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

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  81,819 ratings  ·  4,954 reviews
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 lifesav ...more
Paperback, 333 pages
Published August 31st 2004 by Random House Trade (first published 2003)
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Rachel I think the adult themes refers mostly to the descriptions of the suffering of the Haitians. There are some mildly graphic descriptions of their suffe…moreI think the adult themes refers mostly to the descriptions of the suffering of the Haitians. There are some mildly graphic descriptions of their suffering and deaths occur several times throughout the book. I think an accurate movie adaptation would likely be PG13.(less)

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Will Byrnes
May 19, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 26, 2007 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
Elyse  Walters
Feb 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Update... this is another book that I read before I joined Goodreads. I still own it and it’s a treasure.

It’s a Kindle special $1.99 today. I’m only mentioning it because sometimes people are looking for one of those great books that they’ve a great price to boot: this is one of them!

EXCELLENT........(read it along time ago —it inspired me!!!)

Jul 18, 2007 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
Mar 05, 2009 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
Jan 22, 2008 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
Aug 10, 2007 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
Gary  the Bookworm
Sep 05, 2014 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 extrao
Apr 24, 2008 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
Steph Su
Dec 24, 2012 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
Jul 08, 2007 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
Sep 02, 2008 rated it really liked it
One person can make a difference. Kidder finds another superb subject for examination. Should be a great book for discussion. Dr. Farmer is not one-dimensional, but he is almost mono-maniacal in his dedication. Kidder is not afraid to give us enough to consider whether the ends justify the means. A well told story that, with luck, will inspire others to similar dedication.
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
Apr 24, 2007 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. ...more
Aug 22, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I wish there were more people in this world like Paul Farmer, a doctor who specializes in medical anthropology and infectious diseases. Tracy Kidder followed him around the world for parts of three years to research this book. Paul Farmer brought treatment for TB, AIDS and Malaria to thousands of people in Haiti, Russia, and Peru. He would hike for seven hours to remote areas in Haiti to treat people. There are so many inspiring moments in this book. His philosophy was "the only real nation is h ...more
Sep 16, 2009 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
Nov 16, 2008 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
Erin Sorensen
Mar 11, 2008 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.
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
Fred Forbes
Jul 15, 2014 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
Nov 11, 2009 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: nobody
Had to read this for a first year university thing, and greatly resented this first uni experience. What I got out of this book was that, basically, if you weren't helping the sick in Haiti, then you suck. I felt like Tracy Kidder didn't appreciate the valuable work of anyone else in any other field - or, honestly, anybody but Dr. Farmer. Then Dr. Farmer came to speak to my school, and I hated the book even more after being forced to listen to him. I rarely hate books, but Kidder's uncritical pr ...more
Rebecca McPhedran
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
Jul 25, 2007 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
Journalist Tracy Kidder offers a complex portrayal of Dr. Paul Farmer, founding member of Partners in Health and tireless advocate of health care and social justice for the poor. Kidder struggles to retain subjectivity as he inserts himself directly into Farmer's life. He strives to not present Farmer as a Messianic figure, yet resists focusing on Paul's flaws and the sacrifices he has forced his loved ones and colleagues to make in his quest to save the lives of the least of us.

The frequent fi
May 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
WOW!! We need more people like Paul Farmer.!!! Someone who is driven by purpose, has unflagging energy & commitment to the cause, is brilliant, visionary, and just gets things done!! Dr. Paul Farmer, an infectious disease specialist and medical anthropologist by education, one of the founders of the non-profit Partners in Health had a quirky upbringing and I would say he continued to be a quirky character as Kidder illuminates in his travels with him over the years. I have to admit, I was exhaus ...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
Cate Brooks
I wonder how horrible of a person it makes me to only give 3 stars to a book about an incredibly humanistic idealist doctor of infectious disease in 3rd world countries. My rating more reflects on how much I enjoyed the read. I struggle with NF. I often find it redundant after a while and like other NF reads, I felt inertia build to read through to the end since there was no bigger narrative that made me wonder "how will this turn out?" "What is the resolve of this story". I'll own that as my ow ...more
Oct 30, 2013 rated it it was ok
I had to seriously think for a long time about why I hated this book. It's not that I hate Paul Farmer, though I think I'm not going to read Haiti: After the Earthquake until I get the rancid taste of this book out of my mouth. Paul Farmer seems like he's actually a pretty great person doing some great work. And I certainly like Haiti - I've been there twice and those experiences were extraordinarily memorable for me. And I also find books about epidemiology and especially infectious diseases to ...more
Bam cooks the books ;-)
Dr Paul Farmer, co-founder of Partners in Health, deserves all our praise, admiration and support for his humanitarian healthcare efforts in poor and disease-ravaged countries such as Haiti. As Margaret Mead once said, "Never underestimate the ability of a small group of committed individuals to change the world. Indeed, they are the only ones who ever have."

This book is rather dated, having been published in 2003, and one might do better to read one of several more recent books co-written by Fa
Jan 23, 2013 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
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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.” 86 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” 43 likes
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