Three Cups of Tea is a New York Times
bestselling book by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin
published by Penguin in 2006.
The book describes Mortenson's transition from a
mountain-climber to a humanitarian committed to reducing poverty
and educating girls in Pakistan and Afghanistan. He did this by
co-founding the "Central Asia Institute," which has built over
78 schools in the most remote areas of the countries.
The book's title comes from a Balti proverb:
"The first time you share tea with a Balti, you are a stranger.
The second time you take tea, you are an honoured guest. The
third time you share a cup of tea, you become family...
In 1993, Greg Mortenson attempted to climb K2, the world's
second highest mountain, in the Karakoram range of northern
Pakistan, as a way of honouring the memory of his deceased sister
more than 70 days on the mountain, Greg and three other climbers
had their ascent interrupted by the need to complete a 75-hour
life-saving rescue of a fifth climber. After getting lost during
his descent, he became weak and exhausted, and by chance alone,
instead of arriving in Askole, where his porters awaited, he
came across Korphe, a small village built on a shelf jutting out
from a canyon. He was greeted and taken in by the chief elder of
Korphe, Haji Ali.
To repay the remote community for its hospitality, Mortenson
promised to build a school for the village. After difficulties
in raising capital, Mortenson was introduced to Jean Hoerni, a
Silicon Valley pioneer who donated the money that Mortenson
needed for his school. In the last months of Hoerni's life (Hoerni
dieing from leukemia), he co-founded the Central Asia Institute,
endowing the CAI to build schools in rural Pakistan and
Mortenson faced many daunting challenges in his quest to
raise funds for the building of more than 55 schools in Taliban
territory, including death threats from Islamic mullahs, long
periods of separation from his family, and being kidnapped by
Reflecting on the state of the post-9/11 world, Mortenson
argues that extremism in the region can be deterred through
collaborative efforts to alleviate poverty and improve access to
education, especially for girls. Formerly, schooling focused on
the boys, but educated boys tend to move to the cities to find
jobs, and seldom return. By contrast, educated girls tend to
remain in the community and pass their enhanced knowledge to the
next generation. Thus, Mortenson suggests, educating girls has
more of a lasting benefit for the community.
The original hardcover book was released in 2006 with a
subtitle Mortenson fought against, One Man's Mission to Fight
Terrorism One School at a Time. The edition sold poorly,
only 20,000 copies. Mortenson prevailed upon the publishers to
change the subtitle for the 2007 paperback edition of the book
to his first choice, ""One Man's Mission to Promote Peace One
School at a Time." They did and the re-titled book soon made the
New York Times nonfiction paperback bestseller list.
Mortenson explained his reasoning in a talk given in Fairfield,
Connecticut, "If you just fight terrorism, it's based in fear,"
he commented. "If you promote peace, it's based in hope."
The book has remained a # 1 New York Times bestseller for 20
months since its release, is a popular University Freshman or
campus read in about three dozen campuses, chosen for One Book
community reads in over 50 cities, and published in over 20
countries internationally. A young adult version of Three
Cups of Tea was published by Penguin on January 22, 2009.
As with much travel writing, Three Cups of Tea is
repeatedly concerned with overcoming cultural divides. Though
gifted linguistically and with a childhood-bestowed familiarity
with exotic cultures and developing nations (his parents were
missionaries in Tanzania), Mortenson is often seen struggling
with cultural differences, from a foul-smelling butter tea to
the commonly encountered attitude of many well-meaning Americans
overseas: "Don't tell us what you want; we'll tell you."
Education is also a dominant theme, for which Mortenson
continues to express his passion. He explains that education is
the solution to poverty.
Though Mortenson and Relin are given equivalent author
credits, the book is written from Relin's perspective as an
admiring journalist interviewing and observing Mortenson. In the
book's introduction, Relin admits to liking Mortenson too much
to be as objective as he probably should be.
Though widely praised, Three Cups of Tea was subject
to some specific criticism. Bookmarks magazine wrote that,
"Despite the important message, critics quibbled over the
awkward prose and some melodrama. After all, a story as dramatic
and satisfying as this should tell itself."
AudioFile Magazine echoed these comments, "Though Relin's
writing is not top-caliber, Mortenson's story comes through as
exciting and inspiring."
Central Asia Institute
The Central Asia Institute is a Montana-based non-profit
organization founded in 1996 "to promote and provide
community-based education and literacy programs, especially for
girls, in remote mountain regions of Central Asia."
Dr. Jean Hoerni, a Swiss physicist who made his fortune in
microchips, provided the initial funding for the Central Asia
Institute and made Mortenson the director.
The Institute is run by a board of directors, all of whom have
worked or lived in Pakistan and/or Afghanistan. Today, the
Central Asia Institute has expanded its focus to include teacher
training programs, the establishment of libraries, and the
provision of temporary education programs for refugees of
natural or man-made disasters.
The Institute also runs a "Pennies for Peace" program, where
schoolchildren raise pennies to help fund building schools in
Afghanistan and Pakistan.
- Kiriyama Prize
- Time Magazine Asia Book of The Year
- Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association - Nonfiction
- Montana Honor Book Award
- Borders Bookstore Original Voices Selection
- Banff Mountain Festival Book Award Finalist
- Dayton Literary Prize Nonfiction Award – runner up
- People Magazine – Critics Choice
- Publisher’s Weekly – Starred Review
- 2006, Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Fight
Terrorism One School at a Time. 1st Edition. Viking
Press. ISBN 978-0670034826. Hardcover.
- 2007, Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote
Peace…One School at a Time. Tantor Media. ISBN
978-1400152513. (Audio MP3 CD).
- 2007, Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote
Peace…One School at a Time. Penguin Books Ltd. ISBN
- 2009, Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Journey to Change
The World…One Child at a Time (Young Adult Book).
Mortenson, Greg; Relin, David Oliver; signature by Amira
Mortenson, forward by Jane Goddall. Puffin. ISBN
- 2009, Listen To The Wind: The Story of Dr. Greg and
Three Cups of Tea, (Children's book). Mortenson, Greg;
Roth, Susan - illustrator. Dial Books. ISBN 0-802-729448.
This book is very very inspiring because he helped build many schools for the poor of Afghanistan and get people out of poverty