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Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World

4.20  ·  Rating Details  ·  49,139 Ratings  ·  3,931 Reviews
Tracy Kidder is a winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the author of the bestsellers The Soul of a New Machine, House, Among Schoolchildren, and Home Town. He has been described by the Baltimore Sun as the “master of the non-fiction narrative.” This powerful and inspiring new book shows how one person can make a difference, as Kidder tells the true story of a gifted man who is ...more
Paperback, 333 pages
Published August 31st 2004 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published 2003)
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Janice It's been a few years since I read this book but I don't remember it having "adult themes" except perhaps that it is an adult situation to go to a…moreIt's been a few years since I read this book but I don't remember it having "adult themes" except perhaps that it is an adult situation to go to a foreign land and set up a medical clinic there. I would recommend this for any young person thinking about going in to medicine. I am giving it to my own daughter to read.(less)
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Sep 06, 2007 Miguel rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people that can read small small
I am not really sure where to begin when it comes to this book. Let us just say that Tracy Kidder writes a mean biography/account of perhaps one of the most influential people of our (Generation iPod/big box stores) time. This book really encapsulates what I imagine Paul Farmer's credo is; that is to say, fuck the idea of appropriate technology, sustainability and cost-effectiveness this is human suffering that we are flapping our tongues about...get real.

Sheer eloquence I know...

I am sure that
Will Byrnes
Dr. Paul Farmer is many things, world expert on AIDS and Tuberculosis, patient-care physician extraordinaire, founder of a ground-breaking health care facility in Haiti, consultant to Anti-TB programs in Peru and Russia, author of several books and countless articles, husband, father, and, maybe, saint. He has sympathy for liberation theology and a core understanding of the significance of Voodoo. He is a remarkable character, someone who is making a difference, doing paradigm-altering work in t ...more
Aug 26, 2007 Sarah rated it really liked it
For anyone who yearns to "make a difference" but feels overwhelmed at where to start, this book will inspire you, maybe even shock you. Doctor Paul Farmer decided at the age of 23 to devote his life to treating the poor. He established a clinic in one of the most impoverished parts of Haiti called Zanmi Lasante. Over the next twenty years, he treated not just the poor in Haiti, but expanded to treat the poor in Peru and prisoners in Russia, leading efforts to address "impossible" diseases like m ...more
Jan 25, 2008 bruin rated it it was ok
in my opinion our construction of heroes in this world leaves a lot to be desired. and while paul farmer might indeed being doing incredible work with an incredible attitude/perspective, i tired quickly of this book's idolation and unquestioning worship.

this is *not* how we will create more heroes among ourselves and others. this is precisely how people like dr. king have been removed from the people and pedastalized to the detriment of our movements and our visions for change.

get a grip tracy
Apr 05, 2009 Cait rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: RPCVs, potential PCV, wanna-be doctors, people who need inspring
I lived on the Dominican Republic/Haiti border for a few years as a child, so the initial description in this book of how Haiti is fucked doesn't come as a surprise. I mean. Just about everything that could possibly go wrong on the road to becoming a self-sustaining country has just been ripped from them. (ASK ME MY FEELINGS ON THE LATEST COUP THERE AGH, AGH, OH MY GOD, AGH.)

Haiti: fucked. CHECK.

The book then goes on to describe the life and training of Paul Farmer. Paul Farmer, who managed to
Aug 10, 2007 Catherine rated it liked it
I wish I had known. Paul Farmer, the subject of this book's adoration, spoke at Columbia's commencement ceremony this past May. At that time, I had never heard of him. If I had known, I would have gone and been able to see first-hand who he is.
"Mountains Beyond Mountains" is neither biography nor non-fiction, but is more a commentary on the author's time spent with Dr. Paul Farmer. It briefly browses through his life story: very unusual upbringing, extremely well-educated genius, quirky but char
Apr 27, 2008 Rose rated it liked it
Mountains Beyond Mountains is a biography of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Harvard educated physician who, in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, set out to bring life-saving, 'first-world' medical practices to the desperately poor in rural Haiti. This book has almost become essential reading for those who have even the most cursory interest in fields often referred to as global health, social medicine, or public health.

Paul Farmer is a unique doctor who seems genuinely called to a life of service t
Gary  the Bookworm
Sep 05, 2014 Gary the Bookworm rated it really liked it
Shelves: for-wine-club
“We want to be on the winning team, but at the risk of turning our backs on the losers, no, it is not worth it. So we fight the long defeat.”

Paul Farmer, Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World

Reading Tracy Kidder's engrossing portrait of Dr. Paul Farmer, a doctor and anthropologist, I came to understand that the above words weren't meant to be pessimistic or sentimental, they were simply a way of explaining the resolve which animates his extraor
Jul 08, 2007 Anna rated it really liked it
This is required reading for all PC health volunteers. Just remember “If Paul is the standard, we are all fucked.” Farmer is a doctor working in rural Haiti, a land that many have forgotten and others are willfully ignoring. Tracy Kidder is a journalist who runs across Farmer while on assignment covering the political turmoil of Haiti in 1994. Kidder unexpectedly finds a man many would call (and have called) a saint. A enigmatic figure in jeans and a black shirt, Paul Farmer has taken on crippli ...more
Apr 27, 2008 carrie rated it really liked it
If you would like to feel like you are self-centered and haven't accomplished much, read about Doctor Paul. I was going to try to cure Africa of TB, but I just haven't had time lately. I need to meet this guy, if only to hear more stories about growing up on a bus. This book unfolds in a grabbing way, and reads easily despite a telling of facts and events.
Erin Sorensen
Mar 11, 2008 Erin Sorensen rated it it was amazing
This book was amazing. Dr. Paul Farmer is my hero. This story really gives you a new perspective, it is very inspiring.
I have about a decade's experience of working in the medical field - the first couple working on a patient floor in a hospital as a unit clerk putting in orders so inpatients could get the tests they needed, calling codes and doctors during emergencies, that sort of thing. I thought that was stressful. (And it was, but I was also younger and had less perspective.) I wound up leaving that job and going back to the book store world because there are no book emergencies and that was greatly appeali ...more
Steph Su
Feb 24, 2013 Steph Su rated it really liked it
Shelves: life-changers
You’re not supposed to love this book. To do so would be to fall to the seduction of blind idolatry, and Farmer, the book’s subject, even points out that this is not his goal: the goal isn’t to convince more people to BE like Farmer, but rather to think like him, to believe in what he believes. As a fiction reader/writer who only sporadically dabbles in nonfiction, I find it hard to consolidate the opinions of the two types of readers in me: the one who reads to learn the craft of writing, and t ...more
Dec 20, 2010 Anna-karin rated it really liked it
I find it difficult to describe this book. There is a line in it that says something to the effect of: Don't let perfect get in the way of good. That describes the book as well as the doctor that the book is about. The good that this doctor has brought about and continues to bring about, and the good that the book has brought about by publicizing this, is hard to overestimate. While there are mistakes made by those who are working to bring about good, when we criticize their mistakes and hide ou ...more
How to rate a mind-numbingly long, adulating, repetitive book about an inspiring, dedicated, and apparently effective foot soldier and general in the fight to improve public health world-wide?
I read very quickly, finishing most non-fiction books in about 3 days. Determined to read it to the end, wanting to understand more about the subject and his passions, it took me weeks to plow through this book. Sometimes I could only tolerate about 15 minutes at a time.
Do I now know who Dr. Paul Farmer is
Nov 27, 2008 Hans rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone who cares about people.
Though I am sure that Dr. Paul Farmer has flaws like the rest of us, he does have something that makes him stand apart, a powerful dedication to others. Certainly there may be ways to criticize this book, either by focusing on the trivial like writing style or the implausibility of replicating what he has done, but the overall message is what is so powerfully compelling. It is more than a story about one man's struggle to make the world better for the less fortunate. It is a reflection and analy ...more
Fred Forbes
Nov 23, 2014 Fred Forbes rated it liked it
If I were to judge the content of this book by the actions of the main subject, Dr. Paul Farmer, I would naturally award it 5 stars. This is an amazing individual - one gets tired just reading about him as the travels the world - Haiti, Peru, Russia - aiding the impoverished by treating infectious diseases like TB and AIDs. How he ever finds time to write, publish, and address conventions is beyond me. But, Kidder's prose gets a bit wearying, repetitive, and plodding at times. Unusual for so acc ...more
Mar 15, 2013 Matt rated it really liked it
Really powerful stories of Paul Farmer's work in Haiti. I liked the way that Kidder, who clearly has a deep admiration for Farmer, manages to have him emerge as a three-dimensional person and not an uncomplicated saint. He's a jerk sometimes, he's at least a little bit arrogant, but he's still an unbelievably dedicated humanitarian who does the work out of passion and love.
My favorite line from the book, which sums up Farmer's ethos and the ideas that spur his work, is "The idea that some lives
In international aid and development, sustainability is a Very Big Deal. There are a great many problems in the world, and limited resources for dealing with them. So most institutional funders prefer projects that are cost-effective, don’t require continual ongoing funding, and don’t rely solely on one person doing something no-one else could replicate. This book is the story of an alternate route.

Paul Farmer has devoted his life primarily to treating the sick in Haiti. But he’s caught in a co
Jun 15, 2010 Gordon rated it it was amazing
You won't soon read another book about any figure as inspiring as Dr. Paul Farmer, I guarantee you.

Farmer's life work has been about bringing health care to the poor and the imprisoned. In the case of the poor, mainly to the peasants of Haiti and the TB-ridden inhabitants of the slums of Lima, Peru. In the case of the imprisoned, the prisoners in Russia with multi-drug resistant TB.

Astoundingly, Farmer worked his way through Harvard Medical School while spending most of his time in Haiti, putti
Jan 23, 2013 Anne rated it really liked it
I read this for two different book groups and it provoked some fine discussion and certainly left me thinking about it long afterward. Essentially, I wrestled with the notion of selflessness, because Paul Farmer seems like one of the most selfless (not to mention brilliant) individuals ever to roam the earth -- but at what cost? And to whom? And what kind of person is capable of that level of commitment and sacrifice (although he would hasten to downplay such a description of his efforts and inc ...more
Nov 04, 2014 Rebecca rated it it was amazing
I just finished this amazing account of the work of Paul Farmer. Farmer is a medical anthropologist, who travels the world (including Peru, Russia and Haiti). His name is one of the best known in international medical circles. He is a champion for the poor, and not just the American poor, but those who are oppressively, chronically poor-with barely any hope of ever seeing a doctor in their lives. Tracy Kidder dos an amazing job of chronicling his time spent with Farmer, traveling back and forth ...more
Apr 26, 2008 Mark rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
This is the story of one man’s quest to cure the world. Paul Farmer provides an inspiring way of dealing with the world’s poor and their access to health care. In short, he believes that politics is nothing but medicine practiced on a large scale and if the correct political decisions are made, many of the world’s health problems would either go away or become quite manageable. Farmer backs up his convictions not by just trotting around the globe attending WHO meetings and being a professor at H ...more
Feb 02, 2009 Laura rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Laura by: lots of people
Yes, it is that good. It's not just that it's inspiring and you'll have a warm glow about the fact that someone, somewhere, is doing the right thing and making the world better. And it's not just that it might inspire you to go on to make something great out of your own life by helping the oppressed and poor. It's that it points the finger at you, identifies you as part of the problem, but also invites you into seeing how you can be part of the solution -- both by giving of the wealth that you d ...more
Sep 23, 2007 Juliet rated it it was amazing
Shelves: faves
This was such an engrossing book. I think my response to Paul Farmer was a bit like author Tracy Kidder's - fascinated admiration mixed with a feeling of personal inadequacy leading to a blend of irritated fan worship. How could I ever be like this guy? Isn't he amazing? And liberation theology - wow, what a concept but how does preferential option for the poor work in real life? It seems so "all or nothing." Give up my bread -so to speak- like Farmer, so the poor can eat?

Which ultimately is not
May 17, 2013 Windy2go rated it it was amazing
Tracy Kidder is a good writer, and she tells a compelling true story in this book of a man dedicated to improving the health of people in Haiti and other impoverished spots around the world. Inspiring. What are we living for? To buy an ever-bigger television? To take expensive, carbon-dioxide spewing vacations around the globe? To build bigger and bigger houses for ourselves while kids in slums around the globe destroy themselves sniffing glue? Or are we on earth to make a difference? Is the lif ...more
When companies have to make really hard decisions everyday, they create a protocol to take the emotions out of the process and to focus only on value. When governments do it, it's called collateral damage. Paul Farmer doesn't believe in protocol OR collateral damage. He believes in curing people of curable diseases, no matter where they live, who they are or how much money they have.

I keep trying to think of a metaphor to describe Farmer's drive. Imagine if your house was on fire and all your f
Antonia Hall
Jan 31, 2015 Antonia Hall rated it it was amazing
I love this quote...This is exactly why we send money to the poor but don't like to really be engaged; it's because there would be too much sacrifice to our lifestyles. Dr. Farmer says --

"WL’s [White Liberals] think all the world’s problems can be fixed without any cost to themselves. We don’t believe that. There’s a lot to be said for sacrifice, remorse, even pity. It’s what separates us from roaches”

Dr. Paul Farmer: a compassionate genius at work trying to cure the world's most infectious and
Jul 29, 2007 kevin rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
Shelves: non-fiction
Haiti is a complex nation with a heroic history often sullied and distorted by former colonial powers. Kidder's book is as much a profile of the struggling communities of Haiti's central plateau as it is a biography of the tireless Doktè Paul Farmer.

Kidder offers a balanced view of Farmer's astonishing work for the reader to honor, question, criticize, and admire without didactic hand-holding. I particularly enjoyed the details of Farmer's day-to-day life. Following the doctor's relentless trave
Nancy (NE)
Jun 22, 2012 Nancy (NE) rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This was an incredibly intense read for me. Really fascinating book. Kidder writes about Paul Framer's involvment in improving health care in Haiti. He examines how the politics of poverty hinders our ability to treat sometimes simple problems at the local level, but ultimately impacts our ability to erradiate diseases globally. As a college student beginning medical school, Farmer is compelled to help the people of the central regions of Haiti. His ultimate mission becomes TB and in particular, ...more
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Goodreads Librari...: Split Edition for Young Readers from Original Edition? 4 33 May 02, 2013 11:49AM  
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Tracy Kidder is an American author and Vietnam War veteran. Kidder may be best known, especially within the computing community, for his Pulitzer Prize-winning The Soul of a New Machine, an account of the development of Data General's Eclipse/MV minicomputer. The book typifies his distinctive style of research. He began following the project at its inception and, in addition to interviews, spent c ...more
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“And I can imagine Farmer saying he doesn't care if no one else is willing to follow their example. He's still going to make these hikes, he'd insist, because if you say that seven hours is too long to walk for two families of patients, you're saying that their lives matter less than some others', and the idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that's wrong with the world.” 56 likes
“WL’s [White Liberals] think all the world’s problems can be fixed without any cost to themselves. We don’t believe that. There’s a lot to be said for sacrifice, remorse, even pity. It’s what separates us from roaches” 34 likes
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