Humanitarian Workers’ Reading List

At One Nurse At A Time, we believe that it is critical to educate ourselves about the ethics of humanitarian work. Understanding the experiences of the populations that we serve is the foundation of good nursing. On this Banned Books Week, we wanted to share with you some of the books that helped shape our understanding of global issues, poverty, and health care.


Humanitarian Workers’ Reading List


  1. What is the What by Dave Eggers


Based on the life of one of the Lost Boys of Sudan, What is the What tells the extraordinary and heartbreaking story of Valentino Achek Deng as he crossed hundreds of miles by foot after being forced from his village, and ultimately landing in the United States to face challenges that he never expected.


  1. Six Months in Sudan by James Maskalyk


Six Months in Sudan is the immediate account of young emergency room doctor,

James Maskalyk’s experience with MSF (Doctors Without Borders) experience in Abyei, Sudan. Based on his blogs home to keep family and friends updated on the mission, this book is an honest account of the harsh and poignant realities of humanitarian work.


  1. At Play in the Fields of the Lord by Peter Matthiessen


Matthiessen’s 1965 novel At Play in the Fields of the Lord tells the story of the Quarriers, a family of religious missionaries who have come to the rainforest to convert the local Niaruna tribe to Christianity. What unfolds is a complex look into what happens when we idealize and sometimes judge indigenous populations because it is not good intentions that matter when the outcome is cultural genocide.


  1. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Ann Fadiman


What happens when your beliefs around medicine are contrary to that of your patient? Ann Fadiman’s provides food for thought in her account of a Hmong child with epilepsy whose family’s beliefs around disease clash with those of Western medicine.


  1. Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World (Paperback)byTracy Kidder

Do you think that one person can’t make a difference? Then pick up this biography of Dr. Paul Farmer, medical anthropologist and physician, who is fighting tuberculosis in Russia, Peru, and Haiti. Through his work, Dr. Farmer became a co-founder of Partners in Health and is a living example of how one person can make a big impact.


  1. Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide (Hardcover)byNicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn


Global poverty impacts women disproportionality. Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn take a look at women who are fighting these odds. The book explores the potential of women to help stop poverty. It’s a tough but inspirational dive into the lives of emancipated women around the globe and the differences they make.


  1. The Poisonwood Bible (Hardcover)byBarbara Kingsolver


Told from five perspectives, The Poisonwood Bible examines the experiences of the Price family, evangelical missionaries sent to the Belgian Congo. Spanning three decades, the book explores the disasters of colonialism/post-colonialism from a personal and continental perspective. It’s an eye-opener.


8. Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance     


It is as important to understand perspectives abroad as it is to understand challenges at home because global health exists in our backyards. Vance delves into cultures and cycles of poverty in an eye-opening and unique way. Things are never as simple as they seem on the surface.


  1. Find Me Unafraid: Love, Loss, and Hope in an African Slum (Hardcover)by

Kennedy Odede and Jessica Posner


Find Me Unafraid tells the inspirational story of Kennedy Odede, a child who grew up in the slums of Kibera, Kenya foraging for food and teaching himself to read with old newspapers. Through a very unlikely series of events, he met his wife Jessica Posner, from Denver, Colorado. Together they formed Shining Hope for Communities, a school for girls in Kibera which provides education, health care, clean water, and economic empowerment. This book makes you believe in the impossible.