27 June 2008

Three Cups of Tea

Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a TimeI've finally gotten around to reading Three Cups of Tea after hearing about it 2 years ago, before it became wildly popular. There was more than one reason why I didn't read it then, but since we're doing it for our book group, it was time to read it.

First of all, this is a review of the book. This is not a review of Greg Mortenson's amazing efforts in Pakistan and Afghanistan, nor really anything about him. That sort of review would be five stars. Despite some mistakes, and some pretty stupid ones at that (getting kidnapped and the defacement of his passport? those and several other things could and should have been avoided with a bit more education on Mortenson's part), Greg Mortenson has, through sheer tenacity, been an almost unmatched force for good there.

But I can't say I was impressed with the book. The unfortunate subtitle, mediocre writing, and the author's agenda all were problems. Yes, the subtitle has been changed in some editions, but the terrorism one still is too widespread, and if you've read the book, you'd know that terrorism subtitle doesn't fit Greg Mortenson's goals.

Relin, the one who actually writes the book, definitely sounds like a journalist. The entire book sounded like a long magazine article, except for a few forays into lofty and phony-sounding sentences. The book didn't flow at all and I just slogged through the last one hundred pages. And what was up with details about Mortenson's failed relationship? We heard more about that girlfriend than his wife, Tara. Tara practically disappeared from the book after making an appearance for a few pages. Even though the book is over three hundred pages, I didn't get three hundred pages worth out of it.

I also felt that Relin had an agenda that didn't match up with Mortenson's goals, at least as I understood his goals from reading the book. I felt that Mortenson builds schools because he wants to make individual lives better, the lives of the people he loves in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Relin almost makes it sound like Mortenson had a political agenda, especially by the end of the book.

The love for the people and places didn't come through the way I'd hoped and that's why I wanted to read it. Still, Mortenson's story is valuable and inspiring, and from all the hype, most people don't have the same problems with it I did, so I'd recommend it.


  1. I completely agree with your review. I haven't finished the book yet - probably won't.

  2. I completely agree: I recommend the book because I want to help Mortenson in his efforts over there ("read the book, then give him money") not because the book is terribly well written. It's not. He does have an interesting story, though, and I'm glad it got told and that people are reading it, even if it's not the best thing out there.

  3. Interesting review on the book rather than the experience. I've got this one ready to be picked up from the library and have been looking forward to it for forever. Now I'm curious!

  4. I just finished the book and have posted my review. I am in agreement with your assessment! What a shame it was so poorly written.

  5. I read this book too and felt similar things. Maybe it was the author's agenda or just his journalistic style of writing, but it made Greg Mortensen seem really dumb to me too. Which is unfortunate, because as you say, he's doing a great thing.

    I liked the picture book version. Concise and to the point. I'd suggest that one for people wanting to know the story and give him money.