Ode to Friends Who Can Write BOOKS. Check these out.

All of a sudden, 83% of the people I know and respect in the world decided to sit down and write a book this year.


Having tried my own hand at this writing craft, I’m in awe. At the urging of former Dean campaign colleague Zephyr Teachout, I penned a chapter for the recently published Mousepads, Shoe Leather, and Hope: Lessons from the Howard Dean Campaign for the Future of Internet Politics. This was among the more grueling and painful experiences of my professional career (albeit ultimately rewarding), and I hope never to have to write anything as long as this ever again (i.e. a book).So all of you real writer-people are deserving of a huge nod (or at least a link) —


First on the list: former Dean campaign colleague, friend, and fellow EchoDitto co-founder Garrett Graff released last month what seems to be quickly becoming the authoritative modern history of internet politics (i think there are some visions for the future too, but i haven’t read the second part yet): The First Campaign: Globalization, the Web, and the Race for the White House. Check out this slick review he scored in the NYT just the other week — congrats! Likely the first of many books to be expected from “the astonishingly young Mr. Graff.”


Another friend and internet mogul (where mogul = smart internet-consultant colleague and middle school classmate) Brian Reich released almost simultaneously with Garrett a book that guides business leaders and social enterprises through their use of new media. I can attest that a ton of research went into this book in the form of in-depth interviews with more than 35 business leaders who are exploring and pioneering on this landscape; not to mention a great deal of well qualified personal experience: Media Rules!: Mastering Today’s Technology to Connect with and Keep Your Audience


Bill McKibben has been a friend, mentor, and fellow campaigner for many years now. He’s actually a professional writer, so he’s the last person on this list to potentially benefit from any additional blogospheric mentions. But I want to recommend the book here anyway because Bill is an incredible story-teller (i.e. easy to read) and writes more eloquently in this book about the virtues of Local than anyone else I’ve encountered on the subject: Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future. From local food systems to energy systems to social capital, Bill ties it all together. I’m also thinking that this book had something to do with “locavore” making Oxford’s Word of The Year. It’s a great read — esp the acknowledgments page, because that’s where I get an unexpected shout-out.


On a related note, I’ve become a huge fan of the work of the Step it Up gang — an impressive band of recent Middlebury College grads who decided that waiting around for the political winds to change in Washington wasn’t a good way to invest their bottled up energy. So they rented a house in Burlington, VT (not far from former Dean campaign HQ) and got to work tapping the web to organize thousands of local grassroots volunteers all over the country. The outcome was hundreds upon hundreds of political rallies in towns across the country in April and again in November. Both days of action had a tremendous impact both on Congress and on the climate movement at large. And then, because they somehow weren’t tired after a year of 15-hour days, they worked with McKibben to write down all that they learned and heard and published it as a simple guide for local organizers: Fight Global Warming Now: The Handbook for Taking Action in Your Community. Keep an eye on these guys as well — they’re helping to change the way we think about organizations and political advocacy (here’s a short interview that I did on this), and it’s been a privilege to work alongside of this incredible team.


If you couldn’t tell from the previous two books, there’s plenty coming out of my alma matter these days. One of my former professors and fellow climate campaigner Jon Isham just completed a wonderful and long-overdue modern handbook for climate activists and leaders everywhere: Ignition: What You Can Do to Fight Global Warming and Spark a Movement. It has essays from some of the best, including McKibben, Gus Speth, and Jared Duval. Given the great deal of thought and legwork that went into making this book come together, I hope it’s ready by anyone doing any work at all to fight climate change. To crib from Island Press: “Combining incisive essays with success stories and web resources, the book helps readers answer the most important question we all face: “What can I do?”


Finally, I’m in the middle of reading Nordhaus and Shellenberger’s new book, Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility. It’s their first book since their controversial but excellent essay of several years ago, “Death of Environmentalism.” Of all the books I just listed, this one is easily the most dense with new thinking and most likely to make me rethink our entire approach to social change. It’s positioned as the new What’s the Matter with Kansas or Lakoff’s Don’t Think of an Elephant, and I can see why, given Michael and Ted’s backgrounds not only as wicked-smart academics and pollsters but also as “environmentalists.” They do a pretty solid Q and A with Amazon page that’s worth checking out. And it seems to be selling like hotcakes, which is great news. Congrats, guys.

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