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The International Bank of Bob: Connecting Our Worlds One $25 Kiva Loan at a Time

The International Bank of Bob: Connecting Our Worlds One $25 Kiva Loan at a Time

4.8 8
by Bob Harris

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Hired by ForbesTraveler.com to review some of the most luxurious accommodations on Earth, and then inspired by a chance encounter in Dubai with the impoverished workers whose backbreaking jobs create such opulence, Bob Harris had an epiphany: He would turn his own good fortune into an effort to make lives like theirs better. Bob found his way to Kiva.org, the


Hired by ForbesTraveler.com to review some of the most luxurious accommodations on Earth, and then inspired by a chance encounter in Dubai with the impoverished workers whose backbreaking jobs create such opulence, Bob Harris had an epiphany: He would turn his own good fortune into an effort to make lives like theirs better. Bob found his way to Kiva.org, the leading portal through which individuals make microloans all over the world: for as little as $25-50, businesses are financed and people are uplifted. Astonishingly, the repayment rate was nearly 99%, so he re-loaned the money to others over and over again.

After making hundreds of microloans online, Bob wanted to see the results first-hand, and in The International Bank of Bob he travels from Peru and Bosnia to Rwanda and Cambodia, introducing us to some of the most inspiring and enterprising people we've ever met, while illuminating day-to-day life-political and emotional-in much of the world that Americans never see. Told with humor and compassion, The International Bank of Bob brings the world to our doorstep, and makes clear that each of us can, actually, make it better.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A well-meaning entrepreneur, Harris accumulated the experiences for his memoir as a journactivist: in Dubai to report for a luxury travel site, he encounters migrants working under extreme imbalances of wealth and quality of life.His ideals and desire to help at a grassroots level are supplemented by travel to more complex economies, ultimately coalescing in personal microloans, the same economic lending policy championed by Bangladeshi Nobel-laureate Muhammad Yunus. Brandishing his new volition, Harris discovers a loaning organization and, with its benediction, creates and tracks his own loans to needy beneficiaries abroad. The experience takes him to far-flung economies, many rebuilding after the strife of internal war and genocide, or recovering from violent political and governmental upheaval. With as much objectivity as possible, Harris investigates his specific microlender's field operations as well as those of non-affiliated financial players. The narrative is buoyed by anecdotes from politically and economically-scarred places, the local characters he meets and expected travel drama he must overcome. Although his feet are firmly planted, Harris spends equal time considering both the celebrated and negative aspects of microlending. There's ample humor and empathy, yet the book's tone, sentimentality, and extensive footnotes undermine the well-meaning intentions of his literary, if not his actual, enterprise. (Mar.)
From the Publisher

“No book this important should be this delightful. Bob Harris's funny, tender, and incisive opus works as both an engaging personal memoir and a clear introduction to the world of microfinance. Filled with astonishing anecdotes and indelible characters from those corners of the world most of us never explore, Bank of Bob celebrates a process that is improving the lives of millions through a radically simple concept: moving us past the 'virtue of charity' to the exultation of connection. Give this book your time. It will pay you back.” —Joss Whedon, filmmaker

“Surprising in so many ways: a travelogue that makes the people in exotic locales as accessible as your next-door neighbors; a book about poverty alleviation that often makes you laugh out loud (or cry, sometimes on the same page); and a portrayal of loving families in challenging environments that leaves you feeling stronger, more connected to the world, and full of hope. In short: joyous, humane, and inspiring.” —Arianna Huffington, President and Editor-in-Chief, The Huffington Post Media Group

“Bob Harris shows us how to save the world without being an insufferable prig -- The International Bank of Bob is enlightening, inspiring, and entertaining.” —Steven Pinker, Harvard College Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of The Better Angels of Our Nature

“Read this book. Be amazed at a man as decent as Bob Harris. Learn how the world works. Actually help improve the world. And be entertained, amused, and enlightened along the way. Seriously. Just by reading a book.” —Arthur Phillips, author of The Tragedy of Arthur

“Truly inspirational. Ten minutes after I finished this book, The International Bank of Ken opened in Cambodia.” —Ken Jennings, author of Because I Said So!

“The result of [Harris's] writing is a series of honest portraits of mothers, husbands, and farmers to whom a $25 loan was life changing.” —The Daily Beast

“An engaging, fully transparent, upbeat narrative, with chockablock footnotes and resources.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Most travel books promise to transport you to parts of the world you've never seen. This book goes one better: it will take you to places you'd never have the courage to go, to meet people you'd never meet -- from a bicycle repairman in the backstreets of Rabat to a pig trader in Tuzla to a barber in Beirut. And it's not even a travel book. It's a quest! Bob Harris goes literally (and literarily) to the ends of the earth in order to see first-hand the effects of his micro-financing loans. A writer with a big heart and a keen eye, Harris's book will make you feel optimistic, inadequate, informed, fortunate, awful, and edified. It may also inspire you to help change the world.” —Hart Hanson, creator, executive producer, and writer, Bones

“What a wonderfully uplifting book -- proof positive that small things really can have a huge impact. This compassionate travelogue through the world of microfinance not only moves you to count your own blessings, it inspires you to want to make a difference in this world -- just like Bob Harris has.” —Robert J. Sawyer, Hugo Award-winning author of FlashForward

“Believe it or not -- and I know most people don't -- there's a moral arc that bends toward justice, and the world really is becoming a better place to live. This is due in part to the spread of democratic institutions from the top down, but the real change is coming from the bottom up from people like Bob Harris, through his boots-on-the-ground approach to helping people improve their lives one small loan at a time. This book is not only inspirational, it is illuminating, enlightening and, well, damn funny!” —Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic magazine, monthly columnist for Scientific American, and author of The Believing Brain

“An important review of the strengths of microlending and its limitations… a fun read… powerful.” —The Boston Globe

Kirkus Reviews
The story of a well-meaning American journalist who travels the poorest regions of the world in search of the human stories behind microfinance loans. Having landed a plum assignment in 2008 for Forbes Traveler that entailed staying at the world's most expensive hotels in Dubai and Singapore, among other places, Harris (Who Hates Whom, 2007, etc.) returned deeply moved by the plight of the migrant workers he witnessed offstage, who had toiled to build the pleasure palaces of the rich. Resolved to do something to help alleviate the world's enormous disparity of wealth, the author was intrigued by microfinance, the lending of small amounts to the working poor in the developing world, first formulated by Nobel winners Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank. Unlike charity, microfinance institutions like Kiva.org actually motivate people to change their lives, leading to better education, investment in capital equipment and acquisition of real estate. After hearing a talk by soft-spoken Kiva president Premal Shah, Harris sunk his $20,000 Forbes pay into 5,000-plus Kiva loans in approximately $25 increments that went to small, family enterprises from Peru to Cambodia. He then followed up by actually visiting clients and finding out how the money was spent and whether it did any good in helping bring people out of entrenched poverty. Harris embarked on an extraordinary journey, braving dengue fever, among other hazards. He visited a husband-and-wife furniture-making team in war-torn Sarajevo whose business sends their kids to school; a Rwandan single mother who used her loans to set up a thriving convenience store in her town; and the proprietor of an early-education center on Chicago's North Side. In an engaging, fully transparent, upbeat narrative, with chockablock footnotes and resources, Harris presents the MFI case very persuasively.

Product Details

Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.20(d)

Meet the Author

Bob Harris has had a diverse career as a TV writer, TV and radio personality, and political columnist. He has appeared on Jeopardy! thirteen times, staging some of the most memorable upsets and collapses in the show's history. His first book, Prisoner of Trebekistan, chronicling his Jeopardy! experience, was widely praised, as was his second, Who Hates Whom, a pocket summary of more than 30 conflicts around the world. He holds an honors degree in electrical engineering and applied physics from Case Western Reserve University. Bob lives in Los Angeles. Visit his website at www.bobharris.com.

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The International Bank of Bob: Connecting Our Worlds One $25 Kiva Loan at a Time 4.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 8 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Who know that I could be taught the ins and outs of micro finance in such an interesting and heart warming way. If you have no idea what Kiva is, this is the book for you. If you're a current Kiva lender, this is the book for you. If you're a business book reader, this is the book for you. If you're a traveler, this is the book for you. If you're a cultural junky, this is the book for you. If you have a big heart (or even if you think you need to grow your heart a little more), this is the book for you. Basically, if you are a human being, this is the book for you.
Manhattan136 More than 1 year ago
Great read and very Inspiring! I was completely engrossed in this book, as it is an entertaining, witty and intelligent travel memoir. The focus is obviously microfinance, but this is not intimidating for non-economic minded folks; learning how different people in very different geographies live and work hard and aspire for more is a reality check and humbling experience. Really enjoyed this, and highly recommend it!
HaroldMoss More than 1 year ago
I am so glad that Bob Harris went on this enthralling, epic adventure, so that I didn't have to. But, boy, am I glad he did! And that he wrote so beautifully about it so we could all go along for the ride from the dengue fever free comfort of our favorite reading chair. Little did Bob know when he went on a tour of luxury hotels around the world that it would spark a much bigger journey, one with the tiny little goal of trying to figure out how to do something about the horrible inequalities he witnessed outside the doors of these gilded palaces. On the way, Bob discovered Kiva, and their incredible online micro loan program. So the journey began, through thousands of loans, and then to meet the people on the other end of those loans. You will love to meet each and every one of these people, through the kind, curious, and eager eyes of Bob Harris, and learn too a bit about the world they live in. This is the other side of globalization. A shrinking world where we can all get to know each other a bit better, and reach out across divides that seemed unbridgeable not so long ago. But no more. This book had me literally laughing out loud just paragraphs after having me in tears. And if you ever thought footnotes were boring, you haven't read footnotes generated by the brain of Bob Harris. His footnotes are what the internet should be. Quick, entertaining, and full of tasty nuggets of insight and knowledge. I highly recommend this read. The pages fly by. But be careful, it might just inspire you to get up and do something in this world. Or at least go online to Kiva and make a difference with a couple of clicks, so you can start up the International Bank of You.
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Dawn_Briscoe More than 1 year ago
Very interesting look into the world of Kiva. I have found a new favorite author!
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