Literary Criticism and Significance
Mortenson's Three Cups of Tea has been a best seller since it was first published more than three years ago. The work has also won numerous honors such as the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association's Nonfiction Award, Time magazine's Asia Book of the Year, Peoplemagazine's Critics' Choice, as well as the Mom's Choice Award. The book was first published in 2006 and proved to be so popular that two additional editions were published, one geared to the young adult reading audience and another edition revised for children to read. Three Cups of Tea has also become required reading for U.S. troops sent to Afghanistan.
Some critics found fault with the actual writing of this book but not necessarily with the material that was covered, which Rachel Crandell, writing for the Christian Science Monitor, described as "inspiring and sometimes hair-raising."
Writing for Booklist, Vanessa Bush called Mortenson's book "an incredible story." Bush added that reading this account provided her with a "fresh perspective" on the culture of Pakistan and Afghanistan as seen through Mortenson's "humanitarian" endeavors.
An anonymous critic for Kirkus Reviews found that after reading Three Cups of Tea, one of the questions that Mortenson directs to the U.S. government really rings true. Near the end of his book, Mortenson points out all the huge sums of money the U.S. government spends equipping warlords in Afghanistan to fight the Taliban. Mortenson compares that to his own small budget to build schools and to educate the Afghan children. Mortenson wonders why the U. S. government does not use some of its big bankroll to fund more schools, like Mortenson has done, to fight terrorism. The Kirkus writer suggested that Mortenson, by writing his "adventure-filled" memoir, has demonstrated that he has a good point to make in questioning the U.S. government and that Mortenson makes this point "admirably."
Mortenson's book is a lot of things to a lot of people. The Christian Science Monitor's Marilyn Gardner found it to be "laced with drama, danger, romance and good deeds." Gardner added that besides these more entertaining aspects, Three Cups of Tea also tells the powerful story of how one passionate and determined man persevered to overcome many difficult obstacles to make a good idea become a reality. "The world," Gardner wrote, "needs many more Greg Mortensons."