Three Cups of Tea: Counterpoints (Guest Post)

I disliked Three Cups of Tea; my mother loved it. Read our counterpoints.

Hated It

By Rebecca Reid of Rebecca Reads

I heartily disliked listening to the 800+ minute audiobook of Three Cups of Tea by David Oliver Relin.

To begin with, I disliked the horrible writing, which was full of extraneous details and parenthetical thoughts, as well as cheesy comparisons (“Mortenson sat on a boulder and drank from his water bottle until it was empty. But he couldn’t drink in enough of this setting.”). Or maybe my boredom stemmed from the never-ending tangents away from Greg’s Pakistan story (such as his girlfriend dumping him). Also, I disliked Three Cups of Tea because it read like a report, not a memoir. Despite Greg’s name on the cover, the story was in the third person. Recollections are told by a researcher (“he says, five years later” and “she says, her eyes filling with tears”). This journalistic approach to what could have been impressive made this story drier with each and every insignificant detail.

Ultimately, I disliked this book because of Greg Mortenson, who I failed to like for the beginning 600 minutes of narration. Yes, he was compassionate. But because he lacked common sense, to me he appeared to be a clueless loser with good luck.

In the early 1990s, middle-aged Greg worked part-time to save for climbing adventures. When Greg fails to summit K-2 and those in a remote village in Pakistan save his life, Greg promises to build them a school. In the USA, he lives in his car to save money. Not knowing how to use a computer or to fundraise the requisite $12,000, he typewrites letters to celebrities for months. Then he meets a wealthy scientist who not only funds Greg’s promised school but wills $1,000,000 to Greg in the form of a new Pakistan school-building humanitarian organization. But Greg is no business man: when funds get low, he chases possible donors across the USA, and his own employees quit because he disappears for weeks at a time without contact.

Back in Pakistan, Greg, who despite having funds still lacks common sense, does foolish things. For example, he buys building supplies before remembering he’d first need a bridge to get them to the village. In 1996, he was abducted by Taliban operatives because he traveled alone, despite advice not to. After 9/11, he goes to the Afghan border “just to see what will happen.” Despite his scatter-brained ways, he somehow succeeds in building schools, bridges, and women’s centers.

The story post-9/11 was slightly more interesting, and I learned much about Muslim-American relations from a new perspective.  Greg’s attempts to rekindle peace in Pakistan and Afghanistan were applaudable, and I stopped disliking him as much. However, there is subtle comparison of Greg to Mother Teresa, which I still felt was inappropriate.

Greg has compassion on the uneducated of Pakistan, and he does promote peace towards the Muslim world post-9/11. The children of Pakistan certainly do need an education. But personally, I found Greg’s story uninspiring overall because, despite his obviously compassionate heart, Greg mostly seemed to lack common sense.

Loved It

By Ellen Sorenson

Ellen Sorenson has a Ph.D. in English and she teaches middle school English. She also happens to be Rebecca’s mother.

Sometimes we read a book to enjoy the perfection of the language; sometimes we are enthralled by the intricacies of the plot; and sometimes we are inspired by a story that must be told.  Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin was, for me, such a story. I was reminded of a character in Alan Paton’s Cry the Beloved Country — a woman who, when thanked for her service responds, “what are we born for?”  Surely Greg Mortenson knows what he was born for.  Lost while climbing Pakistan’s treacherous K2, he wandered half-frozen into the remote village of Korphe, where the impoverished people nursed him back to health.  Whereas other climbers had visited the village and never returned, Mortenson was determined to keep his promise to build a school for the people who had saved his life.

It was a promise he was supremely ill-equipped to keep.  He was without adequate organizational skills, financial resources, or personal connections.  Yet he somehow managed to raise the necessary $12,000 in America, purchase materials in Islamabad, and transport them through corruption, bureaucracy, and bands of roving militants nearly as challenging as the poorly developed mountain roads he had to navigate.

His one school in Korphe has been followed by dozens of others, in addition to pipelines and wells to bring fresh water to villages, women’s workshops and community centers, and health education.  Education for girls is the single most important factor in reducing poverty, abuse, and child mortality in developing nations.  For the boys of Pakistan, it provides an alternative to the Taliban-sponsored madrasahs, where hatred and violence are served along with three meals a day.

According to Haji Ali, Village Chief of Korphe, in Pakistan, “[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.”  Reading Three Cups of Tea, I was reminded that I am a member of the human family.  And though I have not shared a cup of tea with the people of a distant land, perhaps I can share something.  Mortenson’s bridge to Korphe spanned more that the gorge beneath it; it spanned warring cultures, and his work suggests that perhaps the war on terror is not won by bullets, but rather by love, education, and a shared cup.  I was left to wonder, if Greg Mortenson, with his inept ways, can make a difference in the world, what can I do?

One group of American school children raised 62,345 pennies for Mortenson’s efforts.  That’s enough money to buy two or three nice ipods, or 5% of the cost of a school for the children of Pakistan.

It is a book worth reading.

Visit threecupsoftea.com, gregmortenson.com, the Central Asia Institute, and Pennies for Peace for more information on the book and how you can help in Pakistan.

What did you think of Three Cups of Tea?

Other Reviews:

If you have reviewed Three Cups of Tea on your blog, leave a link in the comments and I’ll add it here.

ETA (February 27, 2009): Hey folks, I have closed comments on this string.

As with most books, Three Cups of Tea has proven to be a divisive book: many people like it and many people hate it. Many people recommend it as required reading because of it’s good message, while others can’t get past the first 100 pages for sheer boredom or disgust at the writing. This post, set up as a Counterpoint, attempted to illustrate the two points, and I think the comments have only turned my attempt to be balanced into an argument, which was never my purpose. I’m very sorry we could not just all be nice, especially while talking about a book about peace-making.

Please note that since I wrote this review in October, I have read dozens more books, some I liked a lot and some I haven’t liked at all. I’d love for you to share your thoughts on those books!

–Rebecca

About the author 

Rebecca Reid

Rebecca Reid is a homeschooling, stay-at-home mother seeking to make the journey of life-long learning fun by reading lots of good books. Rebecca Reads provides reviews of children's literature she has enjoyed with her children; nonfiction that enhances understanding of educational philosophies, history and more; and classical literature that Rebecca enjoys reading.

  1. I love the point/counterpoint format.  Lisa at Minds Alive on the Shelves had suggested we do that with *The Necklace*  (I didn’t like it, she did).  Thanks to your mother for guest blogging with you.

    I did not enjoy *Three Cups of Tea*, much for the same reasons as you – poor writing and a “memoir” in the third person (?).  A good idea, poorly executed.  My review is here:
    http://www.sheistoofondofbooks.com/?p=115

  2. I love the different perspectives. Both of the reviews were so well written,I don’t know which one I want to believe more! 😛

  3. Interesting.  I, too, am not a fan of the memoire-in-third-person trick, and if the writing in this is as bad as you mention, I’m afraid I’d probably be too distracted by it to enjoy the story itself.  However, one of our group members on 5-squared read this and loved it.  Her review is at http://5-squared.blogspot.com/2008/08/three-cups-of-tea.html.  I suppose it all depends on how you read and what you read for.  I like your hate/love format.

  4. something tells me I’d like the book since I think I’d be more concerned with his experience than the writing

  5. Our reasons are pretty on par but I never thought of doing something like this. My mom loved Three Cups of Tea, which, as you saw, I didn’t.

  6. Dawn, yes, maybe if it gets rewritten some day I’d recommend it more!

    Jupiter, I’m glad! That was my point in doing it that way.

    Amanda, I have a hard time considering this a memoir: I’d call it a journalistic report before I’d call it a memoir. Which is why I thought the girl friend dumping him thing was way off-balance. But, obviously people get past the writing style, so, I’m not the one to say “it’s trash!”

    Jessica, and that is why it’s so hard to “recommend” books — especially if they don’t intend to discuss it with you afterwards. I always feel bad if they hate it!

    Leena, oh good! I’m glad you might still give it a try then!

  7. Christina, As you said in your review, I felt guilty for not liking it. At all. So I brought my mom in to make me feel better for posting my negative thoughts….

  8. Love the point-counterpoint. I agree with you both on this one. I liked learning about Mortenson’s work, and I was even amused by his sometimes ridiculous efforts to raise money and get his act together. It’s a great story! But I really don’t think the story was told all that well. There were too many digressions, and a lot of points were belabored. A long article or a much shorter book would have been a better approach.

  9. I love the idea of two different viewpoints!  I read about 100 pages of this book and then had to return it to the library.  A part of me wants to start reading it again and another part of me says that the writing style was too weird for me.

  10. Teresa, I agree about the digressions: at a certain point, I remember thinking “I don’t blame the girlfriend for dumping you! What took her so long?!”

    Natasha, as you can see, it’s a mixed bag: some really weren’t bothered by the writing, but others were. It may be worth reading just for the discussion….who knows? I’d just suggest not listening to the 800+ minutes. That was really too much!

  11. I agree with both of you–the writing was pretty horrific. The whole thing is a pretty thinly veiled fundraising ploy.

    But Mortensen’s transition from clueless drifter to successful activist is what intrigued me most. I’ve always wondered how normal people end up changing the world. I loved how the book tracked his roadblocks and efforts. And yes, he had MAJOR good luck! (Who couldn’t do something good with a deux ex machina-style donor?)

    My blog post on the book is http://presseddownandshakentogether.blogspot.com/2008/01/three-cups-of-tea.html

  12. Interesting!  I enjoyed reading the two points of view.  I got my book a couple of days before our book club was to meet.  I read part of it and then listened to the review.  After that, I really had no desire to finish the book.  That was all I really wanted to know!  Keep up the good work and do another dual review sometime.

  13. Barbara, I’m glad you liked the dual review. We liked it too! As for the book, yes, I think knowing the premise is kind of enough, which is too bad because I felt it could have been done better!

  14. I’m disappointed that Rebecca would equate and compare a man’s kindness and compassion with common sense. I don’t see the correlation. The heart and mind are distinctly different in that they are governed by different Hemispheres of the brain. So, to have complete balance of the heart and mind would make that person a perfectly balanced human, which we know is nearly impossible. There is a physiological reason for this. Does Greg’s lack of common sense (these are her words, not mine) make any difference? How has this supposed lack of common sense made any difference in the outcome towards his well-intentioned peace? I don’t think they really matter to each other. And, I don’t think judging a book by it’s Audio performance is a fair assessment of the book which most people actually read. During my read I heard a voice in my head, my way, not imposed by a narrator who’s job it is to add color and drama. Rebecca, please read the book, paper, ink your inner voice, and at least give it a fair try.

  15. Paul E., Thanks for your comment. I believe you misunderstood me on a few points, however.

    First, I don’t intend to “equate and compare” kindness with common sense. I readily acknowledge Greg’s compassion. On the other hand, I was very unimpressed with the foolish things he did in the book: a prime example was his going into a Taliban area against all better judgment and advice. When he was kidnapped by Taliban, I failed to have any sympathy for him because he had been warned. Certainly, he should have expected that! According to M-W.com, foolish means “lacking in sense, judgment, or discretion.” Such foolish decisions indicate to me, then, that Greg lacked common sense.

    I agree that his lack of common sense didn’t affect the outcome of his compassionate service: he still served many, many people. However, I still didn’t like the character I learned about.

    Second, the audio performance was probably the best thing about listening to this book! Listening made it drag on much longer than if I had read it, for sure, but the performer was energetic and engaging. What I disliked heartily about the book was the writing: it was horrible. I listen to audiobooks of many different books in different formats, even a computer-generated voice. I’ve found that, for me, the narrator makes little difference if a book is written horribly, just as the narrator makes little difference if a book is written well. This book was one of the horribly written ones. Some people believe, as my mother does above and as you seem to, that a good story doesn’t have to have good writing. I disagree. There are too many books out there for to tolerate horrible writing.

    Thank you for your sincere concern that I haven’t given Three Cups of Tea a fair try. I sincerely believe I have. If Greg’s story is rewritten by a different author in a completely revamped structure, I may consider revisiting it. For now, I’m certainly not going to revisit what I found to be a horribly written book.

    I’m sincerely glad you enjoyed Three Cups of Tea. Thanks again for your comments!

  16. All of this is subjective. We all have our opinions about why a book is good or bad, but just like bad writing doesn’t make for a good book, bad and scathing reviews don’t make for a good reviewer, unless you’re writing for “Entertainment” magazine. And, what I mean by bad is – one can say a book is objectionable in their opinion and do it in a way that is kind, fair and tactful. You’re talking about a humanitarian here, not the shallow pop stars we’re inundated with on a daily basis. Yes, he did go into a Taliban area, but that’s part of his journey. He had to take risks to achieve great things. Theres a saying “Better the devil you know.” By walking into those areas he was hoping to learn, provoke, and question, what he was told about them, he needed to see for himself and hope that he could push them to see his point of view. He put his life on the line because he knew, instinctually that he needed to for his quest to survive. If it was easy, everyone would be a Martyr. It’s difficult and dangerous for a reason. Sorry, but “Horrible writing,”and “A clueless Loser with good luck” does not reveal your best work as a writer or a reviewer, in my opinion. If you had said, “He’s a compassionate person, but made some mistakes that he should have thought twice about,” that would have been the higher road. Isn’t that better? You’re saying the same thing, you’re getting the exact point across without the venom seething from every word.
    Now, just to really flip things for a moment–what if someone wrote, “Rebecca’s blog is horrible, I hate it. Listening to the insignificant, parenthetical details about why she hated Three Cups of Tea was painful. I really don’t like Rebecca but I might read her Blog again if she considers re-vamping it” How does that sound? Those are all your words and your thoughts. Think about it. I’m not defending Greg here , nor am I defending the book. The man needs no defense. I’m merely hoping that people can start using better language than “hate, loser, and clueless.” to describe peoples work, especially peace-makers who are up for Nobel Peace Prizes.

  17. Rebecca, I liked your review and I thought it was a very clever idea to contrast it with your mother’s to give us both sides of the story. I haven’t read this book and I’ve never felt an interest in it because of reviews like yours. Sure, the guy does great work, but if he can’t write, I’m not too interested in reading it.

  18. I think this review is great, too. You are not the first reviewer I’ve read who disliked this book. I think you did a great job balancing things by including your mother’s review.

  19. Paul E., I’m surprised to see you back here, since I know we disagree very much!

    Yes, book reviewing is very subjective, which is why I started my own blog where I can share my own opinions. As a book blogger and not a professional reviewer, I’m not aiming for any high road: I’m aiming for my honest opinion, which I feel I owe that to the readers of this blog. I think “horrible writing” and “clueless loser with good luck” are the best possible ways of describing my reaction to this book and the person described within it. I don’t care about books about pop stars, and I only picked up this one because Greg’s story intrigued me. I was very disappointed that the story in this book was ultimately so unappealing.

    Because I realize that Greg’s compassion and goals are important, I asked my Mom to share her thoughts so I could provide a balance. That was an unusual thing for me to do, since I normally only share my own opinions. I’m sorry that the “I Hate It” side of this post is so disturbing for you.

    That said, I personally am not offended at all if you hate my blog and if reading my negative review is painful! I wish you luck in finding a book blog that avoids all negativity of this book and others that you cherish, even when those reviewers dislike the book. I certainly have no intention of “revamping” my opinions to match anyone else’s opinion.

    But I would like to thank you once again for your comment. You continued attention to this review has renewed interest in this very old post of mine!

  20. Meghan, FYI, it was written by a different person; the story is in in third person. In that sense it is not a traditional memoir.

    Chris, glad you liked the dual post format.

    Kathy, that was the idea 🙂

  21. I have to admit that I mentioned on Twitter your post because I thought the commentary was so interesting. Like I mentioned in my earlier comment, I did not finish this book because the writing was so odd. There are two new young reader editions of his story and I’m thinking that I would like to read those instead because I still would really like to know his story.

  22. Natasha, AH! That would explain it. I have a widget in the sidebar that shows recent comments and I figured a few people noticed that? But Twitter certainly explains it better…

    After this discussion I was thinking I may revisit the young people’s version just to see if it’s any better written and more approachable. But I don’t think my library has it yet…

  23. The book has been on the New York Times best sellers list for 105 weeks. I think the general public likes the book and the majority of people I’ve spoken to seem to enjoy the book immensely. I liken this to a singer like Bob Dylan, his words are amazing but his voice wasn’t the best (by technical standards), yet he is considered a legend. Some people like Bob Dylan and some don’t, but his message, and his poetry are enduring. I guess it’s okay not to like the words in this case, but I hope any of you who have actually read the book and have given it a chance and still don’t like it, can see past the singer and appreciate the message. And Rebecca, there’s one thing you should always know to be true –Mothers are always right! You should always listen to your mother! Smart woman!

  24. Why are you so invested in disputing Rebecca’s opinion of this book, Paul? I think you’re a little too close to the book to realize what an ass you’re making of yourself.

  25. Why are so interested in getting in the middle of it? Do you realize what ass you are for doing that?

  26. Dear lord lady! Get real. This is nonsense. The point of a Blog is to engage in opinionated dialogue. You’re the one who called me an “ass.” So, is that your way of taking the high road? Just continue being the mettlesome and valiant martyr you seem to aspire to, rising to Rebecca’s defense as you have. Rahhh! I’m certain it’s making you all warm and fuzzy to engage in such heroic blogging. Put it to rest.

  27. Oh dear, I go away for a few hours and now we’ve resorted to name calling! Why don’t we all put it to rest?

    Seriously, if Paul or anyone else wants to tell me his or her opinion of a book I’ve reviewed, even telling me that I’m wrong and that my blog is stupid, I’m OK with that. I am strong enough in my opinion to be able to stand by it even when people don’t agree with it. Besides, my blog is my blog. If someone really thinks it’s stupid, they should find a different one to read. I’m going to keep on writing my (apparently controversial) opinions.

    The point of this particular post was to show, as is the case with most books, that there are always two sides (or opinions) on books. In this case, I really disliked the book. In fact, I hated it. But, as Paul pointed out, it has been on the best seller list for a very very long time. Since the key subject is humanitarian service, I thought I’d get my mom, who loved the book and recommended it to me, to share why she liked it so much. Paul can side with my Mom’s opinion if he wants: I really don’t care.

    And Paul, I’m a mother too. Does that mean I’m always right too? 😉

    BTW, Amy, as has been noted, the book has been on the best seller list for a very long time. I guess all us “negative reviewers” are missing something…

  28. Yes, since you’re a mom you’re always right too!:) I just wanted people to give the book a fair shot. I guess after going to his lecture 3 weeks ago in Framingham, MA, meeting him in person, and sharing the enthusiasm for his work amongst a crowd of about 1,000 people I thought there was something special there and worth the read. I appreciate your last post greatly. My intention was to for us to try to be kinder, then I get called an “ass.” Which is not where I wanted to go. Oh well, it looks like Three Cups of Tea, isn’t everyone’ s cup of tea, and I’m okay with that! Be well and P.S. I do enjoy your blog very much.

  29. Paul, it was very hard for me to think your intention was to be kinder when you kept insisting that Rebecca wasn’t fair to this book, that she had to reread it and reword her opinion, when she was fair enough to print an opposing viewpoint from the very beginning. In fact, usually when someone shows up insisting to the degree that you have that the book has been misjudged, well, it turns out that it’s the author himself in cognito. So I’m happy to learn that your enthusiasm for Three Cups isn’t based on the fact that you wrote it!

  30. Susan, If I had written it I’d probably be too busy to write in blogs. I know that David Oliver Relin is doing rather well financially, after being on the NYT Bestseller list for 108 weeks now! Actually, all three versions (there’s a young readers version and a children’s illustrated version) are all on the NYT Bestsellers list. We should all have such luck. To be honest, I’m actually an antiquarian book dealer, dealing mainly in rare children’s and illustrated books, and I don’t really like the Children’s version all that much. I’m rather picky about the art in picture books, and this one was done with collage materials that I wasn’t particularly fond of. Greg Mortenson told us at the lecture that the main book has now been made required reading by all staffers at the Pentagon. I thought that was pretty impressive too. I whole heartedly insisted that the book wasn’t given a fair shake because I truly enjoyed the message despite whatever shortcomings we can or cant agree on and was hoping some of the bloggers who were turned off by the negative reviews would be missing out if someone didn’t come to it’s defense. Since I read the book, I’ve turned on about 20 people to it who have now brought the Pennies For Peace program to their schools. So, I think the book really had a profound impression on a great many people. I just wanted to share that the message was far more enduring than the words. I heard it will be made into a movie, who knows, maybe you’ll love the movie and I’ll detest it! Isn’t that just the way of the world. Be well.

  31. I was likewise a bit suspicious of your motives, Paul, although I did not assume you were the author in disguise. Thanks for the clarification about your interest.

    I completely understand best-seller status. People who love the book passionately insist that others must read it — I myself puchased the audiobook at my mother’s recommendation. (And I rarely purchase books!). So the word has gotten out. And Paul, I don’t think negative book blog reviews are going to undermine the best seller status of the book. People who are passionate about it are still telling about it. People who don’t like it move on to the next book.

    But I’m actually quite irked that this book is being labeled “required reading.” Especially at places like the Pentagon. Why not have their employees read a summary of the organization’s good work? It seems that researching the Pennies for Peace organization would be time better spent. I imagine people who never read being quite turned off from reading because of this book. But then again, maybe it’s only people like book bloggers, who read 12+ books a month, who realize how boring/painfully written it is in comparison to other books out there. What do the rest of you think about the “required reading” status of this book? Does that make you want to read it more?

    I sincerely wish the story was better told. It seems a worthwhile cause. As it was, I disliked the characterization and the writing so much that I shudder to think of it as required reading.

    But for all those who have read too many negative reviews to be interested in reading it, at least check out the websites in the main post above and learn about the story — it is amazing that pennies in elementary schools can make a difference in the world!

    Thanks again to all for the comments. It’s an interesting discussion because it does seem this book is a “love it” or “hate it” book…

  32. I have yet to read this book, if I ever do, but I’ve been reading the comments and think it’s funny that being on the bestseller list is touted as the source for whether or not something’s good. I’m not making fun of anyone, I just think it’s funny, because I personally oftentimes do not like the books that end up on bellseller lists (take anything by Dan Brown, for example), and don’t personally believe they always reflect the best writing. But maybe that’s just my phobia of airport bookstores coming back to haunt me. 😉

  33. I agree with that to some extent. It’s funny, I’m less likely to go see a movie if it’s a box office smash. I’ll wait until I can form my own un-biased pinion. For me, in the case of Three Cups of Tea, there was a message there that was strong and had very little chance of being thrown off course by what can sometimes be literary snobbery. Oftentimes, the rigid technical standards we impose on writing, wether we base them on classical virtues or our own simple prejudices, can supplant the underlying message.
    It’s important to understand where Greg Mortenson is coming from. He is a humble person and I was told by many people in his camp that he felt extremely uncomfortable writing the book himself. He didn’t want to tell the story and infer things like “I fought the Taliban for world peace.” His intention was never to come off like a martyr, which is why the story is told by David Oliver Relin. Greg needed to tell this story because of the ultimate message, which is to spread peace in Afghanistan & Pakistan through the building of schools and the education of Girls. He needed to illustrate how much the Pakistani and Afghani men and women in these remote areas were desperate to learn so that they could be teachers, doctors and ultimately help others. Greg promised many of them schools, gained their trust, and changed how many of them viewed us Americans, while our country was bombing them and killing civilians. The book is a call to people, to you and I, to educate ourselves about how to make a difference. To show courage, and the difference one person can make. For every school Greg has built (around 80) to spread peace, the Madrassas (Taliban) have built 100, spreading hate and teaching children to be terrorists. Greg’s work is noble and virtuous, and he was met with danger and fear at every turn, he was quite aware of what he was doing and where he was going. I’m happy this book is everywhere. The fact that it’s on the best seller list also makes me happy because it’s brought attention to Greg’s work. And fortunately, millions of people are simply reading the book for it’s message. This is non-fiction. It’s a real life story and we are either moved by the premise of peace in the world, with all it’s utopian dreamery, and read the book for it’s inherent values, or we can succumb to rhetoric of bloggers who write aimlessly without ever having read the book.

  34. Hey all, I read the (very short) picture book and I can safely say I highly recommend it: It actually gave me chills thinking about the lives that are changed by just a few dollars. In it, there are no annoying tangents about former girlfriends and Dr. Greg actually seems like a hero, rather than a loser. It is covers the basics about why Three Cups of Teashould be an inspiring story. Check out my review.

    Amanda, totally with you on the best-seller thing 🙂

    Paul E., I was going to say “I’m sure you’ll find that most of the bloggers who write about the book have also read it. I don’t think any bloggers write ‘aimlessly.'” Then I remembered that you think I haven’t read it because I listened to the audiobook and to you that is not reading. So that was a personal dig at me…

    Let me reiterate: Listening to an audiobook is the same as reading it. Not the same experience, true, but I have “read” every word. Pretend my husband read it aloud to me. Same thing. In fact, I spent more than 8 hours with this book; if I”d read it, I would have spent less than half that time, since I personally read much faster than the narrator. I gave it twice as long as I would have otherwise.

    I am certainly moved by the story (without the annoying tangents). But I still hated Three Cups of Tea by David Oliver Relin and am rather disgusted by the “best-seller” status of such a poorly written thing.

    I am sorry I personally cannot honestly say anything praiseworthy about the David Oliver Relin version of the Dr. Greg story. I sincerely wish it was better; reading the story without the tangents was very inspiring.

  35. Ugghhh…A little self-important aren’t you. A personal dig at you? Not quite. I’m not here to dig at you, only those who insist on writing reviews about books they’ve never read like Susan, Lenore, Amanda, Amy and Kathy and Meghan. Do yourself a favor and re-read their blogs. THEY DIDN’T READ THE BOOK! Since you insist on going to blows with me- Reading a book and listening to a book is about the same as smelling food and actually eating it. Two different experiences. You were led by the voice, and that voice imposed itself on you. If you had used your internal voice to read the book, you may have enjoyed it more, just as you did with the children’s version. And your husband reading the book is totally not the same as reading yourself either. You may have actually enjoyed it more if he read it to you. You took the basic human experience of reading words on paper and traded it for some narrator. Your biggest fault.

  36. Paul E., ha ha! I totally disagree about the audiobook thing.

    I seriously hope Susan, Lenore, Amanda, Amy and Kathy and Meghan do not waste their time reading this book. But, as I said early today, I highly recommend reading the picture book, which I found very inspiring.

  37. Just think about how impersonal, how very different words are right here on this blog. Think about how different the experience would be if we were sitting in a room together and expressing the words in person. They are very different. We’ve actually proven how different they are right here. In reading we taken a written word and lift it off the page to make it our own. My friend Sam is an Actor and he does voiceovers for audio books.
    Appreciate them for what they are, but they are not reading.

  38. Paul, I really disagree with you. I do believe listening to an audiobook is a form of reading. You are not going to convince me in any way. I read and reread book through audio format all the time.

    🙂

  39. As any educator will tell you the benefits of reading aloud to children is a key element to their reading experience. And why the belief that this can not continue into adulthood is baffling. Yes, reading and listening to books are two different “experiences” but one can come away with the same message regardless. And I’ll concede that at other times, they can come away with different messages. I do think it depends upon the narrator, etc.

    So, say one is blind and can only listen to audiobooks, are they then disqualified from having an opinion of the book simply because they couldn’t “experience” the text on a page? Regardless of whether or not somebody listened to the book or read the book, they are still qualified to give an opinion of that book and share those opinions with others. In this case, I don’t care if Rebecca listened to it or read it. She still didn’t like it. And that’s okay with me.

  40. Interesting discussion. I don’t listen to audiobooks because, as a visual learner, I don’t process the words as well if I hear them without seeing them. I get all distracted and start thinking about cows. (Uh…this makes more sense if you picture me listening in the car, which is the only time I do). Which drives me crazy because then the cows are gone and I missed a page!

    But, some people learn better by hearing. Which is why they make audiobooks.

    And some people don’t like the same books I do. Just part o’ life. I haven’t read this particular book–Greg sounds like a terrific guy, though. Think I’ll get the picture book to read with my kids. Thanks, Rebecca!

  41. I knew you were brewing up something by the skimp-ish looks of your last entry. So you took out the big guns. I can handle it. Let me share an interesting analogy with you and the bloggers on here. I’m an artist so I need to paint a picture and maybe name drop just to illustrate my point as succinctly as possible. I’m a Musician, Producer, Creative Director, Rare Children’s and Illustrated Book Dealer, and Owner of my own graphic design company, and I can slice, dice and julienne potatoes with my mouse pen! For some titles I have “listened” to audio books, but would never equate them to reading and would NEVER say they are the same thing as you have repeatedly written in most of your blog entries. Your guest writer supports this and all of my contentions. You are neither blind, nor disqualified from rendering an opinion. I don’t know where that analogy came from. We were not discussing the merits of audio books, sorry you weren’t following the whole thread. Rebecca, I reiterate, that saying books and tapes are the “same” is about as wrong as one can be. Reading books aloud to children or even adults does have tremendous benefits, but again they are not the SAME as reading a book as your second guest speaker point out.
    Wow, you’re like a talk show host, without the talking. I wonder what a “talk show” would be like if no one talked. Anyway… About three years ago I was having a conversation with a client of mine, Paul McCartney. Yes, THAT Paul McCartney. Paul is an avid book collector who has quite a Dickens collection. We were discussing books, namely the differences in old lead-based ink and leather-bound series. I was especially lucky to talk music with him. We discussed new technologies because we designing a website for him. He said “I don’t like listening to Ipod’s as much as I enjoy listening to real speakers and old records. It’s a different experience when you try to cram all of that sonic information into the small bandwidth that those annoying little earphones project. I like the experience of playing old records, the tactile experience of it. The needle on vinyl, the scratches, the smell of the cardboard sleeve. It’s the same song, but not the really same SONG.” That made total sense to me. I agree with Paul for the simple reason that reading a book, as visual stimulation can be a totally different type of pleasurable experience. The thought of being captivated and turning the pages one-by-one, the anticipation of what is yet to be discovered, the smell of a new book, and the pungent ink, not the same as listening to an audio tape. Sorry folks. Your Guest Speaker’s last statement “In this case, I don’t care if Rebecca listened to it or read it, she still didn’t like it, ” sums it up in that she clearly distinguishes them as two different things. In many of your replies you kept saying ” I ‘read’ the book, I ‘read’ the book.” And, all I kept saying is “you ‘listened’ to the book. ” I never said you weren’t entitled to your experience. I just pointed out that your experience was VASTLY different than the 2.5 million people who bought the book, “read” the book, in 29 different languages, and loved it. I feel sad for all the people that haven’t read the book, and were turned off by all of your posts, and who won’t go out and buy the book. This is tiring. I’ve officially lost interest in this blog, sorry. I’ve implemented the Pennies for Peace program in 3 school districts in 5 weeks. I truthfully don’t need to defend this book anymore, nor do I have the time for this. If people don’t like the book and measure it purely with a metric ruler, they’ve missed the point, and shame on them for missing the point. Greg is a good guy, and when he wins the Nobel Peace Prize, that’s all I’ll need to hear. That will be vindication to me that his book made it’s point. Not sales, not blogs, not opinions. Just the real work of creating a peaceful future. Enough of this.

  42. Paul, I didn’t read your last comment. I really really didn’t.

    Here’s a friendly suggestion: get a blog. You could name it “Three Cups of Tea is Inspiring” or “I worship Greg Mortenson.” You obviously have such a strong opinions about this book and the story that you can keep talking forever. I, personally, am sick of David Oliver Relin’s Three Cups of Tea. I’ve tried to be nice in listening to your opinion again and again, but I really am sick of it. I moved on from Three Cups of Tea as soon as I finished writing this review. And then responding to comments. Your initial comment (emphasis on initial) revived my interest revisiting the story in the two children’s readers, so I’m reading the other two versions to give the story a chance outside of David Oliver Relin’s disgraceful version.

    David Oliver Relin wrote a horrible version of the story. If you are David Oliver Relin in disguise, I’m sorry I hate your writing. If you are his brother, sorry, I still hate it. His cousin? sorry! Hate it. If you are really just an innocent investor in Greg’s cause, I’m sorry, I really really still hated it. I cannot recommend the book nor will I ever reread it. The more you comment, the more I am determined never to do so. And believe it or not, I really did read it, audio or not. You cannot convince me otherwise. Those 13 hours were painful!

    Have a nice day, and enjoy the new world of blogging! I promise I will never come comment on your new blog because I hate Three Cups of Tea, and I’m certain you don’t want to hear more about that.

  43. Wow, Rebecca. I have not seen this kind of a strong reaction to a book review from anyone who did not have a personal stake in the book. I loved Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert and think she was a lot like me. And I am always interested when people do not agree. But everyone is entitled to their opinion. I do not go crazy and rant all over their blog about how wrong they are. Poor Paul needs to step back for a moment, get a reality check, and then move on, just like you said. He can go get his own blog and let the world know how he apparently worships this book and how everyone else should, too. He reminds me of religious zealots. They cannot understand anything but their own narrow point of view. I am glad you are brushing him off. I think he gets off on everyone’s reactions. If he comes back, don’t respond. Maybe he will go away. We can only hope, right?

  44. An interesting fact to add to the discussion: See M-W.com’s definition of read here. By that definition, I most certainly “read” the book in discussion here.

    I sincerely regret my hasty and frustrated response last night. Prime reason not to respond when tired or frustrated!

    Thanks Rebecca, although I certainly didn’t want to blow anybody off, nor did I intend any “big guns” as has been suggested. I hate argument and I like to be nice! But like you said, to each his own, and rehashing opinions is not going to change anyone’s minds at this point!

  45. “I’m not here to dig at you, only those who insist on writing reviews about books they’ve never read like Susan, Lenore, Amanda, Amy and Kathy and Meghan.”

    Woah Paul – how did I get pulled into this here? I went back and read both my comments and neither said anything bad about the book. I made generalized comments about the sorts of books I normally read, and said I didn’t know if I was interested in this one. I certainly didn’t attempt to write a review on a book I hadn’t read! Sheesh. It’s okay for people not to be interested in a book, right? Or to be unsure? Wow, I was not expecting to get pulled into this.

  46. Hey folks, I’m closing comments on this string.

    As with most books, Three Cups of Tea has proven to be a divisive book: many people like it and many people hate it. Many people recommend it as reading because of it’s good message, while others can’t get past the first 100 pages for sheer boredom or disgust at the writing. This post, set up as a Counterpoint, attempted to illustrate the two points, and I think the comments have only turned my attempt to be balanced into an argument, which was never my purpose. I’m very sorry we could not just all be nice.

    Please note that since I wrote this review in October, I have read dozens more books, some I liked a lot and some I haven’t liked at all. I’d love for you to share your thoughts on those books!

Comments are closed.

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