Three Cups of Tea

Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a Time By Greg Mortenson (Author), David Oliver Relin (Author)

you.. yes YOU behind the terminal, surfing the web, maybe finding that cheap chotcky to buy or something. Stop what you are doing if you have come across this book and this review. You need to read this more than you think!

Within the confines of 350 pages you can be transported to a world that for most Westerner's and specifically Americans, is probably very unknown, and more than likely, highly misunderstood. In this world you will be introduced to a man named Greg Mortenson, or as you soon to know him, as Greg Sahib..

The story that is told by David Oliver Revin, will not just be inspiring, will not be just teeth clenching, it will make you re-evaluate what you do in your life. While most of us may talk about the incapacity of the administration, or some (unfortunatly) the hatred of the middle East, or maybe some of you are even lying down in the streets, but there is ONE person who is TRULY doing something about the problems of foreign policy by litteraly getting his hands dirty touching the earth to build a school foundation, and risking his life ten times over.

When you have read this journey, you will be saying to yourself, did he really do that? That guy is CRAZY! Did that really happen?, the Taliban? , How is that possible? In the journey that is fortold of a change of fate through a failed mountain expedition, you can see what the spirit of the individual can do and how it can be transformed. As the events of 9/11 soon come to fruition, Greg couldn't be in a better place at the right time, and with David's narration, you are litteraly put in the drivers seat.

After reading Mortensen's journey, you will want to litteraly book a plane ticket to somewhere you have never been before. In reading the accomplishments of a somewhat flawed (hey what person is perfect) individual, you will feel small and insignifigant. David Relin will not just explain what Greg did, he will make you live it, with some enjoyable side narrations that will make you grin.

In Three Cups of Tea, David has managed more than anything to explain the heart of a problem (Islamic hatred of the West) of a very complicated nature (through numerous foreign policy debacles and politics spanning decades), and how one man knows of an easy solution (Go to poor regions of the Middle East and give education and extend the olive branch. Build schools for the poorest of the poor, ecspecially for girls. And more importantly, let them know that it was done.. by an American).

As if it was so difficult to understand.

I encourage you to take this journey and figure out that sometimes the biggest problems in life require some of the most common sense solutions. I also echo the other comments on here that you should buy this book from the actually CAI institute and consider a donation as well.

Greg Mortensen is doing what he is doing best, and his passion comes through the pages. For myself my passion is to write. Like Gregg I feel it is what I can do best (when I put my effort my passion, and my soul into it).

now if you'll excuse me...

I have to go write a check.

review by selffate "critical wunderkid"


Giving: How Each of Us Can Change the World by Bill Clinton

Even conservatives will like this book. It's interesting, inspiring, clearly written, not at all political and, believe it or not, only a tad self-centered. Filled with dozens, maybe hundreds, of specific examples of charitable individuals and successful grassroots programs, it argues -- in fact, proves -- that you don't have to be a big shot to make the world a better place. Clinton clearly believes in what he writes; the book is passionate and powerful on topics that, in other hands, would be detached and dull.

Besides the subject matter, what I liked best about the book is its organization. Written so you don't have to read it all at once, it breaks down philanthropy into six different categories, and gives each its own chapter. Those are:

* Giving time
* Giving things
* Giving skills
* Giving "gifts of reconciliation and new beginnings" (citing everything from the efforts of Nelson Mandela to PeacePlayers International, a group that sets up basketball leagues in the Middle East)
* Giving gifts that keep on giving (such as the work of Heifer International, which gives millions of poor farmers free cows -- as long as they agree to donate one its first offspring to someone else)
* Giving to good ideas

Clinton also includes descriptions of some successful charitable programs that are easy to use as model strategies for your own ideas, illustrates how businesses can make money out of acting in the public interest, and explains his views on what roles governments (not just Washington, but cities and states) can play.

In the last chapter, titled "How Much Should You Give and Why," he argues that if the rich would donate five percent of their incomes to humanitarian causes, the rest of society would give even more, and that one reason to be generous and public spirited is simply that it makes you feel good. "Who's happier?" he writes. "The uniters or the dividers? The builders or the breakers? The givers or the takers? I think you know the answer."

Regardless of your political views, if you're a charitable person and seriously want to make a difference in the world, this is a must-read. You'll come away from it not only inspired, but with plenty of ideas on how to accomplish your goals.

review by Julie Neal "The Complete Walt Disney World" (Sanibel Island, Fla.)

Living On The Edge Of Madness

Living On The Edge Of Madness by Sonny Kramer (Author), Linda Wakeman (Contributor)

In reading this simple yet complex story of this couple, it was very easy to finish the book and come away with wanting to know more. It was sad, but yet funny. Her friend and partner, Sonny sure had a rude awakening in his life, yet was able to keep his humor, and not see this through angry eyes. I mean, making arrangements for burying him before he even died was truly humerous. Maybe he didn't think so. But this was only in her EXTREME concern of taking care of him. I am sure that there are many things we don't know in this life of Linda and Sonny, and the many others who suffer this terrible disease. I also truly believe that we all may have some of bipolar in us. The other misfortunates' have the extreme as Linda has. I had a very good friend once that I alway knew had this more serious than most and just all of a sudden I never heard from her again. Even through the help of her mother, our friendship just ended. As Sonny says they don't mean to do the things that they do, and do not mean to hurt anyone. It is just one of those strange diseases that takes over your life. I believe if it wasn't for Sonny caring and loving Linda the way he did, Linda would be in a Mental Institution, medicated and sedated living on a different type of edge. I commend Sonny and his dedication and love to Linda, and to Linda for seeing what Sonny has went through for her and trying to make right by taking medication and staying away from that most delicate edge. THAT MAKES THEM BOTH HEROS IN MY BOOK!

review by R. Mastrantonio

The Tattered Tapestry

The Tattered Tapestry: A Family's Search for Peace with Bipolar Disorder By Tom Smith (Author), Kevin Smith (Contributor), Karla Smith (Contributor)

This book is a memoir written by: Tom Smith--the father of Karla Smith who took her own life on January 13, 2003 after six years of dealing with bipolar disorder, Kevin Smith-her twin brother who kept a chronological log of her manic behavior and activities, and Karla Smith herself as she tries to tell us about her illness.

As you can imagine, the six years of illness and the loss of Karla have been very difficult, trying, heartbreaking years for this family, and The Karla Smith Foundation has been created to provide hope to families and friends of anyone with a mental illness or who has lost a loved one to suicide.

About the book itself, it is one of the better-written books I have read on the subject of bipolar disorder. Many such books are written by the care givers and deal with their problems, frustrations and pain. What I found of particular interest was Karla's writing and I quote from Chapter 4 - Karla Speaks For Herself:

""In all the memoirs of mental illness that I've read, each author at some point laments that it is impossible to really describe acute depression (or mania, or schizophrenia); the experience itself defies words. This is discouraging. But I want this problem to be a theme of my book, directly addressed and worked through: the very impossibility of writing what I am trying to write. Similar to the experience of an acute episode itself, the causes of the illness are equally elusive. I have to remember the truth that William Styron, in his book Darkness Visible, so plainly declares: "I shall never learn what `caused' my depression, as no one will ever learn about their own. To be able to do so will likely forever prove to be an impossibility, so complex are the intermingled factors of abnormal chemistry, behavior and genetics." There is no accounting for why mental illness strikes some and not others. As Styron says, "Bloody and bowed by the outrages of life, most human beings still stagger on down the road, unscathed by real depression. To discover why some people plunge into the downward spiral of depression, one must search beyond the manifest crisis-and then still fail to come up with anything beyond wise conjecture."

I am so captivated by Styron's book because it combines the details of his own story with more generl discussions of important questions surrounding mental illness. If this book were widely read in the `90's, as I have heard it was, then he has contributed crucial understandings to those who have never suffered from severe depression; for example, he argues that the stigma and shame commonly attached to suicide, the frequent assumption that the person must have been weak, is just ridiculous and must be replaced by a more sympathetic awareness that a person commits suicide because the psychic torment is simply too much to endure.

Like Styron, I want to include some critical comments about the larger world, using examples from my own life as starting points. For example, I want to question the capacity of any institution to administer carefully and correctly to the patient suffering from mental illness, and instead of proposing mere reform, I'd like to envision a completely radical method of treatment (still working out the details of this in my head). I also want to situate my story within a larger sociological framework: growing up in an American, upper-middle class, religious family, with pressure to succeed, and I want to express the "depression-inducing" elements of those circumstances (while still refusing to name a singular cause of my illness). But my story also visits the impoverished underside of society and I especially want to point out the vast difference between hospitals for the rich and for the poor. Along similar lines, I want to look at gender: I want to show how it does, at least partially, make sense that my brother did not suffer depression but I did; how it works in adolescence that so much of a girl's self esteem is derived from her looks and attention from boys, and how hard it is to out-grow this; and drawing largely on Showalter's amazing book The Female Malady, how frailty, dependence, and even madness have been linked with the Western conception of woman since Aristole.""

Karla Smith was a beautiful, intelligent, gifted, well-read young woman, and the above quote is just a small sample of her writing, insight, and plans to write about her illness. In another piece which she titled `To Whom It May Concern' and in which she tries to encourage others with similar problems to find gratitude and to "rise from the ashes" I quote:

"So perhaps you spend most of your time alone, thinking endlessly, and trapping yourself in those thoughts. Most likely there are people who are concerned for you, and stand by helplessly as you grow more and more isolated. You are tired of their trite pick-me-ups, and hollow suggestions, and sugary anecdotes. They ask what they can do to help, and they offer words that do not penetrate your thick cloud. Tell one of these friends that you do not really want to talk, but that it would help you to be with him or her, perhaps to read in the same room, or do some cooking, or watch a movie. Maybe you need to get out of your usual environment, so ask if you could come over and spend some time doing your own thing as their home. The end of the day will be different than the end of most days. You can say to yourself that you did something today; you shared something sacred with a friend."

Besides the personal insights shared by Karla, her father Tom and her brother Kevin, this book will also inform you about suicide which is the leading cause of violent deaths worldwide, outnumbering homicide and war-related deaths.

If you want further information about bipolar disorder and mental illness, I suggest that you visit The Karla Smith Foundation website.

Reviewed by Kaye Trout[...]

The Crazy Inside

The Crazy Inside: A Poetic Journey Through Manic Depression By Alicia Birmingham

"The Crazy Inside" is an amazing work of art. The poetry taps into the mind of a person with bipolar disorder in all stages of the illness. The pain, the struggle, and the triumph is all exquistly expressed in Alicia Birmingham's words. Additionally, the haunting photography provides a stark, moving addition to the words. I feel that "The Crazy Inside" should be read by anyone who has experienced mental issues, their family and loved ones, and anyone else who wants to experience the beauty in Alicia's work.

review by Kristi Carter "K. Carter" (Pittsburgh, PA United States)

Madness: A Bipolar Life

Madness: A Bipolar Life By Marya Hornbacher

'Madness' lives up to Ms. Hornbacher's first memoir, 'Wasted', and in the same take-no-prisoner style that is hers almost exclusively, gives readers a first-hand glimpse inside the head and heart of a typical victim of the insanity that is (untreated) bipolar. She is honest and unapologetic, she is in-your-face, and she is raw. I sympathized with Marya so much in this memoir that I couldn't help but feel elated when she found moments of peace, and desperate during each of her countless hospitalizations...even if some of them were hastened by her own hand. She shows readers that a person can be both severely mentally ill and outrageously successful at the same time. She dispels many myths about mental illness in this book, as she did with eating disorders in 'Wasted.' Marya Horbacher is brilliant, and the unimaginable setbacks she has suffered in her young life have done nothing to change that; in fact, they have made her stronger and infinitely more compassionate. With a quick wit and self-deprecating humor, Ms. Hornbacher has penned another brilliantly intense memoir that, in my opinion, is on-par with any of Elizabeth Wurtzel's writings, and perhaps even better.

review by Melissa T. Galligan (Melbourne, FL)

Mistaken Identity

Mistaken Identity: Two Families, One Survivor, Unwavering Hope By Don & Susie Van Ryn (Author), Newell, Colleen & Whitney Cerak (Author), Mark Tabb (Contributor)

I couldn't put this book down. It was such a compelling read that I kept turning page after page wanting to know what came next...eventhough I already knew how it ended. It is beautifully written, almost like reading a fiction book, and yet, of course, frightenly real. It is tragic that this actually happened, but I'm thankful to each family that they have chosen to tell their story. To share with us the grace and mercy, and abundant love that these two families have for one another. They have been a wonderful example of how we, too, can love and forgive, and have compassion towards one another when life doesn't play out how we would like. This book makes me want to live a deeper faith-filled life and always love and have matter what!

review by MommaT "Lover of Good Books"