Listening to Tracy Kidder

On Thursday, I was lucky enough to hear Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tracy Kidder speak about his most well-known book, Mountains Beyond Mountains. I read this book a few years ago and it was such an incredible, uplifting story told through brilliant writing that I could never be able to fully describe how much it moved me. The book revolves around the life of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Harvard-trained doctor who has dedicated his life to working with patients with infectious diseases in third-world countries. Note that I wrote he works with patients and not the diseases. His commitment to the public good and making an impact on the world’s people is what, I feel, separates Farmer from many others in his profession.

As you’re reading this book, you’ll no doubt be preoccupied with a journalist’s skepticism, “what’s the catch with Paul Farmer?” But as you’ll discover, he IS just too good to be true. I am incredibly elated that I got the chance to hear such a talented writer discuss his most-famous book. {Here's another great interview of Kidder.}

I think it’s a bit funny that you can see the differences between one of my friends and I just by mentioning Mountains Beyond Mountains. We both read and absolutely loved the book. But she, as a public health student, saw Dr. Paul Farmer speak in Washington D.C. and I, as a writer, saw Tracy Kidder speak. It’s funny, huh?

I’ve also read Kidder’s Strength in What Remains about a Burundian man who escaped the Rwandan genocide, faced insurmountable odds as a homeless foreigner in New York and now works with Partners in Health, Paul Farmer's creation, to bring health care to Burundi and other areas and Among Schoolchildren which follows a fifth-grade teacher in Holyoke, Mass. as she attempts to effect her students in positive, lasting ways.

As Kidder discussed his book, he said, “My goal was to find a good story and tell it as well as I could.” He did. If you have not read any of Tracy Kidder’s books, you must. They are simply incredible.

Also, I congratulate Northwestern on their One Book One Northwestern community-building project. It is a great program that brings together students and staff around a single book and issue. Through this One Book One Northwestern selection students are introduced to new issues and encouraged to become socially responsible citizens and active volunteers. I applaud the effort and think this method should be used more often at universities and high and middle schools also.

{image via tracykidder.com}

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