If you read regularly, not many of the books you read can change your life much. I read Mountains Beyond Mountains over a year ago, and it clearly is a book that can change your life. It changed mine.
This book tells the story of Dr. Paul Farmer, a specialist in infectious disease who divides his time between Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and a rural clinic he founded in Haiti. In his spare time, Farmer revolutionized the treatment of multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis. Farmer is about the hardest-working person I've ever heard of, and a great doctor: brilliant, determined, and compassionate.
Read this book because it tells a great human story, and by the way shows what global health can really be, and how much better life can be for the world's poor, if we are willing to take even a little effort to make it so.
This is the second book by Tracy Kidder that has had a memorable impact on me. His book The Soul of a New Machine was much read by technologists in the 80s. This book portrays the bright, driven technologists at Data General as, well, kind of soul-less. Sure, they were interesting people, but ultimately their work just wasn't very important, or even very interesting. Most of what made the book interesting is their suffering, but since their suffering was ultimately meaningless, it wasn't even redemptive. Kidder's earlier book persuaded me that I did not want to make a career in the computer equipment industry, a career path I was already on when I read Soul. Kidder's later book made me confidently enthusiastic that, if all I ever accomplish is to put moderately better tools in the hands of doctors like Paul Farmer, my career will have been worthwhile.