Skip to content

Blood:Water Staff Book Picks for Your List



As spring starts, you might be setting goals for what you’d like to accomplish as the weather improves. And if reading is on that list, we have just the resource for you! In honor of World Book Day, the Blood:Water team put together a list of books that inspire us to continue our work with our partners in sub-Saharan Africa. Whether you choose add these to your reading list this year, or simply want to learn a little more about our team, these books can help you step further into our mission!

jake smith

Jake, Executive Director

Book Pick: Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa by Dambisa Moyo

“After visiting Africa for the first time in 2008, I was struck by the wisdom, creativity, and potential of all those I met. However, despite this, there appeared to still be extremely high levels of poverty, lack of access to clean water, and a declining health system. This book outlined many of the ways in which policies over the last 50 years created a culture of aid-dependency versus a development strategy managed by Africans, for Africans. While not prescribing a quick-fix, Dead Aid does a wonderful job of outlining how we got here and what lessons we can take with us moving forward.”

Liz, Annual Giving Manager

Book pick: A Spirituality of Fundraising by Henri Nouwen


“Nouwen’s approach to fundraising as ministry, as a calling, pulls me deeper in my work. It’s more than best practices and compelling offers. What matters is this: are we making a way for our supporters to grow and to partner with us in our mission? This is what keeps my work fresh and exciting!”


Aaron, Co-Founder & Director of Operations

Book pick 1: Visions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good by Steven Garber

“Visions of Vocation serves as a companion as your journey of vocation unfolds, and you start to pay attention to the patterns of your life and the mentors and teachers all around you. Steve is a great teacher himself, building the framework while giving tangible examples of friends and neighbors living more fully into their vocations. My sense of responsibility in this world has been shaped deeply by Steve’s insights and heart.”

Book pick 2: Becoming Whole: Why the Opposite of Poverty Isn’t the American Dream by Brian Fikkert and Kelly M. Kapic

“For many years, When Helping Hurts has been referenced as an important guide to community development, and it was an influential book in the early days of Blood:Water. Becoming Whole brings the concepts into our current cultural moment and challenges, and the accompanying A Field Guide to Becoming Whole serves as a road map utilizing the concepts.”

Amanda, Performance Monitoring Manager



Book pick 1: Introduction to Syndemics: A Critical Systems Approach to Public and Community Health by Merrill Singer

“This book is targeted towards public health professionals, and changed the way I viewed and thought of disease and disease burden. Singer introduces the theory of syndemics whereby diseases are more likely to co-occur in specific contexts and, as a result of harmful social conditions, can enhance their consequences. At a bio-social level, this supports why Blood:Water chooses to work in both WASH and HIV/AIDS, as their disease burdens in eastern and southern Africa cannot easily be separated from one another from a public health perspective.”

Book pick 2: Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights and the New War on the Poor by Paul Farmer

“Paul Farmer really challenges the causes and concepts around poverty and disease and the root causes of why certain populations are affected while others in positions of relative power are not. He frames his work in a way that challenges the systemic nature of addressing needs at a holistic level. It is not a light-hearted read, but it is a really important one.”

Book pick 3: Development as Freedom by Amartya Sen

“Amartya Sen is a Nobel Prize winner and one of the first economists to frame development as more than just financial, rather as multi-dimensional. He frames his version of this idea as a set of freedoms, and that is the true goal of development, or the sign that it has been achieved.”

Book pick 4: What Can One Person Do? Faith to Heal a Broken World by Sabina Alkire

“Sabina Alkire is a leading professional on multidimensional poverty research, founding the Alkire-Foster method that works to measure this real phenomenon to better address and measure global targets. In this book, she discusses how global poverty, clarity of purpose, and practical steps can help to create lasting change. The more we can collectively come to a shared vision, the more human communities can flourish.”


Dan Haseltine, Co-Founder & Major Gifts Officer

Book pick: Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder

“I first found this book while in the steepest curve of my learning about international development.  Paul Farmer’s care for the human story as paramount in serving the poor helped create lenses for me to look through.  His rebellious and tenacious adherence to the principles of dignity and care were so vividly described by Tracy Kidder, I’ve been a fan ever since!”

Dan also wanted to share some of his all-time favorite books, because it was hard to pick just one to share:

  • Fiction: Peace Like A River by Leif Enger, Beartown by Fredrik Backman, Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry, and Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

  • Non-Fiction: Sex, Drugs & Cocoa Puffs by Chuck Klosterman, U2 at The End of the World by Michael Flannigan, How Music Works by David Byrne, and Soul Mining by Daniel Lanois

  • Children’s Literature: Harry Potter: The Order of the Phoenix by JK Rowling, Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein, and The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone by Timothy Basil Ering

Lindsey, Finance Manager

Book pick: Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals by Shane Claiborne, Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove, and Enuma Okoro


“Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals is a prayer book I’ve found myself turning to a lot throughout 2020 and 2021. It has daily scripture readings to be read throughout the day, prayers on different topics, and monthly action items. The prayers are poetic and traditional with a social justice perspective. It’s something that can be picked up at any time, any day when needing some inspiration.”


Mindy, Marketing & Design Specialist

Book pick: When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty Without Hurting the Poor… and Yourself by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert

“When Helping Hurts does a great job of untangling the problem of poverty and unpacking how these issues typically require much more complex solutions than many people realize. The principles in this book (development > relief, sustainability > temporary solutions, and empowerment > dependency, for example) have helped to inform Blood:Water’s approach as well.”

Caitlyn, Development Coordinator

Book pick 1: Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Book pick 2: A Grain of Wheat by Ngugi wa Thiongo’o




“These are a couple of the books that have given me perspective on how important it is to consider the greater picture of who people in different parts of the world really are and listening to them. I have loved learning more about various African cultures and how they view the world, yet how we’re all so much more alike than we realize. Both beautiful pieces of fiction, Things Fall Apart is a trilogy based in Nigeria, and A Grain of Wheat is based in Kenya, where Blood:Water has been working since we started!”


Abby, Development Intern

Book pick: Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption by Katie Davis

“The most beautiful thing about Kisses from Katie is the way she writes about the people of Uganda. Katie makes it abundantly clear that every person deserves dignity. Whether young or old, healthy or sick, everyone deserves to be treated lovingly and with respect. This is what Blood:Water believes, as we come alongside our partners who do just this within their communities: sharing Christ’s love through their love and care for the vulnerable in sub-Saharan Africa.”


Book Pick: One Thousand Wells: How an Audacious Goal Taught Me to Love the World Instead of Save It by Jena Lee Nardella

One Thousand Wells is a memoir written by one of our co-founders that tells the story of her life and how Blood:Water was founded. We all read this book when we join the team and it gives such an honest, in-depth look into who we are as an organization and why we do what we do.

Book Pick: Lulu and the Long Walk by Dan Haseltine and Joel Schoon-Tanis

Written by our other co-founder, Lulu is a wonderful book to introduce your children to the water crisis in a way they can identify and engage with. It is also adorable and fun, even for adults as well!


Site Designed and Developed by 5by5 - A Change Agency