I picked up this book hoping to find an interesting story that would also teach me a solid background in microlending. Unfortunately I didn't find enough of either in "Banker to the Poor."
The author lacks a focus in both his material and his audience. For example, if the book is about Grameen Bank, it could do without the opening sections of scattered bits of Yunus's life.
I also feel I could have learned more about microlending in a lengthy Economist article than from this book, especially when it comes to some of the challenges or downsides to microlending. The book leaves basic questions frustratingly unmentioned, much less unanswered (e.g. what role does *savings* have, or not have, in reducing poverty?).
Yunus offers almost no criticism of Grameen or microlending in the book, which makes for very odd reading, when for example he has a chapter on "Grameen Bank 2" -- if there was not much wrong with Grameen Bank 1, why the complete overhaul for Grameen Bank 2?
This story is told with too much tangential information and musings, to the point where I was jealous half way through the book in which the protagonist tells another person everything that had happened thus far in “less than 30 minutes” – why couldn't he have given the poor reader the same treatment?
A more concise telling may have made the book entertaining, but there would still be problems with unsatisfying actions taken by the characters, as well as the unsatisfying ending.
Had Twain stopped after the first section, in which he describes riverboat piloting and his exploits therein, I would have come away with a positive impression of the book. His piloting writings were entertaining and interesting, even though not particularly relevant in today's world.
However the later chapters ruin the book. Twain documents his return to the Mississippi with a plethora of miscellaneous descriptions and loosely related anecdotes. These sections range from only mildly entertaining to just plain boring, as Twain doesn't even use his humor to save them.
In the end the disappointment of the second half outweighs the enjoyment of the first half.
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