A Path Appears – Book Review

I just finished reading A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity by Nicholas D Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, and I want to share my thoughts with you and recommend that you check this book out.

As the blog name suggests, I am in the middle of my own personal journey to become a better individual and to make the world a better place. I sometimes get overwhelmed with the many ways that I wish I could help people and the world, and I get frustrated that I cannot do it all.

A Path Appears fits nicely into this journey, and it struck the right balance for me between information and inspiration.

The authors write about the need to inform our giving decisions with evidence about results and effectiveness, and not just overhead percentage.  William MacAskill also writes about this approach to giving in Doing Good Better, and I find the argument very convincing. The authors also tie this concept to the use of marketing and executive compensation in the nonprofit world (i.e., we should be willing to pay a little more for these things if it delivers a better impact overall for our money).

The book talks about the power of early intervention. When I started reading this section, I thought about the Parents as Teacher’s program, and how investments in these sort of programs can actually save money by catching problems (e.g., hearing, which can affect speech development) early on – all while improving the quality of life for the children they serve. The authors mention programs along those lines, and they go even earlier: programs that help mom’s during pregnancy or even in family planning can have really impressive effects.

I volunteer as a “reading buddy” at a local school, working with 3rd through 5th graders. Some of the children I’ve worked with have severe reading deficits, and I wonder about how an earlier intervention might have saved them all this struggle. I am also grateful for the opportunity to help them at this younger age, because I know that the cost will only increase as time goes on.

I don’t mean to cover every topic from the book, so I’ll finish with just a few quick ideas that really caught my interest. There are many other topics, and I’m sure others will grab your interest as you read it.

  • The CURE Violence approach that treats violence like a disease epidemic and focuses on interventions and immunity
  • The social aspect of doing good. This has me really thinking about how I can make my efforts more social: involve my friends, family, and community more to create fun shared experiences where we are doing good for the others.
  • Religious vs. secular. I really liked that the authors addressed this: “If secular liberals can give up some of their scorn, and if religious conservatives can retire some of their sanctimony, combined they might succeed in making greater progress against common enemies of humanity.”
  • I often struggle about whether to help closer to home or donate to address more third world problems (where donations may accomplish more), and I appreciated the authors’ counsel: “go where your heart directs you, but don’t forget to bring your head, too.”
  • The authors also talk about human psychology and marketing when it comes to individuals vs. statistics. We respond more generously to pleas that focus on an individual person rather than a larger group or statistical problem (e.g., 1 in 5 children; 10 million people). I’m applying that right away to help connect my family more with our donations in support of anti-malaria and similar efforts: if we can find a single story, or a single individual, we can post that in our house and frame our donations as helping that one case (even though our donations are really helping a multitude).

There you have it. Now, check this book out from the library. Or, if you feel so inclined to buy it, please help support our site by purchasing it through our affiliate link here: A Path Appears. We received no compensation for this review, although we will earn a commission if you purchase through the book through the affiliate link.

Please follow and like us:

1 thought on “A Path Appears – Book Review”

  1. I think the author hit the nail on the head, Adam! “If secular liberals can give up some of their scorn, and if religious conservatives can retire some of their sanctimony, combined they might succeed in making greater progress against common enemies of humanity.” This is what I run into the most when reporting and in social circles. Your thoughtfulness is so welcome!

Comments are closed.