After our 20 Entrepreneurship Books to Read This Year and 10 Entrepreneurship Podcasts for 2022, it’s time to introduce our top picks on social entrepreneur books. The reading list here is divided by theme, from classics to books on redefining success and the urgency of thinking about climate change.

You’ll find stories of famous social entrepreneurs like Adam Braun, founder of Pencils of Promise and Sarah Frey, American farmer and entrepreneur. We added a bonus section on inspiring fiction to accompany you on summer days and winter nights as you grow your conscious business. Finally, we present the latest books on social entrepreneurship published in 2022.

General Books and Classics

These are the books to get you started with the basic concepts and how to bud in your impact-driven venture.

Building Social Business: The New Kind of Capitalism That Serves Humanity’s Most Pressing Needs by Muhammad Yunus

The 2006 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Muhammad Yunus, is responsible for defining and developing the term’ social business.’ In this classic, Yunus digs deeper into the meaning of social entrepreneurship and guides you to start an impactful self-sustained business. You read about practical ways to deal with social problems and learn why the free market has failed to address the most pressing human issues.

Getting Beyond Better: How Social Entrepreneurship Works by Roger L. Martin, Sally Osberg

Martin and Osberg shed light on the definition of social entrepreneurship and how it can drive change. By telling the story of real-life examples and rich personal stories, the book finds its way to inspire the minds of visionaries. He also answers the question of what revolutionary change truly is and how to develop and scale solutions for the modern world’s dilemmas.

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

The New York Times best seller explores the power of novel ideas in going against the grain. People tend to accept a decision without evaluating it. This phenomenon is called groupthink, which is a widespread problem. The author of Think Again and co-author of Option B offers answers on avoiding groupthink and dissects persistent myths in battling conformity. Grant also tells stories of today’s thinkers with startling originality, turning the book into a pleasant dinner conversation with the author.

Start Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie

On a visit to Argentina, Blake Mycoskie witnessed how students go to school without shoes. This observation inspired Blake to start a sustainable for-profit business that does not rely on donations. In this book, he talks extensively about getting the fear in check by identifying it and dealing with it. Indeed, uncertainty is everywhere, but it should not let you back. Therefore, keeping things simple is offered as a tip to success. Mycoskie also discusses the importance of a team and expanding your network. He believes a good company has a sense of humour about its mistakes. Finally, the founder of TOMS tells us how storytelling makes a difference in marketing a product.

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

Called by the New York Times ’A bible in [the] field’ of social entrepreneurship, this book weaves personal stories with anecdotes and analysis to form a compelling picture of the power of social initiatives. Each chapter tells the story of a relentless initiator, often not reflected in the media, from Brazil, England, the United States, India, Hungary, and South Africa. So it’s a fine read if you are interested in studying regional cases. Examples explore innovative work ranging from rural electrification and nursing to child protection, assisted living for the disabled, healthcare, college access, and care for AIDS patients. Bornstein believes that the willingness to self-correct, share credit and break free of established structures and cross-disciplinary boundaries are the top qualities of successful social entrepreneurs.

Redefining Capitalism and Success

As a social entrepreneur, you see the systems’ failures and don’t want to sugar-coat them with feel-good stories. You want to replace traditional capitalism with new models that enable the system to recover from inequality and climate catastrophes. Here is a list of books penned with the same purpose.

The Broken Ladder: How Inequality Affects the Way We Think, Live and Die by Keith Payne

Why do families with lower incomes tend to have more children? How does inequality shape particular political views? The psychologist Keith Payne discusses the effects of inequality on our immune system. The book suggests that feeling poor and being poor are two sides of a coin; how people see and evaluate their status in a system matters. By reminding us that considering poverty as a result of personal failure has long been challenged, he talks about the dangers of racial and economic inequality and the importance of fair pay.

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate by Naomi Klein

The book talks about the emergency of the climate crisis and the importance of challenging the status quo of the free market. The urgency of remaking the economic system is offered as the key to reducing greenhouse emissions. Klein wrote this book in 2014. But it’s so fresh in the post-pandemic scene. Embracing change before radical climate changes occur is the only way to prevent tragedy.

We Do Things Differently: The outsiders rebooting our world by Mark Stevenson

The writer of An Optimist’s Tour of the Future and winner of the International Book Award 2017 talks about how old models are no longer sufficient. Stevenson uses his storytelling skills to remind us of the power of grassroots innovations. This makes the book both educating and entertaining. Mark Stevenson has an optimistic approach to the future. So he can restore your faith in what human beings can do to avoid adversities. The writer takes you on a journey to meet innovators and what they did to build a more sustainable future.

Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth and Impact the World by Peter H. Diamandis, Steven Kotler

New technologies like 3D printing, AI (artificial intelligence), and robotics enable startups to grow from an idea to a profitable business faster. By arguing that linear thinking is no more applicable, the book analyses why and how bold thinkers achieved their success. Steven Kotler does that by telling stories and sharing secrets about going big. For that, he uses the entrepreneurial experience he gained from founding fifteen companies. Finally, he shares tips on how to design competition, launch crowdfunding campaigns and build communities.

Lean Impact: How to Innovate for Radically Greater Social Good by Ann Mei Chang

We invest our time and money in making things better in the world. But sometimes we wonder, is it worth it? Where is the missing link between good and impactful work? Lean Impact is a guide on achieving social good more radically and exponentially increasing the impact. It discusses the characteristics of solutions by saying ‘love the problem, not your solution’. So, lasting social change is not as simple as building a website or designing an app. Anne Mei Chang offers ideas on achieving goals by learning about customers and pursuing change non-stop. She provides invaluable insight from across sectors and geographical locations.

Read more about the power of lean thinking to see how continuous improvement and respect for all trigger productivity maximisation.

Success Stories

What are the examples of people who let their dreams of social justice be their venture in life? Here are the best books telling the success stories of social entrepreneur dreamers.

The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change by Adam Braun

When Adam had a successful career on Wall Street, he once asked a boy who was begging what he wanted the most in the world. The boy’s answer changed the course of events in Adam’s life, ’a pencil’. He started with $25 and went on to build 250 schools around the world. The Promise of a Pencil is a book in 30 chapters, each clarifying one step in achieving challenging social goals. This New York Times best-seller addresses topics like getting out of your comfort zone, being a traveller vs a tourist, surrounding yourself with those who make you better, and staying guided by your values

Thirst: A Story of Redemption, Compassion, and a Mission to Bring Clean Water to the World by Scott Harrison

Tired of living as a nightclub promoter encircled by booze and parties, 28-year-old Scott Harrison asked himself a simple question, ‘What would the exact opposite of my life look like?’ This was the trigger for a rewarding change. He walked away from his New York life to build one of the most respected charities bringing clean drinking water to the world. In Thirst, Scott Harrison talks about wide-ranging subjects from his unusual childhood to how his skills as a promoter helped him raise funds. It is a story of redemption, second chances, and a living example of the privilege of action over words.

The Growing Season: How I Built a New Life–and Saved an American Farm by Sarah Frey

As a teenager, Sarah dreamed of leaving her rural community and travelling to a city everywhere with central heating. In The Growing Season, she tells us how she turned down this dream, stayed in the community and built one of the household brands in the US in fresh produce. Her negotiating methods have been so innovative and bold that Harvard Business School published some of her deals as case studies.

In this book, she shares her journey from growing up on a struggling farm to becoming ‘America’s Pumpkin Queen.’

Social Change in Fiction

We haven’t forgotten the entertaining part of the social entrepreneur book list. You are busy and cannot find time in your busy schedule. Still, here are moving pieces of fiction that let you see and feel the worlds of those different from your own.

Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life by George Eliot

Ranked one of the greatest Victorian English novels, Middlemarch takes place right before the First Reform Bill of 1832. The bill brought significant changes, including voting rights for small landowners. George Eliot is famous for the psychological portrayal of her characters. In Middlemarch, she explores modern subjects such as art, religion, science, politics, self, society, and human relationships. At 800 pages, it’s a long read, so it’s highly recommended for long winter evenings.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Dystopian novels like 1984 by George Orwell and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmade Tale are great representations of what human choices can bestow upon the world. Many elements of an ideal world are falsely present in dystopia. But the environmental disaster and authoritarian government are what make recognising dystopia easy.

Brave New World is a dystopian novel set in a futuristic world. Besides its fascinating anticipations of scientific breakthroughs, this 1932 novel portrays a protagonist who challenges the advanced but manipulative society.

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Achebe’s controversial novel is a postcolonial story of the conflict between a traditional society and new customs brought by the whites, exploring common qualities in human beings across cultures and times. Initially published in 1958 in English set, the story of this 224-page novel is set in Nigeria in the 1890s.

Spring Snow by Yukio Mishima

Happening in Tokyo, 1912, Spring Snow is a story of coming of age in a world that introduces new perspectives to the closed world of the ancient aristocracy. This 26-page novel is a part of a series called Sea of Fertility, published from 1965 to 1967.

These are just a few examples of the vast ocean of social fiction. You can also read about the racial divide in American culture in Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, dive into a portrayal of modern life in White Teeth by Zadie Smith, witness the disintegration of the American dream in Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby and see the clash between old-time conservatives and the new values of the Westernizers in Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina.

What’s new? Books published in 2022

Social entrepreneurship has gained much recognition since the 1980s when cause-related marketing started as a business trend. Every year new researchers write new social entrepreneur books, broadening the literature on how to solve the most pressing issues in the world. Here are the latest bestsellers of 2022.

Social Entrepreneurship: A Practice-Based Approach to Social Innovation By Kucher, J. H., Raible, Stephanie E.

This book guides you to learn about the building blocks of sustainable social enterprise. It explores the elements that result in the success or failure of the social venture and analyses the skills you need for practical social innovation. With its practical-based approach, the book discovers the transformation of big ideas into lasting change.

Frontiers in Social Innovation: The Essential Handbook for Creating, Deploying, and Sustaining Creative Solutions to Systemic Problems by Neil Malhotra

Alongside the passion for changing the world, social innovation requires knowledge of how things work across governments and businesses. Therefore, social initiators need a guidebook to prepare them for this journey. This book claims to be the guide on themes as broad as high-performance leadership, corporate de-carbonisation and healthcare in the post-pandemic world.

Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation by Carole Carlson

The books show how entrepreneurs are changing their communities everywhere with various real-world examples. This book is designed for the classroom and contains exercises for practising entrepreneurial skills. Carole Carlson also teaches us the fundamentals of structuring, financing, marketing, and scaling social ventures.


Are you excited to pick up your next read? These 20 social entrepreneur books will give you invaluable insight to lead a conscious business that makes a good impact besides making a profit. And if you are an avid reader wanting to read more books in less time, check out our blog to learn if speed-reading actually works.

About the author

EWOR is a school conceived by Europe’s top professors, entrepreneurs, and industry leaders. We educate and mentor young innovators to launch successful businesses.

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