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Home Town

3.75  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,166 Ratings  ·  133 Reviews
In this splendid book, one of America's masters of nonfiction takes us home--into Hometown, U.S.A., the town of Northampton, Massachusetts, and into the extraordinary, and the ordinary, lives that people live there. As Tracy Kidder reveals how, beneath its amiable surface, a small town is a place of startling complexity, he also explores what it takes to make a modern smal ...more
Hardcover, 349 pages
Published April 20th 1999 by Random House (first published 1999)
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(showing 1-30 of 2,056)
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Vicky Pinpin-Feinstein
At the outset, I should say I am a big fan of Tracy Kidder. I have read several of his books and so therefore I am biased in this review. However, given that I only read books I have an interest in or that the author is someone I admire, what I have to say here can be helpful to those:
(1) interested in how a local community works and relates to the larger society; (2) how the trained senses of Tracy Kidder as a seasoned writer can create such a tour de force rendition of seemingly ordinary lives
Jul 13, 2011 Roland rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Home Town is a profile/biography of an old Massachusetts town as seen (mostly) through the thoughts of a local cop who grew up there. The cop (Tommy O'Connor) suffers as all cops do from an excess of dealing with the lower strata of society. He makes up for it, though, with a generous spirit that somehow maintains its belief in the possibility of redemption. He also retains a sense of humor that has recognizable and appealing Irish Catholic and blue-collar roots.

When Kidder isn't writing about
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 16, 2009 Diane rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I have enjoyed many of Tracy Kidder's books - my two favorites were Mountains beyond Mountains and Old Friends. Home Town has some good parts but I never really connected with it. I think it was my problem because I had expectations of what the book was going to be about and then it wasn't.

This is the story of a smallish town (12,000 people) of Northampton, MA as seen by one of its policemen. The main character is likable and we get to see him as a full person, not just as a cop. The first chapt
This book was so interesting to read. I loved the characters, and they were actually real people. I am very interested in local politics wherever I am. This city and the issues they have dealt with was so interesting to read about. Northampton has such a cool history and atmosphere. I felt as though I lived there myself while reading the book. It made me want to visit the places described. To me it typifies America today--a conflict between the liberal, highly educated groups and the day to day ...more
Melissa Norton
Aug 22, 2009 Melissa Norton rated it really liked it
A vivid, detailed and thoughtful social history of Northampton, Massachusetts, Home Town is vintage Tracy Kidder. He traces the ordinary lives of several residents, deftly interlacing history and subtle social commentary. Police officer Tom O'Connor emerges as the symbolic core of the book, and his personal and professional experiences draw the reader in. Laura Burmeister, a nontraditional student at Smith College, is another major character, and her story bridges the socioeconomic classes in a ...more
Jul 20, 2014 Matt rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I didn't dislike this book, but It never grabbed me either. Kidder fleshes out all of the characters, especially Tommy and Alan, in such detail, and it's impossible not to admire such painstaking reporting, but I never felt compelled to keep going to see what happened to them.

Part of my problem is that it feels dated, at least reading it 15 years after publication. The life it describes isn't recent enough to feel contemporary, nor old enough to feel like a piece of history. It lands somewhere i
Roger Smitter
Aug 31, 2015 Roger Smitter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am a fan of Tracy Kidder's ability to take the ordinary and make it a good read.

This book introduces us to the more or less mundane workings of Northampton, MA, a college town with a long history. His focus is on one police officer but he intertwines a lot of characters into a novel- like story line. There are plenty of characters--a stripper, an eccentric millionaire, teachers, the major, and others. There is a very moving chapter as a man pleads guilty to child molestation. That is followed
Jun 06, 2015 Sharon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliantly written view of Northampton, Massachusetts. Home Town reads like a collection of linked stories (which it is) as seen through the eyes of police force veteran Tommy O'Connor. Tracy Kidder captures the small town sensibilities typical of old New England college towns--the kind with a real downtown and an eclectic mix of established families and newcomers of all stripes. At the same time,Kidder also captures O'Connor's conflicted feelings about staying in his "home town" versus venturi ...more
Feb 25, 2016 Arlene added it
Shelves: bookclub-2015
It read like a long series of vignettes. I don't like short stories, I like to be immersed in a full long story. I found the book full of interesting characters but their stories too interrupted to keep my interest. It was a long hard read. I kept going only because this was our book club selection. It taught me to recognize and inventory what I prefer in a book to consider it worth reading. No matter how interesting the characters, if there is no plot I become disappointed and do not wish to co ...more
Apr 09, 2013 Diane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoy Tracy Kidder's writing but I would argue that this wasn't his strongest book. Still, a weak book by Kidder is better than almost everything else on the shelves. Kidder writes non-fiction and tackles a variety of topics (old age, school teachers, home building etc) in a journalistic fashion that reads like fiction. This book is about the town of Northhampton, Massachusetts and Kidder delves into the everyday lives of its residents. The main focus is on Tommy O'Conner, the town's ch ...more
marcus miller
Dec 23, 2011 marcus miller rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was asked to read Home Town and after the first couple of pages I realized I had read it before. It was good enough I decided to finish reading it the second time.
Kidder takes us to Northampton, MA, the kind of town that exerts a hold on long term residents as well as those who move there for some reason. There are probably quite a few such towns or cities which seem to pull people in and make it difficult for people to leave. Right now, I'm sitting in the my house, in a town where I never th
Kris Munson
Jun 09, 2012 Kris Munson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Tracy Kidder lives near the town of Northampton, Mass. I too lived there, after growing up in California. My husband and I transferred there, and fell in love with the place. We spent a year living in Northampton, and it will probably go down as the best year of our lives in a lot of ways. We were young, and just starting out, with only one child in our family. Northampton is the kind of place where you can walk around, and visit the shops, and enjoy the aspects of Smith College that infuse the ...more
Feb 16, 2010 Melissa rated it liked it
This is my third Tracy Kidder book and it took me quite a while to get into. Eventually, I felt compelled to read it and thought about the "characters"—still do—when I wasn't reading it.

I've been thinking about how authors structure their books lately because I think I've been baffled by a couple. This book is divided into sections or parts and I'm not sure why the divisions come when they do. It might be more apparent on a second read, but I don't imagine I'll get to that. It took me quite a wh
Nov 29, 2010 Jaspreet rated it liked it
When Home Town by Tracy Kidder was nominated as a selection for the August book club meeting of the Professors and Partners book club in MA, I was excited about the prospect. I really enjoyed Kidder's book Mountains Beyond Mountains, so I had high hopes for the selection. Unfortunately, I did not have a similar fondness for Hometown. At various points, I felt like I was in the middle of a very long episode of Praire Home Companion without the funny commercials and variety of voices.

Some of the
Apr 26, 2012 Holly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another good work of nonfiction by Tracy Kidder, an alum of the Iowa Writer's Workshop. An old, historic town in the east (Jonathon Edwards preached here), Northampton, is the "main character" that the book illuminates. We follow various citizens, chiefly a conscientious young cop and hometown boy named Tommy, a single mom named Laura on scholarship at exclusive Smith College, and a former lawyer named Alan whose OCD behavior (e.g. plastic bags on his hands) the town seems to regard as just mild ...more
Aug 02, 2012 Sherry rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was not my favorite Tracy Kidder book. And perhaps that's because the story for me was not as compelling as the other two books by Kidder that I read (i.e., Soul of a New Machine and Mountains Beyond Mountains).

In Home Town, Tracy Kidder delves beneath the surface of Northampton, Massachusetts, a small peaceful town, to show us that things aren't always what they seem. OK, great - but that’s true of all towns both big and small. I did however enjoy the stories of some of the characters, es
Robin Ryan
Nov 28, 2015 Robin Ryan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015-books-read
This is one of Tracy Kidder's older books (published in 1999. I have had it sitting on my shelf for quite some time and finally got around to reading it. Just like every other Tracy Kidder book I have read, I loved it. In this one, he tells the story of a year in the life of Northampton, Massachusetts. The people that he introduces the reader to make the town come to life for the reader. That is the kind of writer he always is!
Apr 26, 2014 Patricia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I read this in conjunction with Kidder's "Good Prose," keeping my eyes open for examples of the issues and lessons he discusses in his book about writing. This is serving as a fabulous model for the biography I'm working on. Kidder is a master at handling POV in non-fiction, keeping it flowing, fascinating, and non-academic without violating the code to tell the truth as fully as possible with clear indicators about where the information originates. I've re-read the opening chapters a half dozen ...more
Sally Atwell Williams
This non-fiction book reads as fiction sometime. Tracy Kidder examines the day to day life of Northampton, Massachusetts, in the 1990's. Northampton is the home of Smith College, which my sister attended in the early 1950's. Riding with Tommy O'Connor, a police officer who was born in the town, Kidder captures the flavor of the town and its people; its history and problems of today, which seemed to me in terms of policing was the amount of cocaine and crack that were coming in to the area. Almos ...more
Russell King
Tracy is such a good writer, it is too bad he could not have seen more good things in Northampton, MA to write about. He told an engaging story of Northampton that makes you want to go there if you haven't been already or go back if you have. But he spent Way too much time focusing on the underbelly of the city and those who inhabit that part than the more uplifting people and aspects that must exist.
Feb 22, 2016 Sarah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club
It took me a long time to finish this book, although not because I didn't enjoy it. The pacing was just a bit slow at times, and even though Kidder found interesting stories to tell from this small town, it was still a small town -- the stories weren't exactly fast-paced. Much of what I read reminded me of my own hometown, particularly because mine was about the size of the one featured in the book. I liked the way Kidder balanced the town's natural beauty with the aspects of "quiet" that made m ...more
Jul 30, 2015 Gina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm reading this because I miss New England and this book is set in Northampton, Massachusetts, about 30 mins from where I grew up. I'm going back in October. It will be my first time in Mass since I was about nine. (I've been back to other parts of New England since I was a kid, but never "home.")

The notion of a hometown is weird. When you've spent several years in a few places, which one is "home"? I lived more than two decades in Florida and half of that time, I spent missing New England. No
Feb 25, 2016 Arlene rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bookclub-2015
I disliked this book and only persisted reading it because it was our book club's selection. It read like a series of loosely strung vignettes. Not a fan of short stories I lost interest in stories interrupted by 5-6 others in among it. I prefer one long full bodied story to get lost in. However, reading this book helped me to inventory what constitutes a good book for me - find my own reading palette. For this I will always be grateful. I would never have recognized this as a non-fiction book.
Mary Lou
Feb 27, 2011 Mary Lou rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
Home Town by Tracy Kidder ostensibly describes a typical American town in a meaningful way but I found it too uneventful and insignificant to care about and only finished because I skimmed to see if the end was worthwhile. For me, the answer is no. Northampton, Massachusetts may be the town where Jonathon Edwards lived and preached, where Smith College is located, and where Calvin Coolidge was mayor, but Kidder's description is too broad and all inclusive to be useful. He lays out in competent p ...more
May 18, 2012 Simone rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012-read

Eh, I decided to read this book because I'm heading back to the Pioneer Valley for a college reunion (I went to Mount Holyoke, not Smith) but I spent a lot of time in Northampton in my college years. Anyway, some of the history was interesting, but this felt way to much like not that interesting qualitative research. Northampton is a nice town, a pretty town, but it's not quite as interesting a tale as Kidder likes to believe he is telling. Everything is told with deadly seriousness. I would alm
Sep 22, 2009 Crystal rated it really liked it
This is my first Tracy Kidder read, I'd like to read more, it's written so well and with a lot of humor and honesty which I appreciate.

Pressed for time here, I wholeheartedly agree with M Norton's August review : "A vivid, detailed and thoughtful social history of Northampton, Massachusetts." Home Town is a true biography of several Northampton natives and transplants, as Norton says, "deftly interlacing history and subtle social commentary. Police officer Tom O'Connor emerges as the symbolic c
I'm not sure if I enjoyed this book because of what it is saying or because of what it is talking about. I consider Northampton to be my new home and seeing it on this cover, unchanged in the thirteen years since the photo was taken is wonderful. This book also has Tracy Kidder to recommend it; Kidder is a master of telling people's stories. He gets inside of his subjects' heads and breathes more life into an ordinary person than any fiction writer could dream of. With that being said, this is a ...more
Although I admire Kidder's thoroughness and the way his smaller portraits build organically to the architecture of the portait of the town itself, I admit to becoming tired of the endless attention to details. I know; I know. God is in the details. But we do not read the face of God night after night, unless we are mystics or ascetics. And sociology is not spirituality. My enthusiasm for Kidder's fine writing and exquisite ear carried me more than half way through the book, but after that, it be ...more
Jun 04, 2008 Abby rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Librarians, small town enthusiasts, people watchers
Recommended to Abby by: Dr. David Carr
Shelves: informational
This was assigned in my Collection Development class, as an example of the importance of (getting to) knowing your audience.

Home Town is a non-fiction about a small town in New England. Mostly following a local cop, you learn about the more colorful residents of Northampton, Massachusetts, as well as what makes this small town unique. You also learn and go through the trials of the sergeant, as well as a few of the other residents.

This book is more than a little entertaining. The cast of charact
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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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