Living Cities' staff mark World Book Day by sharing some of the books that we've been reading as we ask ourselves what it will take to achieve dramatically better results for low-income people, faster.

This week, kids dressed up as their favorite book characters, people took to Twitter to share the books that they’ve read and loved, and lots of lists of good books were published. March 5th was World Book Day!

There are many bookworms at Living Cities, so we thought that we would dedicate this weeks #GoodReads roundup to some of the books that we have been reading as we continue to ask ourselves what it will take to achieve dramatically better results for low-income people, faster.

Here are our picks:

Creativity, Inc., Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull

Recommended by Ben Hecht, President & CEO

The author is a co-founder of Pixar, the movie studio that revolutionized the animated movie, starting with Toy Story His easy-to-read story about building Pixar is essentially a tutorial for any manager, nonprofit or for profit, who is trying to build an organization committed to innovation and create an environment that both supports creativity and gets things done. His observations rang true for me and our work at Living Cities, “how scary it can be to come to work when you [and your partners] are trying to invent something that doesn’t yet exist”, “how the organization must be alert to shifting dynamics because its future depends on it”, “that the hallmark of a healthy creative culture is that people feel free to share ideas, opinions and criticisms; and relatedly, "ideas only become great when challenged and tested”. These lessons, delivered in the context of making movies that have become household fixtures, made this management book actually fun to read.

Standing Tall in Times Square by Herbert Murray

Recommended by Brian Reilly, Director, The Integration Initiative

If you ever take the subway to Living Cities’ NY office, you might pass Herbert Murray in his red Times Square Alliance sanitation crew uniform. This month, he’s among one of Amazon’s top 300,000 authors for a book he wrote about his experiences with the criminal justice system resulting in his serving a prison term nearly twice as long than for which he was sentenced, and for a crime he did not commit.

Herbert’s story personifies many of the issues that Living Cities and various partners encounter in the parts of our work centered around not only reducing the barriers for people to return from prison and into the workforce, but increasingly, about the upstream causes and contributors to the prison pipeline and the link to race.

This book is a powerful first-person account that reveals the urgency of now with which we must tackle these issues.

Show Me the Evidence: Obama’s Fight for Rigor and Results in Social Policy by Ron Haskins and Greg Margolis

Recommended by Brian Nagendra, Senior Investment Associate

Through over 100 interviews, Ron Haskins and Greg Margolis unveil the drive for results-driven policy at the White House. Results-driven policymaking is neither a new drive, nor a new concept. However, social science, social policy and practitioners who help support those underserved and outside the economic mainstream in our communities, have taken the drive for results and accountability to a place Haskins and Margolis capture in Show Me the Evidence. It’s a great read and valuable insight as we open source social change and learn what works, together. The remarkable commitment of this administration launched 700 pilots in major policy areas that drive at greater and more inclusive economic opportunity. What we will learn from these initiatives depends on researchers like Haskins and Margolis, practitioners and policymakers sharing as they build, and those concerned about economic opportunity to be open to learning and refining what we do.

Broke, USA: From Pawnshops to Poverty, Inc. - How the Working Poor Became Big Business by Gary Rivlin

Recommended by Krystle Okafor, Special Assistant to the President and CEO

An investigation of the rise of subprime lending. As someone who values place-based work, it changed my understanding of the geography of low-income communities. Now, I often find myself distracted by the overlay of easy credit shops—check cashers, rent-to-own stores, payday lenders, and the like—within them. A quick, yet engrossing read, Broke, USA broaches a great question for post-aughts practitioners: how do we create aboveboard, accessible forms of credit that are tailored to low-income people’s financial realities?

Moneyball for Government by Jim Nussle and Peter Orszag

Recommended by Tamir Novotny, Senior Associate, Public Sector Innovation

If top officials from the Bush and Obama White Houses can agree that we can do a better job of using evidence to power policy and programs, what’s stopping us? This book explores. I’m on Chapter 2 right now and so far I find it refreshingly clear and straightforward.

Thinking in Systems: A Primer by Donella Meadows

Recommended by Jeff Raderstrong, Program Associate for the Integration Initiative

If you want an introduction to systems change and systems thinking, look no further than Donella Meadows' accessible introduction to the topics. This book, published posthumously, features several articles from Meadows' life that clearly articulate what it means to intervene in systems for large scale change. This book should be required reading for anyone exploring how tangible systems changes are made.

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson

Recommended by Elizabeth Ogunwo, Organizational Development and Planning Coordinator

“There is a strength, a power even, in understanding brokenness, because embracing our brokenness creates a need and desire for mercy, and perhaps a corresponding need to show mercy. When you experience mercy, you learn things that are hard to learn otherwise. You see things you can’t otherwise see; you hear things you can’t otherwise hear. You begin to recognize the humanity that resides in each of us.” The style with which Bryan Stevenson exposes the racial injustices embedded in our criminal justice system illustrates the power of stories to spur action. As illustrated in our blog on Measuring Storytelling for Social Change , and throughout Just Mercy, creative social change communications may very well be the special sauce that shifts the trajectory for low-income people, especially people of color, toward more equitable opportunities.

To Kill a Mockingbird

Recommended by Nadia Owusu, Assistant Director, Strategic Communications and Storytelling

I grew up mostly in Africa and Europe, though I am an American citizen by birth. All three continents have grappled with, and continue to grapple with, issues of racial equity and inclusion. But, that looks very different in different geographic, political, and cultural contexts. This novel, that tells the story of young Scout Finch as she becomes awakened to the brutal realities of racism and injustice in the American South in the 1930s, was introduced to me just as I myself was shaping my own understanding of these issues. A much-read classic, it is worth another look for all who are working for social change. Also, it was recently announced that a sequel will be published soon!