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The Top Books for Community Managers in 2023

In the name of a fresh start this year, Carrie Melissa Jones highlights seven of her top recommended reads for community builders from 2022.

Oh, 2022. The year that hype over NFTs, the metaverse, and chat-based artificial intelligence all reached a fever pitch. While these new ideas and evolutions have captivated our imagination, they’ve also often distracted us from the work right in front of us. Thankfully, there are a handful of books to bring us back down to earth, even if just for a moment, and refocus on building great communities where we are.   

In the name of a fresh start this year, I highlight seven of my top recommended reads for community builders from 2022. My picks span from guides on inner healing work to communicating about numbers to creating a practical strategy that will lead you into 2023 and beyond.  

The Crux: How Leaders Become Strategists by Richard P. Rumelt  

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There are certain words in our work, such as “strategy,” “community,” or “engagement” that many use but rarely define. This book helps us understand that first word, “strategy,” with more rigor and clarity than any previous book I’ve read on the subject.   

In order to be successful, communities need strategies. The Crux does a great job of demystifying the application of “challenge-based strategy.” As Rumelt states, strategy and its resulting actions, policies, purposes, and initiatives “are rarely written or spoken about with honesty.” I found this book refreshing and galvanizing, as it breaks down the long-held wisdom about strategy creation that never made sense to me (e.g., “Start with goals”) and gives a plan for moving forward, while making it clear that this is just one approach of many. I recommend this book for anyone looking to rise into an organizational leadership role, become a strategist, or start a business in the coming years.   

How We Heal: Uncover Your Power and Set Yourself Free by Alexandra Elle  

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After years of coaching and guiding many community professionals, I have noticed common threads of self-doubt, negative self-talk, fear, and anxiety among many of us. I can see these patterns so clearly because I have struggled so intimately with them myself. In How We Heal, Alexandra Elle discusses these challenges and invites readers on a four-step healing journey. This book is practical, approachable, and kind and can steer you toward deeper confidence and groundedness.   

Converted: The Data-Driven Way to Win Customers’ Hearts by Neil Hoyne  

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This book’s title will mislead you. While it would seem that Hoyne would spend this book breaking down exactly how to set up, measure, and optimize your digital marketing, the book’s thesis is actually about data-backed community-building: build long-term relationships with a strategic set of customers, and reap the rewards. Take what you need from this book to make the case for community investments to your team, and leave the rest—namely the religious metaphors; this ain’t that serious.   

Making Numbers Count: The Art and Science of Communicating Numbers by Chip Heath and Karla Starr  

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Most community builders would not consider themselves numbers geeks. However, communicating the story of our communities in both qualitative and quantitative terms is an essential skill in our profession. Without it, we often work in siloes and never realize the full potential of our work. This book is to the rescue! It will help you take your numbers and translate them into concrete terms, inspiring your team to action. This book is both helpful start to finish, but also as a browsable, inspiring reference to keep by your side.   

Belonging: The Science of Creating Connection and Bridging Divides by Geoffrey L. Cohen  

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This book, written from a social psychologist’s perspective, tackles our crisis of belonging and what we can do about it. Cohen discusses belonging in a variety of spheres—school, work, and spiritual communities among others—and offers “wise interventions” for nurturing belonging in each. Though Cohen does not discuss belonging within the brand community context, his research has important implications for our work and his approach can guide you in crafting community experiences.  

Rest Is Resistance: A Manifesto by Tricia Hersey 

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Burnout is a common occurrence in the community profession, but it doesn’t have to be. And the solution to burnout is not just short-term rest; it’s a shift in our long-term orientation toward work. In Rest is Resistance, Hersey speaks from her experience as a Black woman and the founder of Nap Ministry. She shares her own personal story and connects our current burnout culture to a longer history of oppression. This is a beautiful book that reminds us of the power of rest and invites us to imagine what the world could be like if we choose to resist dominant cultural narratives.   

The Accidental Community Manager by Adrian Speyer 

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Adrian Speyer, Head of Community at Higher Logic, has finally documented the years of community knowledge he’s accumulated. I was a lucky early reader of the book and can attest that even with years of experience, I learned so much from reading Adrian’s stories and lessons. Highly recommended for both new and experienced community professionals, this book will be sure to be a go-to reference for years to come.   


The books featured here offer insights and advice for building and strengthening communities. Each of these books offers a diverse perspective and approach to community building or leadership development. As you seek out books to guide you in 2023, I highly recommend giving these ones a read!  

Carrie Melissa Jones

Carrie Melissa Jones is a community leader, entrepreneur, and community management consultant who has been involved with online community leadership since the early 2000s. As the founder of Gather Community Consulting, she consults with brands to build and optimize communities around the world.