Wednesday, January 02, 2008

December's Books & The Book of the Year

Happy New Year to all! I hope you all had a lovely holiday. Mine was quite pleasant, especially since I get the week between Christmas and New Year's off from work. Happy Happy Joy Joy!

I only read two books in December as it was taken up with knitting, as usual for December. I watched a lot more movies, but I want to dedicate one entire post to the books because the one was too important, I feel, to get passed over, as I'm sure it would be, if it were part of a super long post.

My dear friend GtG gave me the book Three Cups of Tea for my birthday and it had been a book I had seen before and contemplated buying, but hadn't yet. I can't even begin to tell you how much I loved this book. Words fail me. It's the story of Greg Mortenson who in the early 90s failed in an attempt to climb K2, got lost coming down the mountain and wandered into a little Pakistani village which took care of him. He promised that one day he would come back and build them a school as they didn't have one.

He talks about how he went about typing on a typewriter 200 letters to various people asking for money to help build this school. He was living out of his car to save money while working as an emergency room nurse. The amount of money needed was a paltry sum (if I remember correctly, $12,000) when you think about constructing a building of any type.

It talks about his travails in acquiring supplies in Pakistan, getting said supplies to this little village, and how they had to first build a bridge, etc. There is also the time he got kidnapped and held hostage for a period of time by tribes known to be quite brutal, but once they heard he was in Pakistan building schools for girls, they let him go.

This book shows that the way to defeat terrorism is NOT with warfare and bombings, but by buildings schools which have a balanced curriculum. One of the reasons there are so many suicide type terrorists coming out of Pakistan these days is the rich, ultra-right wing branch of Islam is building huge schools in Pakistan and indoctrinating them in their own brand of Islam. The last few years three of my friends and I have chosen not to exchange gifts, but to donate to each others' charity of choice. I had chosen Nothing but Nets for the second year in a row, until I read this book and changed it to the Central Asia Institute in time for my third friend to donate, because I believe in Greg Mortenson's way of fighting terrorism.

I want to buy this book for every person I know and have them read it and pass it along to everybody they know.

The other book I read was The Alchemist by Paul Coelho. I had bought this before The Zombieslayer gave it a bad review. And I think his review helped in that I wasn't expecting much. I ended up appreciating the book. I'm not sure I believe in its message, which I think was essentially "Go for your dreams." Not that that's a bad message, but I'm not going to be selling my sheep and traveling to Tangiers, anytime soon. I did, however, quite like the little twist in the ending, and I laughed out loud. My copy of the book included some questions for discussion at the end and they made me realise that I read for fun these days and not for analytical purposes. Life's too short to answer philosophical questions about books. I believe in reading one and moving on to the next one.

I think you all can probably figure out that Three Cups of Tea is the book of the month. It is also Book of the Year with damn near no competition.



At Wednesday, 02 January, 2008, Blogger LL said...

*whew* Good to see you're back! For a minute there, I'd thought you'd succumbed to something dreadful, like a marriage proposal... :P

Now however are you going to become a libertarian with an attitude like that? ;)

At Thursday, 03 January, 2008, Blogger Kathleen said...

LL - I just didn't have time to post or read...if I weren't at a family function, I was knitting. So much to do. No way in hell I'm becoming a Libertarian, thank you very much! ;-)

At Thursday, 03 January, 2008, Blogger dr sardonicus said...

Happy New Year!

The world needs more people like Greg Mortenson. Education is the key to battling extremism (both here and abroad). Getting the schools built is a big part of the battle - but so is overcoming the cultural barriers necessary to convince parents to enroll their children in those schools.

Currently I'm reading Paul Krugman's The Conscience Of A Liberal. I recommend it highly, even to LL.

At Thursday, 03 January, 2008, Blogger fermicat said...

Hooray! You're back! I hadn't heard of this book before reading your post. Sounds like a compelling story. And book of the year, coming from you, is a high recommendation indeed.

At Thursday, 03 January, 2008, Blogger Kathleen said...

Doc - Wherever Greg went in Pakistan he was greeted with open arms because all parents wanted their kids, even girls, to be educated. It was really most uplifting.

Fermi - I was busily knitting, but thought of you all often. I'll mail my copy to you...I'm serious about wanting everybody to read it.

At Friday, 04 January, 2008, Blogger Fantasy Writer Guy said...

I just went out and purchased The Alchemist because a wise friend heartily recommended it. I got it home and then realized I already owned a copy that I hadn't yet read! Now I get to exchange it for something. I'm thinking some Ayn Rand.

Anchors gwvnaoy...

At Friday, 04 January, 2008, Blogger Kathleen said...

FWG - I did that with the latest John Sandford book. DUH. I took the second copy back and didn't even buy anything else! That never happens. You're a smart ass. ;-)

At Friday, 04 January, 2008, Blogger Heather said...

Lucky girl, with all that time off! :) I had 11 days off for Christmas which was awesome...I felt like a slug though! Thanks again for the sunglasses!!

At Friday, 04 January, 2008, Blogger Jorge said...

What's wrong with being a Libertarian?

At Saturday, 05 January, 2008, Anonymous younameit said...

Hi, Kathleen. It's about time!

I saw a "60 Minutes" story on Greg Mortenson's Pakistan adventure a couple of years ago. It was quite interesting. While I was searching for the date that it aired (and failing), I did manage to find Greg Mortenson's Blog. It doesn't appear to be written by him (at least not at first glance), but it does seem to be fairly "official."

P.S. I agree with Jorge. I think your view of libertarianism has been severely (and very unfairly) distorted by your past association with certain personae non gratae.

At Saturday, 05 January, 2008, Blogger The Zombieslayer said...

It wasn't a bad book, it was just too cliché. I've heard the message in too many other books, and nothing he wrote was new to me. Or maybe I've just read too many books.

Knitting is a good thing. There have been several studies published recently that show that any use of the hands reduces the rate of degenerative brain diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Knitting, playing piano, guitar, violin, etc., typing, or anything that uses the fingers is really good for your brain.

The reason why the human brain is so complex is because of our hands. We have the most complex hands of any animals, and that's by far too.

So either keep knitting or learn a musical instrument that utilizes your fingers a lot. :)

At Saturday, 05 January, 2008, Blogger The Zombieslayer said...

Crap. forgot to comment on that other book.

Yes, that premise is completely true. The best way to combat terrorism is economic - build schools and jobs in countries where terrorism is commonplace.

At Saturday, 05 January, 2008, Blogger Kathleen said...

Heather - You are most welcome.

Jorge - History with one...

YouNameIt - About time what???? About time you came out of the woodwork? You haven't sent me anything Ron Paul related in ages!

ZombieSlayer - I either read or knit, so I should be golden. ;-) I hope you plan on reading the Three Cups book.

At Sunday, 06 January, 2008, Blogger The Zombieslayer said...

I'll add it to my queue.

At Monday, 07 January, 2008, Blogger Beth said...

Kathleen, I've been a knitting machine as well. I'm still in knitting mode. Gad!

I need a good book. I'd be reading it now instead of being on the internet at 2am.

At Tuesday, 08 January, 2008, Blogger Kathleen said...

Beth - I'd be more than happy to mail Three Cups of Tea to you.


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