At a reading in 2013 Obama said, "Reading is important. If you know how to read then the whole world opens up to you." In 2016, Gates told The New York Times that reading, "is one of the chief ways that I learn, and has been since I was a kid."
Both Obama and Gates often share lists of their favorite works and this year, one book stood out to both of them.
"Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City," is by Matthew Desmond, a professor of sociology at Princeton University, MacArthur Foundation "Genius" and a Gates Foundation grantee. Desmond spent 18 months living in two high-poverty neighborhoods in Milwaukee, and the resulting book focuses on how housing insecurity impacts low-income communities.
"Melinda and I have been working for some time to learn more about how Americans move up the economic ladder (what experts call mobility from poverty)," writes Gates on his blog. "'Evicted' helped me understand one piece of that very complex question, and it made me want to learn more about the systemic problems that make housing unaffordable, as well as the various government programs designed to help."
On social media, Obama wrote that "Evicted" was one of the best books he read in 2017 and agreed that it was an incredibly inspirational read.
Desmond hopes his book will help leaders like Obama and Gates better understand the interconnection between homelessness and poverty. "I used to think eviction and homelessness were the result of poverty," says the author. "But I came to recognize that eviction is a cause, not just a condition, of poverty in America."
Indeed, Desmond appears to be achieving his goal, with some of the world's most powerful men gaining important understanding from his work.
"When you're paying so much to keep a roof over your head, there's no room for bad luck. A single bad incident can send you reeling," writes Gates. "When someone has to search for a new place to live, they miss work, which cuts back on their pay and makes them more likely to get fired."
"Although the specifics of their lives are unlike anything I have experienced, Desmond makes it easy to empathize," he says. "This book gave me a better sense of what it is like to be very poor in this country than anything else I have read."
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