Leadership & Board

John Wood

At age 35, John left his position as Director of Business Development for Microsoft’s Greater China region to found Room to Read. The business acumen honed there, combined with his passion and an unparalleled track record at changing the world, makes John a unique and inspiring leader and social entrepreneur.

John’s award-winning memoir, Leaving Microsoft to Change the World: An Entrepreneur’s Odyssey to Educate the World’s Children (Harper Collins, 2006), tells how he raised millions from a “standing start” to develop one of the fastest-growing nonprofits in history. The book was described by Publishers’ Weekly in a starred review as “an infectiously inspiring read.” Translated into 20 languages, it is popular with entrepreneurs, philanthropists, and educators alike, and was selected by Amazon.com as one of the Top Ten Business Narratives of 2006 and voted a Top Ten Nonfiction title of 2006 by Hudson Booksellers. The book was also featured during John’s appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show and the resulting “Oprah’s Book Drive” with Room to Read raised over $3 million from viewers.

John’s follow up book, Creating Room to Read: A Story of Hope in the Battle for Global Literacy (Viking Penguin, 2013), tells the story of how the organization successfully tackled the next steps of scaling beyond his wildest dreams while maintaining integrity and raising money in a collapsing economy.

John has been named by Goldman Sachs as one of the world’s 100 Most Intriguing Entrepreneurs, has been a three-time speaker at the Clinton Global Initiative and is a five-time winner of Fast Company Magazine’s Social Capitalist Award. He has been honored by Time Magazine’s “Asian Heroes” Award, selected as a “Young Global Leader” by the World Economic Forum, is a Lifetime Achievement Honoree of the Tribeca Film Festival's Disruptive Innovation Awards, and is a Henry Crown Fellow at the Aspen Institute. He was selected by Barron’s as one of the “25 Best Givers” in 2009 and 2010, ranking 11th and 9th on the list, respectively. In 2014, John won the World’s Children’s Honorary Award Laureate through the World’s Children’s Prize, the annual educational program for the rights of the child and democracy—often called the Children’s Nobel Prize. In recognition of his passion to open libraries for the most under-served populations, he was described by the San Francisco Chronicle as “the Andrew Carnegie of the developing world.”

John holds a master’s degree in business administration from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University, a bachelor’s degree in finance from the University of Colorado, and has four honorary doctorates including from McGill University and the University of San Francisco. He also serves on the advisory board of the Clinton Global Initiative and New Story. John is a frequent lecturer at Harvard Business School and at NYU’s Wagner School of Public Policy.

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In 1998, John Wood was a rising executive at Microsoft when he took a vacation that changed his life. What started as a trekking holiday in Nepal became a spiritual journey and then a mission to found Room to Read, following his passion to bring access to quality education to every child regardless of where they were born. Available for purchase on Amazon.


In this inspiring sequel, the worldwide team at Room to Read tackles the organization’s next steps—the challenges of balancing business expansion and integrity, raising funds in a difficult economy, and expanding Room to Read’s mission in a quest to provide access to local language children’s books and quality education.Available for purchase on Amazon.


In fun and rhythmic prose, Wood tells the story of sturdy, lovable Zak, a yak whose determination and strength help to bring thousands of books to a rural village in Nepal. With his two young Nepali sidekicks, Arul and Manju, Zak sets out on a quest to rally the support and generosity of others to help provide much-needed resources to a school high in the Himalayan Mountains.


To be published in early 2018, John’s latest book explores how a purpose-driven company can reap numerous business benefits including higher profits, employee motivation and customer attraction. An inspiring read for CEO’s interested in bolstering their company’s mission filled with insightful interviews, case studies and compelling data.