Max Alexander is an author, journalist, onetime farmer and failed politician. He is a former senior editor at People magazine in New York and, before that, the executive editor of Variety and Daily Variety, the showbiz trade publications, in Los Angeles. His writing--on topics ranging from crime to adventure--appears in dozens of publications including Smithsonian, Saveur, Prevention, This Old House and The New York Times. In addition, Alexander has edited books by such notable authors as George Plimpton and film critic David Thomson. He is currently working on a book about China. He lives with his wife and two sons in an 1816 center-chimney Cape in midcoast Maine.
BRIGHT LIGHTS, NO CITY (2012)
The hilarious story of two brothers, a truckload of batteries, and a brilliant plan to bring light--and new business opportunities--to Ghana.
At age 47, Whit Alexander, the American co-founder of the Cranium board game, decided to start a new business selling affordable goods and services to low-income villagers in Ghana, West Africa. His brother Max, a journalist, came along to tell the story. Neither of them could have anticipated just how much of an adventure they’d find there.
In Ghana, Whit's initial goal is to market a high quality rechargeable AA battery that off-grid villagers could use to power their flashlights and radios, as well as to charge their cell phones. If successful, he planned to grow a larger for-profit business based on those batteries--creating a trusted African brand that would provide life-enhancing products, services, and jobs, without relying on charity.
Ghana, however, presents extraordinary challenges, and the brothers wage daily battles against deadly insects, insane driving conditions, unspeakable food, voodoo priests, corrupt officials, counterfeiters, and ethnic rivalries on their way to success. From signing up customers who earn a few dollars a month at most to training employees with no Western-style work experience, the brothers quickly learn that starting a business in Africa requires single-minded focus, a sense of humor, and a lot of patience.
Along the way, Whit and Max relive their own childhood, bickering across the African bush and learning a great deal about Africans as well as themselves. Irreverent, hilarious, and ultimately inspiring, Bright Lights, No City challenges accepted notions of charity, shows the power of broadening your horizons, and suggests that there is hope and opportunity in Africa.
“Mr. Alexander combines a high-energy travelogue with an insightful exploration of what it takes to turn an idea into a profitable enterprise.”—The Wall Street Journal
“Overflowing with wit, cultural insights, and colorful anecdotes, Alexander’s work is an inspiring example of third-world renewal and an irresistibly readable, true-life travel story.”—Booklist
"An affectionate, good-humored and finally inspiring account of one American's determination to make good things happen."—Kate Braestrup, New York Times bestselling author of Here If You Need Me
"I loved, loved, loved Bright Lights, No City. A tour de force! Bravo. It's perceptive, informative, thoughtful, engaging, funny."—Carey Winfrey, editor emeritus, Smithsonian magazine and former Africa correspondent, The New York Times
"My boss, Bill Gates, coined the phrase 'creative capitalism' to encourage the use of market forces to address the needs of the poor. But my friend, Whit Alexander, moved creative capitalism from ideas to bold practice. Bright Lights, No City will scratch your travel bug, tickle your business brain, and touch your heart."—Patty Stonesifer, former CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
"I thoroughly enjoyed this adventure, which helps to prove that what much of the developing world needs is a hand up, not a hand out."—John Wood, founder of Room to Read and author of Leaving Microsoft to Change the World
"Max Alexander has woven a compassionate and oft-times hilarious tale of the Brothers Alexander's attempt to save the world, one rechargeable battery at a time. If you have any interest in a great story or helping the other 4 billion, read this book, now."—W. Hodding Carter, author of Westward Whoa and A Viking Voyage
"A lyrically written universal testimony to the humanity that binds all people together on this fragile planet, Bright Lights, No City is a deeply moving and funny, can't-put-it-down book."—Frank Schaeffer, author of Crazy for God
"This book is filled with the passion and relentless pursuit that it takes to make dreams come to life, and reminds you that it takes compassion, luck, and humor to make history. A must read for every entrepreneur."—Richard Tait, Co-Founder, Cranium; CEO, Galazo
Rights: Hyperion, World English; Sigongsa, Korea