Ok so full disclosure, I haven't actually read more than these 5 books on community-building. If this list looks incomplete, it certainly is. This article was published in January 2022; instead of making updates to this post, I’ll release new editions when y’all give me good recs. 💯
Let’s jump in! Please add to my list! Already got some amazing new recs for 2022.
Level-up your community skills - get these guides delivered straight to your inbox!
5 books on community building you should read in 2022
- The Power of Moments by the Heath Brothers. The Power of Moments is essentially a how-to guide on making magic happen. Event alchemy. Party sorcery. Whatever you want to call it. (And I call myself a party sorceress, so.) It’s not exactly about community building, but the book talks about how to create moments that matter and that people remember. When you look back on your life, you can probably identify a few pivotal moments. Your wedding, maybe? Learning about recycling when you were 7 through an interactive project? A concert? The bottom line is, these moments are created. Most of the time, magical moments (or memorable moments, whatever you want to call them) don’t just fall from the sky. Sometimes it’s pure luck, but if we can design experiences that can change lives for the best, we absolutely should. And as community builders, our job is to weave networks and nurture belonging, so we can do our best to sprinkle our handiwork with some powerful moments. I LOVE THIS BOOK!! Find it at an independent bookstore here.
- The Next American Revolution by Grace Lee Boggs I can guarantee you that this is never on the annual list of “best community books of XXXX”. Why? Because it has NOTHING to do with business and everything to do with actually building community. Whether you like it or not, we’re in the middle of (as Boggs calls it) “The Great Turning”. She says, “We need to recognize that we are coming to the end of ten thousand years of agricultural and industrial society, both of which are patriarchal." It’s a big moment! Boggs died at the age of 100 in 2015, so she wasn’t even around to see the end of society that we’re going through with COVID. If you’re not a social justice-focused community builder (let’s say you’re managing a community for people who love hand cream), you might think this has nothing to do with you. But when you signed up to build community, you’ve signed up to reach people where they are. Everyone’s lives are impacted by The Great Turning. We’re seeing it in so many ways (the Great Resignation, NFT fanatics, gig workers trikes, the #MeToo movement, climate breakdown, just to name a few). Your hand cream ingredients might be disrupted by COVID supply chain failures. Or maybe they contain palm oil, which heavily contributes to deforestation. Your members care about this stuff. It’s the fabric that weaves through all our daily tasks, so you have two choices: ignore it, or do something about it. When the world is falling apart, community is the only thing holding us together, and no one knows this better than Grace Lee Boggs. She was heavily involved in the Civil Rights movement in America, and she also wrote this book when she was almost 100 years old! It’s an incredible perspective on “real” community-building that shows us why we should struggle for a better future and how optimistic that struggle can look.
- Building Brand Communities by Carrie Melissa Jones & Charles H. Vogl Ok ok back to familiar territory 😜. So far, I’ve attended workshops by Carrie, engaged with her tweets, and read her book — everything she touches seems to make me a better community builder. If you’re looking for a primer on building communities around your brand without being extractive, this is the read for you. I recommend this as a starting point — this book basically covers the journey of building and maintaining a brand community, so of course it’s not in-depth reading on any specific category. Get it here.
- The Art of Gathering by Priya Parker Since this is basically the #1 book I get recommended on community-related stuff, I’m not going to convince you. But I will say that if you’ve been procrastinating reading your copy, I found the first part to be the most important — essentially, the part where Parker says “your purpose is your bouncer” and talks about defining a clear purpose for any event. Rent it from your library next time you go.
- The Business of Belonging by David Spinks I see this as a textbook for community building in the professional world. David, who co-founded CMX, expands on the SPACES model, which is a framework for defining your community’s business value. (CMX is basically where all the cool kids hang out, so if you’re not in their Slack group and you work in the community biz, make sure to join!) Here’s a free article about the SPACES model for you to read and decide how high to put this book on your 2022 reading list. I can see myself referencing various parts of it as I progress as a professional community builder.
Huge shoutout to Christina, who runs community at Hubspot, for sending me this one.
As always, I want to hear from you! @ me on Twitter with what I missed and what should be on my list.