Born in New York City in 1945, Kidder spent his childhood in Oyster Bay, Long Island, where his father was a lawyer and his mother a teacher. He attended Harvard, where he earned a BA in 1967. From June 1968 until June 1969, he served as a lieutenant in Vietnam, for which he was awarded a Bronze Star, an experience chronicled in his memoir My Detachment.
After the war, Kidder obtained his MA from the University of Iowa, where he attended the Iowa Writers' Workshop. It was there that Kidder met Atlantic contributing editor Dan Wakefield, who helped him get his first assignment as a freelance writer.
Over the years, Kidder's articles have covered a broad array of topics, including railroads, energy, architecture, and the environment. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, The New York Times Book Review, and The New York Times. He is at work on a new book about homelessness in Boston.
Kidder lives with his wife in western Massachusetts.