Genre: nonfiction biography
Length: 349 pages
Setting: mostly Pakistan, 1993-mid 2000s
Interest: It was chosen as our book club book.
Summary: Greg Mortenson was a mountain climber who nearly died trying to summit K2. On the way off the mountain, he gets lost and ends up in the tiny village of Korphe. The villagers nurse him back to health and Mortenson decides to repay them building a school in their village. The rest of the book documents his trials and tribulations as he tries to raise money and build schools in Korphe and elsewhere in Pakistan (and eventually Afghanistan). Things got much more complicated after the 9-11 bombings, and Mortenson became director of the Central Asia Institute that headed up the building of the schools.
Final thoughts: A very interesting book. My take home message is if you get an idea, you need to just go out and do it and amazing things will happen. I don’t think Mortenson is a particularly great guy, except in one category – he had a vision of building schools for the poor of Pakistan, and he took the steps necessary to get that vision on the ground. So often, we give up on the big ideas before anyone else even has a chance to tell us why it’s a bad idea. Mortenson refused to give up, and he got things done. I’m not sure the scandal associated with the Central Asia Institute dilutes that part of his message.
Title comes from: A phrase in the book that’s actually on the back cover. After sharing three cups of tea with someone, you’re considered part of the family.
Awards won: Quite a few. Some of the more notable include the Kiriyama Prize (for literature about the Pacific Rim and South Asia) in 2007, and the 2010 Christopher Award and Mason Award.