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The Life You Can Save: Acting Now To End World Poverty

4.01 of 5 stars 4.01  ·  rating details  ·  1,447 ratings  ·  273 reviews
This is the right time to ask yourself: “What should I be doing to help?”

For the first time in history, it is now within our reach to eradicate world poverty and the suffering it brings. Yet around the world, a billion people struggle to live each day on less than many of us pay for bottled water. And though the number of deaths attributable to poverty worldwide has fallen
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Paperback, 240 pages
Published February 2nd 2009 by Text Publishing (first published January 1st 2009)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Amanda
I chose to read Singer's book because I've often wanted to do more for the world's poor, but I want to do so in an informed way and see to it that my money is going to be used in a meaningful way that does not have politically or religiously motivated strings attached. I've tried to research charities before, but quickly became frustrated with the the lack of solid evidence as to their efficacy that even the most well-known charities couldn't (or wouldn't) provide. So I was already sold on the i ...more
howl of minerva
You are walking past a shallow pond and you see a small child has fallen in. No-one else is around. The child is in obvious distress and will drown without your immediate help. You are however, wearing a gorgeous set of clothes you have lusted over for months and have just managed to purchase. You are also running late for work. Do you wade in to help the child, ruining your clothes and being late for work, or do you walk on by?

This is the thought-experiment with which Peter Singer, a Professor
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Vegantrav
This book underscores why Peter Singer is the most influential philosopher living today. He takes his utilitarianism very seriously, and the implications of this philosophy, if followed, would radically change our world for the better. In this book, Singer lays out the case for why those of us in affluent nations should be giving to charity to help the poor worldwide. What is actually most surprising to me is the final section in which he lays out the numbers: if the richest 10% of those in the ...more
Larry Bassett
Sep 22, 2013 Larry Bassett rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who wants to make the world a better place
The World Bank defines extreme poverty as not having enough income to meet the most basic human needs for adequate food, water, shelter, clothing, sanitation, health care, and education. Many people are familiar with the statistic that 1 billion people are living on less than one dollar per day. That was the World Bank’s poverty line until 2008, when better data on international price comparisons enabled it to make a more accurate calculation of the amount people need to meet their basic needs.
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Casey
Although this book provides a heart-felt argument on why you should donate 5-10% of your total income to the world's poorest people, it is sensationalized writing at best and lacks the depth of analysis on:

1. Why the global poor are poor
2. What organizations are currently doing
3. What organizations lack the capability to do
4. What goes wrong with in NGOs
5. Where your money will go if you do donate...

As a student of international development I will be the first to tell you that if you are donati
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Worthless Bum
This most recent work by my favorite philosopher is something of an expanded and up to date version of the ideas expressed in his seminal 1972 essay "Famine, Affluence, and Morality". The idea being, people in wealthy countries give pitifully small amounts of money to those in abject poverty in the third world - people who are so poor that their lives are in jeopardy - and thus they should give much more generously. Singer employs the familiar "Pond" thought experiment in adducing his argument, ...more
Rory
I'm not sure what I expected out of this book. Probably an articulate, super-strong inspiration to give money to charity...and instruction on how and where to give it so that my meager offerings would do the most "good." But instead I just felt guilty and shamed after reading the first few chapters, and frustrated after skimming the rest.

That's actually how Singer wants you to feel, believes everyone should feel--that it's a basic measure of humanity to give a significant portion of your dispos
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Hadrian
A very utilitarian view of charity. If you can do something to help out others and save lives, you must. Those who live in the first world can, efficient charities can do good, therefore one must donate. He even suggests percentile values based on your income. Those with more can afford to give away more.

Some statistical analysis is necessary to make sure that the methods you donate to and the charity itself are worth your money.

Singer may be controversial for other reasons, but this book make
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Lisa
This is a wonderful book that can change your life and make you feel at last that you can do something about the tragedies we see on TV all the time.

In a nutshell, Singer asks us why if we would not hesitate to jump into a pond to save the life of a drowning child, we do not have the same impulse to save the lives of children who are dying of preventable disease and malnutrition in developing countries. He says that if we are choosing to spend money on bottled water, for example, when tap water
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Ugh
I am not part of the target audience for this book, and neither, I suspect, are you. I'll come to why later...

I do like the way Singer approaches his books - he starts out by telling you where you're going to end up, and then proceeds to take you to your destination in a clear and concise manner, dealing with likely objections before they arise as he goes - but reading this I thought for a while that we were heading squarely for a two-star rating, partly because of that target audience problem I
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Edward Sullivan
I read this after I saw the author interviewed on the Stephen Colbert Report. Singer, an ethicist and philosopher offers compelling arguments and humbling challenges for changing our lifestyles in very reasonable ways that could have a tremendous impact upon the poorest of the poor in the world.
Tonya
I DARE YOU TO READ THIS BOOK! It will make you uncomfortable. It will challenge any claims you make that you are already generous. It might even make you mad. But you should still read it because it will change you in good ways.

Dylan and I come from book-people, and are book-people ourselves. There are more books in our parents' homes than in many rural libraries, I am sure...and I am grateful for that! One of my favorite Christmas treats is the pile of books that Hal and JeNeal wrap up each ye
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Dave Golombek
This is perhaps Singer's simplest book, in that he adresses a much narrower subject than he frequently tackles, but in doing so, her creates his most persuasive work (amongst those I've read), and the one with the broadest appeal. This book covers the moral and ethical imperative to donate to charity, in particular those charities helping the poorest in the world.

The book starts with a few simple examples, such as finding a child drowning in a pond or stuck on railroad tracks and briefly discuss
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Cappy
An excellent, accessible presentation of a distressingly unheeded argument.

"Do you have a bottle of water or a can of soda on the table beside you as you read this book? If you are paying for something to drink when safe drinking water comes out of the tap, you have money to spend on things you don't really need." (pg. xi)

"South Asia is still the region with the largest number of people living in extreme poverty, a total of 600 million, including 455 million in India." (pg. 7)

"Fashion designer D
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Sarah
This book relies upon parallel reasoning from Singer, using one of his older and oft-cited examples of walking by a person drowning that you could or could not save. Other than getting wet, a mild inconvenience, it would not cost you anything to save said person, so to not do it would be unethical.

Likewise, Singer sets up his thesis for the rest of the book:
(1)[Just as death by drowning is bad, so too is death by lack of basic essentials:]
Death due to lack of food, basic medical care and shelt
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Jessica
Years ago, I'd read an article by Peter Singer in the New York Times Magazine about poverty, and I'd been struck at how much he demanded people do in order to act ethically in a world where people (and children in particular) are dying from preventable causes. This was an old article -- a web search suggests he wrote another in 2008 on the same theme -- that posed a hypothetical question about whether one should flip the switch to prevent a racing train from crushing a child, if doing so would e ...more
Stephen
I found this book extremely moving. I read it in 2010 as I was ready to take up working to end world poverty/hunger.

Singer makes a powerful case that we can and should do what we can to help those who suffer deprivation. He describes many organizations that save lives and urges us to weigh our needs against global needs. If we can save a life for a few dollars or a few hundred dollars and giving that will not cause us the kind of suffering that it can stop, how can we do less. His book is powerf
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Olivia
This book should (not to say can) change your life. I'm still working out how I feel about it and, more importantly, what I'm going to do about it. But this much I can say--we as a country and I, individually, am not doing nearly enough to help the poorest people in the world. Your conscience will be pricked, and your mind will be opened by Dr. Singer's arguments and the facts he presents in this book. At the very least, it should make a fundamental reevaluation of our own blessings and our own ...more
Colleen Mcclowry
WONDERFUL book that challenged me to think in a whole new way. Singer clearly demonstrates the extent of extreme poverty around the globe using concrete data. In so doing, he proves not just that we should give, but we MUST give. Prepare to feel both guilty and inspired the whole way through ;)

"Do you have a bottle of water or a can of soda on the table beside you as you read this book? If you are paying for something to drink when safe drinking water comes out of the tap, you have money to spen
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Mary Jo
This book makes a case for how we can end world poverty by changing our views about what is a reasonable amount to give and what organizations do the best job of alleviating hunger and misery among the most severely affected people worldwide (chiefly in Africa and India. I found the ethical arguments given as responses to common reasons people offer for not giving to be really interesting. There's also a website, www.thelifeyoucansave.com where you can figure your fair giving share and see a lis ...more
Todd Martin
Imagine you are walking beside a deserted lake and witness a child drowning. You can save the child by jumping in and pulling them out, but in the process of doing so, you’ll destroy the pair of expensive new shoes you are wearing. What’s the ethical course of action? Unless you are a bloodthirsty psychopath (or a libertarian) most would agree that the right thing to do is to pull the child to safety. Ok, so how about the thousands of desperately poor children who die prematurely every day from ...more
Stephanie Byrne
Compelling and well written, Singer sure knows how to make you think twice.

While some of the arguments push you into uncomfortable spaces, his points are valid albeit confronting. I'm not going to lie, reading this book makes you feel mostly like a bad person. Or at least has you questioning past decisions while also worrying how much you'll actually be capable of changing once you finish it.

It definitely gave me a different perspective on giving and has helped me work through some of the greate
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Tina.
Five stars for what Singer is trying to do. Four because he doesn't really answer all of my questions or address adequately the arguments of those who would disagree with him. But, of course, everyone should read this book. And make a pledge here http://www.thelifeyoucansave.com/#.
Judy
This book is powerfully argued - eye opening. we will no longer be content with charity to local causes. and it has pushed us to find new ways to skrimp and support Oxfam et al. we have also bought copies for friends - how insufferable is that!?
Dean
This book is awesome. Its an easy read and puts forward an amazing ethical challenge.
I think it should be compulsory reading for all millionaires/billionaires..in fact..everybody!
Ya'll should read it.
Robyn
This is an incredible book. Easy to digest, sound arguments without shaming the reader, and inspirational stories of those that go way beyond the norm in their giving. I very much enjoyed his sparse, delicate language and even tone. I enjoyed the chapters on human nature and why we choose not to give and the facts about aid. (Americans as a whole do not give near what other citizens do. And when you take out money donated to the arts and higher education, it's abysmal. Our foreign aid is tied up ...more
Donna Pelley
I read this book by Peter Singer because I am currently taking a MOOC by the author on Practical Ethics. Much of the material of the class lectures is from the book so it was good to review the material in greater detail. Singer presents many arguments as to why people should do more to provide for life-saving help to the world's poorest citizens. He also goes over some of the reasons people choose not to donate. It is all very compelling. There is even information that can help people to decide ...more
David Goldman
This is the rair book of philosophy that is both written for general reader and really tries to make an impact on people's ethical behavior. While one ca argue with some of Singer's points, it's impossible to read this this book stout being convinced we should be doing something more to elimate the worst of poverty around the globe. Singer also reviews in detail some of the most recent findings of behavioral ethics, but refuses to believe that that those normative statements of ethics (why we ge ...more
Jennifer Louden
This is a book that will change how you think about the world forever.
Stark
"Do you have a bottle of water or a can of soda on the table beside you as you read this book? If you are paying for something to drink when safe drinking water comes out of the tap, you have money to spend on things you don’t really need. Around the world, a billion people struggle to live each day on less than you paid for that drink."

"people in rich nations could easily give, without a significant reduction in their standard of living"


"what it takes to live ethically in a world in which 18 mi
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Peter Albert David Singer is an Australian philosopher. He is the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University, and laureate professor at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics (CAPPE), University of Melbourne. He specializes in applied ethics, approaching ethical issues from a secular preference utilitarian perspective.

He has served, on two occasions, as chair of phil
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More about Peter Singer...
Animal Liberation The Way We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter Practical Ethics Marx: A Very Short Introduction One World: The Ethics of Globalization

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“Hebrew word for "charity" tzedakah, simply means "justice" and as this suggests, for Jews, giving to the poor is no optional extra but an essential part of living a just life.” 41 likes
“Extreme poverty is not only a condition of unsatisfied material needs. It is often accompanied by a degrading state of powerlessness. ” 20 likes
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