The ways we spend our time as of late have shifted for many. Perhaps you have more time to read as you shelter at home. Perhaps you want to learn more about why Habitat for Humanity exists. Perhaps you are looking for find stories that are challenging and inspiring.
Our “resident reader” and volunteer coordinator, Shana Lewis, compiled a list of recommended reading related to the issue of affordable housing. Some books shed light on Habitat’s work but each one will challenge you with a new story or perspective about the importance of a safe and affordable place to call home.
Check out the recommendations below and add your own in the comments!
“Three Houses: A Strategy We Can Build On” is the inside story of how Habitat for Humanity’s current strategic plan was developed and has unfolded to result in unprecedented numbers of people being served with innovative and affordable housing solutions.
Shana shares: You can’t have a Habitat reading list without including a book written by Habitat CEO Jonathan Reckford. This book is full of inspiring Habitat stories from all across the globe. It’s a great book to read if you’re looking for a message of hope in the midst of the current landscape.
In Evicted, Princeton sociologist and MacArthur “Genius” Matthew Desmond follows eight families in Milwaukee as they struggle to keep a roof over their heads. Evicted transforms our understanding of poverty and economic exploitation while providing fresh ideas for solving one of 21st-century America’s most devastating problems. Its unforgettable scenes of hope and loss remind us of the centrality of home, without which nothing else is possible.
Shana shares: Last winter, I had the pleasure of hearing Matthew Desmond speak about the country-wide crisis of eviction at an event we co-hosted. In Evicted, readers are given the chance to walk in another person’s shoes with each turn of the page. The more families you read about, the more you begin to understand the complexity of the eviction crisis in our nation.
Jonathan Reckford, the CEO of Habitat for Humanity, has seen time and again the powerful benefits that arise when people from all walks of life work together to help one another. In this uplifting audiobook, he shares true stories of people involved with Habitat as volunteers and future homeowners who embody seven timeless virtues—kindness, community, empowerment, joy, respect, generosity, and service—and shows how we can all practice these to improve the quality of our own lives as well as those around us.
Shana shares: Okay, I had to add another Jonathan Reckford book! This is another book filled with inspiring stories about Habitat homeowners all over the globe. Many times when we talk about the affordable housing crisis, it paints a very bleak picture. This book shines light on stories that show us what we can do when we come together for others.
The criss-crossing stories of Mark, a white devout Christian who sells his suburban home to move to Baltimore’s inner city, and Nicole, a black mother determined to leave West Baltimore for the suburbs, chronicle how the region became so deeply segregated and why these fault lines persist today. Mark and Nicole personify the enormous disparities in access to safe housing, educational opportunities, and decent jobs. As these characters pack up their lives and change places, Lanahan examines what it will take to save our cities and communities: Do we put money into poor, segregated neighborhoods? Move families out into areas with more opportunity?
This eye-opening account of how a city creates its black, white, rich, and poor spaces suggests these problems are not intractable; but they are destined to persist until each of us—despite living in separate worlds—understands we have something at stake.
Shana shares: This book has been on my list for awhile. I’m always drawn to books that share the issues through people’s experiences. Sometimes issues surrounding housing can be hard to wrap you mind around, but the human factor helps relate.
In recent years, the young, educated, and affluent have surged back into cities, reversing decades of suburban flight and urban decline. And yet all is not well, Richard Florida argues in The New Urban Crisis. Florida, one of the first scholars to anticipate this back-to-the-city movement in his groundbreaking The Rise of the Creative Class, demonstrates how the same forces that power the growth of the world’s superstar cities also generate their vexing challenges: gentrification, unaffordability, segregation, and inequality. Meanwhile, many more cities still stagnate, and middle-class neighborhoods everywhere are disappearing. Our winner-take-all cities are just one manifestation of a profound crisis in today’s urbanized knowledge economy.
Shana shares: This is a book I’ve been meaning to dive into. This is another book that discusses the issues of gentrification and the divide between upper- and lower-class neighborhoods. What really draws me to this book is the call to action that we can do something about this crisis.
What books, blog posts or podcasts would you add to the list? Share your recommendations in the comments below!