“A lot of the job of a person trying to write stories that are true is to make what’s true believable. It isn’t enough to say, well, it actually happened. You have to make it believable on the page; you have to bring people to life and scenes to life.”
Over his long career, Kidder’s writing has been prolific and outstanding. The Soul of a New Machine —a book celebrated for its insight into the world of high-tech corporate America—earned him a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award in 1982. Other bestselling works include House, Among Schoolchildren, Old Friends and Home Town.
His enormously influential book Mountains Beyond Mountains captures two global health crises—tuberculosis and AIDS—through the eyes of a single-minded physician bent on improving the health of some of the poorest people on the planet.
The story of Dr. Paul Farmer, a major force in revolutionizing international health, is a gripping and inspiring account of one man’s efforts to establish clinics and hospitals—his compassion for the poor, his inner circle of true believers and, ultimately, his success in helping stem the tide of new HIV and TB infections in Haiti. Farmer is the founder of Zanmi Lasante (Creole for Partners in Health), a non-governmental organization that is the only health-care provider in the Plateau Central in Haiti.
Mountains Beyond Mountains “remind[s] us that we’re implicated in all the problems [Farmer] is working to solve…His complicated humanity only makes him more like the rest of us in our shortcomings—and leaves us asking why we all aren’t a little more like him in our virtues” (Newsweek).
In his subsequent book, Strength in What Remains, Kidder delivers the humbling story of Deo, a young man whose will to survive and love of knowledge take him from the horrors of genocide in Burundi to Columbia University and then on to medical school—a brilliant testament to the power of second chances and an inspiring account of one immigrant’s remarkable American journey. Dr. Paul Farmer and Partners in Health also play a pivotal role in Deo’s story, as they inspire him to establish his own clinic in Burundi. Strength in What Remains was a finalist for both 2009 The National Book Critics Circle Award and the 2009 Los Angeles Times Book Award.
Kidder’s latest book Good Prose is a guide to the craft of nonfiction writing, written with his long-time editor Richard Todd.
Born in New York City in 1945, Kidder spent his childhood in Oyster Bay, Long Island, where his father was a lawyer and his mother a teacher. He attended Harvard, where he earned a BA in 1967. From June 1968 until June 1969, he served as a lieutenant in Vietnam, for which he was awarded a Bronze Star, an experience chronicled in his memoir My Detachment.
Following the war, Kidder obtained his MA from the University of Iowa, where he attended the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. It was there that Kidder met Atlantic Monthly contributing editor Dan Wakefield, who helped him get his first assignment for the magazine as a freelance writer.
Over the years, Kidder’s articles have covered a broad array of topics, ranging from railroads to energy, architecture, and the environment. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, The New York Times Book Review and The New York Times OpEd page.
Kidder lives with his wife in western Massachusetts and Maine. His next book of narrative nonfiction will be published in fall 2016.