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Whether you are currently a humanitarian worker, wish to start a career in humanitarian aid, or are just interested in global issues, there are number of helpful and insightful books out there to learn from.

From memoirs to analyses and how to avoid burnout, we asked our staff in the field what books they consider to be their “must-haves” on their bookshelf. This is what they recommend:

1. When Helping Hurts

By Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert

When Helping Hurts takes a much-needed look at the complexities of poverty and how poorly designed and executed efforts to help — even with the best of intentions — can actually cause harm to communities. Corbett and Fikkert help us see that we are all in need in some manner and suggest strategies for effectively alleviating poverty that uphold the dignity of everyone.

2.  Chasing Chaos: My Decade In and Out of Humanitarian Aid

By Jessica Alexander

This memoir follows the journey of a young, idealistic intern on her first assignment in the aftermath of the Rwanda genocide through her 10 years of service in some of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters. Wide-eyed and eager to help, life in the field wasn’t exactly what Alexander expected, but she was hooked. Alexander’s journey is an honest look into the highs and lows of working in humanitarian aid with its seemingly unsurmountable challenges, while also being a story about hope and resilience.


3. The Idealist’s Survival Kit: 75 simple ways to avoid burnout

By Alessandra Pigni

For anyone feeling overwhelmed and over-tired as a result of work, Pigni offers 75 tips to regain strength and renew purpose. A trained psychologist who spent numerous years in the field working in conflict and disaster zones, Pigni combines the experiences of other humanitarian professionals with research to provide this empowering resource to aid anyone in a “helping” profession avoid burnout and press on in their calling.


4. The End of Poverty

By Jeffrey Sachs

Renowned American economist, Jeffrey Sachs, examines the complex, interwoven economic, political, environmental, and social issues facing the world’s poorest nations. Having worked in Bolivia, Russia, India, China, and Africa, Sachs combines real-life experience with careful analysis to set forth a vision for what the world’s poorest countries can do to prosper.


Looking for more?

Here are some additional suggestions that are worth the read:

  • It’s What I Do – Lynsey Adario
  • Development as Freedom – Amartya Sen
  • The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope – William Kamkwamba
  • The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It – Paul Collier

Do you have a book you consider to be a “must-read” that didn’t make the list? Share it with us on our Facebook page.

Do you have what it takes? Apply for our Relief and Orientation Course (ROC) in order to be considered for any of our field positions.