Ten books to read this winter

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Ten books to read this winter

©IFAD/Qilai Shen

We asked colleagues for their recommended reading on issues relevant to global development from gender to development to finance. If you are looking to read something a little more serious this holiday season, check out our list below.

Factfulness: Ten reasons we’re wrong about the world – and why things are better than you think by Hans Rosling, Ola Rosling and Anna Rosling Rönnlund
In Factfulness, global TED phenomenon, the late Hans Rosling, together with his two long-time collaborators, Anna and Ola, offers a radical new explanation of why this happens. They reveal the ten instincts that distort our perspective—from our tendency to divide the world into two camps (usually some version of us and them) to the way we consume media (where fear rules) to how we perceive progress (believing that most things are getting worse).

Seeds of Change: Six plants that transformed mankind by Henry Hobhouse
A personal and highly original take on the history of six commercial plants, Seeds of Change illuminates how sugar, tea, cotton, the potato, quinine, and the cocoa plant have shaped our past. In this fascinating account, the impassioned Henry Hobhouse explains the consequences of these plants with attention-grabbing historical moments. While most records of history focus on human influence, Hobhouse emphasizes how plants too are a central and influential factor in the historical process. Seeds of Change is a captivating and invaluable addition to our understanding of modern culture.

Development as Freedom by Amartya Sen
By the winner of the 1988 Nobel Prize in Economics, an essential and paradigm-altering framework for understanding economic development—for both rich and poor—in the twenty-first century.

Freedom, Sen argues, is both the end and most efficient means of sustaining economic life and the key to securing the general welfare of the world's entire population. Releasing the idea of individual freedom from association with any particular historical, intellectual, political, or religious tradition, Sen clearly demonstrates its current applicability and possibilities. In the new global economy, where, despite unprecedented increases in overall opulence, the contemporary world denies elementary freedoms to vast numbers—perhaps even the majority of people—he concludes, it is still possible to practically and optimistically retain a sense of social accountability.

International Aid and the making of a better world: Reflexive Practice by Rosalind Eyben
Moving between aid-recipient countries, head office and global policy spaces, Rosalind Eyben critically examines her own behaviour to explore what happens when trying to improve people’s lives in far-away countries and warns how self-deception may construct obstacles to the very change desired, considering the challenge to traditional aid practices posed by new donors like Brazil who speak of history and relationships. The book proposes that to help make this a better world, individuals and organisations working in international development must respond self-critically to the dilemmas of power and knowledge that shape aid’s messy relations.

Dance of the Trillions: Developing countries and global finance by David Lubin
In Dance of the Trillions, David Lubin tells the story of what makes money flow from high-income countries to lower-income ones; what makes it flow out again; and how developing countries have sought protection against the volatility of international capital flows. The book traces an arc from the 1970s, when developing countries first gained access to international financial markets, to the present day.

Underlying this story is a discussion of how the relationship between developing countries and global finance appears to be moving from one governed by the "Washington Consensus" to one more likely to be shaped by Beijing.

What is the what by Dave Eggers
Eggers illuminates the history of the civil war in Sudan through the eyes of Valentino Achak Deng, a refugee living in the United States. We follow his life as he’s driven from his home as a boy and walks, with thousands of orphans, to Ethiopia, where he finds safety—for a time. In this book, written with expansive humanity and surprising humour, we come to understand the nature of the conflicts in Sudan, the refugee experience in America, the dreams of the Dinka people, and the challenge one indomitable man faces in a world collapsing around him

Rural Development: Putting the last first by Robert Chambers
Rural poverty is often unseen or misperceived by outsiders. Robert Chambers contends that researchers, scientists, administrators and fieldworkers rarely appreciate the richness and validity of rural people's knowledge or the hidden nature of rural poverty. This is a challenging book for all concerned with rural development, as practitioners, academics, students or researchers.

This changes everything by Naomi Klein
Naomi Klein tells us to forget everything you think you know about global warming. The really inconvenient truth is that it’s not about carbon—it’s about capitalism. The convenient truth is that we can seize this existential crisis to transform our failed economic system and build something radically better.

Africa: Why economists get it wrong by Morten Jerven
For the first time in generations, Africa is spoken of these days with enthusiastic hope: no longer seen as a hopeless morass of poverty, the continent instead is described as “Africa Rising,” a land of enormous economic potential that is just beginning to be tapped.

With Africa: Why Economists Get It Wrong, Morten Jerven offers a bracing corrective. Neither story, he shows, is accurate. In truth, most African economies have been growing rapidly since the 1990s―and, until a collapse in the ’70s and ’80s, they had been growing reliably for decades. Puncturing weak analysis that relies too much on those two lost decades, Jerven redraws our picture of Africa’s past, present and potential.

Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared M. Diamond
In this book, Jared Diamond convincingly argues that geographical and environmental factors shaped the modern world. Societies that had had a head start in food production advanced beyond the hunter-gatherer stage, and then developed religion—as well as nasty germs and potent weapons of war—and adventured on sea and land to conquer and decimate preliterate cultures. A major advance in our understanding of human societies, Guns, Germs, and Steel chronicles the way that the modern world came to be and stunningly dismantles racially based theories of human history.