Monday, June 21, 2010

Book Review: Three Cups of Tea

Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a TimeAs I was going through our bookshelves in preparation for our move, I came across Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace...One School At A Time, a book my husband had acquired during his tour in Iraq. The book's setting (Pakistan) caught my attention, and so I decided to give it a try.

This book is the story of Greg Mortenson, the founder of the Central Asia Institute and a builder of schools--known as "Dr. Greg" to those who love him in Pakistan and Afghanistan. An avid mountain climber and an ER nurse, Greg found himself lost in the mountains of Pakistan after a failed attempt to climb the world's second highest peak, K2. Aided by the Balti people when he was most vulnerable, he made an unlikely promise to the leader of the Korphe tribe--to build the children of Korphe a school. What follows is a crazy adventure that changes the life course of Greg--and countless of children.

Three Cups of Tea was a fast-paced read and not at all difficult to get through. It enlarged my knowledge of Pakistan--particularly of the Balti people who live high in the Karakoram range. This book, along with The Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns has tied a little bit of the history of Pakistan and Afghanistan together for me. Arabic phrases are thrown in throughout the book, and some of them are finally becoming familiar to me. I have the advantage of being married to someone who took three semesters of Arabic in college and spent a year in Iraq, so I was frequently pestering Andrew with questions like "Honey, what's the difference between an imam and a mullah?" :)

There were some unfortunate aspects to this book. It's clear that Greg is not a follower of Jesus, and therefore the book casually mentions several things that I do not take lightly, such as cohabitation prior to marriage and all that lifestyle entails. Sex outside of marriage is taken for granted.

I should also note that there is an underlying theme of religions being equal and of people essentially being good at heart.

Greg's journey to build schools finds him deep in Pakistan when the unthinkable happens--the twin towers are attacked in New York City. This leads to one of the over-arching themes of the book--that education is the answer to solving terrorism. Greg describes the unfortunate but well planned emergence of Wahhabi madrasas (schools) in Pakistan and the subsequent indoctrination of many children. His conclusion is that many young Muslims are led astray into violent jihad due to lack of education. They attend the only schools that are available--many times these are the very schools that are breeding grounds for fundamental Islam. The conclusion that Greg draws is this: prevent terrorism by providing the children of these regions with secular education.

While I agree that education is a huge need in these areas of the world, I do not believe it is the answer to preventing terrorism. Nothing but the love of Jesus can prevent hatred from taking root in human hearts.

That said, I came away from reading Three Cups of Tea with a renewed appreciation for the abundance of information I have at my disposal. I have taken education for granted while there are girls across the world who have never had the privilege of learning how to read or even how to spell their own name. All I have to do is turn on my computer and the world is at my fingertips. I was reminded of the huge responsibility that comes with that blessing.


Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. 

This post is linked to It's Monday What Are You Reading? Which reminds me...this week I'm moving on to reading The Secret Power of Blogging. :)


  1. I've had this on my mental "to read" list for a long time, glad to read your review. I loved 1000 Splendid Sons and Kite Runner too; sounds like this would be a good read.

  2. This is one I was afraid to pick up because I thought it might be difficult to get through. I'm glad to hear it wasn't and maybe I shouldn't be so quick to dismiss it. The subject matter is certainly one I'm interested in.
    Thanks for the honest review!

  3. I had been wondering about this book too! Great review! And yes, I guess we do take our education for granted sometimes...makes you stop and think, doesn't it!

  4. I read this a while ago and yes, what Greg Mortenson starts in this book is incredible and I loved the outcome, but the book itself was not the best writing, and no this is not a Christian read.

  5. Don't forget that much evil has been done in the name of Christianity also. This is especially true if people are exposed to only one school of thought. Giving children an education that allows them to objectively assess information from all sources will help them see through any indoctrination.

  6. @Jen: I definitely didn't think it was as good as The Kite Runner or 1000 Splendid Suns, but I did learn from it!
    @Heather: Certainly, acts of terror have been committed in the name of Christianity (sadly). However, even someone educated in the most unbiased "objective" institution could be a terrorist. Education alone cannot change your heart (although it certainly could be/is a tool that God uses!).


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