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50 for 50: The Opportunity International Book Club

By Opportunity International

For years, we’ve felt deeply that the path to knowledge and innovation starts with education. Reading, whether an academic journal or an international novel, has always been a habit that keeps us curious, inspired, and creative.

In 2018, Opportunity International launched a new way to get involved, learn about the world, and connect with supporters: The Opportunity International Book Club.

Inspired by small book clubs that had popped up among groups of donors around the country, the Book Club became a global initiative designed to give our community a way to engage with the regions in which we work and travel the world from the comfort of their couch.

Since our earliest days, we have prioritized books set in countries in which we work, highlighted exceptional international authors, and explored the complex issues surrounding poverty and development.

To celebrate Opportunity’s 50th Anniversary, we are looking back at the Book Club picks that have shaped our understanding of our work and our clients. 

Factfulness by Hans Rosling

Perhaps the most influential book we have read so far, Factfulness explores the truth about our world through data—truth that can often get hidden by sensationalism or assumptions. Rosling shows us the many ways in which the world is getting better and reminds of the areas in which we still need to improve. 

In the wake of the pandemic, remembering this progress is more important than ever—especially as the work ahead of us has become even more challenging. 

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Spanning centuries and continents, Homegoing tells the story of two half-sisters born in Ghana in the eighteenth century—and the subsequent generations of their families. We loved learning more about Ghanaian history and culture through this engrossing novel, and it helped us better understand the context in which so many of our clients live and work.

Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo 

To prepare to write this powerful book, Pulitzer Prize winner Katherine Boo spent years in Annawadi, India, a slum community near the Mumbai airport. Her journalistic reflections invite readers to explore winding paths, enter tiny homes, and meet people who are doing whatever they can to survive.

It’s a hard read, but one that sparked great discussion and has stuck with us for a long time.

The Moment of Lift by Melinda Gates

Lifelong champion for women Melinda Gates wrote what is at once a call to action, a collection of inspiring stories, and a data-driven look at the power of women. We were inspired, challenged, and spurred to response by both her insights and the hardworking women and girls she introduced us to through the pages of this book.

As long-time partners and fans of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, we were so excited when The Moment of Lift finally hit shelves in 2019.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba

When we read this book in August 2018, we had no idea that two years later, we would meet William Kamkwamba at the Opportunity International Summit!

William’s remarkable story of his childhood in rural Malawi painted a vivid picture of the daily lives of so many Opportunity clients—and his tenacious drive to bring electricity and running water to his community reminded us of our clients’ determination and ingenuity.

The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré

One of the biggest surprises of the Book Club has been just how much we love reading fiction together. The beautiful stories of characters like Adunni in The Girl with the Louding Voice give us an inside look at the realities of families living in poverty. And Adunni’s courage and joy, even amidst incredibly challenging circumstances, inspired all of us. 

A Girl is a Body of Water by Jennifer Nansubuga Makumbi 

Set in Uganda, one of the countries in which Opportunity operates our full suite of programs, A Girl is a Body of Water reminds us that women are powerful forces for change in their communities. 

At Opportunity International, we are constantly developing new tools and training to help women access the financial services and support they need to thrive, and books like this motivate us to keep up this work. 

Want to read with us? Make sure you’re signed up for the Opportunity Book Club at opportunity.org/bookclub! Every month, you’ll receive a book recommendation in your inbox!

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