A well-intentioned but ultimately self-serving follow-up memoir from the author of Leaving Microsoft To Change The World. At the age of 35, Wood left his executive job at Microsoft to start "Room to Read," a startup charity dedicated to partnering with local communities to bring books to impoverished children all over the globe. From the first five libraries in rural Nepal to the opening of its 10,000th in the book's opening scene, the organization quickly became one of the fastest-growing and most lauded charities of the last decade. The story runs through the birth of Room to Read, his break when on Oprah while flogging his first book, the growth of the ambitious goal to bring literacy to every child in the world, expansion to Africa, growing pains, and the swift growth of the company's reach. Wood is admirably committed to the importance of education in alleviating global poverty, and his stories of children determined against all odds to learn are inspiring, but there's simply not enough here beyond a lukewarm, feel-good tale.
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“[John Wood’s] extraordinary enthusiasm [and] boldness…come through clearly. His legacy of libraries is one of which another role model – Andrew Carnegie – would no doubt have been proud, especially since Wood began with nothing like the same personal fortune.”
“Room to Read will show people they do not need to accept the forces of darkness….May the larger, smarter, more compassionate team win. I know which side will get my investment.”
“John Wood is building a global movement around literacy and gender equality. Creating Room to Read offers a blueprint for transforming lives…and eventually the world.”
—Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook and New York Times bestselling author of Lean In
“A refreshing reminder of the power of libraries—their ability to transform individual lives and strengthen communities.”
“An absorbing personal account of a remarkable achievement.”
“Wood’s passion for literacy and education infuses every page. An inspiring read on the power of books.”
"Just think what would happen if a couple hundred people followed his example."
—President Bill Clinton
"One of the legendary triumphs of philanthropy was Andrew Carnegie's construction of more than 2,500 libraries. Numerically, it has already been surpassed several times over by an American man you've probably never heard of. Wood is tireless, enthusiastic and emotional: a motivational speaker with no off button."
In what sometimes seems like a post-book world, it is easy for technologically savvy readers to forget that many people lack basic literacy and have no access to books (regardless of format) at all. Wood (founder, Room To Read; Leaving Microsoft To Change the World) looks back at the work of his literacy organization, on the opening of the 10,000th library it helped build in Southeast Asia and Africa. The Room To Read program is based on a challenge-grant model that works with local communities to build support for individual projects. Room To Read does not define itself as a charity; monies given are investments, not donations. The organization has expanded to include teacher training, education programs for girls (who make up two-thirds of the world's illiterate population), and book publishing in local languages. Wood traces the philosophy and growth of the organization and tells the stories of the people in these communities. VERDICT Inspiring and heartfelt, this will remind readers that books and reading remain a powerful tool for change. Wood's story shows how even the most intractable problems have solutions when people work together.—Nancy Almand, Fresno City Coll. Lib., CA
How one man's vision of making books available to every child has changed the lives of millions. In 1999, at the height of the tech boom, Wood (Leaving Microsoft to Change the World: An Entrepreneur's Odyssey to Educate the World's Children, 2006, etc.) gave up the executive fast track at Microsoft to pursue "the quest for global literacy." His success--the opening of 10,000 school libraries across the globe within the next decade--exceeded his optimistic expectations. Room to Read, the organization that he founded, has published more than 700 children's books in local languages, expanded globally into 10 countries in Asia and Africa, partnered with local communities to build new schools and provided 17,000 scholarships for women. This moving account of the way the program has impacted the lives of children is only one part of Wood's important story. The author explains how he applied lessons learned in the corporate world to running a successful nonprofit, describing Room to Read's commitment to maintaining low overhead and accountability. Opening the first school libraries (filled with donated English-language books) revealed the need for simple children's books in local languages, and this led to the publishing venture. Similarly, the organization addressed the special problems faced by young girls who wanted an education. In every instance, local communities were challenged to partner in the venture. Wood explains how he is achieving his goal of being "one of many leaders of a global movement," and he pays special tribute to Nelson Mandela's understanding of how encouraging "a profound and deep love" for reading can be a transformative social force. An absorbing personal account of a remarkable achievement.