nonprofit nerd reads

One of the great things about being out of  school is that you can finally read whatever the heck you want.  Coincidentally, this is the time of year when it’s skin-blistering hot  in the Midwest and you can only comfortably be outside between 6:00 – 6:02 a.m.,  so reading is the perfect indoor activity.  I am blissfully working my way through a very long to-read list (kept oh-so-tidy thanks to Goodreads) but I wouldn’t be a true nonprofit wonk without including a few (um, more like 20) books devoted to the industry.  Here’s some from the top of the list:


Work Hard, Be Nice: How Two Inspired Teachers Created America’s Best Schools, by Jay Mathews

Two educators observe successful teachers working with low-income students, ultimately using what they learn to develop an educational model that results in a nationwide network of charter schools.    



Ignite the Power of Art: Advancing Visitor Engagement in Museum Experiences, by Bonnie Pitman, Ellen Hirzy

This book compiles the results of the Dallas Museum of Art‘s seven-year research project examining how visitors engage with art and how the findings sparked institutional change.


Uncharitable: How Restraints on Nonprofits Undermine Their Potential (Civil Society: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives), by Dan Palotta.

Palotta questions why nonprofits are held to such unreasonable economic standards, why some nonprofit leaders  bend over backwards to appear unconcerned with securing financial sustainability and why many funders are diametrically opposed to supporting operational expenses.



The Digital Museum: A Think Guide, edited by Herminia Din and Phyllis Hecht

25 museum and technology thought-leaders put their collective brains together to examine of how communications technology effects all museum operations, not just the typical areas of concern (conservation, education, curatorial, etc.) 


 What are you reading this summer? 

6 thoughts on “nonprofit nerd reads

  1. Adrienne — hi!!

    So, I’m not using Goodreads (yet!), but I do love your selections. My Director last week gave away books from his shelf and I snatched up the 1914 Annual Report from The Smithsonian. There is literally dust in the pages. But I can’t wait to get into it.

    On my next trip to the bookstore, I’m going to pick up Dan Ariely’s “The Upside of Irrationality”, John C. Maxwell’s “Everyone Communicates, Few Connect”, and “Bursts” by Albert-Laszlo Barabasi. I also need to buy the paperback version of Nina Simon’s “The Participatory Museum”.

    Love your blog, thanks for sharing! And apologies that it’s taken so long to say so!


    • Those are amazing selections! My reading list just gets longer and longer. Woo hoo! I did read Nina Simon’s book online, but I should pony up for the printed version too. Thanks for the reminder. I can definitely understand your excitement about reading the Smithsonian annual report. Does that make me weird? LOL


  2. LOVE this post – my reading list has just grown exponentially! Being from Houston, I am also extremely interested in indoor activities through, say, November ;P

    Another one for you: The Networked Nonprofit by Beth Kanter (@kanter) and Allison Fine – just getting into it now, but so far: excellent.


    • Thanks! I’ve heard so many good things about “The Networked Nonprofit.” I’m excited to check it out! The last time I was in Houston it was July and I swear my face was melting. I really enjoyed the city once I recovered!


  3. [found you via May’s Machete 🙂 ]

    Neat. I actually just got done browsing for nonprofit-related books on the KC Library website. So far the only ones I’ve put on hold are The revolution will not be funded : beyond the non-profit industrial complex and The nonprofit career guide : how to land a job that makes a difference. (Conflicted much?) I saw quite a few books that looked really interesting, but way over my head.

    Also, my summer-long self-indulgent monster of a book has been a biography of Lord Byron by Benita Eisler. That there is my 19th century nerd coming out.


    • Hi Stefany! Thanks for sharing your reads. I’ve read the “Nonprofit Career Guide”, it was really informative while not sugarcoating the challenges associated with nonprofit work. The other makes me want to read it based on the title alone! I believe I share your conflicted feelings. And I applaud you for tackling the Lord Byron book. 800 pages?! Yikes. 🙂


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