Top 10 Reads for Development Workers (And Others, Too)

You know all of those things you write on your CV? Wouldn’t it be great if they were actually true! It’s a line from the TV show Friends. I used to write in my CV that reading is one of my favourite hobbies. Well, it was maybe in 2000. Then life happened and I was always busy. Then I moved to Ethiopia and didn’t have internet all the time and started reading again. Now, reading ACTUALLY is my favourite hobby. Along with looking at cats. Here are some of my picks for you!

Dead AidDead Aid. Why Aid is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa by Dambisa Moyo. Farrar, Straux and Girox. 2010. This is the book most people refer to when development aid is discussed publicly. It should be a compulsory read for anyone working in the field of development. If you dismiss it, you are digging your own intellectual grave.

Half the skyHalf the Sky. Turning Oppression Into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. Kristof, Nicholas & WuDunn, Sheryl. Vintage. 2010. Providing you with stories that act as a strong antidote against cynicism, you can’t help but admire the women in this book. This is an elevating book which will restore your faith in mankind (yes, everybody needs those) without doing it naively.

The IdealistThe Idealist. Jeffrey Sachs and the Quest to End Poverty. Munk, Nina. Anchor. 2014. Jeffrey Sachs is a fascinating and controversial person and it was about time somebody wrote a book on his endeavours to end poverty in Africa. This is one of my favourite reads of last year – a critical take on the white savior complex and on the other hand on unjustified criticism towards the aid community.

Poor EconomicsPoor Economics. Banerjee, Abhijit & Duflo, Esther. A Radical Rethinking of the the Way to Fight Global Poverty. Public Affairs. 2012. This is a book based on the research made by Banerjee and Duflo in various developing countries. It will question all your former views on what is the best way to end hunger or target interventions against poverty. Simply put a good read which challenges you – and that’s what good literature should do! This book will leave you thinking: if only development aid was based on quality research! At least that’s where I stand at.

Shadow of the sunThe Shadow of the Sun: My African Life. Kapuscinski, Ryszard. Vintage. 2002. Before there was internet, Mr. Kapuscinski traveled through this continent and experienced some great adventures and witnessed some of Africa’s most pivotal historical moments. This book is a must read for anyone on this continent.

The EmperorThe Emperor: Downfall of an Autocrat. Kapuscinski, Ryszard. Vintage. 1989. When Haile Selassie was dethrowned, he was taken away in a baby blue Wolkswagen. Not the most elegant exit for a man who ruled Ethiopia for decades, a man who had lions in his royal palace area and even a Minister for the Pen (his job was to hold the pen the Emperor Haile Selassie used for signing papers). Elegantly written, this book will teach you about recent history in Ethiopia.

Global minotaurThe Global Minotaur: America, the True Origins of the Financial Crisis and the Future of the World Economy. Varoufakis, Yanis. Zed Books. 2013. Not the easiest read but a thorough breakdown of decisions that lead to the global financial crisis; and a bit depressing as well – it explains you why a financial crisis will inevitably happen again and why the current one is not being stopped although, according to the author, it wouldn’t even be that difficult. After you finish this book, read this article by the Atlantic – Wall Street rises again.

Capital in the 21st centuryCapital in the 21st century. Piketty, Thomas. Belknap Press. 2014. Mr. Piketty’s main thesis in this book is that wealth grows faster than economic output. In other words, as wealth concentrates, he is depicting a society which will move towards that of the 18th and 19th century model where your family money and wealth will determine your path in life. And most of all Mr. Piketty thinks economy shouldn’t be left for economists only. Nobody should be intimidated by numbers. Merdre, ca suffit, join the discussion!

This Changes EverythingThis Changes Everything. Capitalism Vs. Climate. Klein, Naomi. Simon & Schuster. 2014. You know those books which you can read with a respect towards the writer for doing such thorough research of the topic she is writing about? This is one of those books. I can’t say it was my favourite book of 2014 but Klein discusses the climate change crisis with  the seriousness and bluntness it deserves. This is one of those books that will make you a bit angry. Unfortunately this book also left me a bit confused.

Ladies detective agencyThe No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. McCall Smith, Alexander.  Abacus. 2004. If I’m down, all it takes is a cup of tea (and some cake) and a one of the ladies’ detective agency books. I have read 10 of them (and counting). Such sweet stories and simple reads about the fictional character, Botswanese Mme Ramotswe.

What books can you recommend for me? What have I missed?

4 thoughts on “Top 10 Reads for Development Workers (And Others, Too)

  1. Thanks for those suggestions, will look some out. Maybe have a look at Philip Marsden, esp Barefoot Emperor. Another interesting man in charge!

    1. The Global Minotaur book is especially interesting now that the writer is the newly elected Greek finance minister!
      I have the book you mentioned but haven’t yet read it, will get to it next. 🙂

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