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Drama & Insight: Breaking Ground's 2012 Summer Reading List

We have gathered together a selection of book recommendations from Breaking Ground staff and volunteers. They range from techinical economics texts to the story of a woman in Maine, but all pertain to Breaking Ground's mission. We hope you find something here to take with you on your travels, or to curl up with on the beach. 

King Leopold's Ghost
Author: Adam Hochschild
Recommended By: Alex
Not for the faint of heart, this book tells the story of the Belgian involvement in the Congo, documenting the ambition, deception and cruelty that surrounded colonial rule of Africa by various European countries. It is very readable--though difficult to stomach-- full of interesting characters, vivid descriptions, drama, scandal and insight.


When Rain Clouds Gather
Author: Bessie Head 
Recommended By: Gaetan
The book, which is fiction, tells the story of a South African apartheid refugee as he tries to establish a new life in a small community in Botswana. The book deals with many themes relating to agricultural development and, more specifically, the struggle to introduce "modern" farming techniques in a society rooted in tradition. Additionally, the book examines women's roles (and the power and potential women hold to create change), both in agriculture and society in general.

Mountains Beyond Mountains
Author: Tracy Kidder 
Recommended By: Erin
This fantastic book traces the efforts of Paul Farmer to cure infectious diseases in Haiti. It is an outstanding account of the perseverance and commitment required for holistic development. A health care facility won't be successful if people don't have access to clean water or if people don't believe in the healing power of medicine. Farmer learns through his work that any significant change requires many smaller changes -- in education, sanitation, politics and policies.

Olive Kitteridge
Author: Elizabeth Strout 
Recommended By: Erin
Olive Kittridge tells the story of a retired and often grumpy teacher who lives in Crosby, Maine. The book is not about Africa or nonprofits or agriculture, but its message is one that relates to Breaking Ground's mission: we're all a community. Whether it's a small Maine town or the big world, everyone is connected. Goodwill should be shared.

Standing Again at Siani
Author: Judith Plaskow
Recommended by: Becca

As a religion major, I have read a lot of different articles and some books which relate gender to religion. From these different sources, I have gained an understanding of how important women's empowerment is. In this book, Plaskow addresses the complex gender dynamics within Judaism and how Judaism and other religions can be transformed so that women can be treated as equals to men once and for all. This book was great to read because it helped me understand how essential it is for women to attain the same rights and status as men, and it shows how being a religious person and a feminist is not a contradiction.

Feminism Without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity
Author: Chandra Mohanty
Recommended By: Catherine
This is a fascinating read on feminist theory. It examines the complications of relationships between Western feminists and women in developing countries, focusing on the often-crossed line between supporting and empowering women and reinforcing colonial power structures. Mohanty offers numerous models for developing successful working relationships with women in the developing world without homogenizing cultures or falling back on paternalistic models. The engrossing case studies make the book a quick and interesting read, while still exploring transnational feminist theory in depth.

The Bottom Billion
Author: Paul Collier
Recommended By: Alex
If you are ready for a serious economics lesson and to really delve into the question of how aid and trade effect the lives of people in the "bottom billion," then this is a great place to start. Much of Collier's focus is on government policy which, though not a direct route of action for most people, is something important to understand as a responsible and involved citizen of a globalized world.

Poor Economics
Author: Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo
Recommended By: Alex
I already mentioned this in an earlier blog post about microfinance, but because it is so applicable, I will mention it again. It documents the work of two economists to try and measure the real impacts of various development projects and in the process covers many topics relevent to Breaking Ground's work, especially discussing the importance of democratic community involvement. If you ever feel overwhelmed by the scale of global poverty and wonder if small projects can really make a difference, this is the book to lift your spirits--but with hard facts not empty platitudes.