Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Book Review: Three Cups of Tea

I picked this book up on a whim quickly in the Borders, and wow am I glad I did. What an inspiring read it was. The full title is Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace ... One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. This book is a New York Times Bestseller and a Kirayama Prize Winner, as well it should be. It details how Greg Mortenson, a climber who went to Pakistan to climb K2 (and failed by the way!), became interested in the plight of the rural Balti people, specifically a tribe that assisted him after his failed K2 climb. What started as a promise to that specific tribe to assist them in building a school in their village became a multi-million dollar charitable organization to assist in building schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The book details just how that came to be. :-) Given the number of individuals in the book and the heavy cultural and political background needed, this book could have become a real snoozer honestly. However, the writers managed to provide detailed information in a generally interesting manner. Greg Mortenson's dynamic personality keeps the book flowing from start to finish. I unfortunately cannot find the quote that really struck me as the heart of the message of this book, but this one is also close, as Mortenson is describing a speech he gave to Congress, answering a question posed as to why schools matter when the issue is primary security in the post 9-11 times, "I don't do what I'm doing to fight terror [...] I do it because I care about kids. Fighting terror is maybe seventh or eighth on my list of priorities. But working over there, I've learned a few things. I've learned that terror doesn't happen becuase some group of people somewhere like Pakistan or Afghanistan simple decide to hate us. It happens because children aren't being offered a bright enough future that they have a reason to choose life over death." Mortenson describes that what he is doing offers the education to see the future in a balanced way and thus not be as susceptible to Taliban extremism.

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