Creating Social Value Blog / Social Innovation

Books for Positive Disruptors

Following up on our recommended reading for changemakers and social innovators, here’s a selection from The Lewis Institute bookshelves for people challenging the status quo.

Memoirs & BiographiesMindsets & Inspiration



Memoirs & Biographies

Confessions of a Radical Industrialist:

Profits, People, Purpose—Doing Business by Respecting the Earth

Interface founder Ray Anderson shares his powerful story of using business to create profound social impact. We dare you not to be inspired.

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Let My People Go Surfing:

The Education of a Reluctant Businessman—Including 10 More Years of Business Unusual

How can business do good things and make a profit without losing its soul? Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard shares his philosophies for doing business in unconventional ways.

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Instructions to the Cook:

A Zen Master’s Lessons in Living a Life That Matters

How do we create a business and life that matters? Bernie Glassman, founder of Greyston Bakery and our 2016 Social Innovator Award Winner, shares his recipe for nourishing spirit, learning, livelihood, social change, and community.

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Winnebagos on Wednesdays:

How Visionary Leadership Can Transform Higher Education

How can higher ed keep up with the demands for accountability, affordability, and access? Scott Cowen shares how extraordinary leaders are creating innovation and impact. Be sure to read the story about 2017 Social Innovator Award Winner, Michael Sorrell, who turned a college football field into a farm.

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I am Malala:

The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban

Malala Yousafzai, the youngest recipient of The Nobel Peace Prize, shares the story of how “one child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world.”

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Let Her Fly:

A Father’s Journey and the Fight for Equality

Malala’s father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, shares his own inspiring story of parenting and fighting for equality. As he shares, “Whenever anybody has asked me how Malala became who she is, I have often used the phrase. ‘Ask me not what I did but what I did not do. I did not clip her wings.'”

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Notorious RBG:

The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

As the authors say, “Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg never asked for fame—she has only tried to make the world a little better and a little freer.”

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Mindsets & Inspiration

The Intergalactic Design Guide:

Harnessing the Creative Potential of Social Design

In her beautiful new book, Cheryl Heller, our Senior Fellow in Social Innovation, shares how social design can help address our most pressing challenges, from poverty to climate change.

Be sure to check out the chapter on Babson alumnus and 2018 Social Innovator Award Winner, Jeffrey Brown ’86.

The Big Pivot:

Radically Practical Strategies for a Hotter, Scarcer, and More Open World

Looking for a good introductory book for business and sustainability? This book by Andrew Winston is recommended by Alex Davis, who has pushed Babson to develop sustainability across our campus and curriculum.

Be sure to check out Alex’s longtime favorite, Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things by Michael Braungart and William McDonough.

The Responsible Entrepreneur:

Four Game-Changing Archetypes for Founders, Leaders, and Impact Investors

In this book, Carol Sanford, our prolific Senior Fellow in Social Innovation, shares how entrepreneurs can build a powerful platform for leveraging change—and even change the foundations that create our most pressing problems and issues.


This manifesto-style book by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson will make you rethink how you work.

What to Do When It’s Your Turn

(and It’s Always Your Turn)

This book by Seth Godin often gets prominently displayed on people’s bookshelves. The title itself is a good reminder to dig deep and do something that matters. Always.

Think Like a Freak

In their Freakonomics follow-up book, authors Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner offer a new way of reframing and solving problems.

Radical Candor:

Be a Kick-Ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity

Relationships are essential to any changemaker. Kim Scott has a radical but simple idea for leaders: Care Personally and Challenge Directly.

The Creative Habit:

Learn It and Use It for Life

The entrepreneurial process is the creative process. Twyla Tharp shares how to exercise your creative habit.