I just finished reading Greg Mortenson’s new book Stones into Schools. This is one of the most inspiring books I’ve ever read. If the name Greg Mortenson is not immediately familiar, he is the author of Three Cups of Tea, the best-selling book from a few years ago.

To summarize very briefly, Greg made an attempt to climb the mountain K2 in the mid-90s. He came very close to the summit but was unable to reach it. On the way down he became lost, and had to sleep in the open on the mountain. He ended up in quite bad shape, but was lucky enough to stumble upon a small village high in the Pakistani mountains. He stayed there for some time and was nursed back to health by the people of the village.

It became clear to him as he got to know the people, that the thing they wanted and needed most was a school. He decided that he would be the one to provide it for them somehow. This began an epic journey of mythic proportions, the story of which is told that his first book Three Cups of Tea. Out of this first school project, he ended up founding the Central Asia Institute, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to female literacy in Pakistan and later also in Afghanistan.

Stones into Schools picks up essentially where Three Cups of Tea left off, with a rather dramatically delivered request for help building a school for a community very high in the mountains of Afghanistan, so remote that it cannot be reached by road, only by trail. This new book centers around the building of that school, and all that was necessary to do it. It turns out, that in order to build that one school many others also needed to be built. On one level this is what this book is about. On another level it’s about the ideology behind this work, and the importance of female literacy. On yet another level, and I think maybe the most interesting and important one, the book is really about Greg’s personal journey and the relationships and the people and the discoveries that he makes along the way; the personal hardships that he faces (interestingly enough, mostly in America) and the incredible triumphs of a small number of people working very hard and with great dedication to do something that they believe is so important that it must be done.

Just to make sure that this is absolutely clear, I loved this book! I was held completely spellbound from beginning to end, moved and inspired. I was also reminded of some things which I think are very important for my own life and work, which I want to talk about in a separate post tomorrow. In the meantime please get Stones into Schools, and read it. If you have not yet read Three Cups of Tea, I think it is very worthwhile to read that book first. It’s every bit as good as the new book, and you will have a much deeper understanding having started at the beginning of the story.

Have you read either of these books? What impact did they have on you? Please comment!

Disclaimer: I am an Amazon affiliate, and will receive a tiny commission if you make a purchase through one of the links in this post.

  • I love your passionate description of the meaning these books had for you. I think good literature is transformative, and, although some might not call these books literature, I say, “Why Not?”

    I will look forward to reading them. Of course, I’m in the middle of Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle, three books of around 1000 pages, so it might be a while! 🙂

  • I love your passionate description of the meaning these books had for you. I think good literature is transformative, and, although some might not call these books literature, I say, “Why Not?”

    I will look forward to reading them. Of course, I’m in the middle of Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle, three books of around 1000 pages, so it might be a while! 🙂

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  • admin

    Geoff,

    I Suppose it depends on your definition of literature, but it seems to me that the only reason not to call these literature is that they’re popular.
    I’m sure there are those who feel that way, but I’ve never understood it.

    These books are examples of wonderful storytelling, that tends to be what I’m looking for first and foremost when I read. Of course then again I don’t really care if other people would call what I read “literature.”

    thanks for commenting!

    Be well,
    Andy

  • admin

    Geoff,

    I Suppose it depends on your definition of literature, but it seems to me that the only reason not to call these literature is that they’re popular.
    I’m sure there are those who feel that way, but I’ve never understood it.

    These books are examples of wonderful storytelling, that tends to be what I’m looking for first and foremost when I read. Of course then again I don’t really care if other people would call what I read “literature.”

    thanks for commenting!

    Be well,
    Andy

  • 🙂 My understanding of the term literature is that it applies to fiction – other distinctions are history, biography and autobiography, which this seems to be. These distinctions are important in some contexts, but not in the ultimate pleasure in reading a work.

    Geoff

    P.S. Just looked it up and my understanding was wrong – literature can be divided into fiction and nonfiction, so never mind.

  • 🙂 My understanding of the term literature is that it applies to fiction – other distinctions are history, biography and autobiography, which this seems to be. These distinctions are important in some contexts, but not in the ultimate pleasure in reading a work.

    Geoff

    P.S. Just looked it up and my understanding was wrong – literature can be divided into fiction and nonfiction, so never mind.

  • Both of these books look really good. I have been looking for something new to read. I like knowing the inside story of a country. And with all of the attention that is now going to Afghanistan these books would be a good choice for me. Thanks for the tip.

    Sheila

    P.S. 2 must see movies re Afghanistan – “Charley Wilson’s War” and “The Kite Runner”.

    • admin

      Sheila,

      The vividness of the description in both books really gives you an inside look at the reality of both countries in a way I’ve never seen before. Thanks for your comment. I think you’ll really enjoy the books.

      Andy

  • Both of these books look really good. I have been looking for something new to read. I like knowing the inside story of a country. And with all of the attention that is now going to Afghanistan these books would be a good choice for me. Thanks for the tip.

    Sheila

    P.S. 2 must see movies re Afghanistan – “Charley Wilson’s War” and “The Kite Runner”.

    • admin

      Sheila,

      The vividness of the description in both books really gives you an inside look at the reality of both countries in a way I’ve never seen before. Thanks for your comment. I think you’ll really enjoy the books.

      Andy