Summary and book reviews of The International Bank of Bob by Bob Harris

The International Bank of Bob

Connecting Our Worlds One $25 Kiva Loan at a Time

By Bob Harris

The International Bank of Bob
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  • Hardcover: Mar 2013,
    416 pages.
    Paperback: Feb 2014,
    416 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Jo Perry

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Book Summary

Hired by ForbesTraveler.com to review some of the most luxurious accommodations on Earth, and then inspired by a chance encounter in Dubai with the impoverished workers whose backbreaking jobs create such opulence, Bob Harris had an epiphany: He would turn his own good fortune into an effort to make lives like theirs better. Bob found his way to Kiva.org, the leading portal through which individuals make microloans all over the world: for as little as $25-50, businesses are financed and people are uplifted. Astonishingly, the repayment rate was nearly 99%, so he re-loaned the money to others over and over again.

After making hundreds of microloans online, Bob wanted to see the results first-hand, and in The International Bank of Bob he travels from Peru and Bosnia to Rwanda and Cambodia, introducing us to some of the most inspiring and enterprising people we've ever met, while illuminating day-to-day life-political and emotional-in much of the world that Americans never see. Told with humor and compassion, The International Bank of Bob brings the world to our doorstep, and makes clear that each of us can, actually, make it better.

Excerpt
The International Bank of Bob

Mohammed is a bicycle and motorcycle repairman, slight of build, shy, almost apologetic in his body language. As he first welcomes me, I am sure that he was one of the smaller kids where he grew up, and he probably still feels it sometimes.

As a forty-two-year-old adult, Mohammed now labors for eleven hours per day, six days a week, in a space smaller than many American kitchens. Mohammed's work area is crammed floor- to-ceiling with tires, wheels, cogs, chains, motor blocks, and assorted metal bits, but there's an order to the crammery, everything in its place. You can see right away that

Mohammed doesn't waste time here. He works.

When our conversation concludes, I turn around from Mohammed's garage, facing a half-dozen young men in this working- class part of town.

They are staring at me and speaking to each other in a language I don't understand.

One of them is making a fist.

When I was a boy ...

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Bob Harris educates, amuses, and introduces readers to people we're honored to know, all while explaining the sometimes complex workings of micro-finance in a lively and lucid way.   (Reviewed by Jo Perry).

Full Review Members Only (1018 words).

Media Reviews
Publishers Weekly

There's ample humor and empathy, yet the book's tone, sentimentality, and extensive footnotes undermine the well-meaning intentions of his literary, if not his actual, enterprise.

Kirkus Reviews

In an engaging, fully transparent, upbeat narrative, with chockablock footnotes and resources, Harris presents the MFI case very persuasively.

Author Blurb Joss Whedon
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 micro finance.

Author Blurb Arianna Huffington, President and Editor-in-Chief, The Huffington Post Media Group
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, human, and inspiring.

Author Blurb Steven Pinker, Harvard College Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of The Better Angels of Our Nature
Bob Harris shows us how to save the world without being an insufferable prig - The International Bank of Bob is enlightening, inspiring, and entertaining.

Author Blurb Arthur Phillips, author of The Tragedy of Arthur
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.

Author Blurb Ken Jennings, author of Because I Said So!
Truly inspirational. Ten minutes after I finished this book, The International Bank of Ken opened in Cambodia.

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Kiva.org Online Micro-Lending

Founded in 2005, Kiva.org is a non-profit that uses the Internet and a global network of micro-finance institutions to allow people to make loans that will help alleviate poverty and create financial independence. Loans can be as small as $25. Once a loan is made, the lender receives updates. As the loan is repaid, the money is credited to the lender's account and is ready to be used again for another loan.

A Guatemalan Kiva loan recipient Both lenders and borrowers have profiles on the Kiva.org site. Lenders learn about the people who receive their loans—who they are, where they live, their families, and their plans for using the borrowed funds. Lenders can choose among categories such as housing, "green" or transportation, can choose by country or gender, or ...

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