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Books about poverty – here you go!

collage of various books on poverty

Last month I threw a question into the Twitter sphere asking for recommendations on books about poverty.

I was overwhelmed by the many responses I received! Clearly there is great interest in and demand for stories and writing that provide a better understanding of what it’s like to live on little.

Collating all recommendations (and adding a few of my own posted here some time ago), it turned into an eclectic compilation of more than 50 titles. The list includes many memoirs and academic works as well as non-fiction and fictional novels. There are even two illustrated children’s books and a poetry collection!

I’m sharing the compilation, for everyone to draw from, and to add to. Please continue sharing your recommendations via Twitter (@KeetieRoelen; @PovertyUnpacked) or Instagram (@povertyunpacked) and I will post an annual update!

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Brannigan, Tim (2010) Where Are You Really From? Kola Kubes and Gelignite, Secrets and Lies – The True Story of an Extraordinary Family. Newtownards: Colourpoint Creative.

Carraway, Cash (2020) Skint Estate: Notes form the Poverty Line. London: Ebury Publishing

Carthew, Natasha (2023) Undercurrent. A Cornish Memoir of Poverty, Nature and Resilience. London: Hodder & Stoughton.

de Jesus, Carolina Maria (2005) Beyond All Pity. London: Profile Books.

de Waal, Kit (2022) Without Warning and Only Sometimes. Scenes from an Unpredictable Childhood. London: Headline Publishing Group

Dhir, Bharti (2021) Worth: An Inspiring True Story of Abandonment, Exile, Inner Strength and Belonging. London: Hay House.

Hennigan, Stu (2022) Ghost Signs. Poverty and the Pandemic. Hebden Bridge: Bluemoose Books.

Hudson, Kerry (2020) Lowborn: Growing Up, Getting Away and Returning to Britain’s Poorest Towns. London: Vintage.

Hunter, D. (2022) Chav Solidarity. Lumpen/ Class Work Project.

Land, Stephanie (2019) Maid. Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive. New York: Hachette Books.

McGarvey, Darren (2018) Poverty Safari: Understanding the Anger of Britain’s. London: Picador.

Ruane, Lynn (2019) People Like Me. Dublin: Gill Books.

Sadakova, Yaldaz (2020) The Wrong Passport: Memoir Stories About Immigration. Self-published.

Tirado, Linda (2015) Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America. New York: Berkley Books.

Wang, Qian Julie (2022) Beautiful Country: A Memoir of An Undocumented Childhood. New York: Penguin Books.

Weiwei, Ai (2021) 1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows: Two lives, one nation and a century of art under tyranny in China. London: Vintage.


Banerjee, Aberjit V. and Esther Duflo (2012) Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty. New York: PublicAffairs.

Burt, Martin (2019) Who Owns Poverty? Chicago: Red Press.

Elliott, Andrea (2021) Invisible Child: Poverty, Survival & Hope in an American City. New York: Random House.

Hancock, Graham (1989) Lords of Poverty. The Power, Prestige, and Corruption of the International Aid Business. London: Macmillan.

Jones, Owen (2011) Chavs. The Demonization of the Working Class. London: Verso Books.

Macmillan, Scott (2022) Hope Over Fate. Fazle Hasan Abed and the Science of Ending Global Poverty. Washington DC: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.

McGarvey, Darren (2022) The Social Distance Between Us: How Remote Politics Wrecked Britain. London: Ebury Publishing.

Mullainathan, Sendhil and Elgar Shafir (2013) Scarcity: Why Having So Little Means So Much. New York: Penguin Books.

Payne, Keith (2018) The Broken Ladder. New York: Penguin Books.

Pember Reeves, Maud (1913) Round About a Pound A Week. London: G. Bell and Sons.

Toynbee, Polly (2003) Hard Work: Life in Low-pay Britain. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.


Milner, Kate (2019) It’s a No-Money Day. Edinburgh: Barrington Stoke. (illustrated children’s book)

Raúf, Onjali, (2021) Q The Great (Food) Bank Heist. Edinburgh: Barrington Stoke. (illustrated children’s book, illustrated by Elisa Paganelli.

Stuart, Douglas (2020) Shuggie Bain. London: Pan Macmillan.

Skelton, Diana Faujour and Jean Stallings (2018) Until the Sky Turns Silver. London: Sondiata Global Media.

Tressel, Robert (1914) The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists. London: Grant Richards Ltd.


Echoes of the Unheard (2022) Thrive Teesside.                                                               


Acemoglu, Daron and James A. Robinson (2016) Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity and Poverty. London: Profile Books.

Andersen, Kate (2023) Welfare that works for women? Mothers’ Experiences of the Conditionality within Universal Credit. Bristol: Policy Press.

Atkinson, Anthony B. (2019) Measuring Poverty around the World. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Bambra, Clare; Lynch, Julia and Katherine E. Smith (2021) The Unequal Pandemic. COVID-19 and Health Inequalities. Bristol: Policy Press.

Bradley, Katherine (2016) Poverty, philanthropy and the state. Charities and the working classes in London 1918-79. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Clark, Tom (2023) Fixing Britain’s Poverty Crisis.

Fischer, Andrew (2018) Poverty as Ideology. Rescuing Social Justice from Global Development Agendas. New York: CROP/ Zed Books.

Garthwaite, Kayleigh (2016) Hunger Pains. Life inside Foodbank Britain. Bristol: Policy Press.

Halpern-Meekin, S., Edin, K., Tach, L. and J. Sykes (2015) It’s Not Like I’m Poor. How Working Families Make Ends Meet in a Post-Welfare World. Berkely: University of California Press.

Hanlon, Joseph; Barrientos, Armando and David Hulme (2010) Just Give Money to the Poor: The Development Revolution from the Global South. Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers.

Hills, John (2017) Good Times, Bad Times. The Welfare Myth of Them and Us. Bristol: Policy Press.

Lansley, S. (2021) The Richer, The Poorer. How Britain Enriched the Few and Failed the Poor. A 200-Year History. Bristol: Policy Press.

Lister, Ruth (2004) Poverty. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Narayan, Deepa and Pattie Petesch (2007) Moving Out of Poverty: Volume 1. Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives on Mobility. Moving Out of Poverty; Volume 1. Washington, DC: World Bank and Palgrave Macmillan.

Nébié, Gustave, Emeka-Anuna, Chinyere, N’Zu, Felix Fofana and Enrique Delamonica (2020) Child Poverty and Social Protection in Central and Western Africa. Stuttgart: ibidem Press

Patrick, Ruth; Power, Maddy; Garthwaite, Kayleigh; Kaufman, Jim; Page, Geoff and Katie Pybus (2023) A Year Like No Other. Life on a Low Income during COVID-19. Bristol: Policy Press.

Rainwater, Lee and Timothy M. Smeeding (2003) Poor Kids in a Rich Country America’s Children in Comparative Perspective. New York: Russel Sage.

Ravallion, Martin (2016) The Economics of Poverty. History, Measurement and Policy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Tarrant, A. (2021) Fathering and Poverty. Uncovering Men’s Participation in Low Income Family Life. Bristol: Policy Press.

Tiwari, Meera (2021) Why Some Development Works. Understanding Success. London: Bloomsbury Publishing/ Zed Books.

Tyler, Imogen (2020) Stigma. The Machinery of Inequality. London: Zed Books.

Wacquant, Loïc (2009) Punishing the Poor. The Neoliberal Government of Social Insecurity. Durham: Duke University Press.

Walker, Robert (2023) Poverty and the World Order. The Mirage of SDG 1. Newcastle upon Tyne: Agenda Publishing

Zincke, Claudio Ramos (2016) La producción de la pobreza como objeto de gobierno. Ver Portada.

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