As Kim mentioned in January, one of my goals in 2011 is to read more. To spend more time reading, relaxing, reflecting, and absorbing. And a little less time being busy, staying on top of my email, and checking things off my to do lists.
First book of 2011: Three Cups of Tea
My parents gave me Three Cups of Tea this past Christmas. I had heard a lot about this book—it was on the New York Times Best-Seller List, Oprah’s book club, etc.—and I was expecting it to be a pretty good read. What I was not expecting was that it would be a great read. And as with most things, I was a little late to the party. (My music collection is comprised mostly of artists that have been dead for 30 years).
The book begins with a mountain climber (author Greg Mortenson) whose failed attempt to climb the second highest mountain in the world, Pakistan’s K2, left him exhausted and on the wrong path down the mountain. Mortenson finds himself completely lost and in a remote village far from where he was supposed to be.
After the villagers nurse him back to a state of strength, he spends some time getting to know the people and their customs. He is shocked and saddened to see that the village’s “school” is actually just a group of children sitting outdoors in a circle doing math problems with sticks in the dirt. No teacher. The teacher comes only two days a week.
The author returns home determined to raise money to build a school for these children before settling back to his “normal” life. He quickly realizes he’ll never return to life as he knew it. A one-project mission turns into a life-long passion to educate the impoverished children of northern Pakistan, promote peace, and empower women. Mortenson realizes that education is the key to keeping vulnerable Pakistani youth from being enticed by the money and promises of a rapidly growing, but little-known (at that time) organization called the Taliban.
It is Mortenson’s epic struggles and death-defying adventures that captivated me. The book had me hooked and on the edge of my seat from the very beginning. I can vouch for Kim’s patience after enduring countless episodes of me excitedly telling her what I had just read in the latest chapter. As you might imagine, an American man building schools in the Mid East can create quite a stir. But Mortenson’s compassion, respect, and willingness to be open-minded and a servant to those he barely knew was truly inspirational. If you combine all of this with memorable and relevant U.S. history it creates a suspenseful and captivating quick read.
I recently found out that the Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, has made this book mandatory reading for all of his senior officers in the U.S. military. The impact Greg Mortenson has made on both small villages and world politics is truly remarkable. While I fully expect everything in the book to be true, if only 10% of what he wrote is factual, it's still one of the most amazing stories I have ever read. I highly recommend getting your hands on a copy. And lastly, if your Christmas or birthday present from me this year is a donation to his organization, don’t be surprised!
Stay tuned for next month’s book: Tasting Beer!