Wow. I just finished this book. I hardly know where to begin. What an amazingly interesting story. Greg Mortenson is a man who decided a little over a decade ago to single-handedly take on changing the Middle East. During a failed attempt to summit K2, Mortenson wandered lost into a small village in Northern Pakistan. After being entranced with these impoverished people, Mortenson promised to build their children a school. At the time, they would kneel in the dirt and practice their multiplication tables writing with sticks in the dirt. This one promise of a school turned into what is now the Central Asia Institute founded by Mortenson.
Three Cups of Tea details his tremendous journey from the side of a mountain to building many schools throughout Pakistan and Afghanistan in order to secularly educate the children of the region. His belief is that if we help educate the children there, they will have options and will not have to be educated in schools run by religious extremists. Therefore, the ideals of the Taliban and other extremist groups of that region will simply die out with future educated generations. Mortenson's influence in the area has not only built schools, but women's vocational centers, and proper water supplies. He actively promoted education for girls and women so they would not have to live naively in their husband's shadow. They could become empowered and whatever they wanted to be.
The book was incredibly interesting and filled with details about the cultures Mortenson encounters regularly on his trips to the Middle East. I learned more about the Middle East from this one book than anything the American media has published since before 9/11. The story was moving and really makes you want to support Mortenson's cause. The old saying goes, "one person really can make a difference." Well, it is truly amazing what this one human being has accomplished and continues to accomplish. The book is pretty long and I felt like maybe there were a few details that could have been more glossed over or condensed. But because the overall effect of the book was so intriguing, it makes you keep reading on. Read this book. And then tell more people to read it.
I have long ignored nonfiction books as something to read in my spare time. I think often I look to books to escape stress from everyday life so I typically don't want to read things that I find difficult, sad, "boring" or disturbing. Yet, I've enjoyed the last several nonfiction books I've read and found them to be none of the above. Perhaps I need to rethink my preconceived notions about the nonfiction genre. :-)
Edited to add: I meant to mention that Mortenson spent much of his childhood growing up in Africa with his family. The whole section about his childhood reminded me of the book The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, one of my all-time favorite books. I've also had the book Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi on my bookshelf for a couple years now. I may get around to reading it now. It is about a small group of women in Iran who gathered secretly to read forbidden Western classics.