Over the last few months, we have seen the release of several important books about poverty and microfinance.
David Roodman's Due Diligence unpacks two studies that cast doubt on the effectiveness of some forms of microfinance. Roodman, a senior fellow at The Center for Global Development, has set off some debate with this book -- a good thing for people who want to find the best ways to reduce poverty.
You can find a thoughtful response to his work here.
Another good book on microfinance came out near the end of 2011: New Pathways Out of Poverty. We interviewed Anna Awimbo, one of the book's co-editors (she is also a Five Talents board member), in an earlier blog post. One takeaway from the book is its discussion of reforms that have been initiated by organizations like the Microcredit Summit Campaign in light of the tragedy in Andhra Pradesh, India.
A hot read that's currently climbing the charts is Katherine Boo's Behind the Beautiful Forevers. The Pulitzer Prize-winning author uses three years of immersive reporting to tell the story of several families living in a Mumbai slum. As a result, Boo puts a face on the dry data that shows the problem of poverty. For this remarkable book, she might very well win a few more prizes.
We recommend each of these books if you are hoping to learn more about the problem of poverty and how microsavings and credit can help to fix it.
We also want to highlight two other titles that are set for publication later this year:
Confessions of a Microfinance Heretic: How Microlending Lost Its Way and Betrayed the Poor (July 2012)
The description on Amazon.com promises a book that is "part memoir, part financial detective story, and part exposé." The author, Hugh Sinclair, has spent years in the microfinance world, and he has the stories to prove it: stories of success, to be sure, but also stories of corruption, greed, and incompetence. This book will likely be heavy on drama and easy on academic analysis, but given the problems that have plagued some MFIs in recent years, it would be unwise to ignore it.
Loving the Poor, Saving the Rich: Wealth, Poverty, and Early Christian Formation (Nov. 2012)
This title will most likely appeal to theology lovers, historians and Christians of any stripe. While promising a look at how the early church viewed poverty and wealth, it will also have plenty to say about contemporary Christianity and the church's role in the fight against poverty – around the corner, and around the world. The author, Helen Rhee, teaches church history at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California.