Book Review | Wine to Water: A Bartender’s Quest to Bring Clean Water to the World by Doc Hendley

wineI received an advance copy of Wine to Water from the publisher, and unlike most of the books publishers send me, this is something I would have picked up on my own. It is the story of Doc Hendley, founder of Wine to Water, a non-profit that works to bring clean drinking water to the most under-served areas of the world.

The story is certainly an inspiring one, and Mr. Hendley proves to be an impressive storyteller. I can usually smell a ghostwriter all over books like these, but I saw no evidence of that here – which is both good and bad. The voice was very authentic, and had a folksy charm that was, well, charming. Doc seems very much like the type of dude I’d sit down over some whiskey and beer, making big, drunken plans about how we were going to save the world. The difference is that Doc does more than talk, he walks away from his comfortable life to make an actual, concrete difference.

Traveling to some of the most at-need and least secure countries in the world isn’t enough for him. No, he asks to go to the worst of the worst, to the places that no one – not even the U.N. – will go. He’s very honest about his experiences there. He has some trouble adjusting to the customs of his host countries; specifically, he’s initially uncomfortable with the custom of men holding hands with one another as a sign of friendship.

He learns an awful lot in the process of setting up his non-profit, from how to raise money, to how to deal with the politics of aide, and how to best help individual communities. I finished this book feeling empowered that anyone can really make a tangible difference in the world.

Of course, like I said, the absence of a ghostwriter wasn’t all great, and the book was imperfect. The biggest issue I had was with a really rookie dialog mistake – constantly using people’s names. People don’t actually talk like that, and while I’m sure most readers wouldn’t even notice, it drives me up the wall. Here’s an example, though I have deleted a few sentences for the purposes of brevity.

“So, how’s the old fund-raising coming, Doc?”

“It’s actually going great, Matt.”

“You know, Doc, we all believe in you, man.”

“That means a lot, Matt.”

The prose was very well paced and Doc is certainly an endearing gentleman, but I was not expecting was such a focus on religion. It wasn’t preachy, but there was really a lot of discussion of God – which is not surprising, considering that the author’s father is a Pastor. The religion wasn’t a turnoff for me; after all, this is Doc’s story, and he should record it as it happened and his feelings as he felt them. I was just surprised by it.

Overall, this book included everything necessary to tell the story without any superfluous fluff, it was well paced, and it was inspiring. I would certainly recommend it to a friend.

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