I love books. I love reading. And I love acquiring books. I have shelves and piles of them… both read and unread. I always feel guilty about my unread books… they sit there, yearning to be opened, to tell me their ideas, their wisdoms. Their voices unheard. 

I have come to learn that I am not unique in this. Others too have piles of unread books. 

I actually tweeted about one of my piles of books…

This was one of my contributions to an Audit Wales Good Practice Exchange webinar on long-term thinking and planning. But look… look what Andrew Charles suggested as a response to my tweet. A book club! What a great idea.

Andrew was inspired by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals Book Club. It advocates the benefits of reading, but also encourages reading books that support thinking around sustainable development.

So, after a bit of direct messaging backwards and forwards between myself, Andrew, and Ena Lloyd (Ena chaired the webinar), we decided to meet in a coffeeshop (of course) to take forward this idea. Tanya Nash also joined us. And within the space of an hour, some green tea and cake, Doers and Improvers Book Club was born.

The aim of Doers and Improvers is to provide a safe, supportive and fun space to learn, share and reflect together. We read non-fiction books that are connected to sustainable development and wellbeing. And as the name suggests, we’re all about doing and improving.

I set up a Twitter account and within the space of 24 hours, 100 people were following us (it’s now about 400). It had touched a nerve. So much so, we have ‘clubs’ in Cardiff, Swansea and St Asaph. [If you’re interested in facilitating one in your local area, please let me know and we can help.]

The first book we chose to read was Rutger Bregman’s Utopia for Realists. It was the perfect way to kickstart Doers and Improvers – lots of great big challenging ideas! 

And over the eight months of our existence, we have continued to read some interesting and stimulating books. We always seek suggestions and poll options. It’s involving and democratic. Here’s what we’ve read so far…

  • Utopia for Realists, by Rutger Bregman
  • Humble Inquiry, by Edgar H. Schien
  • Invisible Women, by Caroline Criado Perez
  • You’re More Powerful Than You Think, by Eric Liu
  • We Do Things Differently, by Mark Stevenson
  • The Future We Choose, by Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac

Of course, reading is a wonderful thing to do (check out my list of why you should read books). But there is something amazing about reading with others.

At Doers and Improvers, we’re united and connected – reading together, sharing our thoughts, our ideas, our reading locations, as we turn the same pages. We’re building a community, a sense of purpose, and friendship. [The peer pressure to read is also important. I don’t want to have another unread book on my pile!]

Then, once every page has been turned and annotated, we meet.

But before delving into conversations about the book, we eat lunch together. This is a lovely way to get to know people. People from different backgrounds, with different perspectives, working in different sectors, people you might not ordinarily meet with. It means that our conversations are both more relaxed and stimulating.

Since the lockdown we have met virtually. This has afforded us opportunities that we would never have dreamed of. Both Mark Stevenson and Tom Rivett-Carnac kindly offered to join us in our discussions of their respective books! Wow, just wow. Talking with the authors adds another dimension to our personal and collective experiences of both the books and Doers and Improvers.

I am so proud of Doers and Improvers and the community we’ve built. For me, it’s much more than reading. It’s about…

  • Meeting people
  • Friendship and community
  • Reading books you might not have come across
  • Hearing different perspectives
  • Learning from each other’s stories
  • Challenging your assumptions
  • Sharpening your focus on what matters to you
  • Loving the joy that Doers and Improvers gives to its members
  • Peer pressure to read
  • Connecting with authors
  • And, it’s incredibly good for your wellbeing

Of course, none of this is possible without the wonderful Doers and Improvers Community, and my amazing co-founders, Ena, Andrew and Tanya. Thank you everyone.

So, as we learn that people are increasingly turning to books in lockdown, I’d urge you to do that collectively. Go on… go and set-up a book club and/or join ours! 

A couple of Doers and Improvers have blogged their thoughts on the books we’ve read. Please check them out:

Huw Cook, Utopia for Realists
Gemma Lelliott, Does Humble Inquiry have a place in a culture of collaboration?

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