BANG Book Review – Three Cups of Tea

The GGG’s latest book, discussed yesterday over frozen drinks on the patio (which, now that I think about it, is a bit ironic), was Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin.


It says Greg Mortenson’s name first on the cover, but it seemed to me that David Oliver Relin was more the author, since it was all third-person, very much about Greg – obviously with in-depth personal knowledge of his thoughts and feelings, but also written with a pronounced admiration Greg certainly wouldn’t have written about himself.


The GGG was unanimous on the following points:

  • Greg Mortenson is an amazing person/character. If there’s one thing you take away from this book, it has to be that one person CAN make an immense difference to the lives of thousands, even millions – to the point of changing the political landscape – but not just any person. This guy is off-the-charts special.
  • None of us would marry him. Despite his motivation, tenacity, charisma, facility with languages, and extreme kindness… none of us would trade places with his wife, Tara Bishop, who is not only without her husband and the father of her children for large chunks of every year, but he goes to the Middle East, gallivants on mountains, rubs shoulders with terrorists… all with good reason, but frankly, it’s amazing he is still alive. And that she survives the stress.
  • The whole concept of madrassas, schools built by the Taliban (where there were none) that were sequestered brainwashing institutions designed to raise terrorists, is effing scary. No wonder things are so messed up over there, with young, spongy children being served a curriculum of hatred.

A few additional thoughts from Dilovely:

  • The book is very well-written. Great imagery, vivid characterization, cool details that stick in your mind. (You may know by now that this aspect means a lot to me.)
  • It’s one of those books that makes me wrestle with myself. For someone who has always been invested in human rights and still hopes to help people in foreign countries someday, it should be, and is, empowering to read about someone making such a difference… but it’s also daunting. The book unflinchingly reveals just how mammoth and profound the problems are in the Middle East. As one of the group said, “It made me tired.” It’s hard to even think about what still needs doing over there when I’m trying to feel good about my latest accomplishment of getting the dishes done.
  • I appreciated being given a much clearer picture of the physical landscape of the region as well as the social, cultural, and political ones. I learned a lot. (Whether I will remember what I learned is… um… what was I saying?)
  • Some of the group found the book dragged a bit by the end, but I didn’t feel that way at all. It held my interest the whole way through.

To sum up: I highly recommend this book! But it ain’t just a walk in the park. It’s a steep climb up K2.


6 thoughts on “BANG Book Review – Three Cups of Tea

  1. Sarah Thompson says:

    Great review. Mortenson’s second book, Stones Into Schools, is in first person and much better written. There is also a Three Cups of Tea Young Readers version, that is much shorter, with more photos, and suited for young teenagers.

    His wife Tara also mentions how much criticism many wives give her for being married to him, but that she is no different than hundreds of thousands of wives (and husbands) whose spouses are in the military, and put up with long and difficult separations from their spouses all the time, and many of them are serving in difficult, dangerous areas.
    A lot of wives, like me, can’t even handle our husband being gone on a three day business trip.

    We should all be grateful for those amazing wives who are married to spouses who are often gone serving in the military, or humanitarian or mission, and like Tara, who deal with it all. Thank goodness, there are women like that also.

    • diblog says:

      Thank you for reading, Sarah! And thanks for your comment. One of our book club listened to and enjoyed the audio CDs of the Young Readers version, and another bought the picture-book version, which is apparently beautifully illustrated and very well done.

      I can’t imagine criticizing Tara for marrying Greg – after all, she fell in love with the whole man, the travelling humanitarian, and she’s a strong, brave woman who knew what she was getting into. Mostly, our group agreed that she is a saint. You’re right – there are lots of amazing spouses and single (whether temporarily or permanently) parents out there who deal with hardship, worry, loneliness, and worse – and my hat is off to them. I doubt I’d be strong enough myself.

      I’m eager to read Stones into Schools, on your recommendation!

  2. emoley says:

    It’s on my list too! I heard him interviewed on Rick Steves for his new book and he is so inspiring. Kudos to him AND his wife!

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