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
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.