- Hardcover: 416 pages
- Publisher: Walker Books; 1 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: 196 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #459,585 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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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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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
“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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The last time I read a book in two sittings, I was 13 and had just discovered Interview with the Vampire. So, yeah, I would say that International Bank of Bob had a big effect on me.
This is Bob's best book yet. You can see the best elements of his previous work (Who Hates Whom and Prisoner of Trebekistan)on display here. Bob has an encyclopedic knowledge of the sociopolitical history of each location he visits, and he imparts it with his unique, whimsically funny style.
The book follows Bob's awakening to some of the most ridiculous inequities of the world, through his attempts at finding a realistic way of addressing them, to his exposure to microfinance, and finally on a round-the-world trip to see how microfinance has affected the lives of so many entrepreneurs--not just in the developing world, but right in his backyard.
This is not a mere love letter to microfinance or to Kiva. Bob goes off the beaten path, seeking out the dark side: the microfinance institutes that have failed, and the lenders that microfinance has failed. But he comes out believing that, while imperfect, while subject to the same abuses and avarice that you see in any human endeavor, it is one of the best and most promising ways of lifting hardworking people out of poverty.
He is very convincing.
Not to mention hilarious.
Bob Harris finds one day that he sees what is beyond the glamour and starts to wonder what one person can do about it? He starts an interesting journey where he finds that one person can make a difference and with only a $25 investment. Wondering if what he finds is just another illusion, much like the wonders of Rio or any other city with high poverty, he begins his investigation and takes us along for the ride.
Bob provides a very candid and personal view of his journey and his findings might just surprise you if you have the courage to keep and open mind and to see what one person could do to make the world a bit of a better place. Notice I did NOT say make everything perfect, just make it a bit better than it was before you got involved.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone who believes that people can succeed if you give them a hand, not just a hand out!
As a Kiva lender who has started several others on Kiva, I was really interested to see what the real impact is. As a traveler, I enjoyed Bob's travel story. And as a reader, I was riveted and couldn't wait to get back to my book when life called me away. Bob comes across as an intelligent, decent human being. I'm glad he made this trip and documented it so well; the rest of us can follow in his footsteps vicariously.
I've recommended this book to all my friends & family who are interested in microfinance and/or world travel.