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The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change

4.13  ·  Rating details ·  5,434 ratings  ·  747 reviews
The riveting story of how a young man turned $25 into more than 200 schools around the world and the guiding steps anyone can take to lead a successful and significant life.

Adam Braun began working summers at hedge funds when he was just sixteen years old, sprinting down the path to a successful Wall Street career. But while traveling he met a young boy begging
Kindle Edition, 272 pages
Published March 18th 2014 by Scribner (first published March 1st 2014)
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 ·  5,434 ratings  ·  747 reviews

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Laura Kudia
Apr 07, 2014 rated it did not like it
I wanted to like this book. I really tried. But I would hardly call this a guidebook to turn your big dreams into a reality as the cover sleeve suggests. Adam was born into a family a privilege, worked carelessly (and recklessly) in a prestigious Wall Street firm, then was incredibly self-congratulatory about his project while weaving-in cliche "you can do it" mantras in each chapter.

Don't get me wrong, the organization he built is incredible, but I just could NOT connect with this author at al
Joe Knowles
Mar 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
Great read. Fascinating, thought provoking and heart warming. It also achieves an extraordinary level of honesty for both the good and the bad times in Adam's life.

For me, however, it did not achieve what it seems to have set out to do. He talks about how 'anybody' can make a big change to the world, emphasising how PoP's bank account started with just $25. But, unlike his organisation's bank account, Adam's beginnings were far from modest. He was born in a wealthy area into a well c
Rosie Nguyễn
Mar 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Best reading of 2016 so far. Inspiring stories from a man of action.

Young, smart, enthusiastic and passionate, Adam Braun started with an idea, then came to live his dream and changed the world. What he experienced during the journey was beyond his imagination, he made the world a better place, getting to associate with a lot of great people, doing things he loved and becoming a person he wished to be.

I like his humble and neutral way of expressing himself, not a narcissistic personality we se
Mar 13, 2014 rated it liked it
To be honest, I don't know if I liked this book or not. Don't get me wrong, I think that what Adam Braun managed to accomplish, and what he is doing with Pencils of Promise is phenomenal. But I wasn't struck by the awe that he was clearly trying to convey with his story. Mr. Braun is a very passionate, tenacious, and most of all lucky fellow. If any of these qualities would have been lacking, his project would have failed. This book tells his story, but I wouldn't call it the guidebook to person ...more
Kelley Taylor
Jun 23, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014-read
Enh...started off great then...too much awesomeness in his tone.
I think what confused me most is the subtitle. The "ordinary guy" thing just doesn't apply. Blessed by his own admission he was raised in a pretty affluent community with great schools, he then went on to Ivy League school, graduated with three degrees, was able to intern with a hedge fund at only 19...the list goes on. Someone in rural America may/may not exactly have access to any of these opportunities due to accessibility, fina
Rachel Black
Apr 13, 2014 rated it did not like it
Immensely self-congratulatory.
I think I've figured it out: There are change-the-world memoirs that just blow you away...and then there are those that don't. What separates them is simple: the holy-moly-that-was-good books are the ones that focus on the people the author, or subject, was reaching out to. The others -- like this one -- focus on the author.

Which is to say that I have absolutely nothing against the author, or against Pencils of Promise. Would I want to do some independent research before endorsing the latter? Yeah, of course. But
Feb 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I finished this riveting read in an hour, which is not something I do often. I could not put it down. Adam Braun shares his incredibly inspirational journey in a way that will make you feel as though you are right there with him, with each page you turn. You will get to know members of his family, his friends, the love of his life, his mentors and supporters and how each one of them contributed in various ways to where he is today and the creation of his for-purpose organization, Pencils Of Prom ...more
Adam Braun was on an around-the-world trip while in college with the Semester at Sea Program. He had determined to ask a child in each place they visited what they wanted most in the world. It was a child in India who answered "a pencil", something Adam was able to provide and then see the child's joy that made such an impact on him and led to his founding Pencils of Promise, a non-profit which builds schools in impoverished areas of the world where they are able to garner local support.
Yousif Al Zeera
Nov 29, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
The story deserves 5 stars but my 3-star rating is for the book. You may heard about Adam Braun or his foundation (Pencils of Promise, aka "PoP"). If not, then go for this book to be taken aback. I won't ruin it on you but, as the name suggests, it all starts with a pencil. Yes, a pencil.

Ghana, Laos and Guatemala. The story takes place there and it is yet to end. I will leave the rest to you to discover.
Andrea Martin
Sep 11, 2017 rated it it was ok
I have mixed feelings about this book. I really do like what this man has done and how he has made the world a better place for a lot of poor children around the world. The accomplishments he made were amazing and inspiring and I do not want to take away from that. I applaud him for pulling it off! However, I just could not enjoy reading this book. It started off really interesting and whatnot but I never found this man to be relatable so I never felt engaged with the book. From the getgo, he st ...more
Rachel B
Nov 06, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir-etc
After I first finished this book, I thought I would give it 4 stars. But after I mulled it over more and more, I liked it less and less.

It was interesting, and the pace was right - it kept me turning the pages, which is always a good thing.

What I dislike is that the book is at odds with its subtitle: "How an ordinary person can create extraordinary change". The author, Adam Braun, is not ordinary. He was born into a wealthy family, with many wealthy friends, lives in NYC
Hà Khuất
Feb 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Finish reading this while waiting for my flight back home =)) and I was right1 It is a 5 star ! For sure !
Jan 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing
For anyone looking to feel inspired and make a difference, this is the book for you. After backpacking through more than 50 countries, Adam Braun founded the international education nonprofit Pencils of Promise with just $25. His incredible journey provides the tools and lessons that demonstrate how anyone, regardless of age, status, or location, can can create opportunity and positive change in the lives of others. "The Promise of a Pencil" is a moving story that will resonate with all and enco ...more
Neel Sadda
Sep 07, 2018 rated it liked it
The Promise of A Pencil: Try Not to Fall Asleep

Action-packed, breath-taking, captivating, dazzling, and engaging. These are all words that do not describe this book. But, let’s first get to know what this book is about. The Promise of a Pencil is an autobiography written by Adam Braun which tells the story of how a so-called ordinary man can create a change in the world starting with as little as $25. The book starts with Braun telling the story of his childhood, up until he gets a
Aug 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Page 2 - "I wanted to be a part of something that extended far beyond my two hands and the possessions they could hold."
Page 19- "Your twenties are the time to both accept and fight your way into the person you're destined to become."
Page 101- "Sometimes you know something in your head, and other times you know it in your heart. The mind delivers logic and reason, but the heart is where faith resides. In moments of uncertainty, when you must choose between two paths, allowing yoursel
Jan 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing
When the author was abroad he would ask a child what he wanted most in the world. A child in India said "a pencil". At the age of 25 he began the organization that would transform him and the world. The author writes how he does it. Pencils of Promise is a for-purpose non-profit organizations that builds schools in Guatemala, Ghana, Laos, and Nicaragua. They don't just build a school and go, PoP trains teachers to give engaging lessons, provides scholarships to kids in need and teaches healthy l ...more
Aug 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned

At certain points I was like, "Mmm your white male privilege is showing," BUT WHATEVER NO ONE IS PERFECT AMIRITE?

Note: it is first and foremost a business/career book imho. If you expect it to be about education, travel, breaking through a glass ceiling - mmm no. It's autobiographical with a entrepreneurial slant.
Matt Morgan
Jan 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This was a really good book! At times, Adam comes across a little caught up in what HE has created – but by the end of the book he hits his stride in an attempt to inspire this generation to set lofty goals and go out and change the world through bringing other people joy. He’s clearly a talented dude, who lives with a ton of dedication and passion. He built an organization from the ground up. This organization not only has built hundreds of schools across the developing world, but now is instru ...more
Stephanie A
Did not finish. I’m linking to another 1 star review below because Laura captures pretty much exactly how I felt while reading this book. I really tried to like this book but just couldn’t. I wanted the story to be so much more than the “another rich white American man saves the world” narrative that was there. I hope Pencils of Promise is truly making an impact in the communities it serves, but I wish I had heard more of their stories instead of this one.

Did not finish. I’m linking to another 1 star review below because Laura captures pretty much exactly how I felt while reading this book. I really tried to like this book but just couldn’t. I wanted the story to be so much more than the “another rich white American man saves the world” narrative that was there. I hope Pencils of Promise is truly making an impact in the communities it serves, but I wish I had heard more of their stories instead of this one.
Mar 02, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: book-club
3-3.5 stars. Adam Braun is inspiring and impressive in his accomplishments around the world. I like how he started his journey. I enjoyed reading some parts and was bored with other parts in the writing. In the end I’m glad I read his book.
Sumit Singla
Nov 22, 2015 rated it liked it
Adam Braun is inspirational. From potentially being a corporate slave to someone making an actual difference to a broken, fragmented world, he sure has come a long way.

It cannot have been an easy journey - fighting pitched battles in the areas that he worked in, and with most friends/family against his decision, it clearly would've taken more fortitude than someone like me could muster up in a hundred years.

While I'm in awe of what Adam has done, I'm a wee bit disappointe
Linda C
Adam Braun came from a family that believed in giving back and descended from Holocaust survivors. Adam was determined to make his fortune and then find a calling for philanthropy. However, through several backpacking excursions and an eventful Semester at Sea during his college years he found his purpose to be building and maintaining schools in rural poverty stricken areas. He went to work for a prestigious consulting firm and temporarily got sidetracked into the good life. But when his inner ...more
Rakendra Thapa
Jul 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely inspiring story of young entrepreneur. Thoroughly enjoyed the journey of this young man who is doing so much to give back to the society. Well just read it from the perspective of inspiration rather than a guide itself.
In all loved the book. It was quite a refreshing read.
Laura Waxman
Jul 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. well written.keeps you interested. inspires you to move outside your comfort zone and help change the world. absolutely worth the read!
Sep 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
Has an experience ever completely transformed your views on life in a matter of seconds? Adam Braun’s The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change is the memoir about how he took the words “be the change you want to see in the world” to heart by creating over 200 schools around the world for children in desperate need of education. With the intention of proving that anyone’s dreams can come true with effort, determination, and confidence, Braun set out to write ...more
Madison McClellan
Mar 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
My opinion on this book is that this book is such a motivating story. The fact that Adam started this whole nonprofit organization from asking a little boy who was begging for food when he was attending a semester at sea, "If you could have one thing in the world, what would you want?" The little boy responded with, "a pencil." Adam's eyes really opened up when he saw the light in the little boy's eyes when he was handed a pencil. Adam set on a pursuit to give children all around the world, an e ...more
Sally Andrews
Mar 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
How can I possibly describe this book? You just need to read it. Adam Braun was obviously raised in a family that encouraged him to help others and go for his dreams. His organization, Pencils of Promise, was built because of his question to a child in another country, "If you could have anything in the world, what would it be?" The child answered, "A pencil." The stark truth is that far too many children across the world have little or no access to education. So with his infectious personality, ...more
Vlad Calus
Jun 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I really ask you to read this one.

A book full of wisdom, love and purpose in life.

PoP speaks about building a better world through education, and literally building schools in developing regions. One of the most heartwarming story I've read in a while.

Every chapter is just breathtaking.
Feb 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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