In English, Kidder has as fascinating a subject as one can imagine ... Kidder knows a good subject when he sees it. The ambitious and troubled English gave the author nearly unlimited access to his world, both professional and personal...So the book has an absorbing fly-on-the-wall feel ... Kidder’s prose glides with a figure skater’s ease, but without the glam. His is a seemingly artless art, like John McPhee’s, that conceals itself in sentences that are necessary, economical, and unpretentious.
Tracy Kidder’s achievement in this biography is matched by the ease of his storytelling. Kidder takes on a hugely complicated man – brilliant, troubled, obsessive, a charismatic team leader, dutiful son and 'monster coder,' as English might say – and he paints a rich, three-dimensional portrait. He also gives a sense of the wild start-up culture in which English thrived. That Paul English comes across as a shrewd, appealing character, not a saint, reflects Kidder’s success.
...a book about a software guy and software culture in 2016 isn’t nearly as novel as a book about hardware guys and hardware culture in 1981, and Mr. Kidder is not in the same command of his material. He seems much more like a fellow who’s stepped off a cruise ship for an afternoon than like someone who’s spent many months inhabiting Mr. English’s world ... Mr. Kidder’s portrayal of living with manic depression is as nuanced and intimate as a reader might ever expect to get ... [the conclusion] feels a bit arbitrary, much like the book itself. But you can’t help admiring Mr. English and cheering for him.
For whatever reasons, Kidder shortchanges parts of English’s personal story, particularly his first marriage. But his robust reporting creates a powerful and insightful tale that makes the Internet era entertaining, and defines English as an endearing, generous and eccentric geek.
As a writer of clear and engaging prose, Kidder has few peers, but I’ve long thought that the depth of his reporting — the thousands of anecdotes and facts he must have collected about his characters, only to discard all but the most penetrating — is what differentiates his books ... one question nagged at me: Does A Truck Full of Money say something as resonant and surprising about the current culture of American business and technology? In the end, I’m not sure it does ... English is too idiosyncratic, and perhaps too decent, to be representative of software moguls everywhere. That’s not to say his story is unimportant, but it isn’t the tale of a cultural tribune. What we have instead is Kidder’s readable account of an intriguing man’s zigzagging life.
...expertly reported, deftly written ... A Truck Full of Money gives us a sensitive and vivid portrayal of bipolar disorder, often capturing English’s manic stages in long, colorful quotes that careen riotously from topic to topic. The book also takes us inside the software venture capital world, the absurdity of which Kidder lays bare in short, cogent sections, unencumbered by entrepreneurial buzzwords.
Unlike most of his earlier books, however, this one disappoints. Kidder’s narrative skills seem to fail him — too much detail in some parts, not enough in others. The guiding voice and vision of the author, so welcome in his other work, are missing here ... as rich a life as English has led, and as fascinating a character as he may be, there are too many details in Kidder’s tale that just aren’t all that interesting or telling. The structure, with its many flashbacks, proves clumsy. Despite prodigious reporting, there are glaring holes in his narrative ... Most troubling is Kidder’s reluctance to give shape and meaning to his tale as it is unfolding.
...provides a portrait of a strange, troubled man who happens to be one of the smartest minds in the Route 128 tech corridor ... The book is being marketed as inspirational, but I found it to be the opposite. No one could read it and become Paul English, or want to. Most tech startups think too small, but the few people with the vision to identify big unmet needs seem to be, for whatever reason, weirdos ... what do you do next? Paul English hasn’t figured that out, so this book sort of peters out.
If you’ve ever been curious about software engineering and the business of it, the art of giving, or even entrepreneurship, you must read Tracy Kidder’s latest book ... The magic of the book is found in its ability to inhabit multiple spheres at once – from English’s life to the field of computer science to commentary about American culture ... Kidder’s Pulitzer Prize-winning writing disappears, for the most part, into the background of English’s life and the myriad voices of friends, coworkers, and family that harmonize with it. Occasionally, Kidder pushes his writing to the foreground in a spectacular pop of wit and lyricism that acutely highlights a certain idea.
Tracy Kidder is a fly on the wall with patience, tenacity and incredibly acute antennae ... So why is it that A Truck Full of Money falls a bit flat?...To my mind, it has to do with the nature of the software business...English may be more successful and introspective than most of the tech pack, but he shares their penchant for expensive toys and adolescent thrills ... Still, Kidder’s prose is as crisp as ever, and his insights have the power to startle ... in the end, that story is just not compelling or resolved enough to carry a book.
Kidder is no trickster as a writer. There are no breathless cliffhangers, gotcha scandals or sex-steamed detours to make this a late-night page-turner. Rather, his work builds on a deep fascination with — and access to — an insider’s world. Readers willing to follow him will 'grok' those worlds in ways they hadn’t before ... he delivers his signature strength, which stitches extraordinary people into the context of their times.