Book Review: Three Cups of Tea

I’ve said to friends and now I’m going out on a limb to publish: this book was such a snoozer. Call me a snob but books should be well written and well organized. That’s why I pay to buy them. Otherwise I could just as well browse the Internet for free and sometimes quite good content.

The book Three Cups of Tea starts of well, detailing how Mortenson got lost and encountered the people who would then dedicate to helping. Adventure sits well with me. His description of the village was colorful, vivid, and empathetic. I especially give kudos for showcasing a people and county of so little resources and so much international political criticism in a more positive light.

The authors also do well in explaining the kind of living conditions the remote areas of Pakistan face. Enough to start thinking no wonder why the US Military wasn’t able to get into the mountainous areas to look for Bin Laden (clearly the wrong path anyway, and now all overcome by events). The recount of the barriers he face in trying to find reputable people to do the construction at an acceptable pace.. I cannot begin to say how that resonated. While I resolve not to talk about work on my blog, the frustration and patience-testing experience of working with local workforces in foreign countries, especially those of questionable work ethics and business practices is hard to explain.

Then the book just fell flat after they talk about the successful building of the first set of schoolhouses. hat was only about one third into the volume. I struggled with trying to finish it over two years. Picking it up, trying to chug on. I hate leaving books unfinished. Somehow I finished it a month ago and couldn’t wait to donate it. It will be put into good use at the library, I suspect. Better there than my eyerolling every time I glance at the spine lined up in my bookshelf.

Mortenson more or less just tallies all the projects from that point on. He then covers his expansion into Afghanistan, which felt anti-climatical when it shouldn’t.

Perhaps I’m not being fair. I generally prefer fiction and travelogues and this book wasn’t intended for the kind of flash and bang with a clean conclusion variety. Running a charity overseas is no small feat. And tedious, I’m sure. The tone and stype just fluctuated so wildly from the beginning to end it was hard to stay focused and my expections got ratcheted up too early. This is one of those when the expression “I’ll wait for the Cliff’s Notes version” finally made sense to me.

I recently heard of the 60 Minutes exposure of the “Three Cups of Tea Scandal.” I have no opinion at this time. Frankly, it shouldn’t matter if I do. I hope, whatever turns out to be the case, that we don’t forget that many people still live in pretty basic living conditions, often without much thought from their governments. Mortenson had done what few people did- brought awareness. Whether his stories are true or not, there are people and villages like Korphe out there. Just remember that. What you do with that knowledge is now up to you.