Three Cups of Tea

I recently finished Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. As the book has received numerous awards and made several bestseller lists, I thought that I would give you a brief overview so that you can decide if it is a book that you would enjoy reading.

The Gist: In the process of Greg Mortenson’s failed attempt to climb the K2 mountain in Pakistan, he met Haji Ali, the nurmadhar (mayor) of Korphe village. Korphe was one of the several very small villages located in the wilderness of northwest Pakistan’s mountainous terrain. The villagers’ lifestyle is what one might expect: no electricity, no running water, and no vehicles or roads to drive them on. The winters are so severe that they spend months at a time inside with their animals. But what moved Mortenson was that many of these villages lackes schools and teachers. As a way to pay back the villagers for saving his life, Mortenson promises to build Korphe a school. Given that he has never held steady employment and only worked as a nurse to fund his climbing expeditions, coming up with the $12,000 for the project proves to be a significant hurdle. Over the course of several years he is kidnapped by the Taliban as a suspected spy and is the subject of a fatwa, but still is able to both raise the necessary funds and then build fifty five schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The Good: The most enjoyable part of this book is the opportunity to learn about people in a remote part of the world. In addition it was good to be reminded that one person can make a huge difference in the lives of many people.

The Bad: Books like these tend to read like applications for sainthood. Although the book was actually written by David Oliver Relin of Parade Magazine and not Mortenson himself, it still comes across a bit to self-promotional for my tastes. Here is one of many examples of what I’m talking about…

“But his hyperactive efforts had only made him more aware of the ocean of need still awaiting him. With a nocturnal flurry of phone calls to Pakistan, emails to his board, and countless pots of coffee, he began planning his spring assault on Pakistan’s poverty.”

I can almost hear the theme to “Rocky” in the background.

What I will remember most: A woman named Julia Bergman meets Mortenson and heads to Pakistan to lend a hand in some very rough conditions. She shows up to work with a necklace that reads, “I Want To Be Thoroughly Used Up When I Die.”

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