June 23, 2013

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson

Title: Three Cups of Tea
Authors: Greg Mortenson, David Oliver Relin
First published: 2006
Add it: Goodreads, The Book Depository

Mortenson was an alpinist, who wanted to conquer K2, the killer mountain in Himalayas. He failed and got lost while descending. People form a poor mountainous village helped him to recover and gave him food and shelter. He promised to build a school for them, as the children were studying in the open air in any weather. The problem was that back in USA he worked as a nurse and didn't even have money to rent a flat. So living in his car and working night shifts, he started his campaign to find money for the school.

It is a very powerful story of how a man can change the world with his enthusiasm only. Mortensen started with a bridge and a school for the village where he lived after the descent from K2, but he soon realized that there are hundreds of villages in need of a school, and so his charity foundation grew. During the war with Taliban he also realized that schools can be the only way to save the world from terrorism, as children end up in extremist Muslim establishments only because they don't have any chance to go to a secular school.

What surprised me most was that Pakistan was not included in any charity programs just because its citizens are Muslim. The neighboring Nepal is also a poor mountainous country, earning money mostly from alpinists, but they are Buddhist, and so after Hillary tons of good things were done for its education and health care. But nobody did it for Pakistan, as some people just think that Muslim = Terrorist.

The book gives a vivid picture of life, culture and nature of Pakistan, and the history of its exploration. The style of writing is journalist-like, as it is non-fiction, and the book includes quite some facts, citations and photos. A great introduction to the region!

UPD: Jenny mentioned in the comments that there was some discussion about whether the facts in the book are correct or not, so I'm a bit confused now about the whole thing. I will not change the review, but for justice's sake I'll add these links here:


  1. I'd do a little research. The errors and fibs in this book created so much controversy that the second author ended up taking his own life, very sad. So I'm not sure what to believe about it at all.

    1. Oh, my! Really? Haven't heard about it... Terrible story. Well, I don't usually believe every praise written, but they had all the facts and names... Anyway, I think that if at least half of the story is true, it's still worth it. But not worth faking facts, of course!

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  3. I had heard about the controversies and I think it's unfortunate that so many books are being held to such tight scrutiny. The word "memoir" perhaps implies something specific to some people but I think of it as something other than "autobiography" and a memoir allows for a more fluid personal experience. I think it was great for you to add the links. Allows the reader of your review to make independent judgment/choices.

  4. I enjoyed this book quite a bit, too. I'm probably going to read Three Cups of Deceit at some point, just out of curiosity, though. It's too bad if he's as dishonest as the rumors suggest! :(


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