This is an amazingly wonderful, changes-the-way-you-see-the-world kind of book. I will admit, however, that there were times when I had to convince myself to keep reading. Getting through the first few pages was a challenge, and then again there was a lull towards the end when I kept thinking, "isn't the story over yet?" But in between those parts was a truly amazing story. I absolutely recommend this book.
A quick summary: Greg Mortenson, a mountain climber who was raised mostly in Tanzania, attempts to climb K2 in Pakistan, the second highest mountain peak in the world. After a dramatic attempt, he's forced to come down without reaching the peak, nearly dead and feeling like a complete failure. He takes a wrong turn on the way down and ends up in an isolated village called Korphe, where the residents have never seen an American before. Basically, Greg falls in love with the people of Korphe and they with him. He realizes that they have no schools (among many other things...like a bridge that could actually connect them to other villages), and he vows that someday he will come back to build these children, who discipline themselves by meeting outside in the cold to scratch multiplication tables in the dirt, their first school. The rest of the book details Greg's journey to keep building schools in Pakistan and then Afghanistan.
I think Greg is an incredible example of selflessness. He didn't set out to make some huge difference in the world and then write a book about it; he just saw a need and was willing to do whatever it took to fill it. He only publicized to fund the building of more schools, not for his own gain. He and his wife and two kids lived off about a 20,000 a year salary just so he could keep building those schools!! (His wife, by the way, is the one I think deserves the Nobel Peace Prize, for supporting her husband being in Asia like 10 months out of the year. I can be a med school wife, but I couldn't do that!)
This book also opened my eyes to new ways that we can fight the war on terror. It makes so much sense to me to get at the terrorists from the roots, instead of just trying to destroy the already existing Taliban. If we were to educate educate educate in Central Asia, preventing the brainwashing that turns young boys into future Osama Bin Ladens, we could win the war on terror without all the killing and destroying.
Finally, I very much admire the religious devotion of the Muslims. If I could only be that dedicated to prayer!! Reading this book was so inspiring and thought-provoking; I hope you can read it too, Inshallah.