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One Book, One College 2014: Mountains Beyond Mountains: Critical Thinking


  • In Mountains Beyond Mountains, Paul Farmer uses the phrase "preferential option for the poor" (p. 81).  How does this relate to liberation theology? The cultural beliefs in Haiti?
  • Mountains Beyond Mountains opens with an encounter between Paul Farmer and a United States Special Forces Captain in which both Paul Farmer and the Captain express frustration with limits on the military intervention in the area.  How would you describe the effectiveness of the  United States' foreign policy and intervention in Haiti?
  • In Mountains Beyond Mountains, Jim Kim and Paul Farmer refer to People magazine as the Journal of Popular Studies (JPS). While most people read People magazine as a source of entertainment, Dr. Farmer considers the publication as an anthropological artifact.

a.      What is the significance of cultural media?
b.      What do cultural magazines such as People tell us about society?
c.       How might an anthropologist or historian five hundred years from now interpret People magazine?

  • In Chapter 19 of Mountains Beyond Mountains, Jim spearheads an effort to lower the cost of capreomycin, the drug most commonly used to treat MDR-TB. How do economic and political factors affect the production, cost, and distribution of prescription drugs?
  • Why do you think the author, Tracy Kidder, decided to make himself a character in Mountains Beyond Mountains?

  • Take stock of your assets (personal and financial).  Paul Farmer took time in college to identify and  determine how he would use his assets. What steps might you take to determine how to use your assets? What resources does SPC have to help you do that?

  • "The only real nation is humanity" according to Paul Farmer.  Do you agree? Why or why not?

  • Compare and contrast the approach and effectiveness of a local nonprofit organization dedicated to helping the poor with that of Partners in Health.

  • The events in Mountains Beyond Mountains take place primarily in the 1990s, before the rise of social media (Facebook, Imgur, etc.). If Paul Farmer and his colleagues started Partners in Health today, what impact might social media have of the establishment and growth of the organization? On the direction of Partners in Health's work? Consider positive and negative implications.

  • Partners in Health works with many people and organizations, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, to achieve its goals. Consider the work of Bill Gates as the Founder and CEO of Microsoft, and as the Co-Chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. From your perspective, in which role has he had the greatest impact on society? Why?

  • In Chapter 9 of Mountains Beyond Mountains, Farmer states that rich people should feel guilt toward the poor “because it could cause them to part with some of their money. And they ought to feel guilty besides” (p. 93). Do you agree that the rich should feel guilt toward the poor? Why or why not?