Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Life You Can Save: Acting Now To End World Poverty” as Want to Read:
The Life You Can Save: Acting Now To End World Poverty
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

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

4.02 of 5 stars 4.02  ·  rating details  ·  1,773 ratings  ·  295 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
Paperback, 240 pages
Published February 2nd 2009 by Text Publishing (first published January 1st 2009)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Life You Can Save, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Life You Can Save

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
A book about charity and at the end, how much one should then give (taking into account how much one earns and life circumstances like mortgages and loans etc.). This is how the book goes:

- Common objections and answers to them (some objections occur later on in the book)
- Why we don't give more, and what prompts us to give (and give more)... here is also a point made that having only altruistic reasons (and no self-interest) is not a bad thing to admit. Self-interest being there is not a bad th
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
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
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.
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
Jun 23, 2010 Xing rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who earns a decent income
Wonderful, wonderful book in so many ways.
Peter Singer draws on a wealth of experience and information, and takes a mature, evaluative look at the gap between rich and poor.

He summarises basic statistics regarding this disparity (earning power, standards of living, extent of charitable giving, in different parts of the world), but this is not the main focus of the book. (I recommend The World Food Problem: Tackling the Causes of Undernutrition in the Third World, for that.)

Essentially, it asks:
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
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
Brenda Pike
I feel bad giving this only three stars, because Peter Singer is my idol. And when I read the article it's based on in the NY Times, I was deeply affected by it. It prompted Jason and I to decide to increase our donations from 1% to 5% of our income once we pay off our student loans this year. But I don't think the book adds that much to the article, except length. Certainly not clarity. I was looking forward to a discussion of the most effective ways to improve the lives of the world's poor, an ...more
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
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
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
Should be a required read for all school students in the US
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
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, where you can figure your fair giving share and see a lis ...more
Filippo Pacifici
This book could be considered a summary of the concept of effective altruism. All along the book the author is making one point: we ought donate a relevant part of our income and we should do that in an effective way.

I think the author makes this point in a quite effective and well structured way by presenting good arguments and addressing common counter arguments as well. Many times moral philosophy theories tend to be very abstract and hard to apply to the real world. Here it is not the case i
Margarida Sá
His argument - that it would be unethical to avoid giving and helping if we have te means to do it- is ok. I agree that we should always do the best we can. However, I wonder if we -the people, the 99%- should be given such big responsibility as to save the poorest people in the world. I don't believe that charity would be the most effective way and I was expecting that he would give the big piture, like why some countries are poorer and how governments fail to help them.

Life changing book for me. A lesson on the importance of where to place our financial resources and a reminder to help people with what resources we have been given.
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
This book offers thoroughly compelling arguments for why each of us should personally give large amounts of financial aid to the third-world poor. Assuming that you share Singer's basic beliefs--namely, egalitarianism and the existence of moral obligations--then this is as intuitive and straight-forward a set of arguments as you're likely to find on any subject anywhere. Singer mostly confines philosophical justifications to the first chapter of the book and uses what's left of it to unravel the ...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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Living High and Letting Die: Our Illusion of Innocence
  • World Poverty and Human Rights
  • More Than Good Intentions: How a New Economics Is Helping to Solve Global Poverty
  • The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries Are Failing and What Can Be Done About It
  • On Ethics and Economics
  • The Trouble with Africa: Why Foreign Aid Isn't Working
  • Causing Death and Saving Lives: The Moral Problems of Abortion, Infanticide, Suicide, Euthanasia, Capital Punishment, War and Other Life-or-death Choices
  • Creating Capabilities: The Human Development Approach
  • Out of Poverty: What Works When Traditional Approaches Fail
  • Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa
  • Reasons and Persons
  • Rachel and Her Children: Homeless Families in America
  • Common Wealth: Economics for a Crowded Planet
  • The Crisis Caravan: What's Wrong with Humanitarian Aid?
  • Portfolios of the Poor: How the World's Poor Live on $2 a Day
  • Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy
  • How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas
  • The Power of Unreasonable People: How Social Entrepreneurs Create Markets That Change the World
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
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

Share This Book

“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.” 46 likes
“Extreme poverty is not only a condition of unsatisfied material needs. It is often accompanied by a degrading state of powerlessness. ” 21 likes
More quotes…