Lisa Vegan's Reviews > Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace ... One School at a Time

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson
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Dec 26, 09

bookshelves: non-fiction, biography, bookclub, social-culture, reviewed, gr-a, aaalt
Recommended for: all world leaders; readers who want peace, care about literacy & education & human rights
Read in December, 2009

Heartbreaking, uplifting, suspenseful, at times very funny.

If everyone on earth did 1/10 of what Greg Mortenson does for others, we’d have a much better world. If a hefty portion of the world’s population put in 10% of the work and effort and cash that Mortenson has done, for people in need all over the world, we might not have a perfect world, but it would be vastly improved.

At first I thought Mortenson must have some incredible amount of charisma, but really he just had the urge to help and willingness to learn, and simply showed genuine respect and care for those people he worked with and for. The only magic was his tirelessness and his level of passion for his work. That’s why I say 10%: because virtually nobody else would be able to dedicate themselves to their mission the way “Dr. Greg” has done.

I’ve read a lot of fiction books where the events take place in Afghanistan. When I was eight, my family was friends for a summer with a family from Pakistan. Yet, I feel as though I learned more about these two countries from this book than I have previously learned from all other sources.

This is a very inspiring real life story. I challenge any reader to not care about and root for both the children and adults of this region, and for me that translated to everybody everywhere who face challenges of poverty, illiteracy, or other such problems.

At the very beginning I found the writing very jarring because Mortenson, the “first” author, is referred to in the third person. Very quickly, I realized that the “second” author, David Oliver Relin, is the actual author, and once I decided that, I was able to thoroughly enjoy the book. I don’t know if the writing improved as the book progressed; it seemed to do so to me, or whether I just became so engrossed in the story that the writing style didn’t matter anymore.

The map that appears before the Table of Contents really helped me, and I always appreciate maps in books. I really enjoyed the photographs in the center of the book; I wish that there were many more of them.

Mortenson, after failing to climb K2, dedicated his life to building schools, for educating both girls and boys, first in Pakstan (the first one in a village where the people helped him as he came off the mountain) and then eventually in Afghanistan too.

How Mortenson has lived his life is laudable, although I do hope his own family is thriving.

Yes, ignorance is the enemy. I wish the Obama administration, the U.S. Congress, and all world leaders could see that.

Anne Fadiman has an essay in her book Ex Libris Confessions of a Common Reader about the “odd shelf.” Her odd shelf is polar exploration. Mine is polar exploration and mountain climbing. So, at the beginning of this book, when the failed K2 attempt is described, I was riveted from the start Also, I knew the San Francisco Bay Area locations, which was fun, and I was interested in the Pakistani and Afghani mountainous areas; I even learned a bit about Montana and other places.

I’d put this book on my to read list when it was first published but then I decided I wasn’t so interested. I’m very grateful to my real world book club; it’s our January selection, and I doubt that I’d have read it if not for that, and I’m very grateful that I did. A sequel has just been published: Stones into Schools Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

I hope this book earns the Central Asia Institute (www.ikat.org) a huge amount of money. There is a web site for this book for further information: www.threecupsoftea.com and I’ve glanced at it and intend to look at its content more thoroughly.
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Reading Progress

12/19/2009 page 1
0.29% "I'll start this next, I think. It's for my January book club, but I also get to read this "with" one of my Goodreads friends."
12/19/2009 page 1
0.29% "Off GR and about to start reading. Glanced at it & it's very jarring as GM is referred to in the third person. Weird." 5 comments
12/20/2009 page 27
7.74% "Read last night before bed. The "other guy" wrote it, which is fine. Mountain climbing depiction interesting."
12/21/2009 page 108
30.95% "Know the San Francisco area places, interested in the Pakistani mountainous areas. Interesting enough so far." 10 comments
12/23/2009 page 154
44.13% "Lee, I haven't made much progress today. I am enjoying it. I'll read some more before bed tonight."
12/25/2009 page 211
60.46% "Enjoying it much more than I'd expected. Lee, I'm where you were at your last status update; are you finished? I'll read more before bed."
12/25/2009 page 241
69.05% "I hope to finish this book on Sunday."

Comments (showing 1-46 of 46) (46 new)

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message 1: by Lee (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lee Lisa, have you actually started this yet? Do you want some company? I promised myself I would read this before Christmas because I got it last Christmas from my mom.


message 2: by Ginny (new) - added it

Ginny Messina Lisa and Lee, I'll be interested to hear what you both think of this. I've heard very mixed reviews from friends, but most have said it is really badly written. I'm told that Mountains Beyond Mountains The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World is a far better book in this genre, but I haven't read either one.


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads My mother read it earlier this year and was "eh" about it - I believe she gave it 2 stars.


message 4: by Lee (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lee Oh no. My mother has been bugging me to read it. I will try and plough through.


message 5: by Lisa (new) - rated it 1 star

Lisa Vegan Yes, it's the January selection for my real world book club. We usually read novels but we've read a few other nonfiction books.


message 6: by Lisa (new) - rated it 1 star

Lisa Vegan Lee, I'm not ready to start it yet but I got it out of the library today so I have three weeks.

You should tell your mother about the sequel: Stones into Schools Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan


message 7: by Lisa (new) - rated it 1 star

Lisa Vegan Lee wrote: "Lisa, have you actually started this yet? Do you want some company? I promised myself I would read this before Christmas because I got it last Christmas from my mom. "

Lee, I forgot about your first comment! Sure!

I realize this is probably a ridiculously bad time of year for you. I have to return the book on 1/5. (It won't be renewable because there will be holds.) But I do have to keep it fresh in my mind until my book club meeting on 1/17, so yes, it would be extra fun if you can get to it by 1/17. It doesn't sound as though you're that enthusiastic so if you decide not to "plough through" yet, that's fine too.

I could start reading this as soon as I finish my current mystery or I may wait for another book or two. I should have some extra time to read in the next few weeks.




message 8: by Lisa (new) - rated it 1 star

Lisa Vegan Chandra, We're done! It was great. It's well worth reading. The writing took me a while to get used to and it wasn't incredibly well written, which is why I gave it 4 stars and not 5 stars. What Greg Mortenson has done is definitely 5 stars + though.


message 9: by Lisa (new) - rated it 1 star

Lisa Vegan I think it's well worth reading but I can understand the negative reviews.

When I first started reading, I was annoyed at the writing, thinking a professional writer had written it and the writing was the weakest part of the book. By the end, either the writing had improved, my opinion of it had gotten more favorable, or I just didn't care anymore; it was the content of the book that mattered.

Also, I admit at times I was irked that Mortenson had to be so very culturally sensitive, to the point of praying as a Muslim, Sunni or Shia style depending on where he was. I do understand, but that's not something I'd have felt comfortable doing. I wish cross cultural understanding could work every possible way with all people. It wasn't that big a deal/even though there were other types of examples...

I do wish all our war $$$$ went to education, medical care, etc. etc. I'm so sick of $$$$ for unnecessary wars - I've always felt this way. This book just validated my feelings.

I could have put so much more into my review.

For selfish reasons, Abigail, I'd love it if you read this, because I'd love to read what you had to say about it.


message 10: by Lisa (new) - rated it 1 star

Lisa Vegan Oh, and I put Stones into Schools Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan on my list! It looks as though Greg Mortenson is the sole author and that it's told first person. I think I'll like that!, if I ever actually read it. I hope to but you know about my Mt. TBR's size!


message 11: by Lisa (new) - rated it 1 star

Lisa Vegan Ginny,

It wasn't superbly written but, in my opinion, it really didn't matter by the end.

I love Tracy Kidder; House is one of my favorite books. If it's not already on my shelf, I'll add Mountains Beyond Mountains The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World; I think it's already there.


message 12: by Lee (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lee I agree 100% with your comments regarding the writing. By the middle of the book, I didn't care I was so absorbed with the content.


message 13: by Lisa (new) - rated it 1 star

Lisa Vegan Lee wrote: "I agree 100% with your comments regarding the writing. By the middle of the book, I didn't care I was so absorbed with the content. "

Lee, Exactly!!! Not by the end, by the middle.

Ginny, Kidder's book is abut a doctor; this book is more about education, so they are different, I think.




Grace Tjan Lisa wrote: "I think it's well worth reading but I can understand the negative reviews.

When I first started reading, I was annoyed at the writing, thinking a professional writer had written it and the writing..."


"Also, I admit at times I was irked that Mortenson had to be so very culturally sensitive, to the point of praying as a Muslim, Sunni or Shia style depending on where he was. I do understand, but that's not something I'd have felt comfortable doing. I wish cross cultural understanding could work every possible way with all people. It wasn't that big a deal/even though there were other types of examples..."

I also feel the same way, Lisa. I'm a non-Muslim living in a Muslim-majority nation, and this is something that I'll never do. Only a Muslim is allowed to perform the Shalat (five daily prayers), and I was amazed when I read that Mortenson performed it with his Pakistani/Afghan friends, without converting to Islam. It's a bit like being a non-Catholic receiving communion at Mass. I've been in communal prayers with my Muslim friends, but I've never performed the Shalat with them. It's for Muslims only.






message 15: by Lisa (new) - rated it 1 star

Lisa Vegan Sandybanks, Interesting. I did not know that but even in my ignorance it seemed strange to me.


Grace Tjan Lisa, I guess the custom in Pakistan/Afghanistan must be different from Indonesia. Mortenson's friends didn't seem to have any problem with him performing the Shalat with them. In Indonesia, this will be considered offensive if you're not converting to Islam. And Indonesian Muslims in general are much more moderate than those in Pakistan/Afghanistan.


message 17: by Lisa (new) - rated it 1 star

Lisa Vegan Sandybanks, Yes, the people there, his friends and near strangers, seemed to appreciate his participation. Re that one time with the Taliban & the Koran, I did wonder if he was trying to convince them he was a Muslim.


message 18: by Lisa (new) - rated it 1 star

Lisa Vegan Sandy, How long have you lived in Indonesia? Do you enjoy living there?


message 19: by Grace (last edited Dec 27, 2009 10:03PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Grace Tjan Lisa, I'm an Indonesian. I've lived in Indonesia all my life, except for the years that I spent living in the US and Singapore. And yes, I enjoy living in my native country, although I love the US too (upstate NY). Hubby used to live in the Bay Area in the 80's/early 90's. : )


Grace Tjan Lisa wrote: "Sandybanks, Yes, the people there, his friends and near strangers, seemed to appreciate his participation. Re that one time with the Taliban & the Koran, I did wonder if he was trying to convince t..."

I wonder if did convert in a pro forma way so that he became more acceptable to the people there. It's not difficult, you only have to say the Shahadat (Creed), and you're considered a Muslim.


message 21: by Lisa (new) - rated it 1 star

Lisa Vegan Maybe he did. He did seem to go the full immersion route, living as the villagers did.

Where in Indonesia do you live? I'm really afraid of earthquakes so I'm not thrilled with either of our native/current areas!


Grace Tjan I live in Jakarta, the country's capital city. We are also on an earthquake prone zone, like the Bay Area. We are not thrilled about it either! lol But hubby said that the biggest quake he ever experienced was the big one that he experienced in SF back in the 80's.

Have you always lived in the Bay Area?


message 23: by Lisa (new) - rated it 1 star

Lisa Vegan Sandy, I was born in Los Angeles but was living in San Francisco by the time I was 6 months old. My parents met and married in San Francisco, We traveled around the U.S. for my father's job but I've always had a permanent address in the Bay Area. Yes, that '89 earthquake was really, really scary.


message 24: by Lisa (new) - rated it 1 star

Lisa Vegan Abigail, Me too. I've been thinking how to redo this review & rating.

Ugh. It's more of a nightmare than most scandals.

I hated how his ghostwriter always referred to him so positively. It sounded weird at the time, now even more so.

I haven't decided how to handle it yet, but hopefully I will do something soon.

Perhaps I should move it to 1 star at least; I do now actively dislike it. Wish I'd paid attention to my uncomfortable feelings, but honestly did not get some of the inclusions that alerted others. Wish I had. Think I'm changing the rating, but not up yet for changing the review. Perhaps members will see these comments.

Thanks for reminding me, Abigail.


Gypsy Lady You gave the book one star, yet you seem to be praising it.


message 26: by Lisa (new) - rated it 1 star

Lisa Vegan Gypsy Lady wrote: "You gave the book one star, yet you seem to be praising it."

I know. I'm torn. I actually originally gave it three stars.

It's very poorly written and it's a mystery why this writer was hired to write most of this story.

I originally "liked" it in response to the amazing work being done, but now much of what was inspiring turns out to be NOT true. I changed my rating without changing my review, in part because in many ways I feel the same way about this book.


Gypsy Lady Thank you for getting back to me. From the onset I did not like the Parade writer. It was just too Sunday Parade magazine. I have heard Greg speak a couple of times at the Banff Festival of Mountain Books; I am very sorry that his work is being shortchanged. Again, thank you for your thoughtful response to my inquiry.


message 28: by Lisa (new) - rated it 1 star

Lisa Vegan Gypsy Lady, I see you gave it 2 stars, but no review?


Gypsy Lady Yes, my "reviews" are most frequently the word smithing that especially captured my interest. (See my review of Ruth Reichl's Garlic and Sapphires, for example.) Because Three Cups of Tea author, David Oliver Relin, did not generate any "quotable quotes"(for me), I had no review to write.

Another on my Goodreads habits is that unless the title is one of my book clubs' selections or was gift, I don't usually enter a book that "earned a low star score". My reasoning is "why finish a book I am not enjoying when there are too many good books waiting to be read?".


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads Sounds reasonable. I usually only review the really low ranked ones when I have a good rant ready to go.


message 31: by Lisa (new) - rated it 1 star

Lisa Vegan Gypsy Lady wrote: "Yes, my "reviews" are most frequently the word smithing that especially captured my interest. (See my review of Ruth Reichl's Garlic and Sapphires, for example.) Because Three Cups of Tea author, ..."

Oh, then nope, absolutely nothing to write for this book. Lousy writing with no good quotes I can remember.


Susanna wrote: "Sounds reasonable. I usually only review the really low ranked ones when I have a good rant ready to go."

Ha!


HuhWhat Hey Lisa ! Im guessing the 1 star rating is a mistake lol ?


message 33: by Lisa (new) - rated it 1 star

Lisa Vegan Simran wrote: "Hey Lisa ! Im guessing the 1 star rating is a mistake lol ?"

Actually, it's not, but was changed in a fit of anger, unusual for me. I originally gave the book 4 stars, even though it's incredibly poorly written, really bad writing! I gave it its stars because of the work being done. But when I found the work wasn't really being done and that the story was fraudulent, there was no need to award the extra stars, so I downgraded it. Some of the stories of the various people are so interesting, and the supposed work would have been extremely laudable, but now I can't trust any of the contents, and it's published as a non-fiction book, so I might leave my rating stand. Obviously, I should rewrite the review, but I'm kind of swamped. Maybe someday, down the road.


HuhWhat How did you find out the work wasnt being done ? Thats why i give it a high rating too.


message 35: by Lisa (new) - rated it 1 star

Lisa Vegan Simran,

It was all over the news and the news magazine shows, and then this book was published:

Three Cups of Deceit: How Greg Mortenson, Humanitarian Hero, Lost His Way

I haven't read that book yet.


HuhWhat Yeah.....i'm hit & miss with the news lol. When i had the time, id be up to date but more often than not in the dark.


HuhWhat Hey, Lisa ! I read the book you recommended. Thanks, by the way :)


message 38: by Lisa (new) - rated it 1 star

Lisa Vegan Simran wrote: "Hey, Lisa ! I read the book you recommended. Thanks, by the way :)"

Sorry for being dense. Which book?


HuhWhat Lol Three cups of deceit :)


message 40: by Lisa (new) - rated it 1 star

Lisa Vegan Simran wrote: "Lol Three cups of deceit :)"

Well, that's what I thought at first but then I thought you were too fast with that.

What did you think of it, Simran? I haven't read it.


message 41: by Dana (new)

Dana I read your review & it sounds like you really liked this book. But, you rated it only 1 star. I'm wondering if that was a mistake? If not, why just 1 star?


message 42: by Lisa (new) - rated it 1 star

Lisa Vegan Dana,

I probably should update my review but I probably won't.

I originally rated it 4 stars. Then I found out about the lies, deception, etc. See the comments above.

I rated it highly to start with on the basis of the charity work.

But the book is really poorly written so between that and finding out the truth, I no longer can like the book.


message 43: by Dana (new)

Dana After I posted the comment, I realized you'd had a lot of discussion about this book & figured the 'answer' was within those comments. Hmmm... pretty strange! Guess I'll be skipping this one. ;-)


message 44: by Lisa (new) - rated it 1 star

Lisa Vegan There are other better, much better written books.


message 45: by Porter (new)

Porter 60 Minutes de-bunked this guy!


message 46: by Lisa (new) - rated it 1 star

Lisa Vegan Porter wrote: "60 Minutes de-bunked this guy!"

Yes, that source is one of the reasons I downgraded this book to only 1 star.


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