From my list on enlightened nonprofit arts management.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve been a community leader in the arts for more than twenty-five years. In raising millions of dollars, advocating for arts in our schools and communities, and teaching arts administration at the university level, I’ve had countless opportunities to witness the energy in people’s hearts that turns into action, growth, and success. What I’ve learned is that success in this arena involves things you can’t see or measure, like kindness, gratitude, and wonder. When we harness those elements of Essence, however, we can change the world.

Matthew's book list on enlightened nonprofit arts management

Matthew Hinsley Why did Matthew love this book?

Vivek Murthy has been Surgeon General of the United States in both the Obama and Biden administrations. Together is a book about the health crisis of loneliness facing America. When you go deep as the leader of an arts organization, no matter what your organization does, I think you’ll realize that what you do has the potential to address this crisis in powerful ways.

By Vivek H Murthy M.D.,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The New York Times Bestseller from Surgeon General, Vivek H. Murthy, MD.

“We have a massive, deadly epidemic hidden in plain sight: loneliness. It is as harmful to health as smoking and far more common. And as his gripping stories of the science and suffering make clear, we can do something about it. Together is fascinating, moving, and essential reading.”—Atul Gawande, author of Being Mortal

“Together made me rethink much of what I believe about physical health, public policy, and the human condition. By revealing America’s epidemic of loneliness—and then offering an array of remedies for the condition—Murthy has done…