Karen Christensen is an entrepreneur, environmentalist, and scholar who writes about third places and community, and also about how women gain and wield power.

She is the author of a new version of the classic guide to third places, The Great Good Place by Ray Oldenburg (1932-2022). In May 2023 their coauthored article on coffee shops appeared in the UNESCO magazine. Karen’s aim is to bring the story up to date and show how third places help us solve three pressing 21st-century challenges: climate change, loneliness, and political polarization. Among Karen’s recent interviews about third places are those in Fast Company, Bloomberg CityLab, and BBC Worklife. Visit www.greatgoodplace.org for details.

She was the senior academic editor of the Encyclopedia of Community (SAGE). As a young mother, she wrote a number of popular environmental books including Home Ecology and The Armchair Environmentalist. She was also senior editor of the International Encyclopedia of Women and Sports (Macmillan).

Karen’s day job is as owner and CEO of Berkshire Publishing Group. In that role, she is a controversial former trustee of the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Press. Karen is known for her work with Chinese companies and for publishing about China and sustainability. She is also a member of the National Committee on US-China Relations, associate in research at the Fairbank Center at Harvard University, and founder of the Train Campaign. In earlier days, she served on the board of the Content Division of the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA), and when she lived in the UK she was a trustee of the Ecological Design Association, speaker on women’s issues for the UK Green Party, and founding member of the Women’s Environmental Network.

Her articles have appeared in many publications including the Daily Telegraph Magazine and her books on green living were serialized in the Daily Express, Family Circle (UK), and Woman’s Own. Karen’s cover story in the Guardian Review, Dear Mrs. Eliot,” was a memoir of her work with Valerie Eliot, second wife of T. S. Eliot, and she has published a variety of articles on Eliot’s women while working on a book entitled Too Near the Flame.

Read Karen’s past dispatches from the frontlines of international publishing (and from small-town New England) at the Berkshire Blog.  Her current writing is at Karen’s Letter on Substack, where she is also going back to her early environmental activism with a newsletter called Home Ecology. As a publisher, she is expanding her list to include Black Studies, Women’s Studies, and much more on the environment. Her work on the Train Campaign is featured in these videos and other interviews and talks are at this playlist.

karen christensen's corona typewriter on t s eliot's desk

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