Peace Corps Book List: I

This is just the beginning of a list of books recommended to us by friends and returned volunteers as well as by the Peace Corps itself. Here are the first five that we’ve read so far with many more to come.

All of the books on the list can also be found at your local bookstore, at, or as eBooks & audio books. Click on the book or book title for a link to the book.

{Feel free to suggest additional reading too!}

Happy Reading, Mari & Paul


How to Live Your Dream of Volunteering Overseas

by Joseph Collins, et al

We read this during our Peace Corps application process. We wanted to make sure we knew about other options in case the Peace Corps was not for us or if it didn’t work out. It was recommended by our dear friend **Kim**.

The book is basically a listing of different types of volunteer programs around the globe and varying in time commitment, cost, and expectations. It offers pros and cons to the plethora of options it lists.

Though this is a good resource as a jumping off point, we did a lot of extra research online with the information provided.

While we were still convinced to at least apply to the Peace Corps, it is a good idea for anyone considering volunteering overseas to check this one out.


Alternatives to the Peace Corps

by Caitlin Hachmyer

Also recommended to us by **Kim**, this compilation introduces several volunteer abroad opportunities other than the Peace Corps with more in-depth reviews than How to Live…

Although there are fewer resources in this book than How to Live, it is  one that we read cover-to-cover in one sitting and is useful for exploring if the Peace Corps is right for you.

Again, many of the mentioned alternatives will warrant further investigation online or by calling or writing the organizations involved.

Unlike the Peace Corps, be aware that almost every other international volunteering program has fees associated with it. In addition to paying for airfare, most of these programs also ask for contributions towards room & board.

However, these alternatives also offer more flexibility in terms of region, timing, time commitment, and expectations and are not as competitive to join as the Peace Corps.


The Insider’s Guide to the Peace Corps

by Dillon Banerjee

Written by a Returned Peace Corps Volunteers, we enjoyed hearing from other RPCVs  to gain a better understanding of what life is really like in the trenches.

This is a good one to read before or after you’ve decided if applying to the Peace Corps is right for you.

It offers advice about the application process as well as examples and quotations from RPCVs from various regions.

We read this during the application process and we are definitely going to revisit it again before we leave.



by Dan & Chip Heath

**Susie** read this for her book club and she recommended it to us. Mari borrowed it first and enjoyed it so much that now we’ve taken out the audio book from the library to listen to it in Charlie on the next leg of our road trip.

The authors outline a basic framework with which to understand how change, at any level, happens. Their sound advice is based on a number of specific case studies they detail in the book from individuals to multi-nationals {it was strange to read the BP case study after the spill!}.

Mari most appreciated the memorable metaphors and the case studies on international development and teaching. Others may be interested in how to create change in corporations and other bureaucracies.


Living Poor

by Moritz Thompsen

We have been reading this book aloud to one another and we have loved every minute of it. Thompsen’s unique voice comes through this classic memoir. It’s not hard to see why Living Poor is one of the most recommended books for future PC volunteers.

Little did we know when we started reading this book that we, too, would be placed in Ecuador for our service, potentially visiting the same places as Thompsen.

A middle-aged farmer from California, Thompsen’s passion for service comes through in his words and results in a decision to extend his service for an extra year.

With humor, love, and great affection Thompsen documents his life in a tiny remote village of Rio Verde and his attempts to organize the local community to raise pigs, grow corn, and start a farming cooperative.

If you’re looking for an idealized version of what PCVs are up against, this is not the book for you. Thompsen does not shy away from the hardships and challenges of service and candidly shares some of his darkest days with readers. But, that’s also why we liked it so much!



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One response to “Peace Corps Book List: I”

  1. Harveybar says :

    I am so happy your hard work and research finally paid off. This is just the beginning. I bet you’ll be writing a book like this someday

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