On a trek through Nepal in 1998, John Wood was dismayed to discover a school library bereft of books. And so Wood— who was then Microsoft’s director of business development for China—gave up his lucrative job to found the nonprofit Books for Nepal. By 2000, the organization had opened 26 libraries in Nepal and built two schools. Less than eight years later, the organization—now known as Room to Read—celebrated the opening of its 5,000th library.

In the meantime, Room to Read grew far beyond...

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