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

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  6,505 ratings  ·  904 reviews
The riveting New York Times bestseller about a young man who built more than 250 schools around the world—and the 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 on the
Paperback, 288 pages
Published February 3rd 2015 by Scribner (first published March 1st 2014)
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Laura Kudia
Apr 07, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Rosie Nguyễn
Mar 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 31, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 connected, su
Kelley Taylor
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
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
Rachel Black
Apr 13, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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? Ye
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 Pro ...more
Hà Khuất
Feb 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Finish reading this while waiting for my flight back home =)) and I was right1 It is a 5 star ! For sure !
May May
Aug 05, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Meaningful project and interesting writing style but probably I didn’t choose the right moment to pick this up :)
Andrea Martin
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
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.
I had
Yousif Al Zeera
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.
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 (the good part, I imagin
Jan 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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 job on Wall
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 yourself to be over
Jan 23, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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.
Feb 20, 2021 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: school-books
Every single thing he accomplished in this book he claims was because of some conscious decision on his part, not his extraordinary circumstances in life. My guy is a rich white man— not saying he ONLY got where he was bc of that, but it certainly helped. You can tell from the reckless ways he treats everyone and does everything that he’s incredibly lucky. I know he worked hard, obviously. This whole book is just one long cliche-filled, one-dimensional, victim-blaming success story that I didn’t ...more
Mar 02, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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 disappointed with the book. Some po
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
Andrea Amaya
Jul 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the most inspiring books I've read in a while. It's amazing how far can someone go when they decide to stop focusing on their ego and start turning their attention outwards instead, and how life develops once we decide to listen to our inner guide.
Now I understand the tagline -how an ordinary person can create extraordinary change.
Rakendra Thapa
Jul 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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  ·  review of another edition
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
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
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