In case you are curious, based on the feedback I got to Is Republishing To Medium Worth It?, the answer, at least for now, appears to be Yes. So, if you are reading this on Medium, enjoy!
I’m a huge Tracy Kidder fan. I read The Soul of A New Machine as a senior in high school and, even though I don’t include it in the reason I went to MIT, I’m sure it played a part. To this day, it’s still one of my favorite books, although I haven’t read it in many years. I just kindled it (and several other Tracy Kidder books I’ve decided to re-read) and expect it’ll be in my near term reading list.
About a month ago Paul English sent me an email asking me if I wanted to read an ARC of Tracy Kidder’s new book A Truck Full of Money. Paul and I haven’t worked together, but I knew him from a distance because of Kayak, the Boston startup community, and a few interactions we’d had over the years, including a long conversation via videoconference where we talked about depression and his new company Blade.
My answer was a rapid yes after his mention of Tracy Kidder. But what really got my attention was the line in his email that follows:
“The book deals with my bipolar stuff, and your writings on depression have been meaningful to me.”
That’s about as vulnerable a sentence you will see from an entrepreneur. The idea of exposing oneself around this topic to a writer like Tracy Kidder was incredibly brave to me. So now I was doubly interested.
I read the book the day after it arrived at my office. It was five stars – off the charts awesome on many levels. I asked Paul if I could blog about it and he asked me to hold off until his publisher said it was ok to do it. It’s now ok to do so.
Tracy Kidder wrote an amazing book. Paul like many entrepreneurs, is a complex person. Kidder doesn’t dwell on the good or the bad. He shifts effortlessly between the past, present, and future. Paul is the main character, but it’s not Paul’s biography. Kayak plays a role, but so does Blade, as does Paul’s childhood and early jobs. Interleaf makes an appearance (if you remember Interleaf, you just dated yourself. If you don’t remember Interleaf, you need to go learn about it because it was a really important pre-Web and then Web-transition company.)
The book isn’t about mental health and biopolar disorder. But Paul’s struggle with it is woven throughout and by the end of the book you have a good understanding of how it has been both a positive and a negative force in Paul’s life and career. Kidder does a magnificent job of teasing out moments that create the example of bipolar disorder without pounding the reader over the head with it. All of this makes Paul a complete human rather than just an entrepreneurial machine.
In the absence of a spectacular writer, Paul’s story is a fun one to read. But Kidder brings out another layer to the story, the person, the personality, how bipolar disorder impacts Paul and everyone around him, and how they respond, adjust, and calibrate to it.
Ultimately, it’s an incredibly intimate book. While I’m very open about my life, it takes an absurd amount of courage to hand yourself over to someone like Kidder. Paul did it in the context of his own struggles with bipolar disorder, against the backdrop of a complex entrepreneurial journey, at the beginning of his next act.
The only thing I disliked about the book was the title. It’s catchy, but it doesn’t capture the complexity of the book, or the protagonist. But that’s ok – titles are hard to get right and are really just a pointer to the content of the book.
Paul – thanks for being brave enough to let yourself be the subject of a Tracy Kidder book. Tracy – while I don’t know you, know that you have a mega-fan out in the world who has read all of your books. And, if you are an entrepreneur, investor, or curious about the intersection of mental health and entrepreneurship, or just love a great non-fiction book that reads like a novel, A Truck Full of Money should be the next book you read.