Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Fight Terrorism and Build Nations...One School at a Time

Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Fight Terrorism and Build Nations...One School at a Time

4.2 984
by Greg Mortenson, David Oliver Relin

View All Available Formats & Editions

In 1993, following a failed attempt to ascend K2, Greg Mortenson was inspired by a chance encounter with impoverished mountain villagers in Pakistan and promised to build them a school. From that rash, earnest promise grew one of the most incredible humanitarian campaigns of our time—Mortenson’s one-man mission to counteract extremism by building

…  See more details below


In 1993, following a failed attempt to ascend K2, Greg Mortenson was inspired by a chance encounter with impoverished mountain villagers in Pakistan and promised to build them a school. From that rash, earnest promise grew one of the most incredible humanitarian campaigns of our time—Mortenson’s one-man mission to counteract extremism by building schools, especially for girls, throughout the breeding ground of the Taliban.

Award-winning journalist David Oliver Relin has collaborated on this spellbinding account of Mortenson’s incredible accomplishments in a region where Americans are often feared and hated. Over the following decade Mortenson built not just one but fifty-five schools. Three Cups of Tea is at once an unforgettable adventure and the inspiring story of how one man really is changing the world—one school at a time.

Make this your next book club selection and everyone saves.
Get 15% off when you order 5 or more of this title for your book club.
Simply enter the coupon code MORTENSONTHREE at checkout.
This offer does not apply to eBook purchases. This offer applies to only one downloadable audio per purchase.

Watch a Video

Read More

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Greg Mortenson’s dangerous and difficult quest . . . is not only a thrilling read, it’s proof that one ordinary person, with the right combination of character and determination, really can change the world."-Tom Brokaw

"An inspiring chronicle . . . this is one protagonist who clearly deserves to be called a hero."-People

"Mortenson’s mission is admirable, his conviction unassailable, his territory exotic."-The Washington Post

On the afternoon of September 2, 1993, Greg Mortenson realized that he had failed in his attempt to climb K2, the world's second-highest mountain. But disappointment was the least of his problems. Emaciated, exhausted, thoroughly disoriented, and suffering from edema, his grip on life was loosening. He was taken in and nursed back to health by the impoverished populace of a remote Pakistani village. Grateful, he promised to return someday to build them a school. Three Cups of Tea is the story of that promise and the story of how one man changed the world, one school at a time.
Publishers Weekly
Some failures lead to phenomenal successes, and this American nurse's unsuccessful attempt to climb K2, the world's second tallest mountain, is one of them. Dangerously ill when he finished his climb in 1993, Mortenson was sheltered for seven weeks by the small Pakistani village of Korphe; in return, he promised to build the impoverished town's first school, a project that grew into the Central Asia Institute, which has since constructed more than 50 schools across rural Pakistan and Afghanistan. Coauthor Relin recounts Mortenson's efforts in fascinating detail, presenting compelling portraits of the village elders, con artists, philanthropists, mujahideen, Taliban officials, ambitious school girls and upright Muslims Mortenson met along the way. As the book moves into the post-9/11 world, Mortenson and Relin argue that the United States must fight Islamic extremism in the region through collaborative efforts to alleviate poverty and improve access to education, especially for girls. Captivating and suspenseful, with engrossing accounts of both hostilities and unlikely friendships, this book will win many readers' hearts. (Mar.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Rescued by Pakistani villagers after a failed attempt at climbing K2, Mortenson vowed to build them a school. Twelve years later, his Central Asia Institute has built 55 schools (some serving girls) despite fatwas and worse. With a six-city tour. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An unlikely diplomat scores points for America in a corner of the world hostile to all things American-and not without reason. Mortenson first came to Pakistan to climb K2, the world's second-tallest peak, seeking to honor his deceased sister by leaving a necklace of hers atop the summit. The attempt failed, and Mortenson, emaciated and exhausted, was taken in by villagers below and nursed back to health. He vowed to build a school in exchange for their kindness, a goal that would come to seem as insurmountable as the mountain, thanks to corrupt officials and hostility on the part of some locals. Yet, writes Parade magazine contributor Relin, Mortenson had reserves of stubbornness, patience and charm, and, nearly penniless himself, was able to piece together dollars enough to do the job; remarks one donor after writing a hefty check, "You know, some of my ex-wives could spend more than that in a weekend," adding the proviso that Mortenson build the school as quickly as possible, since said donor wasn't getting any younger. Just as he had caught the mountaineering bug, Mortenson discovered that he had a knack for building schools and making friends in the glacial heights of Karakoram and the remote deserts of Waziristan; under the auspices of the Central Asia Institute, he has built some 55 schools in places whose leaders had long memories of unfulfilled American promises of such help in exchange for their services during the war against Russia in Afghanistan. Comments Mortenson to Relin, who is a clear and enthusiastic champion of his subject, "We had no problem flying in bags of cash to pay the warlords to fight against the Taliban. I wondered why we couldn't do the same thing to buildroads, and sewers, and schools."Answering by delivering what his country will not, Mortenson is "fighting the war on terror the way I think it should be conducted," Relin writes. This inspiring, adventure-filled book makes that case admirably.

Read More

Product Details

Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.50(w) x 9.60(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range:
18 Years


What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"A cliffhanger as well as a first-hand introduction to the people and places of a region little understood by most Americans." —-The Washington Times

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace... One School at a Time 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 981 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a difficult book to rate as Greg's story and the cause he and all his supporters dedicate their lives to is truly inspiring and merits 4 stars. However, the actual writing hindered the whole message - it was tedious to say the least and I struggled to get through it and only persevered because this was my book clubs choice for this month. Otherwise I would have given up which would have been a shame as the message the book holds should be told around the world. But because of the writing style many people won't bother to read it. The message to take away from this book is very clear - the enemy is not the person sitting next to me who looks or acts different to me - the enemy is ignorance and the solution is education. Greg Mortensen has dedicated his life to building schools to educate children in Pakistan and Afghanistan, to give them a balanced non-fundamentalist education in the hope that our two cultures can live side by side with respect for each other and our differences. It is truly incredible and highly commendable. But it is only half the story - we in the west need to work on educating our own children and helping them to choose tolerance of other cultures. I hope enough people can get beyond the writing style and get the message, before it is too late.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am an avid reader and love to read about other cultures. I found this book very dull and tedious. It was not really about the culture as the cover hints, but more of an autobiography about a mountain climber who visits that area. Although it does describe the personality of the people he meets, it does not describe how these people truly live. For example, although it goes on and on about the building of schools for girls, where the lumber and blocks actually come from, you never actually get to 'know' any of these girls or hear their stories. The book is more the author's perception of the people that he meets and the surprising kindness he feels, rather than a voice from a different culture. I found it disappointing.
SphinxFeathers More than 1 year ago
A story which shows that people around the world are truly good. Whether this book simply makes you realize that you're not as different from your neighbor as your thought or it inspires you to follow your heart to change the world, it's a great read.
Anna80AM More than 1 year ago
This is an amazing book which has been included in the list of books that Bill Moyers on PBS recommends our president should read! It magnifies the fact that no matter which part of the globe and faith we belong to, as humans we all share a common sense of good and evil and a common yearning for progress. Above all this book shows that instead of de-humanising the other, we should attempt to reach out and try to understand their perspective. And if we do that, we will almost always find that as humans we are inherently the same.
MadisonGrey More than 1 year ago
This book was recommended to me and I wasn¿t disappointed. Though I am primarily a lover of fiction, this book inspired me and reminded me that there are always obstacles and those obstacles are meant to be overcome. It¿s a practice of continually spiraling through the process of action and re-evaluation and, eventually, that persistence and determination will bear fruit.

The book begins with the hospitality and generosity of the people in small, impoverished Korphe, Pakistan to an outsider in need of aid and spans 911, the invasion of Afghanistan and then Iraq. Riddled throughout we see the disparate trails of understanding and intolerance weave their paths through the lives on all sides of the battlefield without discrimination. What stands out is the power of education. Not only in the sense of the traditional litany of math, language and history, but in striving to understand basic human and cultural divides and working together to overcome them.

To wrap this around to our current political situation, this `war on terror¿, as the hypnotic buzz-term goes, has only created more hatred and contempt for America ¿ and not only in the Middle East. It¿s good to find these buoys that bear a message of tolerance and peace and a measure of sanity during this circus of carnage and current of aggression.

I¿ll definitely be passing this book along.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the story of a modern-day hero. If today's youth would read about and follow men like Greg Morteson, there would be peace in every country on this earth.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I recently had to read this book in my English IV class as a senior in high school. I honestly didn¿t think that it was written well at all, compared to other books that I have read. I found it hard to get into, and felt that I had to reread each sentence over and over again before I could focus on it. Other than that, I believe that the overall message of the book was incredibly inspiring, and it would be nice to see more people take as much interest in helping fight against terrorism and inadequate education the way that Greg Mortenson does in this book. Education is definitely the answer to combating terrorism, not blood and war. If we educate the less fortunate countries they will understand problems better and be able to solve them without drastic measures. In the end, I did not enjoy the book as much as I would have liked to.
tinkersbell More than 1 year ago
I beg you not to spend any money on this book or any other book by Greg Mortenson. His supposed charity, CAI, paid him millions of dollars to promote this book (which by the way is also loaded with lies) but Mr. Mortenson kept all the proceeds from the sales of the book. His charity, CAI, gets an F from CharityWatch and 60 Minutes did an expose on him. Again, please, please do not support this thief. He is the worst kind of thief. He takes hard earned money from kind and giving people, and instead of giving it to the poor, he keeps it. I hope this man goes to prison. I really wish B&N would not sell any of his books.
kaboo123 More than 1 year ago
Saw a story about this author on 60 minutes news program. His stories are not true, he made them up to sell more books
Guest More than 1 year ago
While Mortenson's story is very inspiring and gives us a window into processes of development in a part of the world to which American's have paid too little attention, the writing is not very good. There are many run-on sentences, mistakes in punctuation and sentence fragments. I find this shocking considering that the co-author teaches at one of the best known writing schools in the US. I was very uncomfortable with the way the book is written as a biography of a living person, especially with the inclusion of irrelevant and mean-spirited details about a failed relationship. Mortenson is a co-author, so how could he stand to read a book about himself in the third person? A ghost-written 'I did this, I did that' autobiography might have worked better. The writing is at its worst in the beginning, so if you have just started the book take heart that it will improve. The book is at its best when it focuses on Mortenson's relationship with the people 'mostly men' he worked with in Pakistan. Their spirit of cooperation is somehow missing from the creation of the book itself, but manages to shine through the often very bad writing.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
From what I heard from a lot of comments, Greg Mortenson is a fraud, a thief, and this whole story is made up. He got money from his supposed charity, CAI, and kept it for himself. Some people say that, oh, read this book, its so touching and eye opening, but Greg Mortenson will not have an extra 12.99 in his pocket because I will most definitely be purchasing this book. I also heard from a WHOLE lot a comments that this is a poorly written book and, I'm sorry, but I am not spending 13 dollars on a poorly written book that a thiefy person wrote. Sorry! Im trying to say this in a non-offensive way, but Im just sharing my personal opinion. It sounds like a really great message, and I will say that. I hope you all know that I am sharing my personal opinion and you don't have to aggree with me. I will not be purchasing this book or any product from Greg Mortenson.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the book. I would recommend the book to anyone.
RevLinda More than 1 year ago
This is truly an inspiration of what one man with a dream can do to draw together people from all walks of life to create change in the world. Mortensen's story, and the work that he is doing create a lasting impact on the world. Everyone in a position to set policy in this world should be required to read/listen to/absorb this book. Ending terrorism comes with healing relationships, not with bombs.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin is a book about how one man helped many students by building schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Greg attempts to climb K2, but fails and was injured. He wandered into a poor village in Pakistan, where he was nursed back to health, however he promised them he would return one day and build a school for them. Building this school led him to co-found CAI, Central Asia institute, who sponsored him in building many more schools throughout Pakistan and Afghanistan. He had many challenges with this, such as being captured and having to leave his family for so long, but it educated many students, which helped their villages lessen their poverty. This book teaches people to do things to help others, because it proves that one man really did change the world. I liked this book because of how he helped so many kids and even lessened death rates because he found a way to get them clean water and sanitation. It takes a lot to leave your family to help children millions of miles away, but that is exactly what he did. One thing i didn't like about this book is how it descriptively talked about each school they built, which got repetitive because a lot of it was the same. All people should read this book because it will teach them about poverty in other countries and how more people should care about helping them, because not everyone is fortunate enough to live in America. This was overall a good book that inspires you to live for more than just yourself.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Sometimes actions speak a lot louder than words. Mortenson's wonderful personal journey from personal grief to a career of school building is a real modern day story of heroics that we hardly hear about anymore. Its nice to see people with the determination to literally change the world, the greatest quality I think this book had was an element of inspiration. For all the hype this book created, it really wasn¿t as good as I expected it to be. Don¿t get me wrong, it did have a good meaning which is what I think makes the book pretty good. It have interesting insight to regions of the world we hear little about, I found the cultural customs that the author dived into quite interesting. Reading about all the negotiating and financial hook-ups this man had to go through to get his dream realized, I found his actions very commendable ¿ not many people could do what he did. If I were to rate this book on the content alone, I'd give it 10 stars. Greg Mortenson is, as the book jacket states, a real-life Indiana Jones type hero, who nearly single-handedly built schools in the heart of Taliban country. There is virtually no one who can't be inspired and grateful for that. But my belief is that a book review should be based, not on the subject matter, but on the way it is written. And much as I wanted to love this book, it was simply written poorly. The author jerks from non-fiction prose to journalistic techniques, from flowery adjectives to staccato 'just the facts.' One really annoying thing was the occasional obscure word that the author clearly pulled out of a thesaurus. If an educated reader such as myself doesn't understand the words, you're probably going to alienate some readers. I think this book is very over-rated, as the author simply cannot write very well. So, the writing style is about the level of ¿I don¿t know¿People magazine? But far more egregious for me, I never felt that I knew the real Greg Mortenson. The story line jerked around a lot, leaving me confused with the many names and constantly had to look back to remind myself who was who. All in all, the book had a good meaning that, to me, made it worth reading, but it wasn¿t something that I would hail as a masterpiece - definitely not an easy beach read either.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Three Cups of Tea attempted to present a story of success faced with strife and struggle. The plot¿s significance offered inspiration and beauty in human relationships. The cultural exposure of the Middle East, specifically in Pakistan and Afghanistan, was possibly the greatest quality of the work. The other world described seeks to make a connection with the reader¿s heart, but the quality of the writing often nullifies this objective. Greg Mortenson was posed as a character who stirred some curiosity deciphering his true essence was a test. In the end, we still may wonder what his real motivation was in completing the schools. Although, the story of his life was a bit of an adventure. His international travels and foreign upbringing were most intriguing. Mortenson¿s ultimate goal may have been presented in a drawn out manner, or maybe it was the fact that he faced adversity that was holding his life¿s story up, which made the story seem slow. The style this book was written in was not as satisfying as it could have been- the flow of the story never picked up for me. The piece lacked heart and soul, and provoked little thought, in my opinion. I would have liked to have read into more literary elements and meaningful allusions to spark fire to interest the reader. The action should have been presented more gracefully as with the warmth of a `good book¿. I believe the book was lacking, partly due to the fact that it was written second hand- told by Mortenson and interpreted by another- this was obvious to recognize while reading. Had Mortenson written the book on his own having some literary skill or with the help of another with some heavy editing, this book may have struck more emotion. The humanitarian premise that he brought forth deserved respect, but I don¿t think Three Cups of Tea did him justice. Mortenson could have been portrayed as a hero double-fold if the writing idolized his virtues more. He was a single guy climbing mountains in the first place- traveling to conquer the world¿s highest peaks. When faced with the many troubles Mortenson carried on in the same direction he started in. He even raised thousands of dollars from nothing because of his striving motivation. The author¿s writing played Greg¿s righteousness down.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just finished the book, 'Three Cups of Tea' and so completely moved and educated and angered by what is really going on in the middle east. I was so inspired by Greg's courage and tenacity and foresight, that fighting 'the war on terror' starts and lasts by educating and nuturing it's children. Period. Please read this book and share it with your friends and family.
Sonia_K1 More than 1 year ago
Sonia K Worthington Three Cups of Tea was a great book and I enjoyed it a lot. It showed the true hardships it takes to succeed. It was really interesting learning about what it was like to be on the other side of the country around the time of 9/11. This booked showed that not all Pakistanis and Muslims are terrorists and hated Americans. In fact majority of the Muslims and Pakistanis in Three Cups of Tea  liked Americans and wanted to protect them when they were in Pakistan. I liked that this story had women empowerment and supported education for the poor. One thing that I didn't like about this book is that it took a while for the story to start really moving along. I was also really disappointed that a lot of the book was fabricated and the main character, Greg Mortenson, had taken credit for building schools that never existed or were made by someone else. But other than these two flaws, it was a spectacular story. I would definitely recommend this read to adults and teenagers. Anyone can learn from this book because after finishing it you can take away an important lesson. After reading this book I have discovered that even though it doesn't come easy, you can accomplish many things if you put your mind and energy into it.  This book is good for high school students because it tells them to keep trying. Three Cups of Tea shows students that they really have to work hard to succeed even though there might be obstacles. By reading this book students can realize you can't quit something just because it gets hard. And that is really important for students to understand this because they can't let one bad grade get to them. They must push through the difficulty just like Greg Mortenson did. 
Maham-Khan More than 1 year ago
Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson, is an inspiring story of a man with a mission to build schools. In 1993, he tried and failed to climb the world’s second highest mountain, K2, in the memory of his sister. When arriving at the village of Korphe, Mortenson sees children trying to write in the dirt and is inspired to eventually build a school in the community. Back in America, Mortenson lives in his car and struggles to keep his job. Despite his own personal obstacles, he unsuccessfully tries to raise money for his project. Eventually he gets a donation of 12,000 dollars from a wealthy physicist. Mortenson travels back to Pakistan and starts the construction on the new school. With the help of some friends, Haji Ali and Jean Hoerni, he finishes the construction and becomes well educated in the culture of the villagers. Mortenson gives up his own personal life to provide education to the young children of Korphe. He faces many physical and political obstacles as well as emotional obstacles throughout his project but he overcomes them all. This book shows the journey of Greg Mortenson as he struggles to help the village of Korphe. Mortenson shows courage and great leadership throughout the book by overcoming challenges. He shows that it is possible to help others even if it seems impossible. The symbolism of the three cups of tea is that when a person drinks a third cup of tea at your house, they are considered family. This symbolism shows how quick the village was to accept Greg Mortenson into their community and their gratitude towards him. In April of 2011, CBS’s 60 Minutes challenged the credibility of the book and questioned many of his actions. They stated that they could not find many witnesses and that Mortenson was actually not well known in that area of Pakistan. These accusations make it difficult to admire his work, but nonetheless the book, Three Cups of Tea, is an incredible book on leadership and determination.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is too bad that Relin ended up writing this story because it is an inspiring story but it is lost to terrible writing. The writing style chosen by Relin makes the story boring and hard to get through. The reader barely gets a sense of Mortensen's personality. Instead of having this be a personal story by Mortensen where the reader gets a sense of everyone involved the story harps on minute details that really take away from what it important. I hate starting a book and not finishing which is the only reason I was able to continue reading this book. Mortensen's story is sadly lost somewhere in this book.
jdstri More than 1 year ago
Three Cups of Tea tells the story of a mountaineer who has failed to reach his goal but finds so much more in himself and the people involved with him. Greg Mortenson has truly made a difference to the lives of people who tend to be forgotten in a world where governments try to act on behalf of their countries but somehow seem to miss the point. This book definitely makes one think about the world around us and our own small part in it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Greg Mortenson is an inspiration, and this incredibly absorbing and well-written book is a must-read.
WWCEBC More than 1 year ago
I may not have read this book had it not been the monthly selection for my local book club. It started out a bit slowly for me, but I wanted to complete it so as to participate in the discussion. I am so glad that I did as it was inspirational and amazing. Greg Mortenson has to be a contender for the Nobel Peace Prize because what mere mortal had the tenacity and the courage to overcome such overwhelming obstacles and achieve something that has such potential to effect long-lasting peace. This book highlights the efforts from the very beginning of the quest of one man to bring education to a society of people who had never had such access and to even include girls in that process where they had heretofore been excluded. It begins almost as an accident when Mortenson drifts off the beaten path coming down from an attempt to climb K2. It ends with thousands of unschooled children attending classes in newly constructed schools complete with books and teachers. But it doesn't stop there. Infrastructures are addressed and vocational educational opportunities are provided to the women of the villages. Greg Mortenson seemingly can do more than entire governments can do spending much less money and doing so in an entirely unknown culture without offending the leaders - indeed through forging friendships with them. Governments, including our own, could learn a lot from Greg Mortenson. He honors all men and thus he is honored. That sounds fairly simple, but yet throughout history it seems to be one of the hardest lessons for individuals, for communities and for countries to learn.(less)
Angela2932ND More than 1 year ago
Extremely moving book about one man's efforts to change the world, one school at a time. Gives a glimpse into a world very different from my own. At times, the book dragged, but still a very worthwhile book. I found myself wishing that a good editor had helped Mortenson cut about 40% of his book, which seemed to be repetitive or tangential. Although I admired Mortenson's work, I don't think this book is an accurate portrayal of NGOs. Three Cups of Tea, while a "feel-good" read, does not adequately portray the role of "one man's efforts" in comparison to the accomplishments (and often, not always, greater efficiency) of NGOs.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Three Cups of Tea is an inspiring adventure story based on the remarkable integrity of one man committed to fulfill a promise. Mr. Mortenson is a modern day visioneer creating foundations for peace in a way never attempted before. Risking personal safety and financial security, Mortenson has taken the road less traveled. By sacrificing so much personally, he has been able to achieve so much globally. This adventure is fraught with excitement, danger and courage. A must read for those with a heart for peaceful solutions for today's reign on terrorism.