I have often found works of fiction explore the complexities of poverty and development in much richer detail than technocratic and sterile policy reports put out by thinktanks, the World Bank and UN. Books like the Poisonwood Bible, Acts of Faith, The Song of Lawino, The Quiet American and Cause Celeb seem to capture the moral dilemmas, politics, psychology and cultural clashes that infuse change in the developing world. No Human Development Report could ever match the descriptive power of Graham Greene or Barbara Kingsolver.
It turns out that I am not alone in preferring a good novel to the latest Famine Early Warning System report. A group of scholars associated with the Institute for Development Policy and Management at Manchester University have come up with a list of works of fiction they believe provide a rich and sophisticated portrait of poverty and development.