A Truck Full of Money

A Truck Full of Money is Pulitzer Prize-winner Tracy Kidder's illuminating profile of Internet entrepreneur and philanthropist Paul English. English rose from a working-class family in Boston's West Roxbury neighborhood to create the travel website Kayak.com, a company he sold to Priceline in 2013 for $1.8 billion, netting some $120 million in the process. As Kidder describes it, that road was anything but smooth. He traces English's business successes and occasional setbacks, as well as his struggles with bipolar disorder that at times brought on a depression so deep that some nights he could only crawl across the floor.

What distinguishes English from an ordinary software plutocrat is his commitment to doing something other than indulging himself or deploying his substantial resources solely to make more money. And during an evening Kidder spends with English among Boston's homeless, the brilliant, ceaselessly creative software engineer discovers that some intractable problems can't be solved by creating a new app.

Along with writers like John McPhee and Gay Talese, Kidder is among the contemporary masters of narrative nonfiction. His is an understated, unobtrusive style, not one that injects him into the narrative. His portrait of English is clearly admiring, but honest, consistent with what he says was his subject's desire for a "promise not to make me look better than I am." When it comes to Paul English's fascinating story, Tracy Kidder leaves us wondering with great anticipation: "What's next?" --Harvey Freedenberg, attorney and freelance reviewer

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