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Author: Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

What is it about? Greg Mortenson is an American mountain climber who was stranded in a small Pakistani village in 1993 after a failed attempt to climb K2 in the Karakoram mountains. Mortenson was so moved by the villagers’ kindness, and so shocked by their virtually non-existent school, that he vowed to return to the village to build a proper school.  Three Cups of Tea is the story of his promise and then some, as Mortenson has gone on to build over 131 schools, and counting.

Excerpts: Sitting on a rooftop, observing the simplicity of the Pakistani village’s everyday life, Mortenson recalls a quote from the king of another Himalayan country, Bhutan, who says the true measure of a nation’s success is not gross national product, but “gross national happiness”.

“We Americans think you have to accomplish everything quickly. We’re the country of thirty-minute power lunches and two-minute football drills. Our leaders thought their ‘shock and awe’ campaign could end the war in Iraq before it even started. Haji Ali taught me to share three cups of tea, to slow down and make building relationships as important as building projects. He taught me that I had more to learn from the people I work with than I could ever teach them.”
– Greg Mortenson, after trying to rush the completion of his first school

“If we try to resolve terrorism with military might and nothing else then we will be no safer than we were before 9/11. If we truly want a legacy of peace for our children, we need to understand that this is a war that will ultimately be won with books, not with bombs.”
– Greg Mortenson

My Two Cents: If you can look past the marginal writing and self-righteousness (we get it, Mortenson is an amazing person who has done noble things none of us will ever do, you don’t have to keep telling us that again and again!) this is quite a wonderful story. I think it does an excellent job of showing us that just as every American is not a fast food guzzling, war-loving redneck, not every Muslim is an American-hating, suicide bombing extremist. In fact, as many of us know, the vast majority of Muslims do practice the core tenants of Islam: justice, tolerance and charity.

This is a pretty interesting little book which opened my eyes to a lot of the long term problems in Pakistan and Afgahnistan, and provides the story of a man who is doing something to actually make a difference.

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