I know summer has really only just begun, and it is in some way inappropriate to declare a best book of the summer…
But every now and then a book comes along…
Greg Mortenson’s Three Cups of Tea is nonfiction, and it is a detailed account of his turning his life around into a veritable mission to build schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan. I guess the cynical side of me would say “Oh a do-gooder, how nice,” which is sort of how I started this book, a little curious, optimistic and at worse hoping it wouldn’t be a sycophantic account of some guy that did some little trifle and then wrote a book about how amazing it was that he accomplished some small thing (which is still better than nothing). But this guy has opened over 50 schools in this part of the world. Not to indoctrinate them in Christian beliefs, but he started off by just filling a need as a good gesture to a village so small it isn’t even on the map, in Afghanistan.
Basically, he tries and fails to climb K2. On his descent he loses his path not once, but twice. He comes just about as close to dying after days of wandering as anyone ever would want to. The people of the village Korphe find him, and treat him with an unprecedented hospitality. They basically revive him, even though they are dirt poor themselves and have every reason to be suspicious of this half dead stranger from another country.
From there, he looks for a way to repay them. However, even though they are poor, they are well acclimated to their climate and land, and aside from poverty, there isn’t much he really can give them. Until he asks to see their school, and the village elder, who later comes to help Greg much, tells him that education is probably the only thing they really lack.
As you can imagine, this creates a challenge for him. He lives out of his car back in the States. He is not a George Soros. And thus begins his very real story of getting the money not only to make a school for this one town, but then after word spreads in the nether regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan of what he is doing…many more schools follow. And it would seem that where he lost his path in his failure, he found another path.
I have read biographical and autobiographical books that suffer from alot of self aggrandizement or near worship of the subject. I like the fact that this book is not only well written, but that it is very honest about Greg, his limitations as well as this something about him that inspires trust and credibility in a place where he is a foreigner. It describes his misjudgement of seeking to help the Waziri people and how he learned a valuable lesson through that experience. I love it when decisions that we make that initially look like devastating mistakes are turned around to guide and direct a person positively.
So what can I say besides read this book. It is hugely inspiring. And Greg is the most normal seeming of all normal seeming people, even though clearly there is a seed of the extraordinary in him, if only through his character to keep his word, and his perseverance.
If you like light reading, heavy reading whatever kind of reading it doesn’t matter. His story is told in such a readable way, and I think the writing is quite well done. I can’t recommend it highly enough.