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Three Cups of Tea: An Inspiring Story of Human Triumph - Book Review

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by Dottie (subscribe)
Radio presenter, business consultant and amateur foodie thriving on living life, loving moments and just being a cheeky girl at heart.
Published February 13th 2012
Three Cups of Tea
Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

There's not much that can beat a lazy afternoon curled up in your favourite lounge chair with a book that just makes you feel good. Three Cups of Tea is an inspiring story about one man's personal mission to repay the kindness of an impoverished Pakistan village, and is a testament to the power of the humanitarian spirit and the difference one person can make.

"Here (in Pakistan and Afghanistan), we drink three cups of tea to do business; the first you are a stranger, the second you become a friend, and the third, you join our family, and for our family we are prepared to do anything - even die."
Haji Ali, Korphe Village Chief, Karakoram Mountains, Pakistan

Book Summary

After losing his guide and porter on his way out of the Karakoram mountains following a failed attempt to summit K2, Greg Mortenson finds himself drifting into the Pakistan village of Korphe. Exhausted and suffering from the physical trauma of his ordeal on the mountain, Greg is taken in and nursed to health by the people of Korphe.

During this time, Greg discovers the simplicity - and poverty - of village life and is so touched by the kindness of this impoverished village that he promises his healers that he will return one day and build a school for the children of the village.

After returning in full health to his homeland (America) Greg is so consumed by his promise that he gives up everything. He begins his cause by typing 580 letters on an old-fashioned typewriter while living in his car to raise money for the Korphe school. So begins Greg's journey to battle and overcome adversity and extremism and go on to build over 50 schools for girls throughout the remotest areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan.


Three Cups of Tea is an inspiring story that manages to break down something that seems so impossible into a practical account that makes it all seem possible. At times, you almost feel like you are riding in the jeep with Greg as he travels up the Karakoram mountains with a truckload of building supplies.

Sprinkled amongst the practical details of actually building a school high up in the remote mountains of Central Asia, we also get insights into the politics of the region, religion and culture.

The story also incorporates insight into Greg's personal journey with his family, from childhood memories of his parents and his aspirations as a mountaineer, to the moment he meets his wife, the birth of their children and their anguish when he is taken hostage in Afghanistan. The personal anecdotes are a reminder that Greg is just a man, just another person, and makes his accomplishments seem even more amazing.

Very readable and accessible, the story is written in a narrative that brings you into each scene and allows you to fill in the details with your own emotions - emotions triggered by theft, corruption, the brutality of war, the harsh reality of remote vastness and quelled by the strength of human courage.

Three Cups of Tea - Young Reader's Edition
Three Cups of Tea - Young Reader's Edition
Unlike many other books about goodwill and human triumph, Three Cups of Tea is not pretentious and is very honest in sharing the challenges that goodwill-doers face - it's not all roses and the authors don't pretend that it is.

Three Cups of Tea is also available in a Young Reader's edition that has been especially adapted for younger readers aged 8 and up.


If you're looking for a readable and inspiring story that will make you feel good - and maybe inspire you to do something good - Three Cups of Tea is a very worthwhile read. Not only does it call to the social entrepreneur in everyone, but this book is also full of accessible facts and information about a region we've heard about for so long, but still know so little about.

Title: Three Cups of Tea
Author: Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin
- Published by: Penguin Books, 2006
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