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Associations Now

Books: Courageous, Victorious, and Successful

ASSOCIATIONS NOW, January/February 2014 Brain Power

By: Kristin Clarke

Summary: Three publications include the memoir of the courageous 16-year-old Malala Yousafzi, Malcolm Gladwell's latest on how underdogs overcame their strongest competitors, and the success story of Honest Tea.

I am Malala: The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban

By Malala Yousafzai

In this compelling memoir by "the girl who stood up for education and was shot by the Taliban," 16-year-old Malala Yousafzai from Pakistan's Swat Valley opens a window into the impoverished area of inequity and instability where religious extremists attacked her on a school bus in October 2012.

Instead of withdrawing, though, the well-spoken teenager founded her own education nonprofit, the Malala Fund, and shared her enthusiasm for learning with millions of supporters and world leaders, becoming the youngest person ever nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

In I Am Malala, Yousafzai does not dwell on the rebuilding of her shattered skull and bright smile or the man who shot her. Instead, hers is a story—beautifully told with the help of international journalist Christina Lamb—of a smart girl of strong faith who is encouraged by a father extraordinary for his own courage, sacrifices, and determination to ensure education for all children as an exit from poverty.

Research shows that educating girls is the most effective way to resolve issues like poverty and overpopulation. It's exciting to observe how Yousafzai has become the unexpected voice of that global movement, one kin to millions of girls eager for school but living where females are assigned little social value. Leaders of any age and gender can learn from this teenager.

[Little, Brown and Company; 352 pages; $26]

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants

By Malcolm Gladwell

Although relevant to all associations, micro-organizations in particular will take heart after reading this compilation of "improbable victories" in which small organizations, unsung individuals, and little ideas overcame "lopsided conflicts" to become mightier than their largest, strongest competitors.

"The fact of being an underdog can change people in ways that we often fail to appreciate," writes author Malcolm Gladwell. "We spend a lot of time thinking about ways that prestige and resources and belonging to elite institutions make us better off. We don't spend enough time thinking about ways in which those kinds of material advantages limit our options."

He laments the "rigid and limited definition of what an advantage is." While organizations pine for adequate funding or top talent, Gladwell proves that "facing overwhelming odds produces greatness and beauty."

For "success redefined," think of this book first.

[Little, Brown and Company; 305 pages; $29]

Mission in a Bottle: The Honest Guide to Doing Business Differently—and Succeeding

By Seth Goldman and Barry Nalebuff

This unlikely duo—Barry Nalebuff, a Yale business professor, and his idealistic but whip-smart former student, Seth Goldman—brewed the hottest tea company (Honest Tea) by consistently steeping it in values of social responsibility.

In the process, they succeeded in altering the recipe for success within the beverage industry—and are blunt about plans to stir up others.

Their start-up story even disrupts the business book genre by using a graphic-novel format that could seem hokey but actually speeds understanding by condensing every decision and dilemma into concise dialogue. Indeed, the content is edgy. Want to know who threatened, arm-twisted, betrayed, and bolstered them on their journey? The authors name names.

It's like a movie where you know the happy ending—Honest Tea is now a $100 million company—but the story arc is so suspenseful that you'll want a refill.

[Crown Business; 278 pages; $23]

Contributed by Kristin Clarke, a business journalist and writer for ASAE. Email: kclarke@asaecenter.org

[This article was originally published in the Associations Now print edition, titled "Unexpected Voice."]

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