Global Goals Reading List

Exams are done. Your bags are packed for winter break. Whether you’re headed home to relax, on a plane to another country for a service trip, or to the beach, UNA-USA would like to recommend the following reading list so that you come back for the spring semester inspired and ready to promote the Sustainable Development Goals! What is on your reading list and how does it relate to the Global Goals? Email us at and we may feature your suggestion here!


SDG 3: Good Health and Wellbeing 


Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer tells the story of Dr. Paul Farmer and his mission to conquer diseases among the world’s poor. I’ve never been a health & science major, but this book got me interested in SDG 3: Good Health and Well Being and inspired me to take action! It is a very inspirational story and talks about the complexities of working with various international agencies and local people to create change.Anna Mahalak, UNA-USA Youth Engagement Manager


 SDG 4: Quality Education


The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change by Adam Braun. The story follows Adam as he leaves behind a successful career on Wall Street to pursue his passion of traveling and helping others, while asking young children what they wanted most in the world. This book holds a dear spot in my heart and has strengthened my call to action for SDG 4: Quality Education. It’s an incredible story of selflessness and following a dream to help those who need it most and is a wonderful narrative of how you can find yourself and your passions without even looking for them. This book has inspired me to focus less on myself succeeding and more on helping others to be as successful as they want to be in education. Melanie Goerke, GenUN Fellow


Integration Nation by Susan Eaton examines ten U.S. cities that have high immigrant populations, and how local communities are embracing them despite anti-immigrant rhetoric around the country. This book examines the many ways that public schools have integrated immigrants and U.S. born children in the classrooms by establishing focus groups, creating bilingual lessons, and increasing inter-cultural dialogue. – Bailey Dinman, UNA-USA University of Maryland


 SDG 5: Gender Equality


We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Adichie writes, ““Some people ask: “Why the word feminist? Why not just say you are a believer in human rights, or something like that?” Because that would be dishonest. Feminism is, of course, part of human rights in general—but to choose to use the vague expression human rights is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender.” Chelsea Williams-Diggs, Girl Up Campaign Associate


Leila’s Secret by Kooshyar Karimi is a favorite of mine and links to goal 5 – gender equality. The book tells the true story of a young girl in Iran and her struggles as a woman both within the household, and in society more generally. She faces the impossible task of living in a society where pregnancies out of wedlock are forbidden, as is abortion. For me, this book highlights the importance of women’s rights, in particular the right to have agency over your own body and decisions. – Sam Meyerson, UNA-USA Intern


SDG 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure


I’m currently taking a class called Disruptive Innovations and we are reading The Industries of the Future by Alec Ross.  Technology is evolving faster than we can keep up. However, it fosters an environment of entrepreneurship and innovation giving us the power to solve some of the world’s greatest problems. Alec Ross illustrates the potential problems we will be facing in the next ten years and opportunities for growth. It demonstrates how we, as consumers must adapt to change around us. – Charvi Radia, UNA-USA Intern


An interesting book for #9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure) is How We Got to Now: Six Innovations That Made the Modern World by Steven Johnson.  The author gives a fascinating–and unexpected–explanation of some of the most critical innovations in history that allowed society to develop to its current point. More poignantly, the book invites the reader to wonder: what will be the next innovation that changes life as we know it? Kristen Froehlich, UN Foundation


SDG 14: Life Below Water


The Ocean of Life: The Fate of Man and the Sea is an engaging read that details the threats facing our oceans and provides actions we can take to reverse course.  Written by Dr. Callum Roberts, a professor of marine conservation at the University of York, it makes the case for why we must embrace Global Goal #14 for our own well-being and the health of our planet. – Andrea Risotto, Director of Communications at United Nations Foundation


SDG 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions


I’m a fan of Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson. – Chris Whatley, UNA-USA Executive Director


One of my favorite books is Interventions by Kofi Annan. It is a riveting story of his tenure as SecGen and highlights the importance of the UN and global cooperation.  – Harsh Gupta, GenUN Fellow


SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals


A great one for #17, Partnerships for the Goals, is Evolution of a Corporate Idealist by Christine Bader. Part of the book is her chronicles of helping write the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. – Monika Johnson, University of Michigan Ross School of Business