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Our Bookshelf

These are a few of the books that we are either currently reading or that we pull off our bookshelf again and again. While each book is linked to Amazon, we suggest you first check with your local, independent bookstore, as most if not all of these titles should be available for order.

Check back often to see new listings, and be sure to recommend your classics to us.

  • Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back
    by Andrew Zolli, Ann Marie Healy

    This is a complimentary book to any you might be reading on complexity and systems work.  This is an important and interesting read.  The authors compare natural and human systems discovering some important insights into how we can modify our human understanding of growth and resilience to cause less distruction and heart ache in our world.  The authors also speak about Translational Leadership.  I like this!  I think it is our work to translate the changes born of a new paradigm. 

  • Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think
    by Peter H. Diamandis, Steven Kotler

    "Abundance provides proof that the proper combination of technology, people and capital can meet any grand challenge" Sir Richard Branson.  This book pulls together so many things that are often invisable to a crumbling paradigm.  An emerging paradigm is surely coming about. 

  • How the Hippies Saved Physics: Science, Counterculture, and the Quantum Revival
    by David Kaiser

    Tags: history, culture, paradigm shifts, science

    This is not a great book, but it is fun! I found it valuable because it took me back to the formation of The Learning Exchange, and later when I met Matt and created MG Taylor Corporation.  Good ideas are born out of chaos and change. The 70's were that! Ideas were forming and mixing. Hierarchies were breaking down and various disciplines were finding each other and struggling to find ideas in common.  One paradigm was closing, another opening.  It was a fecund time of exploration and renewal.  I did not know many of the characters in the book, but I knew about them. They were part of the conversations Matt and I had with many others. 

  • Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn
    by Cathy N. Davidson

    Now You See It

    Tags: Timely, Education

    I am only a few chapters into this book and have already gained insight and renewed courage to speak up about the educational process we should be birthing and giving life to, rather than using energy to fight to keep the same system (even for good teachers) in place. 

    A good companion book is Reality is Broken, by Jane McGonigal


  • Reality Is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World
    by Jane McGonigal

    Tags: Timely, Education

    Many of my assumptions about gaming were shattered as I read Jane's book.  I have gained tremendous respect for games, especially those being developed for the greater good.  McGonigal has done tremendous research and embeds this research in each chapter in ways that facilitated me coming to understand the great possibilities for many thousands, perhaps millions of us working together to solve wicked problems. 

    As a syntopical reading exercise, read this book with Now You See It and What Technology Wants

  • What Technology Wants
    by Kevin Kelly

    Tags: Perturbing

    Since Out of Control by Kelly is one of my all time favorites I knew I would like this new one. While just beginning, it promises to be a great, perturbing read.  I don't know yet how much of the book I will agree with, but I know I will not be the same person once I have finished the book.  By the way, I am reading this on my iPhone! Yes, I thought it would be rediculous to read so long a book in my tiny little iPhone space. Not so. I read fast and keep my concentration more! -GT

  • The Mind: Leading Scientists Explore the Brain, Memory, Personality, and Happiness
    by John Brockman

    Tags: Renewing, Synthesis

    Brockman seeks out authors who are reshaping how we think about our minds.  His contributers help us reframe the nature of being human and give us new (or very old) clues to how the mind functions.  Throughout the book, we are reminded that it is not the bad apples who spoil everything. Rather it is the bad barrels that corrupt good people.  Change the game and the way we see and organize, and the entire world can change. 

  • Culture: Leading Scientists Explore Societies, Art, Power, and Technology
    by John Brockman

    Tags: Renewing, Synthesis

    Here is another composite book by John Brockman.  Cultures, like fish in water, are often invisible to us. It is difficult to know.  The contributers in this book offer insights and a way to feel, absorb, and step out of time and place to come to know our human natures more directly. 

  • The Beginning of Infinity: Explanations That Transform the World
    by David Deutsch

    Tags: Timeless

    The lead in to his first chapter, The Reach of Explanations, tells the story of the book: Behind it all is surely an idea so simple, that when we grasp it -- in a decade, a century, or a millennium -- we will all say to each other, how could it have been otherwise? John Archibald Wheeler, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences (1986)

  • Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation
    by Steven Johnson

    Tags: Delicious, timeless

    I read this just before embarking on What Does Technology Want.  They are great to read together, especially on iPhone!  I was not disappointed in this book. I think Johnson is indeed pointing out where good ideas come from...  And, I have to say, I am happy to acknowledge that DesignShops and PatchWorks are good proof of this.  Environment, adjacent possibilites, fluid networks, hunches bumping into other hunches ... yes, that is the systematic discovery of new options. -GT

  • Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art
    by Stephen Nachmanovitch

    Tags: Delicious, Syntopical

    "There is an old Sanskrit word, lila, which means play. Richer than our word, it means divine play, the play of creation, destruction, and re-creation, the folding and the unfolding of the cosmos. Lila, free and deep, is both the delight and enjoyment of this moment, and the play of God. It also means love. Lila may be the simplest thing there is - spontaneous, childish, disarming."

    And so the story begins and I follow with great pleasure... I finished the book today, reluctantly. It is one of those delicious books that does not want to be finished but savored page by page. I call this kind of book a gift to all humanity.

    Free Play remains one of my most loved books.  Yesterday I down loaded it to my iPhone so I could just have it near me.  I can open it anywhere and find gold.  Thank you Stephen for this wonderful inspiring book! - GT

  • Resilience Thinking: Sustaining Ecosystems and People in a Changing World
    by Brian Walker PhD, David Salt

    Tags: Resourceful, Wayfinding

    The more I come to learn about resilience, the more essential and guiding a quality it becomes to my design thinking. This is the  first book I've read that is "about" resilience in eco and social systems. I can't imagine a better first book. -TJ

  • Panarchy: Understanding Transformations in Human and Natural Systems
    Island Press

    Tags: Research, Systems

    Edited by Lance H. Gunderson and C. S. Holling.

    It will take me a long time to get through 500 pages of this book but it is well written for both scientific and lay readers. The authors are questing for a new theory of adaptive change. They believe previous theories which they call 1) Nature flat 2) Nature balanced 3) Nature Anarchic, and 4) Nature resilient all have some validity but each is incomplete and thus destructive to our stewardship of both human and natural ecosystems. The authors go on a heuristic search to find and document a 5th theory called Nature evolving. With this theory they are encouraging innovation opportunity for people to learn and prosper, one that incorporates responsibility to maintain and restore the diversity of nature, and that is based on a just and civil society.

    From the back cover: "Resilience, timing, adaptation -- these are the three pillars upon which the emergent properties of interacting systems rest. When the systems are the economy and the environment, understanding of the relationships amonng these concepts is crucial. This volume does a better job of explaining how to manage both money and nature to ensure humanity's long-term future than any other work I know of. Read and reflect." John L Casti, Santa Fe Institute

  • The Invention of Air: A Story Of Science, Faith, Revolution, And The Birth Of America
    by Steven Johnson

    Tags: Historical, Timely, Synthesis

    Gail comments: "Timely, fun, important to my thinking about paradigm formation."

    I read this book several years ago and I find myself coming back to and learning from Johnson's stories again and again.


  • Gaviotas: A Village to Reinvent the World
    by Alan Weisman

    Tags: Delicious, Community, Timeless

    This is a most vital, interesting, and useful book about community design. Don't miss reading this classic. The book is basic about community in all of its complexity, beauty and simplicity... and yet so rare in reality!

  • Out of Control: The New Biology of Machines, Social Systems, & the Economic World
    by Kevin Kelly

    Tags: Delicious, Classic, Gateway, Storytelling

    This book is a classic. Kelly is a great story teller and these stories are about systems... The author leads us deep into the heart of complexity, systems, emergence and the new rules for understanding control in a complex, dynamic world.

    It is available for free online as well as for purchase at Amazon.

    With permission of the author, we've published chapter 4 and chapter 20 within our website. These are a couple of chapters we cite frequently in our work. You'll find links to these chapters scattered throughout our Journal pages.

  • Ecotopia
    by Ernest Callenbach

    Tags: Historical Fiction, Scenario

    "None of the happy conditions in Ecotopia are beyond our technical or resource reach of our society" claimed Ralph Nader with a quote on the jacket cover.  And now, years later, the conditions are ripe and we have made many strides forward in our abilities to be Ecotopia. Perhaps, we should begin the revolution. 


  • The Science of Synthesis: Exploring the Social Implications of General Systems Theory
    by Deborah Hammond

    The Science of Synthesis explores the development of general systems theory and the individuals who gathered together around that idea to form the Society for General Systems Research. In examining the life and work of the SGSR's five founding members – Ludwig von Bertalanffy, Kenneth Boulding, Ralph Gerard, James Grier Miller, and Anatol Rapoport – Hammond traces the emergence of systems ideas across a broad range of disciplines in the mid-twentieth century.

  • Leaping The Abyss: Putting Group Genius To Work
    by Chris Peterson

    A fascinating, easy to read account of the design and facilitation methodology invented by Matt and Gail Taylor (of Tomorrow Makers) and the organization they founded, MG Taylor Corporation. Their system has enabled organizations of all sizes and kinds to solve complex problems and reach a level of sustained breakthrough thinking in a fraction of the time and with far greater results than are possible by other forms of strategic planning, problem solving, or group process.

    Though the "state of the art" in the company's methods has progressed significantly since this book was published, the numerous interviews with Matt and Gail as well as clients, workshop participants, and knowledge workers offer a great introduction to the essence of MG Taylor's way of working.

    Leaping The Abyss is available for free online at the author's website, as well as at Amazon.

  • Zoom (Viking Kestrel picture books)
    by Istvan Banyai

    Tags: Vantage Points, Design, Storytelling, Timeless

    Zoom out and in... Nothing is as it seems. Enjoy this book. I have often used it with participants in a workshop or event to reveal context and vantage points.

  • Lighting the Seventh Fire: The Spiritual Ways, Healing, and Science of the Native American
    by F. David Peat

    This is a most interesting book to me as it maps the Native American knowing with the emerging uderstanding of complex systems and quantum physics.  Peat helps us see the many similarities.  To the native culture, however, there was no word for 'knowledge' ... no final resting place for the experts. Rather, this culture thought in the sense of always coming to knowing . -GT

  • The Timeless Way of Building
    by Christopher Alexander

    A fabulous book of design principles applicable far beyond the fields of architecture and building. Explores design as an "age-old process by which the people of a society have always pulled the order of their world and their own being." This is the first of a 3 volume series that includes A Pattern Language and The Oregon Experiment. -TJ

  • Unfolding Meaning
    by David Bohm

    David Bohm's writings have influenced me greatly. The idea of ideas unfolding and enfolding back on each other, always remembering and attracting a higher order. Bohm reminds of that the power of dialog, play, and imagination (as distinct from imaginary) forms how we think and how we shape our internal/external worlds.

  • Mind and Nature: A Necessary Unity (Advances in Systems Theory, Complexity, and the Human Sciences)
    by Gregory Bateson

    "Information is the difference that makes a difference." This is the first idea of Bateson's that I encountered, when I first started working with MG Taylor. It wasn't for around five years before I made a concerted effort to read any of his published work. My  relationship with Bateson is similar to my relationship with Bucky Fuller. I learned of them, and had my first many impressions of their ideas made primarily through oral and written stories told to me by mentors and colleagues, most of whom were students or colleagues of Bateson or Bucky. Sometimes I wonder at myself for waiting so long to engage in Bateson's work. If there is an advantage in coming to the source after so long, it is that I had developed - through experience -  a deep appreciation for the practical implications and applications of his ideas.

    Between Mind and Nature (Mind) and Steps to an Ecology of Mind (Steps), I found Mind considerably more accessible. Or, I more accessible to it. Let's say my relationship to Mind was more deeply felt. I had, I believe, a glimmer of grocking. -TJ

  • The Idea Factory: Learning to Think at MIT
    by Pepper White

    What makes this book interesting is the author's trying to understand what a model was. His professors would talk about various models but he did not understand the meaning of model until a mid-semester course where the challenge was to create a real model ... a race car as I remember.  This was project based learning and it was here when he created his project that he not only came to understand models but how to learn! And why are we so insistent on learning theory without practice?  Go figure.  Actually, I think MIT has changed dramatically since this book was published. I thing they have become very project based.