The Lake Oswego Public Library has chosen a true story set in Pakistan for its second annual citywide reading program Lake Oswego Reads, which kicks off in January.
The book, 'Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Fight Terrorism and Build Nations … One School at a Time,' was selected by a steering committee comprised of local leaders and librarians.
Published in 2006, the book is co-authored by award-winning Portland journalist David Oliver Relin. The steering committee selected it out of more than 40 book suggestions contributed by local residents.
'We knew it would be very different to go from fiction to non-fiction,' Cyndie Glazer, Lake Oswego Reads coordinator, said. 'When we all met, the committee all thought this would be the right book for our second year.'
It tells the story of co-author Greg Mortenson, who in 1993 wandered into the most desolate reaches of northern Pakistan after a failed attempt to reach the peak of K2, the second-highest mountain on Earth.
Alone and without food, water or shelter, he eventually stumbled into an impoverished Pakistani village and was nursed back to health.
While recovering, he observed the village's children sitting outdoors, scratching their lessons in the dirt with sticks. The village was so poor that it could not afford the $1-a-day salary to hire a teacher. When he left, Mortensen promised that he would return to build a school.
He had no reason to believe he would fulfill the promise, but with the help of inspired adults and children who donated money, Mortensen built 55 schools in a region where Americans are feared and hated.
In pursuit of his goal, Mortenson has survived an armed kidnapping that was issued by enraged mullahs, repeated death threats and wrenching separations from his wife and children.
Yet his success speaks for itself - this year the schools will educate 24,000 children.
Library Director Bill Baars described the book as 'a fascinating and inspiring story of compassion and courage.'
'The messages of dedication, hard work and optimism provide a hopeful beacon in these dangerous times,' he said. 'The story of the author's journey from failure to success will surely impress readers who crave a good story as well as those of us who are curious about the good work we Americans are providing in troubled locations.'
Last February, more than 5,000 local residents read and/or participated in Lake Oswego Reads events relating to the highly acclaimed book 'The Shadow of the Wind' by Spanish author Carlos Ruiz Zafon.
Zafon, who was busy finishing his next novel, did not take part in the Lake Oswego program. For next year, however, the library has already arranged to have Mortenson and Relin speak together Feb. 6 at Lake Oswego High School.
'I am so excited,' said Glazer. 'That was the one thing missing last year, so we are flying Greg in from Montana … He is so busy … and we feel very very lucky to have him be part of Lake Oswego Reads.'
Once again, 800 complimentary copies of the book will be distributed to library cardholders at the kickoff event at the library Jan. 8. The Friends of the Library funded the books' purchase.
The steering committee is planning events for February 2008 based on 'Three Cups of Tea,' which may include speakers on mountain climbing, tea drinking, Pakistani weaving, Muslim studies, history of the Himalaya and sampling of the food and music of Pakistan.
The Lake Oswego Reads 2008 program is presented by Lake Oswego Public Library and sponsored by West Coast Bank, Friends of the Lake Oswego Library and the Lake Oswego Review.
For more information about 'Three Cups of Tea,' visit www.threecupsoftea.com.