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40 Chances: Finding Hope in a Hungry World

3.83  ·  Rating details ·  518 Ratings  ·  76 Reviews
With a foreword by Warren Buffett, 40 Chances is an “inspiring manifesto…both an informative guidebook and a catalyst for igniting real changes” (Booklist) in the struggle against world hunger.

If someone granted you $3 billion to accomplish something great in the world, what would you do? In 2006, legendary investor Warren Buffett posed this challenge to his son Howard G.
ebook, 464 pages
Published October 22nd 2013 by Simon Schuster (first published January 1st 2013)
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Michele Dubois
Jan 13, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The jacket of this book gives no mention to what I believe is one of Buffet's most important and repetitive themes throughout his experiences: "cultural disconnects" and "philanthropic colonialism." Stories/Chapters 22 and 23 discuss these two problems when it comes to philanthropy. It gave me pause, as a Rotarian, about the global work of well-meaning organizations. I question whether or not we are as thoughtful as we should be when it comes to providing aid and assistance to the developing wor ...more
Jennifer Schmidt
An excellent book showing the importance and the flaws of international development projects and food assistance interwoven with vivid stories by Buffett and his global travels. I was surprised by some elements such as the ability of NGOs to monetize food assistance and heartened by other elements such as Buffett's recognition that development needs to be locally driven to provide the best solutions. As a farmer, dietitian, and someone who has live and worked in food and agriculture in Southern ...more
Aaron Thibeault
Nov 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
*A full executive summary of this book is available here:

The main argument: In the developed world, the vast majority of us enjoy a standard of living unmatched in the history of humankind—and going hungry is the last thing on our minds. Nevertheless, it cannot be said that poverty and hunger have been eradicated in the developed world entirely (in the United States, for example, 1 in 6 are considered food insecure—including 16 million children). Still, t
Oct 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviews
In a sweeping new book, farmer, humanitarian, businessman, politician, photographer and risk-taker, Howard G. Buffett, founder and president of the philanthropic organization which bears his name, Howard G. Buffett Foundation, has laid out a determined road-map with an objective of ending hunger and poverty for the world's nearly one billion persistently disadvantaged populaces by 2045. Howard G. Buffett has chalked out a plan to invest more than $3 billion in a gamble to find answers to confron ...more
Bob Schnell
Books on philanthropy aren't usually high on my reading list but a pre-pub copy of Forty Chances landed on my desk at the right time. HGB's sincere efforts to help solve world hunger are well-articulated and eye-opening, often for his honesty in outlining how some of his best efforts ran afoul of unintended consequences. It is a tricky business and I applaud his stamina and fortitude in not just throwing money at the problem and pretending its doing good. I was especially struck by his arguments ...more
Kate Elizabeth
This book is well-written and well-researched, but my god, it's 400 pages of what feels like the same story. I found it interesting for the first ~150 pages and then it was a lot of skimming. The one-star rating is at least partly my fault, as well; I was unclear on the book's concept when I checked it out and am not in a "let me read about the plight of Africa" kind of mood, I guess. I did enjoy knowing that there are filthy rich people actually using their money to make a difference in the wor ...more
Nov 05, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
While I disagree with some of Buffett's opinions, this was a good overview of many of the global issues with agriculture and the various organizations trying to solve them. He is obviously not a writer, and I struggled to connect with some of his stories. It bothered me that he didn't once mention the issue of food waste, and how making better use of the food we do have could alleviate many hunger issues. I did like that he talked extensively on the importance of soil and conservation farming, a ...more
Nov 11, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book really made an impression on me. The author takes on the task of explaining to the rest of us what an enormous task it is to tackle the problem of "food insecurity" around the world and also your own "backyard". He doesn't shy away from making specific suggestions for better agriculture, as well as, addressing how funds are spent and supplies are distributed by organizations and governments. Thank you, Howard Buffett, for opening my eyes and making me care enough to learn more.
Jan 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Buffett talks in a casual voice of his experiences, programs, successes, failures, analyses, and conclusions about agricultural philanthropy, food insecurity, farming methods, and more. He seems forthright, organized, and informed in his presentation. His book is easy to read and the information is engrossing. It is a good introduction for those of us who are not involved but write occasional checks to charities and a resource for those who are more involved.
Aug 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I was very lucky to receive an advance copy! Fascinating and timely read. Global yet so close to home, too. Shared this book with my son (he's 17). He also appreciated the perspective.
Nov 21, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
By Jeffrey Goldfarb

Warren Buffett has made billions of dollars investing and his farmer son is helping give them away. In the new book “Forty Chances,” Howard Graham Buffett chronicles his efforts with his own son Howard Warren to combat the mind-boggling inefficiencies and bad philanthropic habits that get in the way of ending world hunger. It’s hard at times to relate to the plight, but reassuring to know the Buffett family is on the case.

The conceit of the book enlists a classic bit of the fo
Christiane Evaskis-Garrett
Sep 18, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People interested in NGOs, GMOs, farming techniques in second and third world countries
Shelves: book-club
I really wanted to give this 2.5 stars, but since the rating system isn't built for that, 3 stars it is.

40 Chances is a book with a lot of good intentions, but no focus. It seems to waffle between being Howard G. Buffett's rambling autobiography and a book about a Cause, capital C included. This is not in any way meant to disparage the excellent work that Buffett's philanthropy is doing to combat hunger all over the world; in fact, one of the great things about the book's bitesize chapters is t
Some interesting stories and topics mentioned, overall was much more of an autobiography than a coherent coverage of any particular topic. Some of his conclusions raised my eyebrows a little, like the idea that Africans just have an abstract idea of the future and that's why they don't plan ahead - most charitable (heh) interpretation I can give is that a more nuanced description didn't fit in with the short vignette style of the book. Overall it felt relatively superficial and scattered - I thi ...more
Jon Manchester
The author is Howard Buffett, son of Warren Buffett. In his words, the book is a collection of forty stories about how his early life, the last fifteen years' of grant making, and his travels to 130 countries have shaped his thinking about philanthropy and what we need to do differently if we really want to address global food insecurity.

Buffett is a farmer in Decatur, IL, but he also leads the Howard G. Buffett Foundation. He and his two siblings were each initially given $26.5 million to laun
Jul 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Inspiring discussion of philanthropic philosophy and the interconnectedness of hunger, conflict, and wildlife preservation. Puts human faces and stories to each of these issues.

Overall loved this book, but a couple critiques below:

The book was clumsily written (timelines bounced all over the place and interjected chapters by another author were random). There was also an excessive number of acronyms, but these were minor inconveniences.

The bit that for me knocked a star was the "target aid towar
Donald Crane
Jan 18, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is not a page-turner, though I didn't expect it to be. Written by Howard G. Buffett, son of investor and Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett, and with contributions by his son, Howard W. Buffett, it's about the author's efforts to help the world hunger through his foundation.

Sounds sleepy, but it's actually quite informative and thought-provoking. He talks about the struggle to avoid the simple fix - providing direct food aid - and instead to focus on long-term solutions of helping s
K. Kumar
Jan 04, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
40 Chances is an interesting series of vignettes by Howard Buffett with useful development lessons. The book centers around the idea that we all have a limited number of chances to learn lessons and improve on what you are trying to accomplish. Each chapter is a different story and a different lesson. Mr. Buffett has a unique perspective because of the life he has lived and the money he has been granted for his charity.

I learned a lot from the book about the importance of farming and I generally
Jennifer Stringer
Oct 26, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think this guy has the best job in the world. While much of the work must be frustrating, it surely must be satisfying coming up with solutions to the most entrenched global problems. It was very interesting to read about hunger from a farmer rather than an economist or elected official. His writing style is easy-going and humble and doesn't pretend to have all the answers. If these issues were easy to solve, we would have solved them already, because there are certainly a lot of good people o ...more
Jan 05, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting and an eye-opener. The Buffetts have been blessed and their philanthropy is admirable. I found this book to be informative. The chapters can be read in isolation as they each touch on a topic or a country or situation. I experienced myriad emotions as I read this book - shock, surprise, relief, and hope. I also learnt much about agriculture, soil, eco systems, foreign aid, and even new concepts such as "the monetization of aid". I must admit I was a bit naive on many fronts but isn't ...more
Zacaro Caro
Oct 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow, I don't even know where to begin to write a concise review. This book was recommended to me because someone I know was talking about farming, and the struggles that farmers have passing a farm on. What he said while talking about this book motivated me to pick it up and start reading it that very week.

This book is not just for farmers, it's for anyone that eats food on a regular basis.

Howard Buffet son of Warren Buffet paints a little bit of a picture of his life growing up as one of the ri
Dec 06, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
(I received the book for free through Goodreads First Reads.) I liked this book a lot more than I thought I would. I wasn't sure what I was getting into, with this being a book on world hunger written by Warren Buffett's son, but I left with a new respect for the author as well as for the complexity of the problem facing poor people the world over in trying simply to put food on the table.

The author does not shy away from the fact that this is a complex issue, and he lays out the variables, the
This book was hard for me. It was really interesting about all his experiences and the things Buffett has learnt about aid, but I did find it quite repetitive, sometimes boring as his huge interest is soil, and for me there's only so much learning about soil I can take, and I also found that it scared me and upset me quite a lot in the sense that poverty makes people give up their morals for food and give others power over them in exchange for security. This notion and the stories Buffett shared ...more
Phil Laurette
The subject matter is good and the stories are heart-felt. Clearly the Buffetts are doing some real and sustainable good with the fortunes they have amassed. It was great to hear some of the things that are and are not working with helping to bring the world closer to food security for everyone. The concepts are interesting, particularly for a guy like me that has no farming experience or much understanding of what it takes to make real change in food security in various parts of the world. My o ...more
Nov 15, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cross-cultural
Admittedly, I delayed starting this book because I worried about the voice in which it would be written. My intent was to get a very personal, conversational understanding of food insecurity around the world since most writings on the subject read like an economist's doctoral dissertation. I got exactly what I was hoping for. My only critique was that the stories could have been organized a bit differently. Readers will crisscross the world jumping from NGOs to wildlife conservation efforts (whi ...more
Jan 03, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book over a long period of time and wish I had read it more quickly. I liked the books for a lot of reasons. The stories were varied and told of successes and failures, but more importantly lessons learned. The overarching premise of the book is that we all have an average of 40 chances in our lifetime to accomplish our goals, as a farmer has 40 harvests in their lives. Howard Buffet's passion is farming and helping to spread that knowledge to eradicate food insecurity with his non-p ...more
Judy Evenson
Sep 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Thought this would be the story of the American farmer but it was so much more. Forty short stories from around the world shows how difficult it is to "feed the world". Well written and underscores my long term belief that solving a problem requires so much more than throwing money at it. Truly you have to work from the inside out or from the bottom up, start with the people, listen to them, learn from them and maybe, just maybe together you can find solutions to highly complex problems, one of ...more
Sep 22, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fic, unfinished
This book had a lot of good things to say. Some of them were just very hard to hear. I got through more than half but finally I had to stop. It was too upsetting. Not just the hunger and misery in the world. But the evil, and the corruption, even in organizations supposedly dedicated to helping. Good for Mr Buffet for trying to make a difference. I'm not a billionaire, and I'm a little more jaded and disillusioned after reading this. But I will keep donating to charities and hope they are not co ...more
Feb 26, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An eye-opening investigation into the reasons so many on our planet go hungry every day that is illuminating, horrifying, frustrating, and remarkably... hopeful. In addition to being blessed with all that cash, those Buffetts have a very down-home, no-frills writing style that draws you in and illustrates an unbelievably complex issue in a clear and friendly way. While I didn't agree with EVERYTHING Buffett puts forth here, he really is SUCH an inspiration! Wish all bazillionnaires were as dedic ...more
Jan 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, politics
One of the things that I look for in a book is that it helps me see things differently. This book did. Each chapter looked at hunger in one (or more) parts of the world and considered it systemically. On the one hand, Buffett and his son present daunting pictures of what we need to do to eradicate hunger, while on the other hand their commitment, hard work, and "pessimistic optimism" leave me hopeful. I'm also hopeful when I see someone from as privileged a background as Buffett--he's Warren Buf ...more
Jan Nichols
Jun 13, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
having trouble with reading this in one setting. I read a few chapters in the evening and concentrate on novels during the day. Finished the book. thought the author made some excellent points about nonprofit organizations but am still not certain there were enough examples of successful ventures. I was particularly pleased with the attempt at no-til farming and conservation efforts. My main problem with the book was all the large corporations that were involved and the methods they use. All in ...more
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Howard G. Buffett is the Chairman and CEO of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, a private family foundation working to improve the standard of living and quality of life for the world’s most impoverished and marginalized populations. A farmer, businessman, philanthropist, photographer, and former elected official, Howard has dedicated his life to addressing global food insecurity and conservation. ...more
More about Howard G. Buffett...
“My own dad had given me a terrific gift: he told me, both verbally and by his behavior, that he cared only about the values I had, not the particular path I chose. He simply said that he had unlimited confidence in me and that I should follow my dreams.” 2 likes
“Our “It’s your life” message produced one particularly interesting outcome: none of our three children completed college, though each certainly had the intellect to do so. Neither Susie Sr. nor I were at all bothered by this. Besides, as I often joke, if the three combine their college credits, they would be entitled to one degree that they could rotate among themselves. I don’t believe that leaving college early has hindered the three in any way. They, like every Omaha Buffett from my grandfather to my great-grandchildren, attended public grammar and high schools. In fact, almost all of these family members, including our three children, went to the same inner-city, long-integrated high school, where they mixed daily with classmates from every economic and social background. In those years, they may have learned more about the world they live in than have many individuals with postgrad educations.” 1 likes
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