If I had a million dollars, I'd build you a school.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

What I'm Reading Next: Watership Down

I'm in the middle of a largely Comcast induced vacation from blogging. It's a long story, but let's just say I'm not recommending Comcast to my friends these days. In the meantime, I've had a chance to finish my latest book, and I have a few minutes at work today to write about it, so here goes.

I've just finished reading Three Cups of Tea. The story in the book is right up the alley of this blog, so I guess it's no surprise to say that I loved it. To give a quick summary of the story, the co-author/subject of the book, Greg Mortenson, goes on an expedition to climb K2. On the way back down, having failed to reach the summit, Mortenson accidentally wanders away from his guide and stumbles into a tiny village in the mountains of northern Pakistan. After the villagers nurse him back to health, Mortenson goes on a tour of the village and is shocked to see the children gathered in an open field, scratching their lessons in the dirt with sticks, with not a teacher to be found. He promises to come back and build them a school.

The journey that follows is inspiring. One school project turns into a half dozen, and then a dozen, and so on, all in rural villages in Pakistan. As the book concludes, Mortenson is in post-Taliban Afghanistan starting to plan for a whole new series of schools there. As I got to know Mortenson through the book, I found myself in awe that someone could so selflessly, and even naively, accomplish so much good in the world. The world would be a much better place if there were more of him.

The overall message of the book is a simple one. The antidote to extremism is not violence but education. If we help to provide a secular, modern education to the children of the world, we are cutting off the ready supply of converts to extremist ideologies. If we want to be safer here in America, we need to provide social services, education above all, to children around the world. We will be much safer if we are loved for our good works, rather than despised for the death and destruction we cause. The chapters surrounding the events of September 11th and Mortenson's response to them are particularly moving. I highly recommend this book!

Next up: Watership Down
It's time for a re-read again. Watership Downwas my summer reading going into seventh grade. My mom made reference to it while the family was gathered over the Fourth of July weekend, and I realized I didn't remember almost anything about it, other than it's about rabbits. That's a good sign that I should pick it up again. Hopefully I will enjoy it as much now as I did twenty or so years ago.

Posts about previous titles:
True History of the Kelly Gang

Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War


Melissa B. said...

Three Cups of Tea is such a great book--in fact, I'm teaching it this year! I've never read Watership Down--I'm going to check it out. Thanks for the tip.

Melissa B. said...

BTW, don't forget that today is the Super Summer Sunday Sweepstakes. Please stop in and leave a caption!