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Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back

3.63  ·  Rating details ·  685 ratings  ·  87 reviews
What causes one system to break down and another to rebound? Are we merely subject to the whim of forces beyond our control? Or, in the face of constant disruption, can we build better shock absorbers--for ourselves, our communities, our economies, and for the planet as a whole?

Reporting firsthand from the coral reefs of Palau to the back streets of Palestine, Andrew Zoll
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published July 10th 2012 by Free Press (first published April 3rd 2012)
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Aug 12, 2012 rated it liked it
I was drawn to this book by an NPR review which couldn't stop gushing. Sadly, it certainly didn't live up to the review. Based on writing alone, I'd give this book 2 stars. However, the ideas are interesting and important enough that I boosted it up.

Basically, for a non-fiction book aimed at a popular audience, with a fiction writer credited as co-author to boot, this book is terrible. The ideas are difficult to follow because central concepts are referred to in jargon-y shorthand without adequa
Greg Talbot
Aug 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
If the Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell's runaway hit, said anything about the general public's reading habits, it's that social science can sell. Maybe it's just marketing buzz, but "Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back" has been compared to Gladwell's momentus novel, and I think it strikes a similar chord; albeit a very different topic.

The opening is really great. I like how Zolli describes systems adapting; how resilence can create fragility in other areas. Or the cycle of adapting. Or how feed
Dec 25, 2013 rated it did not like it
Such a disappointing read. Random examples were just thrown in in hope of trying to tie them together with a common theme, but to no avail. Nevertheless, the first pages explaining the concept were still somewhat useful, but that benefit is probably negligible.
May 06, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: gave-up
I gave up on this one. I had high hopes for simple explanations & foundations for the idea of resiliency. This was too intense, academic, and grounded in economics/environmental stuff for me to find the info about relationships & community that I was seeking. Maybe I threw in the towel too soon, but this one didn't hook me. ...more
Jun 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Author is on NYT and NPR

Resilience is defined as the ability of a system to maintain its core purpose and integrity in the face of dramatically changed circumstances. It can be achieved either by improving the ability resist being pushed past thresholds and my expanding the range of situations the system can adapt to if pushed past certain thresholds. Core tools of resilience systems include feedback loops, dynamic reorganization, inbuilt counter mechanisms, decoupling, diversity, modularity, si
Oct 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
One of the most important books that I've read this year. I found myself taking notes and rethinking my approach to sustainable development - perhaps it is more useful to use a resilience framework to understand sustainability than the sustainable development model itself. I can see how a system, if it has the patterns of resilience, would be able to mitigate and adapt to the risks of climate change for instance.

The storytelling is compelling, as the authors take us through dramatic cases such
Feb 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An unassuming gem of a read. Was put off by some negative reviews but glad I persisted.

Found it filled with interesting ideas but also very readable.

Having said that, the concept of imbuing a system, community, environment with greater resilience seems an improvisational affair, filled with ad hoc arrangements, idiosyncratic individual leaders, transient opportunities and meetings of like minded people. To what extent is the book creating accounts of resilience that are simply summations of what
Nov 19, 2013 rated it did not like it
The book should be renamed "Resilience—Why Capitalism Bounces Back."

In the concluding chapter Zolli mentions the concept of "adhocracy" which he takes from futurists Toffler and Mintzberg. The main theme here is "decentralisation" (sic) ie liberal small government mentality. Toffler and Mintzberg's concept was applied to the global capitalist market, with the thought that the financial systems should be self-regulating and not governed by government or external authorities. It is recognised toda
May 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book's fundamental question is: What makes some individuals, groups, organizations, or governments resilient to the ever-changing and frequently disruptive environment we live in on this planet?

The follow-up question: Are there common characteristics of resiliency that we can identify and apply to help us better adapt to the inevitable, persistent changes? The answers seem to be there are common characteristics, but adopting a form or pattern using these characteristics is nearly impossibl
Feb 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
As I read this, I put it in the context of my own field of interest: protecting and restoring water resources. I won’t try to summarize the pile of ideas I collected and need to work on applying and discussing with others. I’ll just offer one of the overarching -- and uncomfortable-- concepts: resilience is a dynamic state. It is not a state we can study, define, build, and then manage. It integrates both central and dispersed control, so it requires being comfortable with a permanently shifting ...more
Daniel Taylor
Jul 02, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
At the heart of this book is a simple message: it's possible for us as individuals, organisations and communities to become more resilient.

Resiliency is defined as: "the capacity of a system, enterprise, or a person to maintain its core purpose and integrity in the face of dramatically changed circumstances."

It's highly readable, and will teach you many new terms as it draws examples from a range of fields, from the reasons for the Global Financial Crisis to fishing on the Mirconesian Island of
Feb 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
The first half of this is excellent and fascinating. In the second half, he seems to lose the thread a bit and goes off on some very long tangents that only seem a little related to resilience. He manages to tie it all together pretty well at the end, but it still seems like it could have been more focused. Still, the first part and the overall message are good enough for 4 stars. Definitely worth reading.
Daniel Threlfall
May 11, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015
I liked Zolli's research, and appreciated the wide-ranging assessment of resilience. In effect, however, the book ranges so wide that it misses a focused realization of resilience. At the end of the book, I'm thinking, "So resilience is...everything — from South Pacific guppies to G7 summits." The mile-wide interpretation and alleged manifestations of resilience make it seem almost farcical. With a bit more focus and some stylistic polish, the book could have scored with greater effect.
Aaron Terrazas
Oct 14, 2012 rated it it was ok
Disappointing read. Anecdotes and popular knowledge woven together in search of an overarching theory, but mostly degenerating into tired truisms.
Ruah Swennerfelt
May 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is a must read for everyone. Very comprehensive and well written. I couldn't put it down.
Brian Eshleman
May 16, 2015 rated it liked it
The author tried so hard to give varying examples from nature, from the business world, and in particular human lives that it became fairly difficult to define resilience in meaningful terms.
David Laverne
Jul 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Fascinating insights on the confluence of factors, such as leadership style, acquiring the right resources at the right time, for a limited time, relationship building, resource protection, amongst others, that result in a system that is not simply robust, but resilient. The author makes the distinction early on between robustness and resilience, i.e. how we often only fortify systems against known threats (robust-yet-fragile), versus real-life examples of people going a few steps further to sys ...more
Alberto Lopez
Feb 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: my-favorites
What a fantastic book. System resilience is a relatively new field of study. From reading this book, it is clear that it's both a real science and of great importance to us. I found the arguments made by the author to be quite compelling. In an interesting way, the book's findings make great sense within the context of prior work on the complex system on everyone's mind today: the stock market. The Black Swan theory by Nassim Taleb and George Soros' Market Reflexibity concept describe how the ma ...more
Erika RS
Apr 04, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
This is the sort of book that I would have loved to have when I first started learning about various ideas around resilience and systems thinking and complex adaptive systems and mindfulness and communities and leadership. As the length of that list implies, this book was a broad and shallow introduction to a wide variety of topics that can all be categorized under resilience. This breadth was useful in showing connections between different topics. It was challenging because it felt like the top ...more
Jan 24, 2019 rated it liked it
I enjoyed the first half of the book, though I started to get reader fatigue from the endless examples and case studies... some of them more interesting than others, too much detail, for instance, about the 2008 financial crisis that we all are more or less familiar with -- would have liked more analysis and discussion and how to apply these principles rather than stringing case studies together... I'll admit to skimming the last third, but overall, I feel prepped to do some more reading on this ...more
Oct 12, 2020 rated it really liked it
The authors did a wonderful job drawing together wide and varied examples to produce important lessons for understanding resilience. At times the examples were perhaps too long before they made their point, but this probably reflects my own biases and interests. Don't read this book if you are looking for a roadmap or a checklist for resilience; read this book if you want to understand the factors that contribute to resilience in different contexts.
Amy C.
I mostly focused on the chapter related to resilience at the individual level. Otherwise, this book provided insights and useful tips on resilience of individuals, communities, within the context of ecology as well as within corporate settings.
Jan 13, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A well-researched look at why systems, nations, businesses and people bounce back from the unexpected - or not. Very thought-provoking.
Bugy Ardhytio
Oct 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Paul Cline
Apr 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed the approach to resilience in the book. It is applied to nature, social systems, economics, and even terrorism. Many take aways related to building systems.
Sep 22, 2019 rated it liked it
This had some moderately interesting content.
Nov 23, 2019 rated it liked it
It was good until about chapter six when it devolved into libertarian drivel
Oct 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very informative and well written.
Marc Faoite
Mar 07, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Why are some things more efficient and enduring than others? This book doesn’t propose simple solutions to complex problems, but rather offers interesting ways of exploring and understanding complexity from many different directions.
Resilience is a both intelligent and important book that cuts across many disciplines in order to understand and suggest successful strategies for surviving and coping with downturns and disasters. This is a book for people who watch TED talks (and if you don’t, I st
Hamilton Carvalho
Mar 12, 2017 rated it liked it
Too much "journalistic" for my taste. There are some interesting insights, but do no expect much depth.
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