“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 healthcare provider on the Plateau Central in Haiti.
In his following 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 the 2009 National Book Critics Circle Award and the 2009 Los Angeles Times Book Award. Kidder followed that up with Good Prose, a guide to the craft of nonfiction writing, written with his longtime editor Richard Todd; and A Truck Full Of Money, the story of tech entrepreneur Paul English, who made millions during the rise of the internet while dealing with bipolar disorder.
“All of these books are, at some level, arguments about the meaning and worth of good works, and the moral value of small victories in a world of big problems. They are also, in the end, implicit arguments about storytelling itself.”
—Richard Just, Washington Post
Much as he did with Paul Farmer in Mountains Beyond Mountains, Kidder’s latest New York Times bestseller Rough Sleepers is the powerful story of an inspiring doctor who made a difference. Rough Sleepers introduces readers to Dr. Jim O’Connell, who helped create a program to care for Boston’s homeless community. Today, Dr. O’Connell and his colleagues lead an organization that includes clinics affiliated with Massachusetts General Hospital and the Boston Medical Center, and a host of teams including a street team who reach rough sleepers by van. Kidder spent time over five years riding with Dr. O’Connell as he navigated the city at night, offering medical care, socks, soup, empathy, and friendship to some of the city’s endangered citizens. A symptom of the systemic failures that feed American poverty—racism, childhood trauma, violence—homelessness afflicts a broad and diverse population. In Rough Sleepers we meet some of the people Dr. O’Connell has cared for over the years, including Tony, a protector of others on the streets, and Joann, who spent many years on the streets and now lectures to each new Harvard Medical School class. Publisher’s Weekly praises Rough Sleepers as “keenly observed and fluidly written, this is a compassionate report from the front lines of one of America’s most intractable social problems.”
“Rough Sleepers will do for homelessness what Mountains Beyond Mountains did for public health. I’m in awe of this book. I’m in awe of Jim O’Connell. What a compellingly beautiful, inspiring read.”
—Alex Kotlowitz, bestselling author of There Are No Children Here
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.
After 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 contributing editor Dan Wakefield, who helped him get his first assignment as a freelance writer.
Over the years, Kidder’s articles have covered a broad array of topics, including railroads, 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.
Kidder lives with his wife in western Massachusetts.here.