How-To Guides

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Build your understanding of poverty: read books!

There are some great books about poverty that will help you to deepen your understanding of this global challenge.

Half the Sky by Nicholas D. Kristof, Sheryl WuDunn

Taking its name from a Chinese proverb – “Women hold up half the sky,” the book is a series of stories stitched together by analysis about the causes and consequences of discrimination against women in some of the world’s poorest countries. Taking a vigilantly positive line, even with some harrowing stories, it focuses on the importance of empowering women to transform their own lives, and the lives of their families and communities.

The Plundered Planet by Paul Collier

In The Plundered Planet, Collier looks at how proper stewardship of natural assets and liabilities is a matter of planetary urgency: natural resources have the potential either to transform the poorest countries or to tear them apart, while the carbon emissions and agricultural follies of the rich world could further impoverish them. He charts a course between unchecked profiteering on the one hand and environmental romanticism on the other to offer realistic and sustainable solutions to dauntingly complex issues.


The End of Poverty by Jeffrey Sachs

Jeffrey Sachs draws on his remarkable 25 years' experience to offer a thrilling and inspiring vision of the keys to economic success in the world today. Sachs tells the stories of his own work in Bolivia, Poland, Russia, India, China and Africa to bring readers with him to an understanding of the different problems countries face. In the end, readers will be left not with an understanding of how daunting the world's problems are, but how solvable they are - and why making the effort is both our moral duty and in our own interests.

 

The Life You Can Save: Acting Now to End World Poverty by Peter Singer

In The Life You Can Save, philosopher Peter Singer, named one of “The 100 Most Influential People in the World” by Time magazine, uses ethical arguments, provocative thought experiments, illuminating examples, and case studies of charitable giving to show that our current response to world poverty is not only insufficient but ethically indefensible.

 

Race Against Time by Stephen Lewis

"I have spent the last four years watching people die." With these wrenching words, diplomat and humanitarian Stephen Lewis opens his 2005 Massey Lectures. In 2000, the United Nations introduced eight Millennium Development Goals on fundamental issues such as education, health, and cutting poverty in half by 2015. In audacious prose, alive with anecdotes ranging from maddening to hilarious to heartbreaking, Lewis shows why and how the international community is falling desperately short of these goals. He probes the appalling gap between vision and current reality, but he also offers bracingly attainable solutions.

 

Development as Freedom by Amartya Sen

In this now-classic text, Amartya Sen explains how in a world of unprecedented increase in overall opulence millions of people living in the developing world are still unfree. Even if they are not technically slaves, they are denied elementary freedoms and remain imprisoned in one way or another by economic poverty, social deprivation, political tyranny or cultural authoritarianism. The main purpose of development is to spread freedom and its 'thousand charms' to the unfree citizens.

 

The Bottom Billion by Paul Collier

Global poverty, economist Collier points out, is actually falling quite rapidly for about 80% of the world. The real crisis lies in a group of about 50 failing states, the bottom billion, whose problems defy traditional approaches to alleviating poverty. A struggle rages within each of these nations between reformers and corrupt leaders--and the corrupt are winning. Collier analyzes the causes of failure, and offers a bold new plan.

 

Challenging Global Inequality by Alastair Greig, David Hulme, and Mark Turner

This book offers a great introduction to inequality, poverty and development in the twentieth century and its prospects for the twenty-first. Taking full account of the impact of globalization, US hegemony, and the challenges of environmental sustainability and community participation, it sets out a range of alternative views, models and paths for development from the UN's Millennium Development Goals to their radical critics.