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The International Bank of Bob: Connecting Our Worlds One $25 Kiva Loan at a Time Hardcover – March 5, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

While on assignment in Dubai to cover the world’s most luxurious hotels, Harris got sidetracked by the stories of the indentured immigrant laborers conscripted to build these palaces of opulence. Determined to do something to help the families of the working poor worldwide, he signed up with Kiva, an organization that allows individuals to lend money via the Internet to people in developing countries by providing “microfinancing” loans to small family businesses, for everything from buying material and supplies to the purchase of cows and goats. Not content with merely helping from afar, Harris volunteered to tour the world and meet some of the Kiva recipients, and this is where the story really begins. Traveling to challenging and often war-torn places like Peru, Bosnia, Rwanda, Cambodia, and Beirut, Lebanon, he checks out the repair shops, furniture businesses, hair salons, yogurt makers, and livestock owners who have been made successful by the microloans, but, most important, he learns firsthand about their personal and political struggles and is deeply impacted by the lives of the new friends he makes along the way. --David Siegfried

Review

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)
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Walker Books; 1st Us Edition edition (March 5, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802777511
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802777515
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.4 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (187 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #526,894 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

97 of 101 people found the following review helpful By Living it up VINE VOICE on February 4, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Disclaimer: I am a HUGE fan of Kiva and have lent over $30k in the past 5 years and am on track to reach $35k by the end of this year (my hero is kiva lender "Good Dogg" who has lent over $2 million!!!). I think it's just about the best thing to happen to those of us who love giving and those who need funds! While Bob and many others have lent a whole lot more, it's about doing what you can, and hopefully loving it as you do. I do not know Bob or anyone else associated with Kiva. The other two reviews on amazon.com at this time cover the contents of the book so I'm going to focus on it's impact in my life.

I am so glad to see someone write a book about Kiva. While Bob may not be an ordinary lender in that he has a) travelled the world as a paid writer (unique gifts that allow him to have a terrific view of microfinance, kiva, lenders and borrowers) and b) had the gift of spending a lot of time with a wide variety of people involved in all aspects of the above--Bob still remains a regular guy.

I LOVED Bob's conversational writing style. As a fan of footnotes, this book is a dream! There are footnotes on almost every page. Some informative, some just plain entertaining. Whether you are reading this book to learn more about microfinance in general, Kiva specifically or because you're a giver who loves reading about other givers--this is a fabulous book.

While this book is definitely a fact-filled, informative source of the successes, failures and challenges of microfinance and it's role in eliminating poverty around the globe, it is also an entertaining, moving, and encouraging book.
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56 of 60 people found the following review helpful By N. B. Kennedy TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Bob Harris was a writer on assignment for a luxury travel website, on a whirlwind tour to test-drive the most expensive hotels around the world, when he had an epiphany: Most of the world doesn't live like this!

In Dubai, he stays in a hotel offering $1,500-a-night rooms and $7,500 cocktails served in glasses made of gold, but he discovers that pleasure palaces like these are being built by homeless, emigrant construction workers who labor for $6 to $8 a day. This jarring imbalance causes a seismic shift in the way Bob Harris views the world. He realizes that he has "won the birth lottery," and he wants to help others who didn't. But he doesn't just want to give money to charity. He becomes convinced that people know best what they need and therefore, they should be the ones to decide how to employ resources. "My role would be just to get connected, pitch in, and get out of the way," he says.

In time, Mr. Harris stumbles across Kiva, an online microlender that provides small loans to people who wouldn't otherwise qualify, mostly in the developing world. People -- ordinary people like you and me -- can browse the business ideas that need financing, whether a motorcycle repair shop in Morocco or a convenience store in Rwanda, and with a click or two contribute as little as $25, which is pooled together with other people's funds to make the loans. The loans' repayment rate is impressively close to 100 percent.

Mr. Harris makes thousands of loans, using the money he earned on the luxury hotel tour. Eventually, he decides to make another tour of the world, this time to meet some of the people whose loans he has contributed to and see how they're making out. Out of this tour arises his book.

Mr. Harris is companionable and funny, informative and earnest.
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49 of 53 people found the following review helpful By L. Roth VINE VOICE on January 2, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The world is a horrible place; poverty and tragedy are never in short supply. Injustice is right up there too. Bob Harris is very aware of this, perhaps far more than most people. A question he keeps asking in his travels is "How do you keep from going insane?" And yet this is very much a tale of hope amidst the horror, small victories at a one to one level that are making a difference.

Several years ago Harris landed a writing assignment for Forbes Traveler: go to some of the most luxurious hotels in the world, and detail the experience for their readers with the latest information. Nice work if you can get it, and as a free lance writer of semi-irregular income, Harris was properly appreciative. However, he found himself using his observational skills to compare and contrast. Side by side with some of the most incredible luxury on the planet is often horrendous poverty. Harris couldn't help but look at his own life and make connections.

His own family two generations back was living in poverty in America; a move by his father to a city where factory work could provide a start on a decent living for his family made all the difference. Harris, simply by being born when and where he was, in Ohio, had won the birth lottery that put him in a position to build on his family's hard work. Seeing men who had left their homelands, their families, to work in slave labor conditions in hopes of making things better for their loved ones was something Harris could understand at a gut level.

Harris was moved by a desire to do something - but what? This book is the story of the answer he came across: micro finance. All around the world there are people who could begin to change their lives with a small loan and some assistance.
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