A Do Good, Feel Good Summer Reading List

Once a week this summer, come back to The Causemopolitan to read a guest post that will inspire you right up out of your seat to get involved and give back in a special series called Cause It’s Summer! Featured bloggers will be sharing their own reflections and stories, tips and resources, and perspective on philanthropy, social entrepreneurship and their own cause-filled life. This week welcome Emily Goligoski, who shares her must-read summer book list. However you won’t find any Danielle Steele novels here, instead inspirational stories from social innovators. Thanks Emily!


I’m not one for beach reads. I didn’t really realize it until my family caught me reading Chekhov beachside one college summer (yes, for enjoyment, not a class). So lists published between May and August with reading recommendations have often fallen short for my bespeckled self, and not because I’m too academic or snobby for chick lit, but because I want to read work that I know my teammates and pals can also benefit from.

A few recent reads are just that, whether because they combine fun anecdotes with advice that has take home value or because they include stories you’ll want to tell over group dinners. They’re all first-person non-fiction, and I’ll let the esteemed authors speak for themselves:

On Collaboration

Twyla Tharp’s “The Collaborative Habit: Life Lessons for Working Together” was the second book I’ve read by the choreographer who has completed successful dance/music partnerships with the likes of Elvis Costello and Bob Dylan. Readers gain insight into her personal dedication (think daily workouts with a trainer at dawn) but mostly ideas about working with other creative types: “The key to a workable routine? First, make sure you have agreed upon a common purpose. Amateur or professional—that distinction doesn’t matter. The first requirement of collaboration is commitment.”

On Making Things that Sing

On a recommendation from Sloane I read Nancy Lublin’s “Zilch” and found that the writer also stresses commitment—this time on the quality product front. The CEO and “Chief Old Person” at DoSomething.org shares 11 themes for organizational success along with advice for creating goals and values that team members care about, even when money is tight. Lublin explains that “people want to work on a product or service that they love and respect. John Lilly, CEO of Mozilla Firefox, the organization dedicated to producing and maintaining an open Internet, likes to talk about how his product ‘doesn’t suck.’ (This is a direct quote). Lilly believes that people may try Firefox the first time because of its open philosophy and not-for-profit status, but they keep using it because the product is good.” I couldn’t agree more.

On Clear Thinking

I’ve long been a fan of Acumen Fund, the non-profit venture fund that works to combat global poverty, as well as its founder, banker-turned-entrepreneur Jacqueline Novogratz. In preparation for an opportunity to interview her this fall as part of a Women 2.0 video series with organization founders, I read Novogratz’s biography “The Blue Sweater: Bridging the Gap Between Rich and Poor in an Interconnected World” enthusiastically. In a conversation with a former colleague who was convinced that good-doers need to start with money, power and influence, she argued “that you have to start early, understand how change happens, and build relationships and credibility over a long time.” Consider it the long road approach, and I appreciate this book for it.

More Pre-Fall Fun

As I crack the spine on “The Mayor of Castro Street,” Randy Shilts’ biography of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, in pursuit of inspiration and history, there are two other titles I can’t resist sharing. Zainab Salbi and Laurie Becklund worked together to pen the former’s book about leaving pre-war Iraq and starting Women for Women International, and “Between Two Worlds: Escape from Tyranny: Growing up in the Shadow of Saddam” tells her disturbing but triumphant story of helping rape victims worldwide. Similarly heroic is Caroline Paul’s recanting of being one of the first women to join a major American city’s fire department in “Fighting Fire,” which may have you swearing by biographies as you sweat this summer.


Emily Goligoski produces video interviews with female company founders for the technology entrepreneurship organization Women 2.0. She manages marketing for Federated Media, an online publishing company that represents Apartment Therapy, NOTCOT, Behance, and dooce among other sites. She’s worked as a digital strategist for Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide and as an interactive producer after studying journalism at Northwestern University.  She now writes about arts and culture as TheSanFranista after getting an early start in trends reporting publishing the “Gollie’s Follies” in grade school in the cultural hotbed of Toledo, Ohio. She teaches Vinyasa yoga and her written work has appeared on Notes on Design, The Huffington Post, Mashable, Josh Spear, and The Bold Italic.

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