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What We Read in 2020

By Opportunity International

In 2020, as we spent countless hours at home learning new terms like "sheltering in place" and "social distancing", we found ourselves turning to great books again and again. Reading provided a distraction, an opportunity to learn, and the chance to travel the world right from our couches. 

Every month, the Opportunity Book Club reads a book that opens our eyes to more of the world. We choose books written by underrepresented authors; books that share stories from the countries in which we work; and books that teach us about important issues like poverty, famine, and development. 

Sign up now to receive an email each month with our book selection—and read along with us! We would love to have you in the Opportunity Book Club! 

Here is what we read in 2020...

We started the year questioning our understanding of economics—both in the countries we serve and closer to home—with Good Economics for Hard Times by esteemed economists Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo

In February, we traveled to Ethiopia in the 1930s, reading Ethiopian-born Maaza Mengiste's beautiful, powerful book, The Shadow King. 

In March, we read our friend Michele Sullivan's heroic autobiography, Looking Up, which recounted the leadership skills and lessons she learned over the course of her career. 

As the world began sheltering in place, we turned to our bookshelves as a source of travel, adventure, and exploration. We read about the unending bravery of a Nigerian teenage girl in The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré; we solved a mystery in the slums of Delhi in Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line by Deepa Anappara; and we traveled to 19th century Ghana in The Hundred Wells of Salaga by Ayesha Harruna Attah

As the spring turned to summer, we were still at home—so we kept reading. We met fearless revolutionaries in 1960s Dominican Republic in Julia Alvarez's classic work, In The Time of the Butterflies; we read new Zambian author Namwali Serpell's The Old Drift and traveled to Victoria Falls in 1904 in this highly anticipated novel; and in September, we learned about the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya in the journalistic masterpiece, City of Thorns by Ben Rawlence.

In October, we read Ishmael Beah's incredible memoir, A Long Way Gone, which tells the story of his life as a boy soldier after fleeing rebel violence. In November, we reimagined Uganda's history in Kintu by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi. And we ended the year reading one of the New York Times' 100 Notable Books of 2020: The Dragons, the Giant, the Women by Wayétu Moore, her memoir recounting her childhood escaping the first Liberian civil war. 

As we turn the calendar to a new year, we are excited to continue reading—and we invite you to join us. Sign up for the Opportunity Book Club now and get a book recommendation in your inbox every month! 

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