Good Prose is an inspiring book about writing—about the creation of good prose—and the record of a warm and productive literary friendship. The story begins in 1973, in the offices of The Atlantic Monthly, in Boston, where a young freelance writer named Tracy Kidder came looking for an assignment. Richard Todd was the editor who encouraged him. From that article grew a lifelong association. Before long, Kidder’s The Soul of a New Machine, the first book the two worked on together, had won the Pulitzer Prize. It was a heady moment, but for Kidder and Todd it was only the beginning of an education in the art of nonfiction.
Good Prose explores three major nonfiction forms: narratives, essays, and memoirs. Kidder and Todd draw candidly, sometimes comically, on their own experience—their mistakes as well as accomplishments—to demonstrate the pragmatic ways in which creative problems get solved. They also turn to the works of a wide range of writers, novelists as well as nonfiction writers, for models and instruction. They talk about narrative strategies (and about how to find a story, sometimes in surprising places), about the ethical challenges of nonfiction, and about the realities of making a living as a writer. They offer some tart and emphatic opinions on the current state of language. And they take a clear stand against playing loose with the facts. Their advice is always grounded in the practical world of writing and publishing.
Good Prose—like Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style—is a succinct, authoritative, and entertaining arbiter of standards in contemporary writing, offering guidance for the professional writer and the beginner alike. This wise and useful book is the perfect companion for anyone who loves to read good books and longs to write one.
Praise for Good Prose
“Smart, lucid, and entertaining.”—The Boston Globe
“You are in such good company—congenial, ironic, a bit old-school—that you’re happy to follow [Kidder and Todd] where they lead you.”—The Wall Street Journal
“[A] well-structured, to-the-point, genuinely useful, and fun-to-read guide to writing narrative nonfiction, essays, and memoir . . . Crisp, informative, and mind-expanding.”—Booklist
“A gem . . . The finer points of creative nonfiction are molded into an inspiring read that will affect the would-be writer as much as Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird or Stephen King’s On Writing. . . . This is a must read for nonfiction writers.”—Library Journal
“As approachable and applicable as any writing manual available.”—Associated Press
From the Hardcover edition.
From the Hardcover edition.
Fortune, mania, genius, philanthropy—the bestselling author of Mountains Beyond Mountains gives us the inspiring story of Paul English, the founder of Kayak.com and Lola.
Tracy Kidder, the “master of the nonfiction narrative” (The Baltimore Sun) and author of the bestselling classic The Soul of a New Machine, now tells the story of Paul English, a kinetic and unconventional inventor and entrepreneur, who as a boy rebelled against authority. Growing up in working-class Boston, English discovers a medium for his talents the first time he sees a computer. As a young man, despite suffering from what would eventually be diagnosed as bipolar disorder, he begins his pilgrim’s journey through the ups and downs in the brave new world of computers. Relating to the Internet as if it’s an extension of his own mind, he discovers that he has a talent for conceiving innovative enterprises and building teams that can develop them, becoming “a Pied Piper” of geeks. His innovative management style, success, and innate sense of fair play inspire intense loyalty. Early on, one colleague observes: “Someday this boy’s going to get hit by a truck full of money, and I’m going to be standing beside him.” Yet when English does indeed make a fortune, when the travel website Kayak is sold for almost two billion dollars—the first thing he thinks about is how to give the money away: “What else would you do with it?” The second thing he thinks is, What’s next?
With the power of a consummate storyteller, Tracy Kidder casts a fresh, critical, and often humorous eye on the way new ideas and new money are reshaping our culture and the world. A Truck Full of Money is a mesmerizing portrait of an irresistibly endearing man who is indefatigable, original, and as unpredictable as America itself.
Praise for A Truck Full of Money
“Kidder’s prose glides with a figure skater’s ease, but without the glam. His is a seemingly artless art, like John McPhee’s, that conceals itself in sentences that are necessary, economical, and unpretentious.”—The Boston Globe
“Kidder’s portrayal of living with manic depression is as nuanced and intimate as a reader might ever expect to get. . . . You can’t help admiring Mr. English and cheering for him.”—The New York Times
“[A] powerful and insightful tale that makes the Internet era entertaining, and defines English as an endearing, generous and eccentric geek.”—USA Today
“At times, the narrative of the young technologist, at least in Kidder’s hands, seems the modern equivalent of the story of the godless wayfarer who stumbles into a cathedral in a distant city, only to find that its vaulting arches and organ music bring on exaltations of mind and spirit.”—The New York Times Book Review
“What kind of entrepreneur talks about making money as if it’s, well, kind of a bummer? You’ll ask yourself that question about a dozen or so pages into A Truck Full of Money, Tracy Kidder’s expertly reported, deftly written new book that tracks the rise of unconventional software executive and Kayak.com co-founder Paul English.”—The San Francisco Chronicle
“Kidder writes beautifully, creating an engaging storyline while avoiding clichés and pretention. . . . Readers are in for a fascinating ride.”—The National Book Review
From the Hardcover edition.
In Strength in What Remains, Tracy Kidder gives us the story of one man’s inspiring American journey and of the ordinary people who helped him, providing brilliant testament to the power of second chances. Deo arrives in the United States from Burundi in search of a new life. Having survived a civil war and genocide, he lands at JFK airport with two hundred dollars, no English, and no contacts. He ekes out a precarious existence delivering groceries, living in Central Park, and learning English by reading dictionaries in bookstores. Then Deo begins to meet the strangers who will change his life, pointing him eventually in the direction of Columbia University, medical school, and a life devoted to healing. Kidder breaks new ground in telling this unforgettable story as he travels with Deo back over a turbulent life and shows us what it means to be fully human.
With an exacting eye for detail, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tracy Kidder examines end-of-life sorrows, joys, and unexpected surprises with poetry and compassion. Struggling to find meaning in the face of mortality, Joe and Lou experience the challenges that come with aging—with a grace and dignity that’s sure to inspire.
At the center of Mountains Beyond Mountains stands Paul Farmer. Doctor, Harvard professor, renowned infectious-disease specialist, anthropologist, the recipient of a MacArthur “genius” grant, world-class Robin Hood, Farmer was brought up in a bus and on a boat, and in medical school found his life’s calling: to diagnose and cure infectious diseases and to bring the lifesaving tools of modern medicine to those who need them most. This magnificent book shows how radical change can be fostered in situations that seem insurmountable, and it also shows how a meaningful life can be created, as Farmer—brilliant, charismatic, charming, both a leader in international health and a doctor who finds time to make house calls in Boston and the mountains of Haiti—blasts through convention to get results.
Mountains Beyond Mountains takes us from Harvard to Haiti, Peru, Cuba, and Russia as Farmer changes minds and practices through his dedication to the philosophy that "the only real nation is humanity" - a philosophy that is embodied in the small public charity he founded, Partners In Health. He enlists the help of the Gates Foundation, George Soros, the U.N.’s World Health Organization, and others in his quest to cure the world. At the heart of this book is the example of a life based on hope, and on an understanding of the truth of the Haitian proverb “Beyond mountains there are mountains”: as you solve one problem, another problem presents itself, and so you go on and try to solve that one too.
“Mountains Beyond Mountains unfolds with the force of a gathering revelation,” says Annie Dillard, and Jonathan Harr says, “[Farmer] wants to change the world. Certainly this luminous and powerful book will change the way you see it.”
Kidder was an ROTC intelligence officer, just months out of college and expecting a stateside assignment, when his orders arrived for Vietnam. There, lovesick, anxious, and melancholic, he tried to assume command of his detachment, a ragtag band of eight more-or-less ungovernable men charged with reporting on enemy radio locations.
He eventually learned not only to lead them but to laugh and drink with them as they shared the boredom, pointlessness, and fear of war. Together, they sought a ghostly enemy, homing in on radio transmissions and funneling intelligence gathered by others. Kidder realized that he would spend his time in Vietnam listening in on battle but never actually experiencing it.
With remarkable clarity and with great detachment, Kidder looks back at himself from across three and a half decades, confessing how, as a young lieutenant, he sought to borrow from the tragedy around him and to imagine himself a romantic hero. Unrelentingly honest, rueful, and revealing, My Detachment gives us war without heroism, while preserving those rare moments of redeeming grace in the midst of lunacy and danger. The officers and men of My Detachment are not the sort of people who appear in war movies–they are the ones who appear only in war, and they are unforgettable.
From the Hardcover edition.
Computers have changed since 1981, when The Soul of a New Machine first examined the culture of the computer revolution. What has not changed is the feverish pace of the high-tech industry, the go-for-broke approach to business that has caused so many computer companies to win big (or go belly up), and the cult of pursuing mind-bending technological innovations.
The Soul of a New Machine is an essential chapter in the history of the machine that revolutionized the world in the twentieth century.
Tracy Kidder erzählt mit großer literarischer Kraft von einem Schicksal, das niemanden unberührt lässt. Deogratias’ Geschichte zeigt, wie auch aus tiefster Verzweiflung Mut und Hoffnung auf ein neues Leben erwachsen können.
Mrs. Zajac is feisty, funny, and tough. She likes to call herself an "old-lady schoolteacher." (She is thirty-four.) Around Kelly School, she is famous for her discipline: "She is mean, bro," says one of her students. But children love her. And so will the reader of this extraordinarily moving book by the author of House and The Soul of a New Machine.
Mrs. Zajac spends her working life "among schoolchildren." To some it might seem a small world, a world of spelling and recess and endless papers to correct. But we soon realize that Mrs. Zajac's classroom is big enough to house much of human nature. Her little room contains a distillate of some of the worst social problems of our time. Some of the children's young lives seem already stunted by physical and emotional deprivation. And some are full of precarious promise.
As we come to know these children, we long for their salvation—and we come to understand, as if for the first time, the difference that a good teacher can make in a child's life, and in our society.
Among Schoolchildren provides the most realistic account of American education ever written—on every page we encounter the precisely rendered truth for which Tracy Kidder is famous. But this is more than a book about education. It is about one woman's indomitability, about the joy of acting out of conscience and love. At bottom, its subject is nothing less than the struggle between good and evil. In Among Schoolchildren Tracy Kidder has written his most emotionally powerful, most memorable work.