Posted by: pckatie | February 17, 2011

Peace Corps Reading List-Suggestions?

Throughout the application process (and also in the months just prior to applying) I have spend a significant amount of time reading Peace Corps blogs.  I have also read just about every Peace Corps related book I can get my hands on.  I have searched the internet but their doesn’t seem to be one big list of Peace Corps books out there.  I would love to hear of any and all Peace Corps related books you have read or know of so I can add them to my list and start reading them! 

For anyone interested these are the Peace Corps books I have read so far:

“So, You Want to Join the Peace Corps: What to Know Before You Go” by Dillon Banerjee- This is a wonderful resource for learning about the Peace Corps from a returned volunteer.  It has all the facts but they are presented in a really honest manner that is a little different than the “through rose colored glasses” type of information that is published by the Peace Corps.  It also includes some information that I hadn’t previously read anywhere else (i.e. women tend to gain weight and men tend to lose weight….typical!).  It is written in Q&A format that is very easy to read or skip around to the information you are interested in!

“Nine Hills to Nambonkaha” by Sarah Erdman– This is a wonderful memoir of the author’s two year Peace Corps service in Africa.  She was placed in a small village in Cote D’Ivoire where she worked as a health worker and midwife.  Her story unfolds with wonderful detail that makes you feel as though you are sharing each experience with her.  She shares every experience, whether it is happy or sad, and conveys each emotion perfectly.  This was not my favorite Peace Corps memoir as I felt it was a little bit slow, but I did enjoy it and I would recommend it.

Living Poor by Moritz Thomsen- This is the chronicle of the author’s two year service in Ecuador and I will say that although there are a few drawbacks, this is the best Peace Corps memoir that I have read.  The drawbacks for me are that it was a little hard to relate to since he volunteered in his 40’s and I am in my 20’s, he is a man and I am a woman, and he completed his service decades ago.  Despite these differences I absolutely loved this book.  Thomsen describes his experience in a way that I found to be very different than other memoirs I have read.  He does not glamorize his experience and rather than focusing on his work there or the changes he made his focus seems to lie on sharing the wonderful culture, people, and lifestyle of Ecuador highlighted with his experiences.  His writing reveals the many hardships that come with being a Peace Corps volunteer but suggests, subtly, that enduring these hardships have changed his life.

 “The Unofficial Peace Corps Volunteer Handbook”- See my previous post for a review of this book.  Please note..I loved it enough that it has its own post on my blog…check it out here

“From the Center of the Earth: Stories Out of the Peace Corps” by Geraldine Kennedy This is a collection of 13 short stories from volunteers that is full of insight and life lessons.  Once again it is a little bit older but the stories focus more on life abroad than they do on the Peace Corps so that doesn’t matter much to the quality of the book.  I found myself wishing the stories were a little longer so I could really get to know the characters and countries but enjoyed each story nonetheless.  Like many other Peace Corps resources this book is dominated by volunteers in Africa (its no wonder everyone seems to think everyone in the Peace Corps goes to Africa!) but I would recommend it for a quick easy read.

“First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria: How a Peace Corps Poster Boy Won My Heart and a Third World Adventure Changed My Life” by Eve Brown-Waite- This is the memoir of a woman who applied to the Peace Corps and fell in love with the recruiter.  She ends up going to Ecuador to serve her two years (away from her recruiter love) but ends up coming home because of a medical separation.  Most of the story takes place after she returns home and here and her husband (Peace Corps recruiter) go to Africa to work for CARE.  I didn’t love this book mainly because it was not much about the Peace Corps.  It was very funny and did have some great experiences, but it is not one that I would recommend for anyone looking for Peace Corps related books.

On my list to read:

“When the World Calls: The Inside Story of the Peace Corps and it’s First Fifty Years” by Stanley Meisler

“South of the Fronterra: A Peace Corps Memoir” by Lawrence F. Lihosit

“Triumph and Hope: Golden Years with the Peace Corps in Honduras” by Barbara E. Joe

“Monique and the Mango Rains: Two Years with a Midwife in Mali” by Kris Holloway

Please, please, please if anyone knows of other Peace Corps related books comment on this post with the title and author (and a description or review would be great if you have read it!) so those of us searching for more Peace Corps books to get our hands on can enjoy your suggestions!

Thats all for now, paz y amor.



  1. You should also read The Ugly American by William Lederer and Eugene Burdick.

  2. Books I’ve read and would recommend:
    Mango Elephants in the Sun by Susana Herrera
    Dear Exile by Hilary Liftin and Kate Montgomery
    The Ponds of Kalambayi by Mike Tidwell
    The Unheard by Josh Swiller
    River Town by Peter Hessler
    Bread, Salt and Plum Brandy by Lisa Fisher Vazacu
    Triumph and Hope by Barbara E Joe

    Books I have read and would not recommend:
    A Peace Corps Profile by Kirk Hackenburg
    Letters from Fiji by Keith Kelly

    Books I’m liking but not done with yet:
    Land of Morning Calm by Laren Metzer
    South of the Frontera by Laurence F Lihosit

    You can find a lot of peace corps books on as free ebooks. There’s also a peace corps writers website that lists a pretty comprehensive bibliography. I don’t remember it’s URL, but you should be able to find it by googling.
    A Peace Corps Profile

  3. I just finished Fiesta of Sunset by Taylor Dibbert and thought it was excellent. I also loved River Town.

  4. wakenda- If South of the Frontera is not your cup of tea, try Whispering Campaign; Stories from Mesoamerica. Allen W. Fletcher, author of Heat, Sand & Friends commented- “As in Chinatown or Ballad of a Thin Man, they (the stories) go directly to the gut. The mix is a rich one.”

    and thanks for reading my memoir!

    Lawrence F. Lihosit

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