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Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Fight Terrorism and Build Nations . . . One School at a Time
by Greg Mortenson, David Oliver Relin

Published: 2006-03-02
Hardcover : 338 pages
124 members reading this now
242 clubs reading this now
109 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 35 of 49 members
The inspiring account of one man's campaign to build schools in the most dangerous, remote, and anti- American reaches of Asia

In 1993 Greg Mortenson was the exhausted survivor of a failed attempt to ascend K2, an American climbing bum wandering emaciated and lost through Pakistan's ...
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Introduction

(The inspiring account of one man's campaign to build schools in the most dangerous, remote, and anti- American reaches of Asia

In 1993 Greg Mortenson was the exhausted survivor of a failed attempt to ascend K2, an American climbing bum wandering emaciated and lost through Pakistan's Karakoram Himalaya. After he was taken in and nursed back to health by the people of an impoverished Pakistani village, Mortenson promised to return one day and build them a school. From that rash, earnest promise grew one of the most incredible humanitarian campaigns of our time—Greg Mortenson's one-man mission to counteract extremism by building schools, especially for girls, throughout the breeding ground of the Taliban.

Award-winning journalist David Oliver Relin has collaborated on this spellbinding account of Mortenson's incredible accomplishments in a region where Americans are often feared and hated. In pursuit of his goal, Mortenson has survived kidnapping, fatwas issued by enraged mullahs, repeated death threats, and wrenching separations from his wife and children. But his success speaks for itself. At last count, his Central Asia Institute had built fifty-five schools. Three Cups of Tea is at once an unforgettable adventure and the inspiring true story of how one man really is changing the world—one school at a time.

Editorial Review

No editorial review at this time.

Excerpt

Introduction
After a failed 1993 attempt to climb K2, Mortenson arrived in Korphe, emaciated and exhausted. In this impoverished community of mud and stone huts, both Mortenson’s life and the lives of northern Pakistan’s children changed course. One evening, he went to bed by a yak dung fire a mountaineer who’d lost his way, and one morning, by the time he’d shared a pot of butter tea with his hosts and laced up his boots, he’d become a humanitarian who’d found a meaningful path to follow for the rest of his life. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

1.There is a telling passage about Mortenson’s change of direction at the start of the book: “One evening, he went to bed by a yak dung fire a mountaineer who’d lost his way, and one morning, by the time he’d shared a pot of butter tea with his hosts and laced up his boots, he’d become a humanitarian who’d found a meaningful path to follow for the rest of his life.” What made Mortenson particularly ripe for such a transformation? Has anything similar happened in your own life?


2.Relin gives a “warts and all” portrait of Mortenson, showing him as a hero but also as a flawed human being with some exasperating traits. Talk about how Relin chose to write about Mortenson’s character—his choice of details, his perspective, the way he constructs scenes. Is Mortenson someone you’d like to get to know, work with, or have as a neighbor or friend?


3.At the heart of the book is a powerful but simple political message: we each as individuals have the power to change the world, one cup of tea at a time. Yet the book powerfully dramatizes the obstacles in the way of this philosophy: bloody wars waged by huge armies, prejudice, religious extremism, cultural barriers. What do you think of the “one cup of tea at a time” philosophy? Do you think Mortenson’s vision can work for lasting and meaningful change?


4.Have you ever known anyone like Mortenson? Have you ever had the experience of making a difference yourself through acts of generosity, aid, or leadership?


5.The Balti people are fierce yet extremely hospitable, kind yet rigid, determined to better themselves yet stuck in the past. Discuss your reactions to them and the other groups that Mortenson tries to help.


6.After Haji Ali’s family saves Greg’s life, he reflects that he could never “imagine discharging the debt he felt to his hosts in Korphe.” Discuss this sense of indebtedness as key to Mortenson’s character. Why was Mortenson compelled to return to the region again and again? In your opinion, does he repay his debt by the end of the book?


7.References to paradise run throughout the book—Mortenson’s childhood home in Tanzania, the mountain scenery, even Berkeley, California, are all referred to as “paradise.” Discuss the concept of paradise, lost and regained, and how it influences Mortenson’s mission.


8.Mortenson’s transition from climbing bum to humanitarian hero seems very abrupt. However, looking back, it’s clear that his sense of mission is rooted in his childhood, the values of his parents, and his relationship with his sister Christa. Discuss the various facets of Mortenson’s character—the freewheeling mountain climber, the ER nurse, the devoted son and brother, and the leader of a humanitarian cause. Do you view him as continuing the work his father began?


9.“I expected something like this from an ignorant village mullah, but to get those kinds of letters from my fellow Americans made me wonder whether I should just give up,” Mortenson remarked after he started getting hate mail in the wake of September 11. What was your reaction to the letters Mortenson received?


10.Mortenson hits many bumps in the road—he’s broke, his girlfriend dumps him, he is forced to build a bridge before he can build the school, his health suffers, and he drives his family crazy. Discuss his repeated brushes with failure and how they influenced your opinion of Mortenson and his efforts.


11.The authors write that “the Balti held the key to a kind of uncomplicated happiness that was disappearing in the developing world.” This peaceful simplicity of life seems to be part of what attracts Mortenson to the villagers. Discuss the pros and cons of bringing “civilization” to the mountain community.


12.Much of the book is a meditation on what it means to be a foreigner assimilating with another culture. Discuss your own experiences with foreign cultures—things that you have learned, mistakes you have made, misunderstandings you have endured.


13.Did the book change your views toward Islam or Muslims? Consider the cleric Syed Abbas, and also the cleric who called a fatwa on Mortenson. Syed Abbas implores Americans to “look into our hearts and see that the great majority of us are not terrorists, but good and simple people.” Discuss this statement. Has the book inspired you to learn more about the region?

Suggested by Members

Try to follow up on some of the specific schools he provided & the first 2 girls to ever attain an education in Baltistan.
by Livres4moi (see profile) 04/27/15

How does the title of the book relate to the theme of the book?
by Read4Strength (see profile) 05/14/10

What are your thoughts on his "fighting terrorists one school at a time?" Do you think it will be effective?
How do you think his escapades are making a difference?
Do you find yourself changing your perspective on kept promises? Does it make you want to keep them or avoid the statement? Why?
by Schmales237 (see profile) 04/09/10

Why are we not putting more money in our poor areas to educate and feed them?
What can we do to make our government see that education is the root of the problem and killing does not work.
It was convicting to see villages working together where technology has made us distant.
by lovebooks (see profile) 03/26/10

Why did Greg M. work so hard to bring schools to Pakistan?
by gerriwbw (see profile) 01/18/10

We used the reading guides found on the Internet.
by jmbs52 (see profile) 11/24/09

How can we can get involved?
by kristinp (see profile) 08/21/09

One of our members actually attended one of his talks and had her book signed - it was very interesting to hear her personal encounter.
Another of our members lived in Pakistan and was able to add another dimension to our meeting.
by cahendrix (see profile) 08/20/09

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

No notes at this time.

Book Club Recommendations

Involve a native Muslim from the Middle East
by Livres4moi (see profile) 04/27/15
Invite a native Muslim woman (or man) who has escaped from Afghanistan, Pakistan or Baltistan & invite them to share about their culture, difficulties. Also invite a mountain climber who can explain first-hand about the challenges of staying alive in the Himalyan region of the middle-East.
Further information
by brightpoweruk (see profile) 04/11/13
David Oliver Relin wrote recently about curing cataract-related blindness in developing counties, but sadly he committed suicide aged 49 before his book was due to be published in June 2013.

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
 
 
by chorner (see profile) 01/31/20

 
by dash71 (see profile) 06/01/19

 
by jfitzgerald (see profile) 05/08/18

 
  "Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortensen"by Livres4moi (see profile) 04/27/15

Provides thoughtful insight into the culture, life-style, history, politics, poverty & difficulties the people in Afghanistan & Pakistan face. Mortensen's intentions, tenaciousness (perhaps addictive?)... (read more)

 
by peojudy (see profile) 04/24/15

 
  "Hard To Look Past the Controversy"by gbuegge (see profile) 05/20/14

This book is difficult to read, not only because of the excessive detail written into each interaction, but because the reader has to ask at every turn, "is this truth or fiction?" There are many books... (read more)

 
  "Tapers off to a disappointing finale"by brightpoweruk (see profile) 04/11/13

This is a record of the adventures of the visionary, Greg Mortenson. As an experienced mountaineer and team medic he has an abundance of stubbornness amongst his transferable skills and he c... (read more)

 
  "A Little Slow but Interesting"by Shawnee (see profile) 05/21/12

I found it was a slow read but interesting. Our club had a good discussion about it. There is some controversy about the book and the truthfulness of it so we talked about that too.

 
  "Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Fight Terrorism and Build Nations . . . One School at a Time"by lowerhay (see profile) 03/22/11

Inspiring story of one man's efforts to better the world - one school building at a time. What truly thrills me about this book is that I remember the author from our youth at Prince of Peace Lutheran... (read more)

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