Insight into The Soul of a Machine, read Tracy Kidder's Book on writing Non-fiction

I think most of you have read The Soul of a Machine by Tracy Kidder.  

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the American Book Award, The Soul of a New Machine was a bestseller on its first publication in 1981. With the touch of an expert thriller writer, Tracy Kidder recounts the feverish efforts of a team of Data General researchers to create a new 32-bit superminicomputer. A compelling account of individual sacrifice and human ingenuity, The Soul of a New Machine endures as the classic chronicle of the computer age and the masterminds behind its technological advances.
"A superb book," said Robert Pirsig, author of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. "All the incredible complexity and chaos and exploitation and loneliness and strange, half-mad beauty of this field are honestly and correctly drawn." The Washington Post Book World said, "Kidder has created compelling entertainment. He offers a fast, painless, enjoyable means to an initial understanding of computers, allowing us to understand the complexity of machines we could only marvel at before, and to appreciate the skills of the people who create them."

The Soul of a New Machine won the 1982 non-fiction Pulitzer prize and made Tracy Kidder a star along with many of the people he wrote about.

Tracy Kidder and his editor Richard Todd wrote a book on writing non-fiction, Good Prose.

Good Prose is an inspiring book about writing—about the creation of good prose—and the record of a warm and productive literary friendship. The story begins in 1973, in the offices of The Atlantic Monthly, in Boston, where a young freelance writer named Tracy Kidder came looking for an assignment. Richard Todd was the editor who encouraged him. From that article grew a lifelong association. Before long, Kidder’s The Soul of a New Machine, the first book the two worked on together, had won the Pulitzer Prize. It was a heady moment, but for Kidder and Todd it was only the beginning of an education in the art of nonfiction.

In Chapter 7 of Good Prose, the authors discuss the development of The Soul of a A Machine.

I was a fried of math and science, and consequently I disdained the class of people who were competent with them. The prospect of looking into computers seemed daunting and drab, as drab as the word "engineering." I wish I could claim that I was the sort of daring young reporter who would press forward and let himself be proven wrong. In fact I took Todd's suggestion because just then I couldn't think of anything else to look into.

Three years later I had a book, The Soul of a New Machine.

The word of the book spread through reviews like this.

Then the editors of The New York Times Book Review chose an engineer to review it -- Samual Florman, who had himself written a book called "The Existential Pleasures of Engineering," and was clearly delighted to read something that ran counter to what he felt was an anti engineering bias among the literati, delighted by a book that seemed to make a branch of his profession exciting. And the editors of the Book Review, put Mr. Florman's review on the magazine's cover.

I know many of you will not take the time to read Good Prose, but I did, and it now gives me a new perspective as I read The Soul of a New Machine again. 

Knowing the background of the author will let you see things not evident to others.  Knowing someone's background is different than an obsessed fan who suffers from hero-worship.  I have learned that some of the writers I admire are quite different in person than their writing.  Where I learn some insights to how an author works is when I am in a media briefing and I see what questions other writers ask and how they react to the answers.

BTW, this technique of studying someone's background is what most of you should be doing when you hire anyone to work on your data center. 

I have read Terry Brooks book about writing.


Stephen King's book.


Tracy Kidder's book.


I have left Ernest Hemingways' book.