For anyone interested in the '3rd' world, global health, and/or humanitarian aid, the following are a great resource.
  • Things Fall Apart and Arrow of God - Achebe, 1958 & 1969.
    Both books offer a fascinating and unflinching look at Nigerian village life around the time of British colonialization.
  • The Famished Road - Okri, 1991.
    I'm not a big fan of the 'magical realism' genre, but this 1991 Booker Prize winning novel has enough non-magical realism to maintain your interest. The depiction of life in a modern African town is engaging and informative.
  • The Shadow of the Sun - Kapusciñski, 2002.
    When Africa makes international news, it is usually because war has broken out or some bizarre natural disaster has taken a large number of lives. Westerners are appallingly ignorant of Africa otherwise, a condition that the great Polish journalist and writer Ryszard Kapusciñski helps remedy with this book based on observations gathered over more than four decades.
  • Dark Star Safari: Overland from Cairo to Capetown - Theroux, 2004.
    "Africa is materially more decrepit than it was when I first knew it, hungrier, poorer, less educated, more pessimistic, more corrupt, and you can't tell the politicians from the witch doctors."
  • Mountains Beyond Mountains - Kidder, 2004.
    An enjoyable description of Dr. Paul Farmer's development of Partners in Health. I have written a (brief) review here.
  • Awakening Hippocrates - O'Neill, 2006.
    "The primer outlines the reasons why health professionals are essential to affecting change in current global affairs and how they can participate in serving those who are in need." Includes fascinating summaries of the myriad influences on poverty and subsequent ill-health.
  • The Trouble with Africa: Why Foreign Aid Isn't Working - Calderisi, 2006.
    Argues that many of Africa's problems are related to such internal factors as market mismanagement, anti-business sentiments, and fatalistic African family values, in an account that proposes radical solutions to shortcomings in foreign aid and debt relief.
  • Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies - Diamond, 2008.
    "The history of interactions among disparate peoples is what shaped the modern world through conquest, epidemics, and genocide. These collisions created reverberations that have still not died down after many centuries, and that are actively continuing in some of the world's most troubled areas today." I find it fascinating depressing that this historical "shaping" still so greatly affects the needs of my colleagues in medically-underserved countries.
  • Caring for the World: A Guidebook to Global Health Opportunities - Drain, 2008.
    Assembles the stories, experience, and advice of prominent global health practitioners in this guidebook for health care workers who are interested in - or already are - improving the lives of people throughout the world. Serves best, I think, as a primer for those starting their involvement in this field.
  • The Other - Kapusciñski, 2009.
    Poland's most celebrated foreign correspondent focused on major wars and revolutions in the developing world. This collection includes four of his speeches on the concept of the "Other." Fascinating from a philosophical standpoint, but I found it less interesting than his other essays (see "The Shadow of the Sun" above).
  • Global Surgery and Public Health - DeVries & Price, 2010.
    With decades of successful international experience, the authors are ideally placed to discuss a systematic approach to considering surgery in the context of a broader umbrella of public health.
  • Africa. Altered States, Ordinary Miracles - Dowden, 2012.
    "After a lifetime’s close observation of the continent, one of the world’s finest Africa correspondents has penned a landmark book on life and death in modern Africa."
    Guidebooks for specific countries:
    • Lonely Planet The Gambia & Senegal (Multi Country Guide) - hard to get a guide for Senegal alone (or, I presume, The Gambia). Anyway, this book was invaluable on my last trip to Senegal, and its information regarding Dakar and environs was very accurate. I'll need to wait till my next trip to assess its accuracy elsewhere in this amazing country.