The best Peace Corps books 📚

Browse the best books on the Peace Corps as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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Book cover of Monique and the Mango Rains: Two Years with a Midwife in Mali

Monique and the Mango Rains: Two Years with a Midwife in Mali

By Kris Holloway

Why this book?

Equally heartwarming and heartbreaking, this tale of friendship between a Peace Corps volunteer in Mali and her local counterpart vividly portrays the realities of volunteer life. Holloway gently guides the reader through sensitive and taboo subjects—often through heart-to-heart conversations with Monique—such as menstruation, domestic violence, rape, female genital mutilation, sexually transmitted diseases, childbirth, and motherhood. Kris illustrates how women in her village—as in many places around the globe—suffer and fall to untimely deaths due to lack of education, personal agency, available resources, or financial independence. A beautifully written and important read.

From the list:

The best books about serving in the Peace Corps

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Book cover of Walking Each Other Home Again: A young Peace Corps Volunteer in Niger, 1960's, and her return 30 years later

Walking Each Other Home Again: A young Peace Corps Volunteer in Niger, 1960's, and her return 30 years later

By Laurie Oman

Why this book?

Truly a “two for the price of one” read! This tale begins in the early days of the Peace Corps, where newlyweds Laurie and Rich are assigned volunteer posts in Niger (pronounced nee-zher), Laurie as a public health worker, and Rich on an agricultural assignment at a peanut cooperative. Packed with lively prose and riveting tales of close calls, humorous misunderstandings, finding one’s feet, discovering meaning in the midst of suffering, and the bewildering feeling of displacement upon arriving back in the States, the first half of the story encompasses all the earmarks of a “classic” Peace Corps experience.…

From the list:

The best books about serving in the Peace Corps

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Book cover of História, História

História, História

By Eleanor Stanford

Why this book?

Breathtaking in its honesty and poetic style, this is the Peace Corps memoir “hidden gem” you’ll be glad you’ve unearthed! Eleanor and her husband are newlyweds sent to the remote Portuguese-based Creole-speaking islands of Cape Verde. Not long after arriving, Eleanor develops an eating disorder that drains the vitality of her body, her mind, her work, and her marriage. The narrative nimbly weaves poetic imagery, keen observation, personal stories, history, and geography lessons together into a fascinating literary tapestry. This is a story about fidelity, the search for meaning, the frailty of the human condition, suffering, perseverance, and redemption; in…

From the list:

The best books about serving in the Peace Corps

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Book cover of River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze

River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze

By Peter Hessler

Why this book?

Considered by many to be the gold standard of the Peace Corps memoir genre, this volunteer’s account is resplendent in its imagery, witty insights, and down-to-earth prose. The depiction of day-to-day life serving as a schoolteacher in China, interspersed with the challenges of learning a new language and culture, and the occasional plunge into the history of the region (anthropologically, geographically, and politically) round out the narrative to give the reader an immersive cultural experience unlike any other. The narrative’s boots-on-the-ground perspective gives the reader a true insider peek at life in China—at turns baffling, humorous, poignant, and, above all,…

From the list:

The best books about serving in the Peace Corps

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Book cover of Dear Exile: The True Story Of Two Friends Separated (For A Year) By An Ocean

Dear Exile: The True Story Of Two Friends Separated (For A Year) By An Ocean

By Hilary Liftin, Kate Montgomery

Why this book?

This story is told in a series of letters exchanged between two former college roommates, one who marries and joins the Peace Corps in Kenya with her husband, the other striking out on her own in New York City. Each writer has a magic in her writing style that is all her own, which would make either of their tales a standalone success, but the “secret sauce” of this book lies in the juxtaposition of their two very different lives. Each writer’s tales of triumph and woe—lifestyles that could not be more polar opposite—play off one another in the most…

From the list:

The best books about serving in the Peace Corps

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Book cover of The Tin Can Crucible: A firsthand account of modern-day sorcery violence

The Tin Can Crucible: A firsthand account of modern-day sorcery violence

By Christopher Davenport

Why this book?

Christopher Davenport, who later became a Foreign Service Officer with the U. S. Department of State and served in various countries including Vietnam, Guatemala, Tajikistan, and Georgia, was a Peace Corps volunteer in 1994. In Papua New Guinea’s Eastern Highlands, he was placed with a local family in a village of subsistence farmers. Except when attending classes in town (a hike and a long car ride away) with other Peace Corps volunteers scattered through the area, he worked, attended village gatherings, ate, and slept with his host family who treated him like an adopted son. The Tin Can Crucible—the…

From the list:

The best travel memoirs for those who love to wander

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