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John Wood discovered his passion, his greatest success, and his life's work—not at business school or leading Microsoft's charge into Asia in the 1990s—but on a soul-searching trip to the Himalayas. Wood felt trapped between an all-consuming career and a desire to do something lasting and significant. Stressed from the demands of his job, he took a vacation trekking in Nep John Wood discovered his passion, his greatest success, and his life's work—not at business school or leading Microsoft's charge into Asia in the 1990s—but on a soul-searching trip to the Himalayas. Wood felt trapped between an all-consuming career and a desire to do something lasting and significant. Stressed from the demands of his job, he took a vacation trekking in Nepal because a friend had told him, "If you get high enough in the mountains, you can't hear Steve Ballmer yelling at you anymore." Instead of being the antidote to the rat race, that trip convinced John Wood to divert the boundless energy he was devoting to Microsoft into a cause that desperately needed to be addressed. While visiting a remote Nepalese school, Wood learned that the students had few books in their library. When he offered to run a book drive to provide the school with books, his idea was met with polite skepticism. After all, no matter how well-intentioned, why would a successful software executive take valuable time out of his life and gather books for an impoverished school? But John Wood did return to that school and with thousands of books bundled on the back of a yak. And at that moment, Wood made the decision to walk away from Microsoft and create Room to Read—an organization that has donated more than 1.2 million books, established more than 2,600 libraries and 200 schools, and sent 1,700 girls to school on scholarship—ultimately touching the lives of 875,000 children with the lifelong gift of education. Leaving Microsoft to Change the World chronicles John Wood's struggle to find a meaningful outlet for his managerial talents and entrepreneurial zeal. For every high-achiever who has ever wondered what life might be like giving back, Wood offers a vivid, emotional, and absorbing tale of how to take the lessons learned at a hard-charging company like Microsoft and apply them to one of the world's most pressing problems: the lack of basic literacy.


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John Wood discovered his passion, his greatest success, and his life's work—not at business school or leading Microsoft's charge into Asia in the 1990s—but on a soul-searching trip to the Himalayas. Wood felt trapped between an all-consuming career and a desire to do something lasting and significant. Stressed from the demands of his job, he took a vacation trekking in Nep John Wood discovered his passion, his greatest success, and his life's work—not at business school or leading Microsoft's charge into Asia in the 1990s—but on a soul-searching trip to the Himalayas. Wood felt trapped between an all-consuming career and a desire to do something lasting and significant. Stressed from the demands of his job, he took a vacation trekking in Nepal because a friend had told him, "If you get high enough in the mountains, you can't hear Steve Ballmer yelling at you anymore." Instead of being the antidote to the rat race, that trip convinced John Wood to divert the boundless energy he was devoting to Microsoft into a cause that desperately needed to be addressed. While visiting a remote Nepalese school, Wood learned that the students had few books in their library. When he offered to run a book drive to provide the school with books, his idea was met with polite skepticism. After all, no matter how well-intentioned, why would a successful software executive take valuable time out of his life and gather books for an impoverished school? But John Wood did return to that school and with thousands of books bundled on the back of a yak. And at that moment, Wood made the decision to walk away from Microsoft and create Room to Read—an organization that has donated more than 1.2 million books, established more than 2,600 libraries and 200 schools, and sent 1,700 girls to school on scholarship—ultimately touching the lives of 875,000 children with the lifelong gift of education. Leaving Microsoft to Change the World chronicles John Wood's struggle to find a meaningful outlet for his managerial talents and entrepreneurial zeal. For every high-achiever who has ever wondered what life might be like giving back, Wood offers a vivid, emotional, and absorbing tale of how to take the lessons learned at a hard-charging company like Microsoft and apply them to one of the world's most pressing problems: the lack of basic literacy.

30 review for Leaving Microsoft to Change the World: An Entrepreneur's Odyssey to Educate the World's Children

  1. 4 out of 5

    RandomAnthony

    I read Leaving Microsoft to Change The World over three or four days, culminating in a marathon airline session between Milwaukee and Orlando. While I like Wood's basic premises, and I absolutely can’t fault him for his dedication, the question as to whether or not this book works both as inspirational narrative and trailblazer for the future of philanthropy is open to question. Wood's personal drive would be purely admirable if it weren’t borderline insane. I got the feeling, while reading, that I read Leaving Microsoft to Change The World over three or four days, culminating in a marathon airline session between Milwaukee and Orlando. While I like Wood's basic premises, and I absolutely can’t fault him for his dedication, the question as to whether or not this book works both as inspirational narrative and trailblazer for the future of philanthropy is open to question. Wood's personal drive would be purely admirable if it weren’t borderline insane. I got the feeling, while reading, that the author is one of those people who desperately wants to please others and focuses on measurable achievement as the sole indicator of whether or not an activity is worthwhile. To his credit Wood focuses his efforts on procuring resources for education in third world countries. Hey, if you’re going to be that driven and admit to having no life whatsoever you get my appreciation for pointing your efforts in the direction of making the world a better place. No problems there. As much as Wood complains about his travel schedule, not having a girlfriend, etc., I’m not sure I’m buying his regrets. Some readers would probably pay a steep price for the travel and meaning he experiences as part of his “Room to Read” gig. Maybe Wood is a modern, corporate version of a saint, cruising the skies on donated first class miles and using powerpoint to separate the affluent from their cash in the pursuit of a better world. Hey, his methods seem to be working, more often than not, and even if his life isn’t for many of us, I’m glad someone like him exists. I draw the line, however, with the deification of big business and the implied assertions that corporate practices are the best paths to successful nonprofit endeavors in every case. Sure, nonprofits need to evolve, but the implied idea that corporations have it right and if only nonprofits acted just like them…well…let’s just say that this book was written before the economy tanked and business leader idiocy was ever-present on CNN. Wood goes too easy on big businesses who toss him some cash for third world libraries. Does he ever ask, I wonder, if these companies’ practices in the third world are ethical? Yes, it’s glamorous to go to a big ticket event and procure money at a benefit, but how much are these companies paying their grunt workers and how much are their CEOs making that could go to the greater good? Still…like I said…Wood’s book is inspirational, no doubt, and leads to some interesting questions about how one person can change the world with the right understanding of how to work the hegemony. I enjoyed the book and I appreciate his efforts. More power to him.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Forest

    From a librarian's perspective, this is a little disappointing because of the lack of specific details about the Room to Read libraries, their patrons and their local staff. To a cynical person, the book will eventually become tedious because of the relentlessly optimistic and heartwarming tone. (To give the author credit, he is honest about his personal doubts and struggles with his decision to leave his lucrative job and work for four years without a salary to improve literacy in rural Asia. B From a librarian's perspective, this is a little disappointing because of the lack of specific details about the Room to Read libraries, their patrons and their local staff. To a cynical person, the book will eventually become tedious because of the relentlessly optimistic and heartwarming tone. (To give the author credit, he is honest about his personal doubts and struggles with his decision to leave his lucrative job and work for four years without a salary to improve literacy in rural Asia. But the stories from the field could have been cut and pasted from his annual reports. Weren't any of the schools or libraries burned to the ground by heathen guerillas or taken over by religious zealots? Out of thousands, one or two must have met a miserable fate) Most normal people, however, will love it, recommend it to all of their friends, and donate money to Room to Read the same day they finish it.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    If you're looking for a book about how to run an effective non-profit, or how to fundraise effectively for a non-profit organization, this book is for you. However, I picked it up looking for a great book about the lack of education in developing nations, why we should be concerened about that, and what we can do about it. In comparison, I really enjoyed reading "Three Cups of Tea", which made the educational issues in Pakistan (and its culture) come alive for me. I thought this might be a simil If you're looking for a book about how to run an effective non-profit, or how to fundraise effectively for a non-profit organization, this book is for you. However, I picked it up looking for a great book about the lack of education in developing nations, why we should be concerened about that, and what we can do about it. In comparison, I really enjoyed reading "Three Cups of Tea", which made the educational issues in Pakistan (and its culture) come alive for me. I thought this might be a similar story, but it's not. The author of this book focuses on his own life, his success at Microsoft, and how he has built a successful non-profit organization. While he is certainly having an amazing, powerful impact on global education, I was looking for a story about the issues his organization is trying to address. He spends hardly any time in the book explaining the issues, telling stories about the great need, helping us understand these issues and other cultures, etc. He doesn't even seem to deeply connect with the people he is trying to help. He is clearly very concerned, but doesn't seem deeply connected with their daily lives, heartbreaks, etc. He spends most of his time living in the U.S. building the organization and fundraising, and very little time getting to know the people who can help him understand the issues. He hires local people in each country to do that for him. Again, I admire all he has done, but I was looking for a different kind of book to read. I wanted to walk away from the book feeling like I really understood the plight of poor people in Nepal, what it's like for parents who can't afford an education for their children, what it's like for kids to grow up with no schooling, no books, etc. So I much preferred reading "Three Cups of Tea", and how the author really invested himself in caring for the people of Pakistan and spending lots of time with them, understanding their world, and then communicating that to us. Kudos for John Wood for his success, but don't read this book if you want another "Three Cups of Tea" experience.

  4. 4 out of 5

    LibraryCin

    3.5 stars John Wood was working for Microsoft when he took a trip to Nepal only to discover the lack of books/libraries in the schools there. Being an avid reader since he was a kid, he promised to return in a year with books for the school. It didn’t take long before he became so passionate about it, that he quit his job and started up what later became Room to Read in order to help developing countries build schools and libraries. This was later extended to grant scholarships to be sure girls w 3.5 stars John Wood was working for Microsoft when he took a trip to Nepal only to discover the lack of books/libraries in the schools there. Being an avid reader since he was a kid, he promised to return in a year with books for the school. It didn’t take long before he became so passionate about it, that he quit his job and started up what later became Room to Read in order to help developing countries build schools and libraries. This was later extended to grant scholarships to be sure girls would complete their schooling, as well. Room to Read has also expanded beyond Nepal into a number of other (mostly Asian) countries. This was good. He obviously loves what he does and it’s amazing how quickly Room to Read grew and how many countries it now helps. The first half of the book includes parallels and how working at Microsoft helped him start up this small non-profit. In the second half, he tells more stories of some of the kids who were/are personally impacted by the schools, and particularly some of the girls who have been granted scholarships.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mala Ashok

    If there is only one book you are going to read this year please make this the one. In describing his Odyssey to educate the World's CHildren John Wood tells of his gut wrenching experiences in SOuth East Asia, his decision to give up his blossoming career with Microsoft, and his founding of the "Room to Read," an organization whose mandate is simple - build schools and set up libraries so that the poorest of the poor may get an education. There were numerous occasions during my reading of this b If there is only one book you are going to read this year please make this the one. In describing his Odyssey to educate the World's CHildren John Wood tells of his gut wrenching experiences in SOuth East Asia, his decision to give up his blossoming career with Microsoft, and his founding of the "Room to Read," an organization whose mandate is simple - build schools and set up libraries so that the poorest of the poor may get an education. There were numerous occasions during my reading of this book when I was teary eyed. Please, I urge you to read this book

  6. 5 out of 5

    Tabs

    I want to give this man a hug. This book will put a smile on your face. 🤗😄🧡💛💚💙💜

  7. 5 out of 5

    Sue

    John Wood had a top marketing job with Microsoft which entailed long hours and lots of travel. For vacation one year, he went backpacking in the Himalayas in Nepal. A chance meeting with a gentleman at a café led to an invitation to join him as he visited one of the regional schools. John had always had a love for reading and education and jumped at the chance. What he saw was a rural school with too many children for the space, limited resources, and what few books there were (backpacker casto John Wood had a top marketing job with Microsoft which entailed long hours and lots of travel. For vacation one year, he went backpacking in the Himalayas in Nepal. A chance meeting with a gentleman at a café led to an invitation to join him as he visited one of the regional schools. John had always had a love for reading and education and jumped at the chance. What he saw was a rural school with too many children for the space, limited resources, and what few books there were (backpacker castoffs) were kept locked in a file cabinet. John found himself vowing to return with children's books the kids could read. He set a modest goal of 100 books and ended with thousands. It also ignited a passion in him for education in the developing world and led to his leaving his job with Microsoft and founding Room to Read, a non-profit that creates libraries and science labs along with funding long term scholarships for girls in the developing world. This was a goodreads suggestion because of other things I've read and was purchased through Amazon as no library system around me owned it. A feel-good account of an entrepreneur who sees a need and sets out to find a way to meet it. In this case, he took his business training background and lessons learned from Microsoft to establish something which has had tremendous success with even loftier goals. What started in Nepal has branched out to nine other countries. https://www.roomtoread.org/ I enjoyed this because it shares the struggles of wanting to do something and making it happen and isn't just success stories of here's-what-I-did. The one struggle for me was that after the talk of taking the books to the first school and going back to Microsoft and wrestling with working there, suddenly I read that there were several new schools funded and books in additional libraries. It took a jump that caught me by surprise as I hadn't realized he was beginning work on that while still at Microsoft. I admire his recognition of where his passion lay and having the guts to walk through the times of uncertainty to make it all happen.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Asuka Nguyen

    I read this book twice. The first time I devoured it. The second time I kept coming back to it and chewed one chapter after another. People are not wrong when they say a book reread doesnt feel like one that's read once. Anyway, I really look up to him, an unsung hero with a heart of gold. The future of this world owes people like him a big *Thank you* Besides his courage to walk out of a great position on a mega-cap company, the fact that he didn't - for a snapping moment - enjoy his life in Chin I read this book twice. The first time I devoured it. The second time I kept coming back to it and chewed one chapter after another. People are not wrong when they say a book reread doesnt feel like one that's read once. Anyway, I really look up to him, an unsung hero with a heart of gold. The future of this world owes people like him a big *Thank you* Besides his courage to walk out of a great position on a mega-cap company, the fact that he didn't - for a snapping moment - enjoy his life in China, gave up the love of his life, fought against his whack-a-mole doubts, or disuade his burning desire to own a private home, etc. build up an image of Saint. John Wood in me. I was wondering about Vu - the Vietnamese guy who somehow helped John decide that Vietnam is his next Destination - who he is and where he is now. I learned that Charity is not always a rewarding and satisfying thing to do. In fact, it's as stressful as any job in this world. Running a profit organization might have less work in some cases. Running an NGO, you need more than just hard work, dedication, a big heart and a sharp brain. When he was coming to the end of this book and telling us all about all the trade-offs he had to compromise looking back at the age of 40 in 2004, I was wishing I could do something for him - something deep that I couldn't name but knew extremely necessary. I immediately went online and found myself filled with gratitude getting to know he had found an understanding life partner. He is my God Value (in the words or Mark Mason). This world needs more John Wood.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Megan

    This book is about a Microsoft executive who is trekking in Nepal on vacation when he is invited to visit a local school. He is shocked by the conditions of the school and specifically the library - which has about 7 books locked up in a cabinet. He pledges to return with books for this school in the future. Thus begins his journey of quitting his job at Microsoft to start a non-profit that builds schools and libraries in third world countries. Again, this is a fascinating study of an amazingly This book is about a Microsoft executive who is trekking in Nepal on vacation when he is invited to visit a local school. He is shocked by the conditions of the school and specifically the library - which has about 7 books locked up in a cabinet. He pledges to return with books for this school in the future. Thus begins his journey of quitting his job at Microsoft to start a non-profit that builds schools and libraries in third world countries. Again, this is a fascinating study of an amazingly driven person. One of the most interesting parts was watching him basically recreate his job at Microsoft (all of the travel, stress and pressure) in his own non-profit. For him, I think he feels that he is doing something of much more importance, but the similarities in how he approaches both jobs is very interesting. Some of us see injustice and feel sad about it, and some of us see injustice and decide to create multimillion dollar organizations to address it. There are few people in the world like this guy - he is a true visionary.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Yofish

    I guess it's sort of an interesting story--guy leaves high-paying job at Microsoft in order to start a charity that builds schools and libraries in 3rd-world countries (first Nepal, then Vietnam, then Sri Lanka and other places affected by the Tsunami). There are two big flaws. One is that he really can't write very well. It all feels like it's high-school essay level. Stunted, cliche-filled, etc. The other is that it feels like he always has to be relentlessly positive; after all, he's still tr I guess it's sort of an interesting story--guy leaves high-paying job at Microsoft in order to start a charity that builds schools and libraries in 3rd-world countries (first Nepal, then Vietnam, then Sri Lanka and other places affected by the Tsunami). There are two big flaws. One is that he really can't write very well. It all feels like it's high-school essay level. Stunted, cliche-filled, etc. The other is that it feels like he always has to be relentlessly positive; after all, he's still trying to raise money. A couple of interesting insights about his interactions with Gates (which go poorly in his last job of trying to convince Chinese to 'buy into' Microsoft) and Ballmer (which sound awful in Ballmer's demanding-ness, but whom Wood seems to admire a great deal). He goes on and on about his belief that charities need more of a business-like approach: a workable business plan, for example. (Though it comes off as less like a belief and more like an 'obvious fact' the way he presents it.) That made me feel just a bit oogy.

  11. 4 out of 5

    BookSweetie

    John Wood, the author of this book, founded a non-governmental organization called Room to Read to bring books and literacy to children beginning in Nepal and quickly spreading to other countries. Readers of the book Three Cups of Tea (about Greg Mortenson) may try to compare Mortenson and Wood's similar efforts, but I suggest resisting that impulse as much as possible while reading. Wood and Mortenson both reveal something of their personal histories, turning points, and passion to make a diff John Wood, the author of this book, founded a non-governmental organization called Room to Read to bring books and literacy to children beginning in Nepal and quickly spreading to other countries. Readers of the book Three Cups of Tea (about Greg Mortenson) may try to compare Mortenson and Wood's similar efforts, but I suggest resisting that impulse as much as possible while reading. Wood and Mortenson both reveal something of their personal histories, turning points, and passion to make a difference. Wood comes from a background in the cooperate world whereas Mortenson begins as a son of a missionary in Africa who gets swept into the climbing world and then building schools. Wood's entry is specific: books, libraries, and literacy before his expansion into building schools and providing scholarships, especially for girls, a la Mortenson's Central Asia Institute. What sets this book apart is the way skilled business thinking used in Microsoft and other corporate settings influenced Wood's successful approach and was applied to Room to Read.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Dianne Everson

    Interesting upbeat book about giving children all over the world schools, libraries, computer rooms, and some scholarships. Often emphasizing girls. A very successful charity built on business model set up by John Wood. Marvellous what optimism, hard work, smart decisions, and a fundraising ability can do. Emphasis on showing donors what their money can accomplish, with volunteer help. Recommended reading, especially when feeling helpless to about the world today.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Liralen

    Reminded me somewhat of The Promise of a Pencil: in theory a book about the developing world but in practice a book about starting and running a business. Wood started working at Microsoft before the company became such a powerful entity, and a few years in he pretty much had it made: his Microsoft shares had increased rapidly in value; he had a high-powered job and chances to live all over the world and access to pretty much any (reasonable) luxury he could want. But a chance conversation convin Reminded me somewhat of The Promise of a Pencil: in theory a book about the developing world but in practice a book about starting and running a business. Wood started working at Microsoft before the company became such a powerful entity, and a few years in he pretty much had it made: his Microsoft shares had increased rapidly in value; he had a high-powered job and chances to live all over the world and access to pretty much any (reasonable) luxury he could want. But a chance conversation convinced him that he could be putting his effort in somewhere more important...so he quit his job to start providing books to schools in Nepal...and build libraries in schools, and build the schools themselves, and expand to other countries. And the book is...fine. He's a businessman rather than a writer, but that's to be expected. The thing is, the title could just as well be Leaving Microsoft to Start My Own Company. Not a tech company, sure, but that's still what the book's about: getting his feet wet in the nonprofit world and, often, applying lessons from Microsoft to his work with Room to Read. I'd really hoped to see more personal stories (especially about the kids these schools/libraries/books were for) and personal growth here, and it just wasn't forthcoming. Instead it's just a lot about fundraising and the people who believed in his vision (and some thumbing of his nose at the people who didn't—which, come on now! Yes, go ahead and be frustrated when somebody doesn't give you a grant...but skip the petty ha-ha-I-succeeded-without-their-money crowing) and discussions of when they expanded and where. I dunno. It's just, I found this bit—about visiting a school that opened in 2003—telling: A nightmarish scenario plays out in my mind. What if the school is poorly attended? What if the rooms were being used to house chickens in the grade one classroom and goats in grade two? I know that the developing world is littered with projects that had every good intention, but were badly planned and therefore unsustainable. (243) Yes, this is absolutely something he should be thinking about (and of course it turned out that the school was in great form), but shouldn't that have come up earlier than page 243 of a 254-page book? Indicative of just how little this book has to do with the individuals and how much it leans on business-money-connections. Two and a half stars, rounded up to a tepid three.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    John Wood quite an amazing job at Microsoft to make the world a better place by providing books to children around the world. His efforts have built hundreds of libraries and provided scholarships to school...not college, but primary and secondary school...to thousands. His love of reading as a child motivated him to help make sure that children in Nepal, Vietnam, South Africa, and India could get an education and make better lives. I was very moved by his story of what parents and communities we John Wood quite an amazing job at Microsoft to make the world a better place by providing books to children around the world. His efforts have built hundreds of libraries and provided scholarships to school...not college, but primary and secondary school...to thousands. His love of reading as a child motivated him to help make sure that children in Nepal, Vietnam, South Africa, and India could get an education and make better lives. I was very moved by his story of what parents and communities were willing to do when they had a chance to see a library built in their school. In one Nepali village, the cement for building was donated by the local rock crushing company, but there was no transport. The women of the village volunteered to carry the bags of cement ON THEIR BACK up the steep mountain to the village each morning before they went to do their daily work. This book underlines the saying, "There is no difference between the man who can't read and the man who won't read" and also highlights how ignorant we are of the privileges we enjoy. I bought this book for under a dollar at a thrift store...someone in Nepal had to carry building materials up a mountain so their child could learn to read it.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Laura Smith

    It's back to school time, which consumes our brains with thoughts of school supplies and uniforms or back to school clothes. We wonder who got which teacher and who will be in whose class. But, it's not like that for everyone. It's not like that around the world. John Wood was a senior exec at Microsoft. A trekking trip to Nepal changed his perception of life - changed his life, and the lives of so many others. "Perhaps sir, you'll someday come back with books." Was a plea from a headmaster at a It's back to school time, which consumes our brains with thoughts of school supplies and uniforms or back to school clothes. We wonder who got which teacher and who will be in whose class. But, it's not like that for everyone. It's not like that around the world. John Wood was a senior exec at Microsoft. A trekking trip to Nepal changed his perception of life - changed his life, and the lives of so many others. "Perhaps sir, you'll someday come back with books." Was a plea from a headmaster at a school with an empty library John met on his travels. He promised he would return with books. John Wood kept his promise. This is the story of how he left his fast-paced life to bring books and libraries to children who had never had the priveledge of either. Ten years later, John's organization, Room to Read www.roomtoread.org , has helped over 985,000 children around the world gain access to 9.4 million books, 11,246 libraries and 1442 schools. Now that's a happy ending, only it's not an ending, just a beginning. His story is eye-opening and inspiring. As you plan for back to school, whisper a prayer of thanks for the schools, buildings and books you and/or your children have access to. Shout a prayer for John Wood and his work and for all of those who have not.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Alissa

    I can’t say enough good things about this book, the author, and what his organization is doing. I was fortunate enough to hear the author, John Wood, deliver the keynote address at the Public Library Association conference last month. He is a dynamic speaker and his passion for this topic had me wanting to make a donation on the spot. The book covers how he started Room to Read and also his entrepreneurial lessons learned from Microsoft and how he applied them to his nonprofit organization. It’s I can’t say enough good things about this book, the author, and what his organization is doing. I was fortunate enough to hear the author, John Wood, deliver the keynote address at the Public Library Association conference last month. He is a dynamic speaker and his passion for this topic had me wanting to make a donation on the spot. The book covers how he started Room to Read and also his entrepreneurial lessons learned from Microsoft and how he applied them to his nonprofit organization. It’s both a memoir and a good look at running a non-profit organization. It’s also quite inspiring. I highly recommend it to everyone. Please check out his organization to learn more of the important work he is doing in developing nations to educate children.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

    There is no doubt that the story told by John Wood is inspirational. While reading, there were several times that I was taken by his humanity. Few people in this world are as giving and selfless as he has been. The issues with this book are more literary than with the story. It is clear that he is a first time writer that lacks a writing voice. The book cycles through the same themes and ideas over and over until I was just tired of reading it. I think that his story could have better been told by There is no doubt that the story told by John Wood is inspirational. While reading, there were several times that I was taken by his humanity. Few people in this world are as giving and selfless as he has been. The issues with this book are more literary than with the story. It is clear that he is a first time writer that lacks a writing voice. The book cycles through the same themes and ideas over and over until I was just tired of reading it. I think that his story could have better been told by someone else rather than autobiographical. Regardless of my concerns for the writing, I think this is a warm story of what is possible when one person decides to change the world.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Nirmal

    This book was a life changing for me. I still remember the time I finished reading this book. It was late night and i was so inspired by John wood's work. I felt like there are so many things out there in the world which we could pursue rather than getting stuck in a conservative 9-5 job. Immediately i started making a plan A, B, C, D as John did while leaving Microsoft, and wrote a resignation letter to my IT company where i was working from two years. After a few days I headed to a long trip t This book was a life changing for me. I still remember the time I finished reading this book. It was late night and i was so inspired by John wood's work. I felt like there are so many things out there in the world which we could pursue rather than getting stuck in a conservative 9-5 job. Immediately i started making a plan A, B, C, D as John did while leaving Microsoft, and wrote a resignation letter to my IT company where i was working from two years. After a few days I headed to a long trip to Himalayas and never looked back. That was one of the best and adventurous experience of my life.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Kaethe Douglas

    While I am in favor of philanthropy, I'm a little fed up with books about Americans going off and starting up some new project in the hardest-to-reach-place they can. And I'm really fed up with the narcissism of entrepreneurs who seem to believe that because they've worked successfully in one field they must have many valuable lessons to teach about every other possible endeavor. Billionaires have proven to be shockingly ineffective at improving the education of Americans, I have lost faith that While I am in favor of philanthropy, I'm a little fed up with books about Americans going off and starting up some new project in the hardest-to-reach-place they can. And I'm really fed up with the narcissism of entrepreneurs who seem to believe that because they've worked successfully in one field they must have many valuable lessons to teach about every other possible endeavor. Billionaires have proven to be shockingly ineffective at improving the education of Americans, I have lost faith that they would do better in Nepal.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Shivam Agarwal

    This should not be considered as a book. This is a life experience from which we all can learn many things. Whether one is an aspiring entrepreneur, visionary or a person who wants to change something and leave an impact in any way, this book will definitely help you in one way or the another. I recommend this book to all my friends because the book takes you through the golden years of a person. This life experience can be insightful in a number of ways. I loved this journey of reading it !!!!! S This should not be considered as a book. This is a life experience from which we all can learn many things. Whether one is an aspiring entrepreneur, visionary or a person who wants to change something and leave an impact in any way, this book will definitely help you in one way or the another. I recommend this book to all my friends because the book takes you through the golden years of a person. This life experience can be insightful in a number of ways. I loved this journey of reading it !!!!! Still it is not a book :)

  21. 5 out of 5

    Fatin Syamimy

    I read the Malay translation version, and found myself unconsciously translating it back to English. Quite a good book, it gave me a glimpse of corporate life and the internal conflicts of the people, as well as the path of those who decided to be different. Amazed of Room to Read rapid progress and the hard work behind it. May we have our own version of "Leaving ____ to change the world." I read the Malay translation version, and found myself unconsciously translating it back to English. Quite a good book, it gave me a glimpse of corporate life and the internal conflicts of the people, as well as the path of those who decided to be different. Amazed of Room to Read rapid progress and the hard work behind it. May we have our own version of "Leaving ____ to change the world."

  22. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    John Wood founded Room to Read, a great organization that partners with local communities throughout the developing world. They establish libraries, create local language children's literature, construct schools, and provide education to girls. I'm sure the book will be inspiring... John Wood founded Room to Read, a great organization that partners with local communities throughout the developing world. They establish libraries, create local language children's literature, construct schools, and provide education to girls. I'm sure the book will be inspiring...

  23. 4 out of 5

    Tattered Cover Book Store

    John Wood discovered his passion and in the process has introduced books/libraries/schools to children around the developing world. Inspiring! Maggie

  24. 4 out of 5

    Mike G

    Wonderful read! Concurrently happening as Greg Mortensen's efforts with CAI, but done in a more entrepreneurial manner. Many good lessons before I head off to India. Wonderful read! Concurrently happening as Greg Mortensen's efforts with CAI, but done in a more entrepreneurial manner. Many good lessons before I head off to India.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Arne Krueger

    fantastic story, very motivational! love it...

  26. 4 out of 5

    Heather

    This is a great book! It's true, as the author points out, there are many similar books and stories of people being inspired to give up their current work to focus on helping others and changing the world. It's quite inspiring! It's not something we could all do, but I think this book points out that we all have a mission and as we follow our passion and inspiration to help others we will be happy and we will make a difference. John Wood's education and work experience at Microsoft helped prepare This is a great book! It's true, as the author points out, there are many similar books and stories of people being inspired to give up their current work to focus on helping others and changing the world. It's quite inspiring! It's not something we could all do, but I think this book points out that we all have a mission and as we follow our passion and inspiration to help others we will be happy and we will make a difference. John Wood's education and work experience at Microsoft helped prepare him to lead a nonprofit organization, Room to Read. It was while he was on vacation, hiking in Nepal that he was inspired to think about what he would do with the rest of his life and where he could make the most impact. It would take a lot of courage to quit your job, live off savings and hope that you could make the money and connections to build an organization like this with the ambitious mission to provide educational opportunities for the developing world. I liked the personal stories of the people he met along the way, and the logistics behind building a successful nonprofit, from 501(c)3 status to a clear mission, effective fundraising, good people, clear results, and community involvement and ownership. This book inspires and reminds me to be grateful for what I have, particularly books and the opportunity to learn. It inspires me to do more to give back and help others. It inspires me to see and get to know people and to look for and fulfill my dreams and passions. Here are a few quotes I liked from the book: "His next sentence would forever change the course of my life: 'Perhaps, sir, you will someday come back with books (p. 10).'" "The Dalai Lama wrote that when we gave something away, we actually got something back in return: happiness. If we were to use our money simply to buy ourselves things, there would be no end. Acquisition would not produce true happiness, as we'd never have the biggest boat, the nicest car, and would be stuck in a perpetual materialist cycle. But if we gave something away to those who are less fortunate, we'd get nothing in return except for a warm feeling in our heart and the knowledge in our brains that we had made the world a better place (p. 14)." "The love of reading, learning, and exploring new worlds so predominates my memory of youth that I simply could not imagine a childhood without books (p. 15)." "'There is nothing with which every man is so afraid as getting to know how enormously much he is capable of doing and becoming (Soren Kierkegaard, p. 17).'" "'You do not have to pay me anything. You are my friend.' Before I could utter a word of protest, he smiled, waved good-bye, and sped off into traffic. This was my final positive impression of Nepal after three weeks that had been full of them--the quiet dignity of a people who are poor, but who value friendship over money. I knew that there was no way I could ever repay all the kindness that had been shown to me (p. 20)." "'The most crowded libraries have always been in neighborhoods with the largest population of recent immigrants.' This was the power of Andrew Carnegie's legacy. He had used his wealth to set up over 2,000 public libraries across North America. Three generations after his death, they were continuing to pay dividends....Could we do the same for the people of Nepal? How about other countries in the developing world? My travel experiences had taught me that parents around the world are similar at least in one respect--they want their children to have a better life than they have had. I did not possess Carnegie's wealth. But I had a thirty-year head start on him. I would not wait until I was old and retired. I was still young, and full of energy. In Colorado, spilling out of my parents' home and into their garage, we had at least an initial down payment on this dream (p. 24)." "'This is a very big day for our school and our village. We now have a library full of books. Inside books you will find hidden the mysteries of the world. With books, you can learn, and you can make a better future for your families and for our country (p. 32).'" "For most of our lives, we are taught to act in accordance with society's expectations. I would soon defy them. My entire life had been on a predictable trajectory dominated by a couple of university degrees and thirteen years of white-collar employment. My identity was defined by my career. I now planned a radical shift, a big leap into the unknown: from corporate executive to unemployed guy setting up libraries in the Himalayas. I prayed that I would be decisive and follow through on my gut instinct (p. 38)." "All my life I had been in saving mode, and now my nest egg would be severely scarred. I then rationalized to myself, what good are savings if you can't use them to fund your dreams (p. 65)?" "I tried to remind myself how pathetic it was to rely on labels and easy cliches to define my identity. I recalled advice my father had given me in junior high school. One night as we raked leaves, he asked if he needed to sign the permission form for junior varsity football. No doubt to his surprise, my response was to start crying. I explained to him that I had no interest, that all the kids who had signed up were bigger than me, and that my visions of the Darwinian playground had convinced me that I would be best off sticking with my paper route as my after-school activity. As usual, his advice was simple and straightforward: 'If you don't want to play, then don't play....John, you are old enough to know that the only person you have to satisfy in life is yourself. Even your mother and I no longer matter. Don't do anything to please us. Do what you think is the right thing to do and get used to answering only to yourself (p. 66).'" "At Microsoft, I had grown used to having calls returned, a staff that would execute my plans, and all the resources needed. I was now a fish out of water. With no experience in the complex world of international nonprofits, I had a grand vision but few results and even fewer contacts. I felt demoralized and wondered if my transition had been a mistake (p. 79)." "Our team works in partnership with local communities in the developing world under a coinvestment model to catalyze the creation of new educational infrastructure, including schools, libraries, computer labs, and long-term scholarships for girls (p. 84)." "I'd endured tortured introspection about whether there would be 'life after Microsoft.' And now here I sat in a rural village, as happy as I had ever been. I did not have any of the trappings of my old Microsoft life and had not collected a paycheck in over a year. But I felt as though I had found my role in the universe. I looked out at the crowd, and several children smiled and waved at me as soon as we locked eyes. Their faces made every minute of my three-day journey to this remote village in the shadow of the Himalayas worth it (p. 112)." "Parents could prove their commitment to education and the new school by donating labor. The women we saw this morning had responded to the call. Each morning, a group of them would wake up before sunrise, walk an hour downhill to the roadside where the cement bags were being stored, and then walk 90 minutes back up to the village. The bags weighed 50 kilos--110 pounds--and some mothers were making the trip twice in one day. Dinesh reminded me that this was a farming village, and they women would still have to spend their day in the fields (p. 114)." "The events of September eleventh remind us that we live in a very confused world. I think that how we respond says a lot about our capacity as human beings to be optimistic in the face of nihilism, and to prove that light can win out over darkness. I am not saying that education is going to solve all the world's problems. But it's something direct, and tangible. We can do it right now. You can go home tonight knowing that within a year, a few new schools will be open. I hope you'll choose to support our work (p. 133)." "The clerk insisted that 'sending it as checked luggage' was the only solution....Only then did I realize that they were referring to the man's key chain, on which was attached a tiny letter opener whose blade could be popped open with the push of a button...'But this is a family heirloom; it belonged to my grandfather and I cannot throw it out.'....At this point I intervened and told him I might be able to solve his problem. If he could give me the letter opener, and a business card, I could put the letter opener in the bag I was checking. When I got home to San Francisco, I could drop the family heirloom in the mail to him. His jaw dropped. Native New Yorkers may not be used to strangers going out of their way to offer favors...'I don't know who you are, but thank you.'....Two weeks later, I received a letter in the mail from my new best friend, Brent Erensel. 'Dear John, Thank you for sending me back my letter opener...After receiving the package from you along with your business card, I went online to look up what Room to Read does. As I viewed the photos of the kids you are helping, I decide that both you and Erin must be angels. That would be the only explanation for what I have witnessed from meeting you briefly at JFK, and then viewing the slide shows on your site. Enclosed please find a little something to keep the positive energy flowing.' He had written Room to Read a check for $1,000 (p. 135)." "Rather than talking about what we were going to do, I would instead talk about what we had done. Tangible stuff: the number of schools opened; the number of books donated; the number of girls on scholarship....In 2001 I came up with an idea that is still used today. I set my email signature file to list our results at the bottom of each and every email that I sent out....We're all about results. 200 schools built, over 2,500 bi-lingual libraries established, 1.2 million books donated, and over 1,800 girls on long-term scholarships. Join us in the quest for universal education (p. 140)." "'Three hours and four minutes in the Boston Marathon. Great time! Well run!' 'Wait. Stop! How did you know that?' 'I know everything about my people!' That loyalty, more than anything else, explains why so many people who have worked for Steve are, to this day, intensely loyal to him. He demands much of his people, but he also lets them know that he's got their back (p. 148)." "'John, your role in life is not to live in a fabulous house overlooking the water. You are never home anyway. You need to keep doing what you do, because not enough progress is being made in the world, especially for the poorest countries. Don't think about real estate as being what matters. You have something that few other people have--the certainty that comes with knowing you are doing, every day, exactly what you should be doing. To sacrifice that to chase a big home would be a disaster and huge mistake (p. 177).'" "A dark-haired teacher in his late 20s explained that the school was waiting for a lock for the door, and bars for the windows. Until this security was in place, the teachers were each spending a night sleeping in the lab. I was impressed and made a mental note to share the story with Bill Draper, who had told me that the only aid projects that worked were the ones where the local people felt ownership (p. 204)." "'This girl has seriously cool parents,' I thought as I pictured them actively engaged in helping her learn the joy of reading, and the satisfaction of service to others. I forwarded the email to a dozen of our most dedicated volunteers to let them share in the heartwarming story. And then it dawned on me how lucky I am, to be working in a role that provides so many examples of basic human kindness. I have a near constant interaction with people who believe that in education lies independence, self-sufficiency, a better life, and progress for humanity. Best of all, they are willing to take action, rather than sitting around talking about the problems (p. 211)." "True entrepreneurs are not afraid to declare to the world that they are going to fill a market gap or offer a new product or service, even if they are not entirely sure how they are going to do it. They simply take the leap (p. 229)." "The other important lesson is that once we declare a bold goal, thousands of people rallied around it....In retrospect, I believe that the majority of these people were motivated by the fact that we did not yet have a complete strategy or solution for Sri Lanka. In the absence of such, each individual was able to exercise his or her creative muscle and invent his or her own role (p. 230)." "If you are thinking about making some adjustments in your life to allow you to help change the world, my heartfelt recommendation is not to spend too much time thinking about it. Just dive in (p. 237)." "Do not wish to be anything but what you are, and try to be that perfectly (St. Francis de Sales, p. 253)."

  27. 5 out of 5

    William

    John Wood's LEAVING MICROSOFT TO CHANGE THE WORLD is highly reminiscent of Greg Mortenson's THREE CUPS OF TEA and his subsequent book, STONES INTO SCHOOLS. Those who have read any of these three know the theme of the other two. All three were undoubtedly written for the same reason as well, to raise funds for the nonprofit education-oriented organizations founded by Wood and Mortenson (and, for that reason alone, all three are worth purchasing). As with Mortenson's books, Wood's is a memoir, and John Wood's LEAVING MICROSOFT TO CHANGE THE WORLD is highly reminiscent of Greg Mortenson's THREE CUPS OF TEA and his subsequent book, STONES INTO SCHOOLS. Those who have read any of these three know the theme of the other two. All three were undoubtedly written for the same reason as well, to raise funds for the nonprofit education-oriented organizations founded by Wood and Mortenson (and, for that reason alone, all three are worth purchasing). As with Mortenson's books, Wood's is a memoir, and, while it doesn't include some of the adventures recounted by Mortenson, it is nonetheless an attention-binding read. One must wonder, at least a little bit, if John Wood actually wrote all 258 pages of LEAVING MICROSOFT. Why? Judging solely by the text of the book, Wood's life has been a veritable whirlwind of activity, first for Microsoft and then for his own organization, Room To Read. When he actually carved out time to write a book one cannot imagine. The same was true for Mortenson, of course, but he readily admits that a co-author, David Oliver Relin, did most of the actual writing. There is no mention of a co-author in Wood's book, and perhaps he did compose every word in it, but I still would not be surprised if a ghost writer was involved. One other point that readers may ponder is how precisely accurate the facts in LEAVING MICROSOFT prove to be. Considering the level of detail in the book, Wood had to have either an eidetic memory or a ponderous journal in which he meticulously recorded multitudinous events as they occurred. Mortenson has, in fact, been publicly taken to task over purported inaccuracies in THREE CUPS OF TEA. Having raised the questions of sole authorship and factual accuracy, I want to add that neither really matters to me all that much, either in Wood's or in Mortenson's books. The stories, whether they adhere absolutely to historical events or not, are interestingly written and may even exert a very beneficial effect on the reader's value system in that both men forsook the self-aggrandizing, mammon-worshiping world of capitalism to devote their energies toward humanitarian goals. (This is not to say that Wood gave up all of his worldly pleasures for he still writes of wine-tasting parties and trekking in out-of-the-way places, so do not make the mistake of feeling that he is one of the "common people" of whom God made so many according to Abraham Lincoln. This makes him rather more difficult for readers to relate to than Mortenson, though he, too, was trekking in an out-of-the-way place when his first story begins, and it definitely takes money to reach and play in such locales.) LEAVING MICROSOFT is, overall, quite well written, but the reader will encounter a few pages that the proofreader apparently skipped. For instance, on page 145, we learn that "Steve could care less were someone is in the hierarchy." Fortunately, such typographical errors are exceedingly few and far between; I simply have zero tolerance for such in professional writing offered for purchase. Okay, even considering the unanswered questions of sole authorship and factual accuracy that niggle at me, I can truthfully say that I enjoyed reading Wood's book and that I recommend it highly to all who enjoy memoir-style writing of uncommon acts in esoteric settings. I did not set out to compare Wood's book with those of Mortenson, but they are a natural fit. Anyone who enjoyed Mortenson's books will also enjoy Wood's and vice versa. If one has not read any of them yet, LEAVING MICROSOFT TO CHANGE THE WORLD is a good one to start with. Be prepared to be inspired.

  28. 5 out of 5

    An-Nisa Nur'aini

    Room To Read (run locally by volunteers) partners with local communities throughout the developing world to establish thousands of multilingual libraries, create local language children's literature, construct schools, and provide education as well as scholarships to children. This book explains the development of a nonprofit organization through the perspectives of an executive, as well as an employer who was also an employee, a businessman, a corporate, an entrepreneur, a colleague, a friend, Room To Read (run locally by volunteers) partners with local communities throughout the developing world to establish thousands of multilingual libraries, create local language children's literature, construct schools, and provide education as well as scholarships to children. This book explains the development of a nonprofit organization through the perspectives of an executive, as well as an employer who was also an employee, a businessman, a corporate, an entrepreneur, a colleague, a friend, a son, and a normal person—and those views lie at once in John Wood. Yes, John Wood was an executive in such a huge company, he's a rich guy, but at the end of the day he doesn't even take his wealth for granted. He is very conscious of the education that was given to him since he was a kid. He was grateful for three women in his life (his mother, grandmother, and his sister) who always gave him chances for literacy and to get better education. He believes that what he's been doing these past years is worth to pay what he's got years ago—proper education. And he's always eager to share it to the world, and especially to kids who are not as fortunate as us. "If we were lucky enough to be living a good life, we should recognize this gift and thank God for it by looking out for others who need our help in breaking out the cycle of poverty." He devotes much of his book to explaining the combination of two kinds of stories that are usually seen as diametrically opposed: the personal memoir of one's search for fulfillment, and the hardboiled account of corporate acumen. The tale personal quest and the business world, because he sees managerial skill as the key to make his dreams come true. His ability to think outside the box—to see congruence where others see conflict, to use his business smarts to facilitate a spiritual jurney—delivers useful insights about what it takes to succeed at charitable work. He also implements a modified model called 'Challenge Grant', which requires impoverished communities to donate to the project in whatever way they can—by conributing land, or building materials, or even labor. This makes them not taking the help for granted, but they also support the establishment of the libraries and schools. He can learn from it. And so can we. Don't tell the reasons something might not work, tell yourself all the ways it could work. Don't focus on the obstacles. Just dive in.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Hoyoung Alex

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I thought this was a fantastic book to read for people who wants to make the world a better place. It tells a story of a man, John Wood, who learns about pervasive poverty and lack of resources and opportunities in less developed world like in parts of India, Vietnam, and other countries. John Wood is someone who's worked for Microsoft for a long time and he's worked his way up the corporate ladder with handsome salary and compensation package including great stock options. He has a pretty happy I thought this was a fantastic book to read for people who wants to make the world a better place. It tells a story of a man, John Wood, who learns about pervasive poverty and lack of resources and opportunities in less developed world like in parts of India, Vietnam, and other countries. John Wood is someone who's worked for Microsoft for a long time and he's worked his way up the corporate ladder with handsome salary and compensation package including great stock options. He has a pretty happy life with his girlfriend as well who also has high level corporate job at a marketing company. They both moved to China to start anew, and he's even thinking of marrying this person. Shocked by the education condition in schools in India he's inspired and fueled with the determination to help the children who doesn't have access to simple things like books. The things we take for granted. He starts a book drive. Every year he would travel to these impoverished areas in the country to trek and hike and physically carries the books he promised to deliver to libraries with 4-5 books. In the end he gives it all away. He quits his job, breaks up with his girl-friend, leaves his country to start Room To Read, non-profit educational organization. With the kinds of work-ethic, determination, resources, and intelligence he successfully leads this organization into multinational organization that donates millions of books and thousands of libraries worldwide. It all started with a email he sent out to 100 people (his family, friends, close colleagues) and him going after small, but eventually bigger donations and donors. Truly inspirational. He confesses that he had sacrificed a lot for the projecct. His job, his home, his girlfriend. Till the age of 40 when he writes this book he shares that he's still been single despite having gone on number of dates. The women he has seen cannot endure his life-style.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    An invigorating book by a Microsoft Exec who left industry to found a charity focused on education. John Wood was enjoying a successful career at Microsoft, but could not shake nagging questions about the importance and necessity of his work. He does a wonderful job describing his internal struggle as he confronted the fact that his values were changing. The process was stressful because it was clear that honoring these values would radically transform his career, personal relationships, finance An invigorating book by a Microsoft Exec who left industry to found a charity focused on education. John Wood was enjoying a successful career at Microsoft, but could not shake nagging questions about the importance and necessity of his work. He does a wonderful job describing his internal struggle as he confronted the fact that his values were changing. The process was stressful because it was clear that honoring these values would radically transform his career, personal relationships, finances, and social status. He ruminated on these issues for months before becoming frustrated with his lack of action and ultimately committed to switching careers. He began working on his side project donating books to Nepal full-time. In the following chapters he describes how he uses his network, business acumen, and relentless energy to build a thriving and award-winning charity that would go on to build hundreds of schools and libraries throughout Asia. Wood's writing and message are impressively subtle. He is not necessarily encouraging readers to follow his exact path and quit their day jobs. For one, his former career and background gave him distinct advantages that made him well suited to execute this particular vision (business acumen, wealthy contacts, a degree of financial independence). And he does not pretend that his chosen path is without consequences. At 40, he is single, renting an apartment, and traveling almost constantly. However, he is happy because he is being true to his nature (a natural entrepreneur with a desire to benefit the world). His seems to be advocating "not to be anything but what you are, and try to do that perfectly" - by taking bold, optimistic action, and using such talents and advantages as you have to affect the change that you care about.

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