November 14, 2023
November 14, 2023
Finding the right book at the right time can transform your life or your organization. We help you discover your next great read by showcasing four recently released titles each week.
The books are chosen by Porchlight's Managing Director, Sally Haldorson, and the marketing team: Dylan Schleicher, Gabbi Cisneros, and Jasmine Gonzalez. (Book descriptions are provided by the publisher unless otherwise noted.)
This week, our choices are:
Dylan’s pick: Broken Code: Inside Facebook and the Fight to Expose Its Harmful Secrets by Jeff Horwitz, Doubleday
Once the unrivaled titan of social media, Facebook held a singular place in culture and politics. Along with its sister platforms Instagram and WhatsApp, it was a daily destination for billions of users around the world. Inside and outside the company, Facebook extolled its products as bringing people closer together and giving them voice.
But in the wake of the 2016 election, even some of the company’s own senior executives came to consider those claims pollyannaish and simplistic. As a succession of scandals rocked Facebook, they—and the world—had to ask whether the company could control, or even understood, its own platforms.
Facebook employees set to work in pursuit of answers. They discovered problems that ran far deeper than politics. Facebook was peddling and amplifying anger, looking the other way at human trafficking, enabling drug cartels and authoritarians, allowing VIP users to break the platform’s supposedly inviolable rules. They even raised concerns about whether the product was safe for teens. Facebook was distorting behavior in ways no one inside or outside the company understood.
Enduring personal trauma and professional setbacks, employees successfully identified the root causes of Facebook's viral harms and drew up concrete plans to address them. But the costs of fixing the platform—often measured in tenths of a percent of user engagement—were higher than Facebook's leadership was willing to pay. With their work consistently delayed, watered down, or stifled, those who best understood Facebook’s damaging effect on users were left with a choice: to keep silent or go against their employer.
Broken Code tells the story of these employees and their explosive discoveries. Expanding on “The Facebook Files,” his blockbuster, award-winning series for The Wall Street Journal, reporter Jeff Horwitz lays out in sobering detail not just the architecture of Facebook’s failures, but what the company knew (and often disregarded) about its societal impact. In 2021, the company would rebrand itself Meta, promoting a techno-utopian wonderland. But as Broken Code shows, the problems spawned around the globe by social media can’t be resolved by strapping on a headset.
Sally’s pick: Reunion: Leadership and the Longing to Belong by Jerry Colonna, Harper Business
We all want to belong. For executives and managers, to be better leaders—and people—we must create welcoming environments in which ourselves and others feel recognized and have a place. But to do so, we must first face our own need for belonging and how that need is often thwarted. Colonna argues that only through radical self-inquiry can we come home to ourselves and others and, in doing so, create systemic belonging—homes—for everyone.
Many people in power fall into the trap of toxic leadership. But this toxicity can be overcome. Colonna guides us on a journey of reunification with the disowned parts of ourselves, the myths and truths of our ancestors, as well as a deeper connection with those most affected by systems of exclusion. He shows how to apply radical self-inquiry (“How have I been complicit in creating the conditions I say I don't want?”) and broaden it to include “How have I been complicit in maintaining systems of oppression that I say I don’t want?” And, more important, “What do I need to give up that I love in order to have the systems of belonging that I want?”
The necessary first step is for leaders and others who hold power to see themselves clearly. The vital second step is to see and alter the effects of one’s untended, unhealed wounds and beliefs on those we are tasked to lead.
Doing so, we are then able to reimagine businesses as collectives where a shared sense of belonging thrives. Doing so will cause a reckoning with the accepted definitions of leadership, success, and value.
With its unusual blend of poetry, quotes, and examples from Colonna’s own life as well as the lives of his clients—Reunion is a life-altering guide for today’s complex and divisive world. Its wise insights and practical advice will help create an inclusive and welcoming workspace, discover the best of who we are, and nurture and support those whom we are privileged to lead.
Gabbi’s pick: Seek: How Curiosity Can Transform Your Life and Change the World by Scott Shigeoka, Balance
Did you know that curiosity is your superpower? It’s no secret that division, loneliness, and polarization are on the rise—to catastrophic impact on our personal lives. While we often think of curiosity as a personality trait, internationally-recognized curiosity expert Scott Shigeoka knows that it’s actually the most potent tool we have to bridge our differences and heal relationships: From political blow-ups to age divides at work; religious differences to languishing friendships; gun rights to gender rights.
In Seek, Shigeoka blends cutting edge research on curiosity with wisdom from years of grassroots community work and the stories of people living at the threshold of deep curiosity—ancient wayfinders in the Pacific Ocean, Catholic nuns and Millennial seekers sharing a convent, a wildland firefighter in Montana, and more—as he takes readers on a journey to understand the power of deep curiosity.
With the support of Shigoeka’s four-phase DIVE model, readers will learn to...
- Detach — Let go of their ABCs (assumptions, biases, certainty),
- Intend — Prepare their mindset and setting,
- Value — See the dignity of every person, including themselves,
- Embrace — Welcome the hard times in their life,
...As they unlock the capacity for connection, healing, and personal growth.
With electric vulnerability, thoughtful storytelling, and actionable tools, Seek calls each of us to stop turning away from what is unfamiliar, uncomfortable or unknown and, instead, embrace our power to seek.
Jasmine’s pick: Why Flying Is Miserable: And How to Fix It by Ganesh Sitaraman, Columbia Global Reports
Everyone has a horror story about air travel—cancellations, delays, lost baggage, tiny seats, poor service. In this day and age, there is no reason that flying should be this bad. In Why Flying Is Miserable, Ganesh Sitaraman, a law professor and policy expert, explains how this happened: It was a conscious choice made by Washington in the 1970s to roll back many forms of regulation that began during the New Deal, in the name of unimpeded capitalism and more competition. Today, the industry is an oligopoly, with only four too-big-to-fail airlines that have received billions of dollars in taxpayer bailouts and still can’t offer reliable service.
Miserable air travel is the perfect symbol of the type of unregulated capitalism that America has unleashed. But there are ways to fix airlines—and, by extension, many other sectors of industry—because, after a half-century run, people are sick and tired of the turbulence that deregulation has brought to our economy.
WHAT WE'VE BEEN READING AT HOME
"The Liar by Martin Hansen. A Danish novel about a schoolmaster/deacon who lives in a tiny island community. The story is narrated by the schoolmaster, who in the translation is named 'Johannes Lye.' The name turns out to be a signpost for 'unreliable narrator.' The novel is in part an uncomfortable psychological thriller and in part a parable on the dangers of isolation. Great mood to it, and great reading at a time of shrinking daylight hours."
—Michael Jantz, Logistics Director