the trace journal

stories of sustainability, changemaking and collective power, through the lens of the fashion industry

10 Books To Change The World

You may have noticed that we have been sharing many things that inspire us in our social media accounts, and sometimes these things have been books. But books surely deserve a separate whole post – one of several to come in the future. Even at a time when things have got extraordinarily busy, we at trace collective spend so much time with our noses inside a book. They inspire us, teach us things about this extraordinary planet, make us travel without moving, help us become more compassionate and tolerant and unleash our creativity. So, we wanted to put down a brief list of books to change the world, one page at a time. If you’re looking for some inspiration, keep reading! 



1. Half the sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide, by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn


This book changed the life of one of our founders, many years ago, and in this serendipitous life, ultimately led to trace collective being born.

Maybe that is enough to spark your curiosity?

If you need a bit more to be convinced, maybe know that Kristof and WuDunn are a Putlizer award winning couple, and that this book sparked a whole international movement around women’s rights. As put bluntly in their words:

“more girls have been killed in the last fifty years, precisely because they were girls, than men were killed in all the wars of the twentieth century. More girls are killed in this routine “gendercide” in any one decade than people were slaughtered in all the genocides of the twentieth century.” 

Learning the whys behind these structural inequalities helps us understand the hows of finding systemic solutions. We won’t sugar coat it; you will cry getting through this book. But it’s also full of inspiration and a promise message of change. Behind it – the hidden stories of so many social entrepreneurs who decided to shake the status quo.


Favourite quote: 

“Women aren't the problem but the solution. The plight of girls is no more a tragedy than an opportunity.” 



2. Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World, by Adam Grant


How are great ideas pushed into the world? How does radical change happen?

Adam Grant look at innovation as a whole, zooming in both “Original” individuals who changed the world with their inventions, and on the market and psychological aspects that move people to identify and get behind original ideas. A must read if you’re interested in innovation, it debunks so many myths about how innovation happens and it’s full of fresh ideas and viewpoints.


Favourite quote:

“The greatest shapers don’t stop at introducing originality into the world. They create cultures that unleash originality in others.”



3. Sex at dawn: How we Mate, Why We Stray, and What it Means for Modern Relationships, by Cacilda Jethá and Christopher Ryan


Unconventional, yes –that’s one of the most important reasons why you need to read it. There’s little debate about how new technologies have pushed us to live in an echo chamber, where thanks to web algorithms the only information that surrounds us is that which already fits our views.

Sadly this is one of the best ingredients for a radicalised society. All this to say – NO, THIS BOOK IS NOT ABOUT POLITICS. But it will shake the foundations of so many things that you grew up believing, throwing at you hard scientific facts. If anything, it shows how valid a different way of looking at relationships is – and we think that can be applied to pretty much any topic we think to have the single truth on. We recommend this book because not only it made us more open minded, but because we did not want to read it and it turned out into a lesson about listening to the other.


Favourite quote:

“One wonders, in fact, why marriage is a legal issue at all - apart from its relevance to immigration and property laws. Why would something so integral to human nature require such vigilant legal protection?” 



4. How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas, by David Bornstein


To write what has become the 101 introduction to social entrepreneurship, David Bornstein travels the world interviewing 12 incredible humans who started organizations with the sole focus of solving a social problem, and ended up radically shaking up the systems that perpetuated those issues. Inspirational and educational at equal parts, it’s such an easy read – just go for it.


Favourite quote:

“An idea is like a play. It needs a good producer and a good promoter even if it is a masterpiece. Otherwise the play may never open; or it may open but, for a lack of an audience, close after a week. Similarly, an idea will not move from the fringes to the mainstream simply because it is good; it must be skilfully marketed before it will actually shift people's perceptions and behaviour.” 



5. Do Design: Why Beauty is Key to Everything, by Alan Moore

We multi-task, switch between screens, work faster.

When was the last time you paused to consider a beautifully-made object or stunning natural landscape? Yet this is when our spirits lift and our soul is restored. Some say beauty is a luxury. But what if it is key to creating a better world for us all?

We just read this book recently and we felt in love with it immediately.

This book will inspire you to create better things for better reasons. Things that people will love – for a long time to come.


Favourite quote:


“We” is how we create narrative, culture, context and meaning – it’s the glue that binds us. Strip a community or a business of the means to create We, and we all suffer as a result."




6. Incredible! Plant Veg, Grow a Revolution, by Joanna Dobson and Pamela Warhurst


Similarly to our selection number 8 below, this is about how to start a movement, in the simplest and most beautiful of ways. Turning green / abandoned spaces in cities and villages into fruit and vegetable gardens? And having all in the community being able to access that food? We’re in.

When we close our eyes, this is how we see the cities of the future. But as you may guess, this story is not just about food. The quote below is a sneak peak to Pam’s vision, get the book to fall in love.


Favourite quote:

"Food and the growing of it would be the Trojan horse through which we would smuggle into people’s minds the idea that we need to behave differently if the earth is to survive and if everyone, everywhere is to live in an environment that they can enjoy."



7. How Women Rise: Break the 12 Habits Holding you Back, by Marshall Goldsmith and Sally Helgesen


If you are a woman you should read this. If you are man you MUST read this.

We had read many books from Marshall Goldsmith and found that actually while he was clearly brilliant and we found the content inspirational, not much of it resonated with us.

No, those were not really the bad habits holding us back, we thought quietly. Well, turns out all women were thinking the same, as Marshall discovered further on when working with women leaders. Teaming up with Sally Helgesen to write this book, the pages are full of gold about how gender shapes behaviours in the workplace, and how the behaviours that are most valued today tend to be more prominent in men – because surprise, most power positions are filled by men.

It’s no whinny rant though – a good reflection on structural challenges in the workplace but more than anything it is packed with tips to overcome this and, if you are man, to become a true ally and champion of women.


Favourite quote:

“women are most likely to be evaluated based on their contributions, while men are most likely to be evaluated based on their potential—nebulous criteria that can result in a less qualified man getting the job.” 


8. How to be a Craftivist: The Art of Gentle Protest, by Sarah Corbett

Sarah Corbett was one of our great inspirations for setting up the strategy behind our charity Trace Planet. Like Pam, she’s also an incredibly inspirational humans all round. Her organisation, Craftivist Collective, has made activism accessible to many in a beautiful way:

they are an inclusive group of people committed to using thoughtful, beautiful crafted works to help themselves and encourage others be the positive change they wish to see in the world.

In this book Sarah spells out all the secrets behind craftivism and shares so many bits and bobs of her story. Reading it will make you want to get started right now in your gentle activism journey.


Favourite quote:


“It’s easy to support a cause when there’s nothing on the line, but what if you actually had to sacrifice something in order to support the cause? That is what support means: to bear the weight of something.”


9. Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, by Cal Newport


This book is 50% scary and 50% inspirational and action oriented. Many people’s reviews would probably completely leave out the scary part and ask what we’re talking about. But we find it quite chilly to stop and think about the distracted world that we’ve come to live in, and our society’s increasing inability to do deep work. And we stand behind the authors’ point on the relevance of deep work – the greatest work only comes after uninterrupted periods of deep work. We won’t say more – just open it open and after 5 pages you’ll see what we mean.

The awesome thing is that this book will probably transform your working and life habits in a radical way, and that you will be able to make those changes pretty easily. 

Favourite quote:


“Clarity about what matters provides clarity about what does not.”


10. The immortal life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot


Our first painful realisation when reading this book was – how is it possible that we knew nothing about this. Which is probably the main reason why you must read it. Looking at a very painful part of the past in American history, this true story told beautiful touches on so many of the things that make us humane – fear of death, love and family, it’s full of wild science stories, and throws at us a sharp critique of many of the pains of American society today – from race to healthcare to poverty. You’ll probably finish it in 2 days.

Favourite quote:


“She's the most important person in the world and her family living in poverty. If our mother is so important to science, why can't we get health insurance?” 

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Oh and don’t forget!

Like with everything, our purchasing decisions around books do make a difference. We buy all our books second hand, usually in our local iconic #StokeNewington Church Street Bookstore on in any of the beautiful #BroadwayMarket second hand stores.

Do some research and wonder around to see if there’s any good local second hand bookstore that you can get too! There’s something really magical about wondering into a bookshop without knowing exactly what you will get, and finding there little gems that change you life. With second hand bookstores expectations change – you cannot just walk in and expect to find one specific book, as their stock changes magically almost daily.


If you want a more tailored option for second hand book shopping, abebooks.com is a great website – they deliver worldwide and after using them for years we couldn’t be happier!

And our third go to is to create a little book swap club. We’ve been part of some of those, if you’re in London you can check the one that Natalie Graze has created in London. 


We leave you with one of our Favourite quotes, which actually comes up in several of the books above – have an awesome week!


“Reasonable people adapt themselves to the world. Unreasonable people attempt to adapt the world to themselves. All progress, therefore, depends on unreasonable people. " G.B. Shaw

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