Berrett-Koehler is a publisher that stands for change and strives to make the world a better place. Their books showcase this desire for positive development, from business books that instruct on how to make the workplace a better place to diversity books that highlight what is often cast in shadows. A publisher with firm values, they continue to help the world evolve. Here are the BK books we’ve reviewed in 2015 and 2016 as well as the books that were finalists for our 2015 INDIEFAB Awards. And be sure to read the interview with Maya Schenwar, author of Locked Down, Locked Out: Why Prison Doesn’t Work and How We Can Do Better published by Berrett-Koehler.
How We Can Bridge the Partisan Divide
Though voters seem to have lost their will to collaborate, hope is not lost, and this book proposes a way forward.
In this thought-provoking book that serves as a call to action, Mark Gerzon posits that most Americans today will never respect, let alone vote for, presidential candidates they vehemently disagree with.
What has been lost in American democracy, the book asserts, is a shared expectation that, despite party loyalty, an American president will always look out for the best interests of the nation. Such trust has been clouded by a divisive political culture, it claims, in which the system is driven by media and by partisan personalities, rather than unity. As evidence, Gerzon points to figures such as Rush Limbaugh, who symbolize a new zeitgeist in American political culture––a shift away from the common ground to fundamentalism, fueled by vitriol and “bordering on hatred.”
“We have lost our capacity to collaborate,” Gerzon says. This carefully organized book identifies and outlines the polarized viewpoints that define the dichotomous party system responsible for today’s bitter partisanship. He says that the majority of voting Americans “confirm what we already believe so unquestioningly.” We become, he further argues, prisoners of our points of view, incapable of bridging distances. As a corrective, The Reunited States of America encourages learning about issues from people with different perspectives. The hope is that doing so will result in expanded points of view and engender a return to a workable common ground.
Sometimes reading like a manual, the text of The Reunited States intersperses step-by-step instructions with more inspiring prose and unravels a “secret code” embedded in American democracy. A discussion of pluralism, references to the founding fathers, and a definition of e pluribus unum seem a little outdated, but they are appended with the inspiring suggestion that if a political viewpoint is not represented in a current organization, a person can start his or her own party: “You are now a Founding Father or Founding Mother.”
The Reunited States of America is both an indictment of current political failings and a hopeful look at ways in which voters might bridge a widening divide. This is a better option for all those who feel distressed by the current political climate.
KAI WHITE (May 27, 2016)
Build a Better Business by Building Community
A crowdfunding expert shares his secrets in this breezy book full of words of wisdom.
Crowdfunding is a phenomenon that has helped launch countless businesses. It basically involves conceptualizing a product and sharing the idea with potential online investors. If enough investors pledge money at various levels and the project’s funding goal is met, the creator of the product receives the funding.
Jamey Stegmaier, who has run six successful projects on Kickstarter, the leading crowdfunding platform, started blogging about crowdfunding to share his experiences with others. This led him to create A Crowdfunder’s Strategy Guide, which, in addition to drawing on his blog’s content, offers a more in-depth look at numerous successful crowdfunding projects.
As one might expect, Stegmaier is unfailingly positive about crowdfunding: “crowdfunding democratized creativity,” he writes. “It provided a platform for people to vote with their money on the things they want.” However, Stegmaier acknowledges the mistakes he made along the way (he made a lot of them, he says) and offers plenty of advice to help prospective crowdfunders set realistic expectations. Most important, writes Stegmaier, is understanding the core concept of crowdfunding: “Make it about them. … The philosophy of focusing on others instead of yourself will significantly increase the chances of success for your crowdfunding campaign.”
The stories Stegmaier tells in his breezy, informal narrative are engaging, but woven throughout the examples are words of wisdom born from experience. Sections such as “The Top Five Ways to Treat Backers as Individuals, Not Numbers,” “Top Ten Ways to Prepare Your Product for Worldwide Fulfillment,” and “How to Quit Your Day Job in Four Easy Steps” convey specific suggestions that are sure to help minimize the risk for anyone who launches a crowdfunding campaign.
The material Stegmaier includes at the end of the book is equally valuable. For example, he summarizes his blog posts in a section called “125 Crowdfunding Lessons in 125 Sentences,” and he appends a “One-Week Checklist” that details the steps to take before launching a project.
A Crowdfunder’s Strategy Guide is authoritative and comprehensive, yet easy to read. This book should do much to answer basic questions about crowdfunding and provide those interested in using crowdfunding with a valuable playbook.
BARRY SILVERSTEIN (November 27, 2015)
Get More Done One Thing at a Time
This thorough and convincing guide incorporates a rejuvenating mindfulness to encourage productivity and enjoyment of the everyday.
Management guru Devora Zack realized she hit the rock bottom of multitasking when she found herself balancing in a complex yoga position while editing book pages strategically placed on her mat. Certainly, we are all guilty of trying to kill two birds with one stone in the race to finish our endless to-do lists. But in Singletasking: Getting More Done, One Thing at a Time, Zack successfully proves that the more we try to juggle, the more we slow ourselves down, produce inferior work, and create more stress. With this book, she puts individuals back in control of their day instead of just reacting to endless stimuli.
She begins by unraveling myths of multitasking’s efficiency before providing real-life techniques to singletask. Lastly, she explains how to apply these singletasking methods to life outside the workplace. Throughout, Zack’s tone is impassioned, encouraging, and empathetic—after all, she freely admits to battling the urge to multitask herself.
A member of Cornell University’s School of Management faculty and a successful motivational speaker, Zack’s writing is enjoyably wry. After listing how multitasking can negatively impact quality of life, relationships, and “everything else that matters to you,” she quips, “No big deal.”
Zack’s outlined methods for singletasking make the book invaluable. For example, she suggests creating a “Parking Lot” list to quarantine distracting tasks that pop up. She also cautions against using a smart phone as an alarm clock to avoid interruptions by the phone’s myriad notifications of emails and texts. She also advocates clustering similar tasks, like emailing, to three deliberate times a day in order to avoid continual distraction.
As Zack observes, far too many of us suffer from “scattered brain syndrome.” We forget people’s names right after learning them, we have to reread passages over and over, and we end the day feeling overwhelmed by all the things left undone. Singletasking incorporates a rejuvenating mindfulness that not only lets us get more things done but lets us enjoy “beautiful days,” as Zack writes, “one sunbeam at a time.”
AMANDA MCCORQUODALE (May 27, 2015)
2015 INDIEFAB Finalists
Work Reimagined: Uncover Your Calling by David A. Shapiro and Richard J. Leider
The Sisters Are Alright: Changing the Broken Narrative of Black Women in America by Tamara Winfrey Harris
Sustainable Happiness: Live Simply, Live Well, Make a Difference by Sarah van Gelder