Book: Three Cups of Tea

In 1993, American climber Greg Mortenson, fresh off a failed attempt at the summit of K2, stumbled into the village of Korphe in the shadow of Pakistan’s Karakoram Range. Despite their impoverished existence, the villagers nursed the malnourished climber back to health, and Mortenson, deeply moved by their generosity, promised to return to give Korphe what it needed most—a school. Over a decade and 50 schools later, Mortenson and his Central Asia Institute (both based in Bozeman) have provided for the education of tens of thousands of Islamic children, especially girls.

Released in early March of this year, Three Cups of Tea chronicles Mortenson’s larger-than-life mission from its humble beginnings as the brainchild of a homeless Berkeley climbing bum to its growing influence in the lives of countless Islamic youths. In a post-9/11 world in which the futures of Pakistan and Afghanistan are tightly tied to that of the West, the Bozeman climber’s project to bring schools to the Taliban’s training ground demands increasing attention and support.

Mortenson and award-winning journalist David Oliver Relin (Parade, Skiing) successfully make this story of strange names and far-off places one that resounds with humanity; indelible characters such as Korphe chief Haji Ali and Shakeela, a schoolgirl, display that Mortenson and the CAI measure their success not politically or statistically but in lives touched. Three Cups is a must-read.