In this worthy sequel to the runaway bestseller Three Cups of Tea, mountain climber turned philanthropist Greg Mortenson describes his latest efforts to build schools in remote and impoverished villages in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Kashmir. Part adventure story, part history, part travelogue, Stones Into Schools further introduces readers to these harsh yet compelling landscapes and the people who inhabit them. In the process, he clarifies the distinctions between the tribes who occupy the border areas and explains why U.S. military tactics in the region have been doomed to failure when they ignore key components of local culture.
Picking up where Tea left off, albeit with some necessary overlap, Schools depicts Mortenson’s decade-long effort to build a school in the wild Wakhan region controlled by the Kirghiz, an ancient people hovering on the edge of extinction after years of neglect by the Afghan government. A devastating 2005 earthquake wrought massive destruction in both Pakistan and Kashmir, causing the latter to open its doors to foreign aid for the first time since partition. There, Mortenson and his team had to both come up with earthquake resistant building materials and deal with the traumatized population, many of whom didn’t want to return to school. Finally, he finds some surprising allies among U.S. military commanders who agree that schools will ultimately be more effective than bombs in creating national security. For the millions of readers who kept Three Cups of Tea on the New York Times bestseller list for 140 weeks, Stones is a welcome second helping.