Books made up of lists usually make me cringe. I don’t know if it’s the overuse of the literary tactic or the tendency for these books to read like the peppy but trivial lists often found in women’s beauty magazines, but the “Top Ten” genre almost always leaves me unsatisfied.

So when I picked up freelance writer Libuse Binder’s new book, Ten Ways to Change the World in Your 20s (Sourcebooks, $14.99), I have to admit that I was a little skeptical about how much this book would be able to provide me, a 20-something idealist already quite familiar with ways to change the world, with fresh and thoughtful ideas on philanthropic acts.

But much to my surprise (and relief), Ten Ways for the most part delivers on its promise to “help readers find where their passions, abilities and intentions meet.”

Where other books in this genre have failed, Ten Ways succeeds by going beyond the drudgery of the typical list and adding depth to it by providing real-world, concrete examples of do-goodery across the globe.

For example, in the first chapter, “Ways to Get Excited and Involved,” Binder follows up her advice with a success story about Mark Hanis, a young entrepreneur who, after reading a book in college on genocidal acts, started a major campaign at the age of 22 that eventually grew into the Genocide Intervention Network, a nationwide grassroots effort that currently has an operating budget of about $2.4 million.

Stories like Hanis’ are essential to making Ten Ways successful in its efforts to motivate and inspire readers because they attest to the validity of the author’s claim that every action, both big and small, makes a difference. 

In addition to the inspirational stories found in every chapter, what elevates this book above the rest of its genre is the author’s decision to cover every aspect of the philanthropic movement, from environmental activism to social activism, rather than choose a topic so narrow that it barely fills a Web page, much less an entire book.

By combining these various veins of activism, the book ends up feeling like a well-rounded reference guide with motivational stories to boot rather than a hollow list of uninspiring demands to do this, that, and the other in order to make the world a better place. Plus, because different forms of altruistic activism often intersect one another, it just makes sense to cover them all in one book.

The book’s wide reach also corresponds well with the audience it’s geared to, the twenty-something crowd, who by this age are often only certain that they want to change the world, but haven’t quite figured out which change they want to focus on the most.

Unfortunately, the book doesn’t always sidestep the all-too-common ground of its genre. For example, Binder does occasionally turn to clichéd environmental advice like “change a light bulb” or “turn off the lights” — tips that are so worn out by now that it’s best just to skip the page.

But with those missteps aside, many will find that Binder’s inspiring collection of new ideas serves as a great resource for those determined to help solve the world’s ever-growing list of challenges. 

MNN homepage photo: jonya/iStockphoto

Ten Ways to Change the World in Your 20s
Libuse Binder’s new book uses real-life success stories to inspire readers to perform do-goodery across the globe.