Ten Ways to Not Waste Your Summer Reading List.

IMG_3988I treat Amazon Prime like it’s my personal library where I never have to return the books. [Kellan finds this habit positively charming and NOT OBNOXIOUS AT ALL.] But SWEET FANCY MOSES, when you can buy books for a penny with a click?! Be still my beating heart.

If you spent a week living at my house, you’d consume a startling amount of guacamole and routinely join Kellan in coming to check on me as I cackled my way through a book in the other room. Y’ALL. I love to laugh. If that’s not clear from this blog, I can do nothing for you. I giggle like it’s my job, and I have a list of books that make me snort out loud that I aggressively share with the people around me. [This when I’m not watching Hoarders or Extreme Weight Loss. There is NO JUDGEMENT HERE, friends.]

But I also love books that make me think. Books that pry my selfish eyes open and force me to look long and hard at people and problems that I’d never encounter if I didn’t go searching for them. I believe that Jesus designed us to demonstrate Him to a world hemorrhaging under the crushing weight of sin, and I find it difficult to do that when I don’t know where the wounds are.

So. While I fully intend to giggle my way through some beach reads this summer, I’ve also got a list that I pray will bother me, and make my heart, my time and my wallet look more like Jesus designed them to. And if anyone is looking for suggestions, here are ten favorites that have already wrecked my life. [Because I love you, click on the titles to find them on Amazon!]

Half the Sky: Are you a woman? Do you know one? Then I need you to read this book. Branded as a “passionate call to arms against the oppression of women around the globe”, it peeled my eyes open to what’s happening to women. I read parts of it out loud to Kellan on a road trip, and it was so gruesome that he had to ask me to stop. Reading about female genital mutilation, maternal mortality, little girls being trafficked into brothels, gendercide, gender discrimination—these are not easy things. They should make our stomachs churn and our hearts break—and they should move us to action. AND YOU CAN BUY IT USED FOR ONE PENNY ON AMAZON. Note: want further justification for  your Netflix account? This is also a documentary!

A Path Appears: This was written as a follow up to Half the Sky. Where Half the Sky raises issues, A Path Appears begins to raise solutions.  I wholeheartedly recommend picking this up after you read Half the Sky. Also a documentary!

A Billion Bootstraps: “We read microcredit success story after success story, from a tailor in the Dominican Republic who, prior to his microloan, sewed baby blankets and diapers because he could not afford enough cloth to make even one man’s suit, to a mother in India who, thanks to a $25 microloan, made enough straw brooms to buy her children back from bonded servitude.” Microcredit is one of the most powerful weapons in our arsenal in the fight against poverty—and this book serves as a FABULOUS introduction. [One penny on Amazon! ONE!]

The Locust Effect: “When we think of global poverty we readily think of hunger, disease, homelessness, illiteracy, dirty water, and a lack of education, but very few of us immediately think of the global poor’s chronic vulnerability to violence— the massive epidemic of sexual violence, forced labor, illegal detention, land theft , assault, police abuse, and oppression that lies hidden underneath the more visible deprivations of the poor.” Y’all, this was one of the best books I’ve read this year. I was so ignorant about the predatory violence that men, women and children trapped in poverty endure on a daily basis—and while the real stories shared left me horrified, the solutions shared at the end left me determined to enter the fight.

For the Least of These: With every chapter written by a different PhD or industry leader, this one often reads like a textbook. But friends, if I had a nickel for every time I looked up with wide eyes and asked Kellan, “Did you know _______________?!”, I could buy you all a copy. I think part of the value of this one is not simply that it talks about a Biblical response to poverty, but it also unrelentingly probes into how the church has historically responded to need, what has been effective, and what has not. Does the idea of placing as much emphasis on demonstrating the gospel as proclaiming the gospel make you squirm? This one’s for you.

Dead Aid: “The notion that aid can alleviate systemic poverty, and has done so, is a myth. Millions in Africa are poorer today because of aid; misery and poverty have not ended but have increased. Aid has been, and continues to be, an unmitigated political, economic and humanitarian disaster for most parts of the developing world.” I don’t know about you, but the idea that aid is often not just unhelpful, but DAMAGING, totally rocked my world. Want to know more? Pick this one up.

The Poor Will be Glad: “When Jesus specifically sets out to prove that he is the Messiah, the Promised One, what does he do? He meets the physical needs of people and preaches good news to the poor.” Written by HOPE International’s very own Peter Greer, this is a breathtaking look at the transformative impact that Christ-centered microfinance can have on the world. [ONE PENNY ON AMAZON. That is like, a lot of pennies less than basically ANYTHING ELSE.]

When Helping Hurts: Our good intentions aren’t enough. This is a relentless, uncomfortable, unspeakably helpful examination of our traditional methods of “helping” men and women trapped in poverty, why it hasn’t worked, and strategies that might more effectively accomplish what we want to do. This is foundational, and I make all of my people read it because I’m bossy like that. SUCH a worthy investment of your time.

Toxic Charity: “The food we ship to Haiti, the well we dig in Sudan, the clothes we distribute in inner-city Detroit—all seem like such worthy efforts. Yet those closest to the ground—on the receiving end of this outpouring of generosity—quietly admit that it may be hurting more than helping. How? Dependency. Destroying personal initiative. When we do for those in need what they have the capacity to do for themselves, we disempower them.”  Again, foundational, and another one I make all of my people read. Warning: if you raise $2500 to go on a mission trip every summer, prepare to get uncomfortable.

Seven: “I started praying about what God wanted; what would move me closer to His agenda and further from mine? What areas needed the most renovation? How am I blind and why? Where have I substituted The American Dream for God’s kingdom? What in my life, in the lives of most westerners, is just too stinking much?” Y’all, what might it look like to ask God how to live and not just what to do? If every little piece of our lives is to be submitted under the lordship of Christ and used for His glory, that means that uncomfortable self-examination is probably in order. I found this to be a wildly helpful, HILARIOUS tool in beginning to understand what it looks like to be uncomfortable. [And when I say hilarious, I mean that Kellan kept ASKING me to read it out loud because I snorted my way through it.]

BONUS MATERIAL [because narrowing a list down to just ten books gives me the sads]:

Portfolios of the Poor: “How do people—whose income is erratic and unpredictable—manage to put food on the table, let alone save for emergencies and old age? Portfolios of the Poor is the first book to systematically explain how the poor find solutions to their everyday financial problems. The authors conducted year-long interviews with impoverished villagers in Bangladesh, India, and South Africa using a method of “financial diaries”—records that closely track how specific households manage their money. These diaries reveal surprisingly intricate financial lives: most poor households do not live hand to mouth, but instead employ a variety of informal financial tools. Their experiences reveal new methods to fight poverty and ways to envision the next generation of banks for the ‘bottom billion.’” Y’all, this was FASCINATING.

What would you add?


  1. I am definitely going to look into some of these! I read Half the Sky a few years ago and was especially affected by the sections on obstetric fistula. I ended up inviting someone from Fistula Foundation to speak at a “lunch and learn” at my workplace, since they are located nearby, and I was so thankful for that opportunity! I also asked my husband to read the book, and I think it changed him more than me. So I would add, “ARE YOU A MAN? Read this book!” (Although presumably, they are included in your people who know a woman.) Thanks for all the book suggestions! :-)

    • ashleypdickens says:

      That’s incredible. I didn’t even know what fistulas WERE until I read it! Let me know what you end up reading–hope you enjoy them. :)

  2. I really love Kristof & WuDunn’s writing, LOVE it. I think “Half the Sky” changed the way I think about the world more than any other piece of writing.


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