Sunday, December 14, 2014

Lives that Inspire

As part of my job here at the library, I moderate one of our book discussion groups. A title we read recently was the memoir Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson, which documents the author's quest to bring schools to poor children - particularly girls - in Pakistan. Mortensen's book has been on the New York Times bestseller list for 149 weeks and counting: his recently released follow-up Stones into Schools, that looks at his continuing mission to build schools, now in Afghanistan as well - has already popped up on bestseller lists.

For me I think the appeal of Mortenson's book is two fold. The war in Afghanistan, and news stories about conflict in Pakistan have many people looking for stories of hope coming out of that part of the world. Mortenson's tale seems to be a model for the ways that Western and Eastern societies can successfully co-exist, embrace cultural and religious differences and work together for a common good.But beyond that, I think that stories of hope in general have appeal for readers. I've collected a few other tales - set around the world - of people that are working hard to make their own personal impact on the world.
Banker to the Poor: micro-lending and the battle against world poverty -- the story of the Grameen Bank and the man who created it. Muhammad Yunus' plan began with a small loan to a group of women in Bangladesh, now Yunus is a Nobel Peace Prize winner and micro-credit has become a popular and well know theory for addressing poverty.

Whatever it Takes: Geoffrey Canada's quest to change Harlem and America -- Geoffrey Canada wants to revolutionize how the America aims to help children living in poverty. He doesn't want to help the odd lucky, motivated kid from a poor neighbourhood (a kid like he was), he wants to help every kid. He created the Harlem Children's Zone - an integrated program targeted at parents and students - in a quest to change the lives of a generation of Harlem kids. President Obama recently had Canada as a guest at the White House and suggested his innovative model should be spread across America.

A Simple Path by Mother Teresa: although she died in 1997, Mother Teresa's story is still one that should serve as inspiration to people looking for the ways an individual can make positive change in the world. This is the story of her life and the The Missionaries of Charity in her own words.

Lighting the Way: nine women who changed modern America - a collection of short biographies of women from the 20th Century who worked to make significant social and political change in America. Some names you will know, and some you will wonder why you didn't.

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