Three Cups of Tea , the third person account that tells the story of Greg Mortenson's missions in Pakistan and Afghanistan, helped in a huge way to publicize Mortenson, the CAI, and their projects in the Middle East. The novel was co-authored by David Oliver Relin, and was published in 2006. It was number one on the New York Times' Best Seller List for twenty months; it has been given countless awards, and has been published in 20 different countries internationally.
Three Cups of Tea begins with Greg Mortenson's failed attempt to climb K2, the second tallest mountain on Earth, to honor his sister, Christa. It goes on to tell about how he stumbled into a village in the Kakoram Mountains, where, after seeing how terrible the conditions that the children there learning under were, he decided to build a school. The book goes on to tell Greg's multiple journeys, both in the Middle East and in the United States, to help out children, especially girls, in Pakistan and Afghanistan. One of the novel's themes is rising above divides in culture. Greg Mortenson has a hard time overcoming the multiple schisms between both countries, including the American unwillingness to help, and the terrorist organizations in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Another dominant theme is that of education. Mortenson is sure that the way to stop the terrorism situations in the Middle East is to educate their children now. This way, far less children will be forced to join, or even want to join, terrorist organizations such as the Taliban.
The novel was first released in 2006, though it didn't sell well. One of the reasons for this may have been the original subtitle, One Man's Mission to Fight Terrorism One School at a Time. Greg Mortenson thought that this title was too harsh, and fought to have the book republished in 2007 with a newer subtitle-- One Man's Mission to Promote Peace One School at a Time . The newly titled book shot up in sales, and went straight to the top of the New York Times Best Seller List. The reason for this drastic change, said Greg Mortenson, was "If you just fight terrorism, it's based in fear, but if you promote peace, it's based in hope." The book remained at the top of the best seller list for more than a year, and by this time it had gained recognition from numerous high schools and colleges from around the nation. It was chosen by fifty high schools, including Boston Latin School, to be their "One Book" community read. It was also chosen by almost three dozen colleges and universities to be the "University Freshman" read. The book is now being published as both a children's book, Listen to the Wind , and a book for young adults, with its original title.Three Cups of Tea has won multiple awards, including the Kiriyama Prize Nonfiction Award, the Critic's Choice in People Magazine, the Montana Honor Book Award, and the Nonfiction Award from the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association.
"Haji Ali taught me the most important lesson I've ever learned in my life...We Americans think you have to accomplish everything quickly. We're the country of thirty-minute power lunches and two-minute football drills. Haji Ali taught me to share three cups of tea, to slow down and make building relationships as important as building projects."
— Greg Mortenson (Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time)