Stones into Schools

Mortenson, Greg. Stones into Schools: Promoting Pease with Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Viking, 2009.

Reason read: to finish the series started with Three Cups of Tea.

Whether you know Stones into Schools because of the phenomenon that was Three Cups of Tea or because Stones into Schools became a best seller in its own right, there is no denying its impact. The fast paced we-must-build-schools story picks up right where Three Cups of Tea left off. Mortenson has established himself as humanitarian extraordinaire, but he wants to do more, more, more. He makes a solemn promise to a band of Kirghiz horsemen to build schools in a remote area of Afghanistan called Bozai Gumbaz. This is the dramatic retelling (and lots of humble bragging) of how he barely kept that promise.
If you read beyond the endless list of accomplishments and focus on the efforts of the people around Mortenson, inspiration can be easily found. Especially after the events of October 8th, 2005 in northern Pakistan when an earthquake rocked the landscape into rubble.
Confessional: I got a little weary of all of the “I talk” Mortenson did throughout both Three Cups of Tea and Stones into Schools. I understand that everywhere he spoke everyone clamored to hear him. He sold out venues everywhere. Fine. But, I grew weary of his I did this, I did that rhetoric. I am this. I am all that. I couldn’t get the image of him riding around on a camel wearing a cape and mask out of my head. But, for all of his avarice I appreciated the exposure to the culture, operations, and obsessions of the Taliban. When you are held hostage by American news organizations you only get one side of the story and as they always say, there are three sides: your, mine, and the truth.

Author fact: Mortenson was investigated for the mismanagement of Central Asia Institute’s funds and agreed to pay back one million dollars. It’s best to read Stones into Schools as a glorious adventure that happens to be mostly fiction.

Book trivia: Stones into Schools is a first person narrative which makes me wonder what happened to David Oliver Relin.

Audio trivia: there is one section of the audio that was left out of the print. A reporter was asking Greg about his closeness with his partners. He admitted to sharing lots of things (toothbrushes and clothes along those things). Mortenson took this opportunity to tell his audience that he does not wear underwear so this item he is unable to share. But the part about sharing wives does not appear in the book.

Playlist: Willie Nelson

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Sojourns into South Asia” (p 212).

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