Stones into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan

by Greg Mortenson

Hardcover, 2009

Call number

371.823 M



Viking (2009), Edition: 1st, 448 pages


In this dramatic first-person narrative, Greg Mortenson picks up where "Three Cups of Tea" left off in 2003, recounting his relentless, ongoing efforts to establish schools for girls in Afghanistan; his extensive work in Azad Kashmir and Pakistan after a massive earthquake hit the region in 2005; and the unique ways he has built relationships with Islamic clerics, militia commanders, and tribal leaders even as he was dodging shootouts with feuding Afghan warlords and surviving an eight-day armed abduction by the Taliban.

Media reviews

How could a man whose success had been based on such self-effacing relief work reconcile humility with celebrity? Mr. Mortenson’s second and very different book, “Stones Into Schools,” provides an answer. As this new book’s strong, opinionated voice makes clear, he was never all that humble in the first place. And he was never shy.

User reviews

LibraryThing member revslick
This is a nice inspirational read; unfortunately, the author is the James Frey of nonprofit leaders. From all accounts this guy should be prosecuted for fraud. If you read it knowing the author is a bum; that several stories are fake; and very little money goes to the organization he supposedly supports, then it is a nice inspirational book.… (more)
LibraryThing member librarygeek33
Surprisingly, I enjoyed this more than "3 Cups of Tea". It's a chronicle of the building of schools but also includes some history of the area and stories that illustrate the difficulties involved. It effectively puts a human face on the places that we hear about in the news every day.
LibraryThing member frisbeesage
Part adventure tale, part history, and part social commentary Stones Into Schools picks up the narrative of Greg Mortenson's work in building schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan where Three Cups of Tea left off. It would be hard not to like this book! Greg is a down-to-earth, straight forward guy who has accomplished some remarkable things through sheer hard work and determination. He passes most of the credit on to his motley crew and much of the book centers on how this unlikely group of people came to be committed to building schools for girls. While much of the book is about the serious need Greg encounters there is plenty of humor to lighten the mood. Over and over he stresses the lessons he has learned about how to administer aid effectively. It is interesting to read how other organizations, particularly the US Army, are beginning to recognize his extraordinary abilities. This story will renew your faith in mankind, warm your heart, and make you want to reach out to people in need around you.

The audio version is well read by Atossa Leoni. She ably conveys Greg's depth of commitment to and true love for the people he works so hard to help.
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LibraryThing member fly4ever
Awesome! Awesome! Awesome!
The story continues from the best seller "Three cups of Tea", this time written by Greg himself. He involves you in a way that you feel that you are along for the ride. I was unable to put the book down. Exhaustion through many hours of reading and by the emotions that came up within myself let me sleep only for a few hours, just to pick it up again for quenching the thirst of how the story continues.
He writes in the first person, which allows more easily to follow his thoughts and fears as well as sharing the thrills. Unashamed about revealing his emotions as well as the inner voice that wants to protect him and the others from harm or other evil he was able to keep me on the edge most of the time. Without question he gives the credit to all the other heroes in this operation. Every once in a while he adds some grease, where needed to keep the wheels of the good cause moving. He is letting go of responsibilities to the people who have stepped up to the plate and do so with dedication that you will not find in many places around in our society.
It is almost like you are in a movie, this tim written by life and not imagination. My subconscious was daydreaming along and reading in between the lines. Fairly often I went to the center section of the book as well as the other information provided to keep track of what the people and places are looking like.
After completion I spent half a day online to find out more about the regions and traveled there through Google Earth as well. Anyone who wants to have a good chunk of inspiration as well as hope for peace on this earth should definitely read this book.
Actually everyone should read it !!!!!!!!!!
Again, Awesome! Awesome! Awesome!
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LibraryThing member AuntieClio
Having read both his books before the scandal of possible misuse of funds and unused schools in Afghanistan hit the news, I’m not sure what to think. Mortenson’s stories are engaging, if poorly written and edited in some spots. Thinking that somewhere in this world is an organization putting their money into education for women and girls resonates deeply within me. I so much want to believe Mortenson’s Central Asia Institute is truly putting its donors money to great use. Yet the cynic in me wonders if Mortenson might be too good to be true. We may never know the truth, and as unsettling as that can be, I firmly believe the world needs true world heroes and Mortenson may be one, albeit deeply flawed.… (more)
LibraryThing member DubaiReader
Every bit as good as Three Cups of Tea.

With minimum repetition from Three Cups of Tea, this book sets the scene and is off at a gallop. It throbs with a sense of urgency as Greg and his intrepid team surmount countless obstacles to build schools throughout Pakistan and Afghanistan, particularly schools for girls.

Mike Bryan's writing is brilliant. He has the job of piecing together numerous, apparently disjointed, stories into one coherent narrative and he does it flawlessly. Never does it become stilted or lose its flow; it reads like a novel.

Several reviewers have said that Greg Mortenson should get the Nobel Peace Peize for his work and he would certainly get my vote. Not only does he struggle tirelessly to reach isolated areas with education for women, but he has the sense to realise when his greatest service is to travel round the US presenting his cause and soliciting donations for the ongoing work, even though he would far rather be out in the thick of it.

A truly amazing book about a dedicated man that everyone should read.
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LibraryThing member SignoraEdie
I always put off reading Greg Mortenson's books and then when I finally pick it up and I held captive until I finish it. I watch the PBS news nightly and I have a bucket load of opinions and emotions about our activities in South Central Asia. But Greg's books about the activities of his NGO , the Central Asia Institute, give me a glimpse into the situation, the people, the humanity that grips me. The subtitle of this book is Promoting Peace with Books, not Bombs. It focuses on the activities of CAI in Afghanistan. The accomplishment of this group of people in a land that seems to exist at the end of the earth are nothing short of miraculous. To date this group has established 131 schools for girls in Afghanistan and Pakistan. These schools are at the "end of the road"...the most remote areas of the countries. They are built with the dollars (and pennies) and goodwill of American donars, the land and physical strength of the Afghan people, the energy and passion of the CAI staff (made up mostly of local Pakistan and Afghan people), and the heart of Greg Mortenson. After reading this account of the projects, the personal interactions, the relationship building that goes into the efforts, I cannot help but view this land and this people in a new way. The fact that Greg Mortensen has become a resource and a teacher to the US military is just another example of the impact of these efforts. This book should be required reading for all congresspersons, military decision-makers, and troops sent to serve in this area. Powerful!… (more)
LibraryThing member cee2
This is a continuation of the story told in Three Cups of Tea, recounting the work of the Central Asia Institute in building girls' schools in the most remote areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan. It's also the story of how the CAI's local staff have become the people in charge of getting the work done and expanding the work beyond girls' schools to women's vocation centers. I'm impressed with the way CAI builds relationships with the villages that want schools.

The story is told in the first person, from Mr. Mortenson's point of view as the founder of CAI, but I did not feel that he dominated the story unduly. The girls' thirst for learning and the lengths to which their families were willing to go to achieve it are truly inspiring. And I learned alot about both countries.
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LibraryThing member repb
Finished Xmas day. Did not enjoy as much as Three Cups.... but very interesting nevertheless. Felt the book went on too long and I had difficulty keeping all the names of characters and places straight which I feel really wasn't all that important to the story. Sorry to say I also felt author got caught up with himself a little too much; but perhaps he should. Quite a feat.… (more)
LibraryThing member andyr354
Just finished this one this morning. I liked it just as much as [Three Cups of Tea]. It is a very inspiring read about what can be accomplished in even the most down and war stricken places on the planet. It will be initiatives like this that turn the tide of extremism.. not force.

LibraryThing member kristinmm
This is another extremely inspiring, extremely hard to put down book by Greg Mortenson that continues where Three Cups of Tea left off and you can see his work continue into Afghanistan from Pakistan. Highly recommended but read Three Cups of Tea first.
LibraryThing member JustMe869
I just finished this book, and it is wonderful. While Three Cups of Tea, which you probably should read first, focuses on Mr. Mortneson’s amazing personal story, Stones into Schools tells of heroes in Afghanistan who are determined to provide an education to their sons and daughters in some of the most remote corners of the world.… (more)
LibraryThing member mikerr
Picking up where Three Cups of Tea left off, this memoir relates the adventures and complications of developing schools in remote areas of central Asia. Pakistan’s terrible earthquake of 2005 and the war in Afghanistan provide the backdrop for this very personal story of one man’s quest to make a difference in his world. Truly inspiring.… (more)
LibraryThing member porch_reader
Three Cups of Tea is one of my favorite books of all time. Stones into Schools is even better. Mortenson picks up where he left off in Three Cups of Tea. We learn about his ongoing work building schools in Pakistan and his recent efforts in Afghanistan. He writes convincingly of the importance of building schools and supporting girls' education. His passion for his work is contagious.

The book is written in a very conversational style. Greg and his colleagues face a number of challenges, and I was fascinated by the stories of how they overcame these challenges. This book features a number of interesting characters. I especially liked learning more about the Dirty Dozen, 12 diverse men who do much of the work of the Central Asia Institute. The book also provides an important view of life in rural areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
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LibraryThing member Katie_H
This inspirational memoir, which is set primarily in the remote Wakhan Corridor of Afghanistan, is a follow-up to his first book, "Three Cups of Tea." In Mortenson's view, societies empowered through education are more likely to choose peace, and the education of women is where this strategy should begin. Therefore, the focus mission of the Central Asia Institute, his philanthropic organization, is the building of schools for girls and vocational centers for women, with the ultimate goal being to defeat the Taliban and increase stability in the area. The book follows his challenges throughout the region, exploring the complex cultural, religious, and ethnic interactions that he experiences. Greg is truly an amazing human being, and he effectively drives home the message that one person really can make a difference by LISTENING and building relationships. I didn't enjoy this installment quite as much as the first. Not only is the writing rather disjointed, the book itself is a promotional tool for the Central Asia Institute, as opposed to the modest individual account of "Three Cups of Tea." Regardless, the story of hope is still incredible, and both books should be required reading for everyone.… (more)
LibraryThing member LyzzyBee
Borrowed from Bridget via Gill

The story started in Three Cups of Tea continues with Mortensen's struggles to get schools built in Afghanistan, especially in the remote Wakhan Corridor. The book does go over the founding of the charity but not in too much detail, just enough to make the book work as a standalone as well as a sequel. It starts really with the earthquake that hit Afghanistan/Pakistan in 2005, introduces us to Sarfaz, a tribal horseman who makes epic journies, both in terms of administration and distance, across and around the region, and follows Mortenson's "Dirty Dozen", the workers on the ground who carry out his vision.

Rather better written than the first book, in a first person narrative that does seem to allow Mortenson to speak through it, this book is also not afraid to face up to failure (will he ever get to the end of the Wakhan Corridor?) or uncomfortable truths, whether about the amount of time he spends away from his children, or about the wisdom of dashing away from the people who need him to accept an honour which will in time help him access more people. There is also a sufficient amount of detail and thought amongst all the male bonding and rushing around.

A great project, and a good read.
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LibraryThing member mojomomma
Mortenson continues his adventures in Pakistan and Afghanistan, building schools in former Taliban territory. His description of the people and the culture is fascinating. At this stage, he spends more time in the US raising speaking and raising funds and turns over the on-the-ground management to his "Dirty Dozen." It's gratifying to read how he is making a difference.… (more)
LibraryThing member razr
I wish this book had been more about the people whos lives were changed by the opportunities provided and less about the financial aspect. A great endeavor...the story couldve been better.
LibraryThing member BookWallah
Stones into Schools continues the epic story of Central Asia Institute where Three Cups of Tea left off. Focus this round is building schools in Afghanistan. The stories here are more readable and have been edited to produce a more coherent flow. The book opens with story of the Kirghiz horsemen riding for six days to request Greg Mortenson to come to the remote Wakhan Corridor in Northeast Afghanistan. Greg’s inevitable promise to come and build a school in this remote area forms narrative thread for what follows. Book is chockfull of sayings and aphorisms that also color Greg’s speaking style. This book now includes several maps, photos and a Who’s Who section which compliment the text and make it easier to follow. If you are one of the few people in the USA that missed the first (Three Cups) book you should make amends and rush to read this one.… (more)
LibraryThing member Bonni208
I found myself enjoying this book even more than I did Three Cups of Tea (which I completely loved). Mortenson has done it again. This time we get to learn a bit about some of the ways that the women in the communities that his organization has impacted have been empowered to extend the learning and transformation even further. Keeps you engaged from start to finish...… (more)
LibraryThing member shadowofthewind
Stones into Schools picks up where Three Cups of Tea leaves off, the goal of getting a school in one of the most remote places in the world. The story weaves back and forth and covers a lot of the same ground of Three Cups of Tea. I like the coverage here much better.

This book is leagues better than Three Cups of Tea. Three Cups of Tea is an important book as it talks more about Mortensen than he would himself. However, Mortensen and the authors that helped him with this book are far better writers. You can feel the passion in his writing and that he truly cares about what he is doing.

It's hard to look at Afghanistan and Pakistan and hard to look at their stories. Yet, so many of the ones who fought for freedom care more about literacy than anything else. They know it is a way forward. I love reading about their passion. I laughed when I read about their ultimate goal is to create a ring of schools of literacy to surround the Taliban. What a better way to defeat terror than with the light of literacy.
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LibraryThing member julierh
I'm really impressed that in addition to everything else he does, Greg Mortenson can find the time to write such a well-crafted book. This is his second about the work he's doing in the Middle East building schools and promoting female literacy and education. It is as good as the first; This one focuses on his work in Afghanistan and is as interesting, thought-provoking, and inspiring. A major part of his mission is to work exclusively in rural areas where foreigners rarely go. He is also determined to involve the community in all aspects of the work. One of the more surprising things I learned was that numerous members of the U.S. military- at all levels- have told him that they have grown to believe that promoting literacy is the only thing that will help dissolve terrorism and make the region safer. Also "Three Cups of Tea" is mandatory reading for all senior military commanders.… (more)
LibraryThing member nabeelar
Excellent fact sheet of CAI operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but as a literary work it tanks. There is just too much information on too many complicated things (the cultures of mountain tribesmen, rural farmers, NGOs, disaster relief, US Military, fundraising, etc)to work as a piece of literature. Good writing requires careful editing.

However, the humanitarian strategy of giving girls a secular education to counteract the effects of brainwashing of boys by extremists is nothing short of brilliant.
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LibraryThing member TooBusyReading
Note: 08/22/2011 I've now read Jon Krakauer's Three Cups of Deceit, I am much less inclined to read Mortenson's story without several grains of salt. Too bad because I really did want to believe in him and his work. I still think he did some good, and I would have been happy to read a more accurate accounting, even if it were not so impressive.

Having read and enjoyed Mortenson's very popular Three Cups of Tea, I was afraid that this book might be too similar, but I wanted to see what had happened since the publication of Three Cups. Mortenson and his non-profit agency, Central Asia Institute, were more determined than ever to build schools, especially for girls who had little opportunity for education, in the most remote and dangerous parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan, even in Taliban strongholds. I found this book just as fascinating as Three Cups, and somewhat better written.

The stories of the schools and the people who made them happen, the strength and determination of the locals with whom Mortenson was working were all different, all individual in many ways. But there is a common theme – people working to make life better through education and not giving up when faced with tasks that seemed insurmountable. I was encouraged when I read of some of the U.S.'s military leaders beliefs and involvement in the humanitarian side of the struggles in that part of the world. It was also interesting and inspiring to see how people have reacted to the CAI organization after publication of the first book. CAI has grown exponentially since Mortenson, a lost mountain climber, originally started it as a shoestring operation. The growth and constant demands have taken a toll on Mortenson and his family. And there are so many who are in the middle of the chaos and know they could easily lose their lives, and still go on day after day for something they believe in. The strength of these people in remote, impoverished, and very harsh areas is remarkable.

There were a couple of minor mistakes that I noticed in the book, probably editing mistakes, but nothing that affected the strength of the story. I appreciated the black and white photographs at the beginning of each chapter, maps, and a section of color photographs. While I recommend reading Three Cups of Tea, it is not necessary in order to appreciate this book. It is an amazing story.
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LibraryThing member Sovranty
This story details the continued efforts of Greg Mortenson and the Central Asia Institute's efforts in providing a viable means to education for children, as well as adult women, in remote areas. While this book is more detailed in the CAI's operations than the lives of the people it is helping, it remains a important tool for teaching compasion and understanding. With the media highlighting troop deaths, poltitical squabbles, and continued uncertainty, the people living day to day in the violent wake are often overlooked. This book brings to the forefront the human side of those struggling; helping eliminate the "them" aspect and encourgaging responsibility.… (more)




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