14 Empowering and Inspiring Books from TechnoServe Readers


If you’re looking for a good book recommendation, look no further! This selection of fiction and nonfiction has been reviewed by TechnoServe readers from around the world. You’ll find thought-provoking books like “Hunger” that connect directly to our mission of ending poverty. There is fiction from authors like Jonathan Escoffery that will open your eyes to a fresh perspective. We also included old favorites that continue to delight and inspire us. We hope you enjoy this diverse set of fiction and nonfiction book reviews that we’ve curated for you. 

“Books and doors are the same thing. You open them, and you go through into another world.”

–Jeanette Winterson



If I Survive You

by Jonathan Escoffery

Will Warshauer, President & CEO (USA)

My most recent read by Jonathan Escoffery is a linked series of stories about a Jamaican family that migrated to Miami. By turns funny and sad, the book explores racial, cultural and class identity via the lives of two brothers, Trelawny and Delano, their parents and friends. The book is also a thoughtful and moving look into a variety of father-son relationships as well as the ways that poverty forces people into a set of impossible and mostly bad choices. Although the themes it explores are serious, the book is often very funny. Escoffery is a gifted writer and you get to know his characters and care about them. If any of you are doing book clubs this is a good one for that.

The book begins this way: ” It begins with What are you? hollered from the perimeter of your front yard when you’re nine—younger, probably. You’ll be asked again throughout junior high and high school, then out in the world, in strip clubs, in food courts, over the phone, and at various menial jobs. The askers are expectant. They demand immediate gratification. Their question lifts you slightly off your preadolescent toes, tilting you, not just because you don’t understand it, but because even if you did understand this question, you wouldn’t yet have an answer. Perhaps it starts with What language is your mother speaking? This might be the genesis, not because it comes first, but because at least on this occasion you have some context for the question when it arrives.”

I’m much more familiar with poverty in developing countries in the global south than I am with poverty here in the USA, so the book helped me better understand poverty closer to home. And I saw lots of parallels as well in how poverty exhausts people, makes them desperate and can push them into poor choices.


The Island of Sea Women

by Lisa See

Elvy Gerez, Global Service Desk Manager (USA)

Lisa See’s thought-provoking novel revolves around the lives of two women, Young-sook and Mi-ja, who grow up on the Korean island of Jeju. The book explores the complexities of their female friendship, and the strength and resilience of women. 

A few great lines from the book: 

“Life is not always about what we want. It’s about what we are given.” 

“Each person you meet will change you in some way.” 

“The sea provides everything. It feeds us and keeps us alive, but it can also take everything away.”

Water-For-Chocolate -Laura-Esquivel

Like Water for Chocolate

by Laura Esquivel

José Romo, Partnerships Manager  (Mexico)

This book by Laura Esquivel has become a classic for Mexican audiences. It is a great and enjoyable book about a woman who cannot be with someone she loves so she finds a way of expressing love through her cooking.

“Each of us is born with a box of matches inside us but we can’t strike them all by ourselves”


Emergency Skin

by N.K. Jemisin

Trishna Gurung, Sr. Director of Communications (USA)

In a world that is literally on fire because of climate change, N.K. Jemisin’s novelette gives me hope for the future. Published by Amazon as part of the Forward collection in 2019, we are immediately drawn into a story of an explorer sent back to Tellus on a retrieval mission. Jemisin’s unique storytelling combines past, present and future. Its plausible premise comes from our current reality–plans to colonize space, increasing pressure on global food systems, and nature in crisis. Without giving too much away, read this if you need a future forecast of how we can turn the tide. Being community-centered, generous and collectively bold can still change our world for the better. Astra inclinant, sed non obligant. 

“We realized that it was impossible to protect any one place if the place next door was drowning or on fire. We realized the old boundaries weren’t meant to keep the undesirable out, but to hoard resources within. And the hoarders were the core of the problem…People just decided to take care of each other” 



Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things are Better Than You Think

by Hans Rosling with Ola Rosling and Anna Rosling Rönnlund 

Andrea Bettosini, Senior Manager, Global Entrepreneurship (Chile)

Factfulness was written in 2018 by the renowned professor Hans Rosling. It’s still very relevant to unpack the concept of poverty based on statistics. Rosling also has a TED talk, which is awesome. To me, the concepts in this book are a must for any development professional. 

A memorable quote: “This is a book about the world and how it really is. It is also a book about you, and why you (and almost everyone I have ever met) do not see the world as it really is. It is about what you can do about it, and how this will make you feel more positive, less stressed, and more hopeful as you walk out of the circus tent and back into the world.”


Hunger- The oldest problem

by Martin Caparros

Julieta Ocampo, Program Communications Specialist (USA)

The book offers a comprehensive analysis of the underlying causes of mass starvation, shedding light on the distressing inadequacies in the global response, and has completely transformed my perception of hunger. 

Why? Because it goes beyond the stereotypical image of famine and malnutrition, uncovering the quieter yet equally devastating impact of limited and poor-quality access to food for millions, along with the consequences it brings: millions of people suffering from preventable illnesses, cognitive stunting, and poor health outcomes directly linked to their restricted diets. 

This shift in perspective is critical to understanding the importance of initiatives like food fortification or economic inclusion, ensuring that people have the means to access a balanced diet. It’s quite challenging and prompts the reader to reevaluate their understanding of the issue and its implications. 

Most importantly, the themes explored in the book align closely with TechnoServe’s mission. Our focus on transforming food systems and driving economic inclusion for marginalized communities resonates with the text’s emphasis on the matter of ownership and distribution. The stark realization that there is indeed enough food for everyone, but imbalanced distribution perpetuating hunger, underscores the essence of the work we strive to achieve. 

Furthermore, the book underlines the political nature of the hunger crisis. It serves as a good reminder that addressing hunger requires collective action and strategic policy decisions. This resonates with TechnoServe’s commitment to fostering sustainable change through partnerships with the private and public sectors, advocating for equitable distribution, and promoting policies that enable vulnerable communities to access essential resources.

In conclusion, the book’s great analysis, its paradigm-shifting perspective on hunger, and its alignment with our shared mission make the case for a very compelling read. It will not only enrich your understanding of a critical global issue but also serve as a source of inspiration as we continue our work toward food system transformation and inclusive economic growth. Hopefully, you are now convinced to give this a read!


Zami: A new Spelling of My Name

by Audre Lorde

Luisa Arredondo, M&E Learning Director, MOCCA (Mexico)

Audre Lorde’s “Zami” is a great reflection on the importance of knowing oneself. It is also super interesting and helpful to understand more about gender intersectionality, which is highly connected to Technoserve’s work regarding gender and our mission towards equality. The whole book is beautiful and makes interesting reflections on love, friendship, womanhood, society and equality. 


An Immense World by Ed Yong

 by Ed Yong

Thiago Chang, Senior Manager Strategic Initiatives (Brazil)

Ed  Yong’s book helps us see the world through different eyes, understand the diversity of the world, and realize how our views are so biased by our own human senses. The book connects with TechnoServe in a way that we sometimes don’t perceive the world (and our own work) from the same perspective (or, even, senses…) as our beneficiaries.

A quote that resonated with me: “Nothing can sense everything, and nothing needs to. That is why Umwelten exist at all. It is also why the act of contemplating the Umwelt of another creature is so deeply human and so utterly profound. Our senses filter in what we need. We must choose to learn about the rest.”


The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World

by Andrea Wulf

Andrea Bettosini, Senior Manager, Global Entrepreneurship (Chile)

The book by Andrea Wulf is the biography, insights and travels around the world of Alexander von Humboldt, one of the most famous scientists of his age (1800), even before Darwin. And it’s just incredible that he already documented the lasting environmental impact of human economic activity at the time of Simón Bolívar and Thomas Jefferson. He was the first scientist to describe nature as we understand it today. Super interesting and fascinating book! 

As Wulf observes, “Humboldt was the first to relate colonialism to the devastation of the environment.”


How Prime Ministers Decide

by Neerja Chowdhury 

Mohammad Azhar, Senior Business Advisor (India)

The book tells many inside stories of how things happened in independent India, who the major actors were — the people in decision-making, and how well or badly they got along or what they thought of each other. Neerja Chowdhury’s work helps us to realize how much at sea they all were. It’s scary to see so much trial and error, which could be a top lesson in strengthening our leadership and decision-making skills.

Eric Jorgenson-Almanack-Naval-Ravikant

The Almanack of Naval Ravikant

by Eric Jorgenson

Marlyse Gakpa, Communication Manager, Prosper Cashew (Côte d’Ivoire)

Eric Jorgenson’s book is just awesome for those interested in building up their character and their outlook on life. A collection of gems on personal life, finances, life management, it is smart, precise and concise.”I only want to be around people I know I’m going to be around for the rest of my life. I only want to work on things I know have long-term payout.”


Rich Dad Poor Dad

by Robert Kiyosaki and ‎Sharon L. Lechter

Eric Msoma, Accountant (Tanzania)

This book advocates for the importance of financial literacy, financial independence and building wealth through investing in assets, real estate investing, starting and owning businesses, as well as increasing one’s financial intelligence. While Robert Kiyosaki’s companies, in particular Rich Global LLC, have gone bankrupt, he maintains a net worth of around $100 million. The financial guru has also come under fire for his Rich Dad seminars, and the advice he has given in his acclaimed “Rich Dad. Poor Dad” book.


Back to Bharat

by Nagaraja Prakasam

Mohammad Azhar, Senior Business Advisor (India)

This is an endearing tribute to the entrepreneurs of my country who strive to create wealth at community levels in the most ethical ways bearing in mind the sustainability, equity, and amity with all stakeholders—humans, nature, and future generations. Nagaraja Prakasam’s book helps us to sharpen our advisory efforts in the overall development of social entrepreneurship.


The Shepherd’s Life: Modern Dispatches from an Ancient Landscape

by James Rebanks

“The Shepherd’s Life” is an engaging personal account of a year in the life of a shepherd who chronicles his community’s confrontation with the modern challenges of this ancient profession. Rebanks weaves together his personal history, family lore, and local traditions into a compelling story of the hardships facing contemporary farmers, making even ordinary shepherding tasks into compelling allegories of regenerative agriculture and community engagement. In particular, his exploration of how land sustains culture offers a vision that is both optimistic and pragmatic for the future of farming. 

Here’s an extract: “The choice for our wider society is not whether we farm, but how we farm. Do we want a countryside that is entirely shaped by industrial-scale, cheap food production with some little islands of wilderness dotted in amongst it, or do we, at least in some places, also value the traditional landscape as shaped by traditional family farms?”

Books for all seasons

We hope you enjoy discovering your next new read through these recommendations. This diverse selection of fiction and nonfiction books were a source of inspiration, growth and delight for TechnoServe staff. 

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