What I'm reading & liking

See my suggestions for autumn 2016--everything from cheap fiction to a 600-page ethnography.

Books every development worker should read

Banker for the poor: micro-lending and the fight against poverty by Mohammad Yunus.  Say what you want about Professor Yunus, but this is an inspiring read on the historical origins of microfinance, and the simplest account you'll find on how it works.

The death and life of great American cities by Jane Jacobs.  Never again will you sit on a park bench bored.  Jacobs teaches you how to see public space and understand city life.  A quote of hers that I'm currently pondering:
“To seek "causes" of poverty in this way is to enter an intellectual dead end because poverty has no causes. Only prosperity has causes.” 

A simple solution: teaching millions to treat diarrhea at home by A.M.R Chowdhury and Richard A. Cash.  Unfortunately this book is hard to get your hands on, but it remains the best comprehensive account of any health program I've ever read.  Every time I pick it up I learn something new.

Beyond the beautiful forevers: life, death and hope in a Mumbai undercity by Kaitlyn Boo. Non-fiction that reads like fiction, its stories are so rich and skillfully told.  By simply listening and following the lives of a few slum dwellers, Boo illustrates the ways in which institutions systematically fail to serve the poor and how precarious and fragile life is for the poor.

Arrival city: how the largest migration in history is reshaping our world by Doug Sanders.  By 2050 half the world will live in cities.  Sanders explains why this is a really good thing, if done right.  With great examples from history and across the world, an inspiring read that challenges the prevailing paradigms of urban development.

Pathologies of Power: health, human rights, and the new war on the poor by Amartya Sen and Paul E. Farmer.  "Power" is a bit of a dirty word in development; many prefer to see poverty as a natural situation, versus something created by discrimination, vested interests, and exclusion.  Sen and Farmer do a great job explaining how epidemiology of diseases like HIV reflect social inequalities and must be remedied politically as much as medically.

Portfolios of the poor: how the world's poor live on $2 a day by Darryl Collins, Jonathan Murdoch, Stuart Rutherford, Orlanda Ruthven.  Think that the poor don't really manage their money?  This book will show you otherwise.  Will careful observations and interviews over many months, from South Africa, India, and Bangladesh, the authors demonstrate the complexity of financial management--informal tools for saving, accessing cash, and getting by.  The methodology has inspired many more studies of the same kind, and motivated many financial institutions to radically rethink their assumptions about clients.

Let me know what's missing!

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