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THE BLOG

What Are You Reading?

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Whenever I interview someone - or am being briefed by a client for whom I'm writing a speech - I always ask, "What are you reading?" It helps to know the kinds of things they're interested in, whom they admire, and the ideas that have helped shape their thinking.

Recently, I spoke with Sean Stannard-Stockton. He's director of tactical philanthropy at Ensemble Capital Management, a wealth management firm that serves philanthropists. He writes the must-read blog, Tactical Philanthropy [http://tacticalphilanthropy.com/], as well as the Financial Times column On Philanthropy -- the only regularly published philanthropy opinion column appearing in a major daily newspaper.

At 32, he's also a Next New Radical (that is, someone who wants their first career to be about doing good - for more about the New Radicals, please see archived articles). I'll write more about Sean later this spring, but I want to share what he said when I asked him if he reads anything more than blogs.

"If you want to understand philanthropy in the 21st century, reading blogs isn't enough," he said. "You also need to explore books that give deep treatment to important subjects. And because philanthropy is a multi-disciplinary field, you need to read broadly."

I asked him which books most effected his thinking about philanthropy, he was able to rhyme off a substantial - and fascinatingly varied - list. In fact, he's collected what he's reading and included them on his Tactical Philanthropy site. Here are some of his top picks:

Uncharitable: How Restraints on Nonprofits Undermine Their Potential (Civil Society: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives), by Dan Pallotta. "Dan offers a series of thought provoking arguments for why the social sector should adopt practices of the for-profit sector. At its core, Uncharitable is a rejection of a mindset that connects sacrifice with charity."

Money Well Spent: A Strategic Guide to Smart Philanthropy, by Paul Brest and Hal Harvey. "Paul is the head of the Hewlett Foundation and does an excellent job in this book of explaining what strategic philanthropy means and how to practice it."

Philanthrocapitalism: How The Rich Can Help Save the World, by Matthew Bishop and Michael Green. "Philanthrocapitalism was the biggest philanthropic buzzword of 2008... and the least understood. Many, many people have expressed an opinion on the subject or labeled certain philanthropists 'philanthrocapitalists' without actually understanding the concept. If you want to understand this important idea: read the book!"

Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge, by Edward O. Wilson. "Wilson is a socio-biologist who understands that knowledge is not discreet units that can be separated by discipline. In Consilience, he puts forth a theory of knowledge that respects the interrelated nature of all knowledge. Embracing the concept of Consilience is critical in an interdisciplinary field such as philanthropy."

Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, by Seth Godin, "Seth Godin understands how ideas spread, which to my way of thinking is a critical element of successful philanthropy. In Tribes, Seth explains how people are redefining the 'tribes' they belong to and how people who want to spread ideas can learn to lead a tribe."

A Kids Guide to Giving, by Freddi Zeiler. "Most philanthropy books are geared towards adults and are often academic. In A Kids Guide to Giving the teenage author shows children and teens just how much fun philanthropy can be. A great book for any kid who wants to make a difference."

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, by Malcolm Gladwell. "I believe, like many other people, that philanthropy needs to be more data driven and focus on funding what works. But in Blink, Gladwell shows how powerfully effective intuition can be. Without rejecting logical analysis, Gladwell offers an opening for taking action without needing explicit proof for everything."

There are lots more great suggestions on Sean's site.

Full disclosure. Sean includes my book, We Are The New Radicals: A Manifesto for Reinventing Yourself and Saving the World, on his list. In his words, here's why, "This book lays out how baby boomers are reinventing their lives to reconnect with their social-changing past. Understanding the Baby Boomer demographic is key to understanding the changing face of philanthropy. The New Radicals shows why the Baby Boomers are positioned to reinvent the social sector."

So, dear HuffPo-maniacs (hey, has anyone coined a term to describe this online tribe?), what are you reading? Please share your favorite world-changing books with us by commenting below. Or feel free to email me directly at julia@wearethenewradicals.com.

Julia Moulden writes speeches for North America's most visionary leaders, and kayaks as often as possible on Georgian Bay.