Topic: Book Reviews

The Idealist: a brilliant, gripping, disturbing portrait of Jeffrey Sachs

For The Idealist, Nina Munk, a Vanity Fair journo, stalked Jeffrey Sachs for six years, focusing on his controversial Millennium Villages Project (MVP). She interviewed the man, sat in on his meetings with bigwigs, and hung around the Millennium Villages to find out what happened when the Prof’s entourage moved on. The result is more subtle […]

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Governance for Development in Africa: Solving Collective Action Problems: Review of an important new book

The last year or so has been a bit quiet in terms of big new books on development, but now they are piling up on my study floor (my usual filing system) – Angus Deaton, Deepak Nayyar, Ben Ramalingam, Nina Munk etc etc. I will review them as soon as I can (or arm-twist better […]

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Speed reading rocks, so why don’t we all learn it?

The best day’s training I ever did was a speed reading course, offered by DFID (I had a short stint there about ten years ago). It helps me every day – when was the last time you could say that about a training course? The first part of the course covered what you normally think of […]

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A week at the Edinburgh festival: good theatre, bad music and great books

Last week Cathy and I spent our annual week at the Edinburgh festival. It provides a high intensity restoration of the mental flora (colonic irrigation of the soul?) before the autumn grind begins. We tend to avoid the ubiquitous stand-up comedy, even though the heckling sounds pretty amazing, and go for a more NGO-compatible diet […]

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How to think in Systems? Great (and accessible, and short) book.

Thanks to whoever suggested I read ‘Thinking in Systems’, by Donella Meadows. It’s great – one of those short, easy reads that may induce a gestalt shift in the way you see the world. The topic is ‘systems theory’ – that phrase that wise-looking wonks bandy about in meetings, to intimidating effect. If you can’t […]

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Politically smart aid? Of course! Political aid? Not so sure. Guest post by Tom Carothers and Diane de Gramont

Thomas Carothers and Diane de Gramont summarize the arguments of their new book on aid and politics How political is development assistance? How political should it be? These questions provoke divergent reactions within the aid community. For some, being political means using aid to advance geopolitical interests aside from development. Others emphasize the far-reaching political […]

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Is it just me, or is it getting harder to read books on development?

I just spent four hours reading a book. Well, a third of a book – I’m a slow reader. It’s the galleys for ‘Aid on the Edge of Chaos’, by Ben Ramalingam, due out this October. I’ll review it when it’s published, but reading it made me think about books in general, and how hard […]

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Citizens Against Corruption: What Works? Findings from 200 projects in 53 Countries

I attended a panel + booklaunch on the theme of ‘Citizens Against Corruption’ at the ODI last week. After all the recent agonizing and self-doubt of the results debate (‘really, do we know anything about the impact of our work? How can we be sure?’), it was refreshing to be carried away on a wave of […]

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The Limits of Institutional Reform in Development: a big new book by Matt Andrews

There’s nothing like an impending meeting with the author to make you dig out your scrounged review copy of his book. So I spent my flight to Boston last week reading Limits (sorry the full title is just too clunky).  And luckily for the dinner conversation, I loved it. Limits is about why change doesn’t […]

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Are global gender norms shifting? Fascinating new research from World Bank

I’ve been thinking a bit about norms recently – how do the unwritten rules that guide so much of our behaviour and understanding of what is acceptable/right/normal etc evolve over time? Because they undoubtedly do – look at attitudes to slavery, women’s votes, racial equality or more recently child rights. So in advance of International […]

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What do 6,000 people on the receiving end of aid think of the system? Important new book

Just finished Time to Listen: Hearing People on the Receiving End of International Aid, by Mary B. Anderson, Dayna Brown and Isabella Jean. It’s published by CDA Collaborative Learning Projects, a non-profit based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  The book reminds me of the World Bank’s great Voices of the Poor study, only this time it’s ‘Voices […]

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Book Review: Knowledge, Policy and Power in International Development: A Practical Guide

This review appears in the Evidence and Policy journal, where it is now available free online (after I protested about the scandalous, rip-off $30 they were charging). Or you can just read it here. Note to self: in future, I will not write anything for journals that are not open access (thanks to Owen Barder for that suggestion). […]

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