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Next One Book Project: Bestseller on Dr. Paul Farmer

Northwestern to read Tracy Kidder’s book on the physician ‘who would cure the world’

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April 29, 2010 | by Pat Vaughan Tremmel
EVANSTON, Ill. --- "Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World " by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tracy Kidder has been chosen for One Book One Northwestern for the 2010-11 academic year.

The bestseller offers a passionate account of the attempts of Farmer, the Nobel-nominated physician and anthropologist, to secure health care for the poor in developing countries. Hailed as "a high priest of the narrative arts," Kidder devotes much of the book to Farmer's work through Partners in Health, which Farmer co-founded in 1987 to provide free health care and drugs to Haiti's poorest residents.

Farmer, a Harvard University professor of global health and social medicine, has been all over the news recently in his role as U.N. Deputy Special Envoy to Haiti. With former President Bill Clinton, he has been confronting the problems of helping tens of thousands of seriously disabled earthquake victims.

The 2010-11 Northwestern One Book project will be coordinated by Northwestern's new Center for Civic Engagement (CCE), which promotes public service while integrating related undergraduate efforts into the academic curriculum.

A fitting partner for promoting a book about a world-renowned champion of public service, CCE will help carry out the One Book One Northwestern mission: to stimulate a common conversation across a diverse campus and University.

"One of the main things students come to college for is to determine how they can make a difference in the world," said Dan Lewis, CCE director and professor in the School of Education and Social Policy.

‘"Mountains Beyond Mountains' provides powerful insight into one person's remarkable effort to answer that question for himself," he said. "It's exactly the right book to prompt dialogue and reflection as students begin or continue their experience with the engaged approach to learning at Northwestern."

This summer all new, incoming Northwestern undergraduates will receive a free copy of "Mountains Beyond Mountains," and throughout the 2010-11 school year, a number of student- and faculty-initiated events will provide opportunities for discussion of the book.

Winner of the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship or "genius award," Farmer, for more than two decades, has been focusing on the world's poorest and sickest communities in his quest to transform health care on a global level. "Mountains Beyond Mountains" looks at Farmer's   work in Peru and Russia as well as Haiti, chronicling his efforts to balance clinical and academic responsibilities with having a family of his own.

The New York Times Book Review describes the book as "inspiring, disturbing, daring and completely absorbing."  "'Mountains Beyond Mountains,"' it says, "will rattle your complacency; it will prick your conscience."

Kidder's latest book, "Strength in What Remains," also got a rave review in The New York Times Book Review (Aug. 27, 2009). The book, which grew out of Kidder's reporting on Farmer's work, chronicles the bone-chilling journey of Deogratias, an African refugee who had been a third-year medical student in war-torn Burundi, where he escaped beheading by a Hutu guard before ending up homeless in New York.

In The New York Times review, Ron Suskind wrote: "Since 1981, when ‘The Soul of a New Machine' -- the story of a team creating that era's cutting-edge computer -- won [Kidder] a Pulitzer and commercial success, he has worked relentlessly to carry on the tradition of John McPhee, sublimating ego in a tireless search for somewhere to hide, for a subject into which to vanish and live, sometimes for years. Few have been better at this than Kidder."

The topic of numerous activities and discussions this year, Thomas Friedman's bestselling "Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution -- and How It Can Renew America" is the focus of this year's One Book One Northwestern project.

For more information on One Book One Northwestern, please contact Nancy Cunniff at engage@northwestern.edu or 847-467-1367.