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5 Books Staff Are Reading for Nonprofit Work This Winter

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WRITTEN BY Carrie Woodward

Former U.S. President Harry S. Truman once famously said, “Not all readers are leaders, but all leaders are readers.” 

As part of a global staff at Food for the Hungry (FH), one of my favorite ways to connect with colleagues is by asking what they are reading. The answers of FH’s leaders not only tell me what I should pick up next, but give me insight into how FH is growing and developing as an organization. FH is full of thoughtful people engaging with big questions about how we can do our work well…for the sake of ending all forms of human poverty.

With that mission in mind, I asked several FH staff members what they are reading…and how that is impacting their work. Here are their answers!

A Very Good Gospel: How Everything Wrong Can Be Made RightLisa Sharon Harper

Suggested by Lauren Woodside de Alegre, Risk and Resilience Coordinator

What it’s about and why you should read it: Like many of FH’s staff members, Lauren was drawn to FH more than 13 years ago because she “longs to see all forms of poverty ended worldwide.” Yet responding to the call of serving vulnerable people often means experiencing heartbreaking realities. Lauren, who helps support FH’s emergency response team, shared, “We often come face to face with the evil and brokenness of this fallen world: injustice, hunger, inequality, corruption, abuse, and conflict.” 

A Very Good Gospel reminds us of the truth of God’s vision for all of us. Lauren describes it this way: “Lisa Sharon Harper shares a fuller perspective of how God’s Good News is not just for restoring our relationship to Him.” In fact, Jesus is transforming everything that is broken in this world! For someone who frequently encounters pain, sorrow, poverty, and destruction, Lauren says, “It has been an encouraging read, providing concrete examples of how we can align our ways of thinking and acting” to be part of this story. It can encourage us all to continue living out Christ’s call as leaders in caring for those in poverty.


Freedom of Simplicity – Richard J. Foster

Suggested by Tobias Mahiri, Director of International Finance 

What it’s about and why you should read it: According to Tobias Mahiri, Richard J. Foster’s Freedom of Simplicity is amazingly rich, and offers a compelling call. “Despite advancements in technology,” Tobias says, “the world is becoming more complex.” As a result, we are leading increasingly complex lives. At the same time, suffering in the world continues. Although the world has seen incredible advances in technology, medicine, and food production, people continue to suffer from hunger, illness, and poverty. And it’s in this context that Tobias finds a life of simplicity enticing. 

The book reminds us that “we are not in control of our lives.” In fact, it says that the key is understanding humans in the context of the created world. And “staying connected” to the source of all life — Jesus. “Only then,” Tobias says, “Will I be able to reflect on the many ills facing the world, and address them in my small way.”

As a leader in helping FH steward financial resources, this understanding is crucial. Good stewardship, Tobias says, comes with “being totally dependent upon God, since everything is from him and belongs to him.” After accepting this reality, Tobias and his colleagues at FH will be ready to live out the leadership of FH’s organizational value “We invest wisely and focus on results.” 


The Complete Enneagram: 27 Paths to Greater Self Knowledge Beatrice Chestnut

Suggested by Andrea Danz, Project Manager of Partnership Initiatives

What it’s about and why you should read it: Like many leaders, Andrea Danz says that she has often asked herself, “How can I achieve better results in my work? And how can I help others to do also?” When a close friend introduced her to the Enneagram personality test, Andrea learned a way to develop greater knowledge of herself. The Complete Enneagram is a book all about that. “It’s helped me to understand why I do the things I do,” she says. “By having this awareness about myself, I can change my own behaviors.”

As a result, Andrea has grown personally and professionally in her job as a project manager and leader. She is quick to say, “I’m still learning!” But with this book, she has started to take her learning to encourage others. As the Enneagram has been a useful tool for her, Andrea hopes that she can help others “discover that self-awareness for themselves as they grow to be leaders.” 


Nine Lies About Work: A Freethinking Leader’s Guide to the Real WorldMarcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall

Suggested by Michelle Chasse, Senior Manager of Learning and Talent Development

What it’s about and why you should read it: Nine Lies About Work is a recent addition to Michelle’s library, and it’s one she’s been reflecting on as part of her role on the Learning and Talent Development team. Marcus Buckingham and Ashley Goodall discuss research on workplace culture, leadership, and performance management. He then takes common assumptions about work, and in Michelle’s words, “Turns them on their head.” While delving into nine lies and the research on alternatives, Michelle says that the book includes many real-world examples and stories. These stories prepare the reader “to make the changes needed to grow as a leader.” 



A Collection of Children’s Books

Curated by Leena Hill, Deputy Director of International Operations

What they’re about and why you should read them: For all of the parents with young children, this is a suggestion for you! We all know that education is an essential part of FH’s work throughout the world. One way that FH supports education is by helping parents engage in learning activities with their babies and toddlers. So of course, as the mother of a new baby, Leena Hill knew how important it is to live this principle out and support her own child’s early learning.

According to Leena, “From day one, FH’s Senior Director of Program Quality and Design, Mitzi Hanold, reminded me of the importance of early child development and reading to my daughter even in infancy.” Because of that, Leena’s book suggestion came in the form of a whole collection! “I’m reading quite a few children’s books these days,” Leena says. With this in mind, Leena and her husband are trying to read as much as possible to their daughter Naomi. Here are some of their favorites!

When God Made You (A gift from FH staff!) – Matthew Paul Turner, illustrated by David Catrow

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom – Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault, illustrated by Lois Ehlert 

Farmer Joe and the Music Show – Tony Mitton, illustrated by Guy Parker-Rees

The Monster at the End of this Book – Jon Stone, illustrated by Michael Smollin

Finger puppet books like Baby Giraffe: Finger Puppet Book, illustrated by Yu-Hsuan Huang

And, Leena says, “We try to get through one story in the evening from the Gospel Story Bible” (Marty Machowski, illustrated by A. E. Macha). But as all parents of young children know, sometimes there’s a really small window for getting your child to sleep. In those situations, Leena says, they pull out Really Wooly Bible Stories (Bonnie Rickner Jensen) instead.

What are you reading?

Those are just a few of the book suggestions from staff at FH. Can you relate to some of the experiences shared above? Check out one of the books and see if it impacts your life too! 

And we would love to know what you’re reading! You can always share with us by tagging us in your social media posts! Or reach out to us via email or phone. We look forward to hearing which books you recommend!

More posts like this: 

10 Children’s Books to Help You Teach Empathy on International Children’s Day

5 Podcasts for Learning About Culture and the World

The Enneagram: This Is the Tool That Totally Transformed My Life in Community


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