Book Recommendations

books - og december 2013Books on display at OpenGrounds.

Recent additions to our library:

deathandlife           companyofthepoor

The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs

“In this bombshell of a book, Jane Jacobs challenges the reigning urban planning orthodoxy prevalent throughout the US until the 1960s. Her pointed, witty, and eloquent observations of city street life highlight certain physical characteristics necessary to support economic diversity and vitality. The book stresses the importance of systems web thinking (Jacobs’ “habits of thought”) to understand the complexity, connectivity, and ever-evolving processes present in our world, and urges its readers to emulate Jacobs’ form of observation and thinking when designing for cities.” –Erin Austin

In the Company of the Poor: Conversations with Dr. Paul Farmer and Fr. Gustavo Gutierrez, edited by Michael Griffin and Jennie Weiss Block

“Farmer, a physician and founder of Partners in Health, and Gutierrez, a Peruvian priest who is celebrated for his contributions to liberation theology, discuss “the option for the poor” and their commitment to social justice. This book offers compelling insights into the lives of two very different men who have dedicated their lives to fighting the “structural evils” of poverty. Even readers who reject the book’s explicitly theological underpinnings can find inspiration and direction in Farmer and Gutierrez’s uncommon dedication to the global poor.” –Emma DiNapoli

acoustic         worldisflat

Acoustic Communication, Barry Truax

“This book taught me that sounds change physically as they travel through spaces, while they reciprocally shape and are shaped by webs of relationships between people and things across socio-cultural contexts.”-Erik Deluca 

The World is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century, Thomas Friedman

“A great introduction to the interconnectedness of our civilizations, and the long range and long term impacts globalization has upon us, as a nation and a global society.” –Jon Bellona


The World Without Us, Alan Weisman

“What would happen if all humans were gone tomorrow?  This is a fascinating read about just how quickly nature would take over, and resonates with Rae and Gwen’s project, The Infrastructural Wild.” –Jon Bellona


Speakers at OpenGround’s Opening event recommend their favorite reads:


The Penguin Anthology of 20th Century American Poetry, Rita Dove (editor)

“This book collects many of the most significant poems that accompanied America through the last century, interpolated with the times in which they were forged and upon which they exerted their spirit. After the first decade of the twenty-first century has afforded us some distance, this is the proper moment to look back.” –Rita Dove

Where Good Ideas Come From, Steve Johnson

“A careful and through analysis of the sources of transformational innovation, this book reveals the processes, partnerships, and platforms for the generation of new knowledge. This book is essential reading for those who are interested in the future of the university as an engine of cultural production” –Bill Sherman


Going Blue: A Teen Guide to Saving Our Oceans, Lakes, Rivers, & Wetlands, Cathryn Berger Kaye, w/ Philippe Cousteau

“Water is the most important substance on Earth and the most threatened– by climate change, trash, and pollution. Young people are answering the call to help our environment by being green and to rescue our oceans and waterways by going blue.” –Philippe Cousteau

The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain

“Our culture, which increasingly emphasizes group work, creativity, and brainstorming, seems geared towards extroverts. However, many of the most creative people are introverts, and this is partly because of their capacity for quiet. This book will help you find balance.” –Chic Thompson


Founders at Work, Jessica Livingston

“A collection of inspirational interviews of web entrepreneurs that should highlight the boundless possibilities of the startup world.” –Jaffray Woodriff

How We Decide,  Jonah Lehrer

“Jonah is a neuroscientist with the perspective of a behavioral economist, a Rhodes scholar, and a writer for the New Yorker. His insightful and clear explanations for the sometimes irrational behavior or otherwise brilliant people as well as why some groups work well together and others don’t is critical for overcoming the barriers to collaboration.” –John Abele


Let’s See, Peter Schjeldahl

“Observations on art and connection of ideas across boundaries from a great prose artist. Exemplifies the admirable practice of seeing new things with fresh eyes and an open mind.” –Tom Skalak

Artscience, David Edwards

“This book is about a remarkable kind of catalyst that sparks the passion, curiosity, and freedom to pursue – and to realize – challenging ideas in culture, history, society, and research.” –David Edwards

UVA students and faculty recommended the following books:


The Universal Sense: How Hearing Shapes the Mind by, Seth S. Horowitz.

“This book provides interesting and plausible explanations to the most prevalent sense on the planet; hearing. The remarkable thoughts and incredible information make it a wonderful read.” –Murali Varadaraj

Community: The Structure of Belonging, Peter Block

“The approaches described in Block’s book can initiate profound results whether in one to one conversation or within a broader defenition of community- one that encompasses organizations, businesses and cities.” – recommended by John Alexander


Take Time for Paradise, Bart Giamatti

“I highly recommend this book for its unique way of looking at possible challenges in the future. It does so through the prisms of the collective experience of the crowd at live sporting events.” – Tom Skalak

Thinking in Systems, Donella H. Meadows

“We are living in a paradigm shift, moving away from a mental model of the world as a predictable machine to an understanding of the world as a complex system with many interrelated variables and no predictable outcomes. This new mode of thinking puts an emphasis on creativity, pattern recognition, and non-linear thinking. OpenGrounds programs and partnerships support the development of this new mindset at UVA.” – Bill Sherman

What book would you recommend?


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