I’ve read a decent number of development books, like The Bottom Billion, The Elusive Quest for Growth, and probably 3-4 others. I just finished Poor Economics by Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo. It was by far the most interesting, well-written, and, most notably, information packed development book I have read.
Banerjee and Duflo take us through stories of their travels and compile the results of endless research studies (some of their own but the vast majority conducted by others) to synthesize, explore, present, and ultimately argue for various viewpoints on education policy, corruption policy, health policy, economic policy, and a few others. The depth of analysis reminded me of a peer reviewed research paper but the style of writing and ease of understanding reminded me of Freakonomics.
Pick up this book to learn whether free, susidized, or fully priced bednets are higher utilized—and, how their order of introduction affects the utilization rate. Pick up this book to learn why some of the poorest use moneylenders that may charge a 4-5% interest rate per day rather than a microfinance organization that may charge 20% a month. Also pick up this book to learn why nurses don’t show up to work in certain parts of India, how corrupt policies have been good, bad, and everything in between, how witchcraft may be similar to yoga, and probably 100 other interesting stories, relevant topics, and insightful thoughts and tidbits.
It’s a must read if you are at all interested in the challenges of developing and underdeveloped countries.