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Leaving Microsoft to Change the World: An Entrepreneur's Odyssey to Educate the World's Children Hardcover – August 29, 2006

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Leaving Microsoft to Change the World: An Entrepreneur's Odyssey to Educate the World's Children + Creating Room to Read: A Story of Hope in the Battle for Global Literacy + Banker To The Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: HarperBusiness (August 29, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 006112107X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061121074
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (103 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #978,598 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

John Wood discovered his passion, his greatest success, and his life's work--not at business school or leading Microsoft's charge into Asia in the 1990s--but on a soul-searching trip to the Himalayas. Wood felt trapped between an all-consuming career and a desire to do something lasting and significant. Stressed from the demands of his job, he took a vacation trekking in Nepal because a friend had told him, "If you get high enough in the mountains, you can't hear Steve Ballmer yelling at you anymore."

See how John Wood came to start Room to Read and write Leaving Microsoft to Change the World in this video clip: high bandwidth or low bandwidth

Instead of being the antidote to the rat race, that trip convinced John Wood to divert the boundless energy he was devoting to Microsoft into a cause that desperately needed to be addressed. While visiting a remote Nepalese school, Wood learned that the students had few books in their library. When he offered to run a book drive to provide the school with books, his idea was met with polite skepticism. After all, no matter how well-intentioned, why would a successful software executive take valuable time out of his life and gather books for an impoverished school?

But John Wood did return to that school and with thousands of books bundled on the back of a yak. And at that moment, Wood made the decision to walk away from Microsoft and create Room to Read-an organization that has donated more than 1.2 million books, established more than 2,600 libraries and 200 schools, and sent 1,700 girls to school on scholarship-ultimately touching the lives of 875,000 children with the lifelong gift of education.

Leaving Microsoft to Change the World chronicles John Wood's struggle to find a meaningful outlet for his managerial talents and entrepreneurial zeal. For every high-achiever who has ever wondered what life might be like giving back, Wood offers a vivid, emotional, and absorbing tale of how to take the lessons learned at a hard-charging company like Microsoft and apply them to one of the world's most pressing problems: the lack of basic literacy.

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. It's a rare business book that not only provides savvy insights for better business practices but transcends the category altogether, to rank as an infectiously inspiring read. Wood takes the reader on an engaging journey from his life as a rather ordinary marketing director at Microsoft through the transformative decision to launch the nonprofit organization Room to Read (www.roomtoread.org), which has created more than 2,000 schools and libraries for children across Asia. From his first trip to Nepal, where he was struck by the country's 70% illiteracy rate, through his courageous decision to leave Microsoft, to the logistics of growing and expanding the Room to Read initiative, Wood endears himself to the reader with his introspection and honesty. Crediting his former employer with giving him the business skills and drive to aim high, he outlines the concrete steps he took to make his vision a reality. Marked by sincerity and savvy, this is the kind of book that business colleagues will discuss with their acquaintances, spouses and friends. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Customer Reviews

Very well written book.
Mr. Williams
Please read the book by John Wood "Leaving Microsoft to Change the World".
Sentekin Can
I try to buy only good books and strive to get all the great ones.
Alaa Salman

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Helveticus on September 4, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I had this book on backorder and raced through it as soon as it arrived. In a busy world preoccupied with success and materialistic pursuits, this was a breath of fresh air. A well written account of one man's journey from corporate America to making a real change in children's lives. This is a must read for all - it reminds us that we can all make a difference if we choose to do so. Also loved the inside peek at Microsoft and those who are at the helm. John Wood is funny, honest and a great storyteller. A great gift for young adults heading off to college or those starting on their own career path!
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46 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Chapati VINE VOICE on August 29, 2006
Format: Hardcover
If you're one of those people who always has a book in your bag, who snatches moments to read just one more page on the morning commute, and who really can't imagine growing up without a library close at hand ... this book is for you.

John Wood did what most people only dream of- he left a lucrative position in one of the world's top companies to form a non-profit organization whose purpose it is to bring books, computers and a chance at education to children throught South and Southeast Asia.

And then he wrote a book about it. In it, he says that non-profit companies should work, in practical matters, very much like for-profit companies. They should be organized, passionate and focused. Wood takes some time to give readers pointers as to how to achieve this.

The success of the idea for the Room to Read organization has been amazing. I hope the success of the book matches that.

I only have one quibble with this book and that is that at some points, Wood seems almost whiny. There are at least a handful of times in which he is close to tears, and a few more in which he does some real soul-searching. Luckily for us readers, Wood writes more about these instances in his journal than in his book.

The book is passionate, upbeat and interesting- it really will make you want to do your part to make the world a better place.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By J. Balin on September 10, 2006
Format: Hardcover
It is a rare find to have top-tier business skills, a fierce compassion for people and a successful track-record of reaching for the stars, and pulling them in; John Wood is such a find, and his book, "Leaving Microsoft to Change the World" gives us the opportunity to find it as well.

John's heroic odyssey is so captivating and honest, that it's enjoyment factor almost masks the plethora of lessons and insights coming through page after page. This is a must read for anyone wanting to up-the-ante on their own expectations for life, leadership or impact in the world.

Not only does John's story inspire the heart to aim higher, it pinpoints the rigor and awareness required to get there. It is impossible to read this book and see your own potential in the same way ever again. John Wood has us believe there's more -- lots more -- and he provides the hope, example and means, to pursue it!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By NY Girl on February 24, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is a fantastic book - for people in the business or the non-profit world who want to be inspired by a single individual's ability to produce amazing results. Its an unapologetic look at what it takes - personally and professionally - to accomplish the most daunting of goals. John and Erin's model clearly works and will continue to scale and change the lives of generations and generations of families around the world. Literacy is one of the most powerful tools in any country.

This is a must-read for anyone who has ever wondered, "how can I make a difference?" I suggested this for book club and everyone loved it ... I also gave this book to a number of friends at Christmas and received rave reviews back.

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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Michael Erisman on March 31, 2007
Format: Hardcover
John Wood has an epiphany while trekking through Nepal. He was a highly compensated leader at Microsoft and yet when confronted with a simple request from a poor Nepal educator - "Next time you come maybe you can bring some books" - little did John know that this would change his life, and the life of countless others.

This is a truly inspiring story of someone who realized that there is more to life than the endless meetings and business strategy, and chose to leave that world behind to focus on making a difference to the education and literacy of countless children in Nepal.

The book is well written, engaging, funny, touching and at times depressing. I have been employed at Microsoft for a while and found it sad that John felt he could not have this kind of impact from within the company. There are so many great things the company is doing to help bring literacy and education to the world through technology, and it's a sad testament to those he worked with that someone as courageous and obviously talented as John couldn't have been used by the company with its resources to make this kind of impact from within. There are some hilarious bits in here about Microsoft, but overall I was left wondering "what if".

The book is enlightening in more ways than just the wasted potential of major multi-national companies; it also addresses some of the short sightedness of many charitable organizations he sought to partner with. Most importantly though it sends the message that one person really can make a difference. I was reminded of the wisdom of gaining wealth but losing your soul. John found the courage to find his, despite what he had to leave behind.

Overall, I recommend this book highly. It is well written, enjoyable, and inspiring. If John can make a difference, then so can we.
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