Reading Mountains Beyond Mountains makes me feel the same way as reading about homeschooling families whose kids get perfect scores on the SATs and go to Harvard on full-ride music scholarships: completely incompetent as a human being. I am neither a genius nor so tolerant of discomfort that I can relate to Paul Farmer; he is completely out of my league, and therefore I don't find his accomplishments personally inspiring - laudable, certainly, but equally certainly not replicable in my world.
This is relevant because it was selected as the initial One Book One Bozeman read, with the idea of inspiring people to see what they can do to change the world. I dutifully read it, but to be honest, I mostly found it annoying because it makes me feel so...incompetent. Last year's big feel-good book, Three Cups of Tea, was much more inspiring because Greg Mortenson comes off as someone real (if unusually determined), someone I can relate to; I think that maybe I could do something like what he did, and so I am moved to try.
The only reason I made it through the Mountains is that is was well written; it is definitely better written than Three Cups of Tea, which can't decide if it should be in the first or third person. The narrator's voice is consistent and better at filling in background; and Tracy Kidder's early discomfort with Farmer helps blunt the hagiography. Actually, the only reason I made it through the book, when Kidder succumbs to Farmer's personality, is that I was too stubborn to quit so near the end. But Mountains Beyond Mountains definitely doesn't make my list of books I would recommend to anyone.