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Three Cups Of Tea
Three Cups Of Tea
by Greg Mortenson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful and inspiring book about philanthropy in the Middle East, 29 Aug. 2012
This review is from: Three Cups Of Tea (Paperback)
Three Cups Of Tea is a story about devotion, love and human kindness. The book's protagonist, Greg Mortenson, is an experienced climber looking to conquer K2, one of the world's most treacherous mountains. Only one leg of the climb remains to reach the summit, when his life suddenly takes an unexpected turn. It is from this seemingly disastrous and disappointing event that a new journey unfolds for Greg.

Resting at the highest and final camp on K2 before making the last push to the summit, Greg hears over the radio that another climber has become sick higher up and will likely die if he is not rescued and returned to base camp. Risking his life and giving up his own bid to reach the summit, Greg volunteers to rescue the climber. Having delivered the incapacitated man to safety half way down the mountain, he continues his descent to head home. A wrong turn nearly ends up costing him his life and it is only by sheer fortune that he eventually stumbles into a small mountain village not registered on the map that he is able to find shelter and nurtured back to health.

There is something about these people that Greg finds a deep appreciation for. They live in abject poverty and must get by with very little and yet there is a kindness and happiness to this community so rarely seen in the Western World. He offers to return to the village to build them a school and from here begins the story of how Greg Mortenson went on to build fifty five schools in the arid and often hostile mountains of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The fact that this story overlaps with 9/11 and the subsequent wars of Afghanistan and Iraq only goes to demonstrate the importance of Greg's work. The book seems to be well researched and discusses the history of this terrain and the communities that live there. Border disputes and financial corruption are common in this part of the world making it unstable. The book traces much of the instability back to the British Empire which carved up countries with crass border lines often running through old and established nomadic lands.

I particularly appreciated the different aspects of this book. First and foremost this is a heartfelt story that can rival the best of adventure novels yet this is not fiction which makes it so remarkable. The author seems to have researched the geography and the politics of the area well, much of this likely coming from Mortenson's discussions with the locals. It feels like a book written without a strong Western bias which is refreshing. The book helps us understand how different this part of the world is from a typical Western country. The geography and topology is harsh and unpredictable. The politics is corrupt at the central level yet surprisingly effective at the local level. Religion and faith is paramount to just about everyone and when you consider what many of these people have been through over the years it is little surprise they have had to reach out to something beyond the earth for hope and survival.

I wonder how Westerners and especially Americans (and Brits) would have reacted had they been able to read this book following 9/11. Would people have been so 'gun ho' and retaliatory if they just had some of the understanding that this book provides.

Above all this is an inspiring book that shows us that a small group of people can make a big difference in the world if we really want to.

Innocent: The Inside Story of Innocent Told from the Outside
Innocent: The Inside Story of Innocent Told from the Outside
by John Simmons
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Truly inspiring book that proves successful business can be fun and conscientious, 21 Aug. 2012
This is unlike any other business book I have read. In my opinion it's greatest strength is simply telling the story of Innocent from its inception to its grand status today, which by most accounts is a totally unique and inspiring organisation. Simmons has great access to the Founding Partners, the original Venture Capitalist, Maurice Pinto, who bankrolled the idea, Innocent's employees, wholesalers and customers.

The Western liberal market attitude, whilst delivering unprecedented economic success to many corporations and owners of capital, has also created its own shadow of corporate deceit and marketing spin. Such an environment where the rules of the game are clearly in favour of Big Business seems to promote cynicism and self servitude at the expense of community and trust. I genuinely feel that the Innocent story provides a glowing example of an alternative route for business growth which one day, just might, become the norm.

I would make one constructive criticism and that is Simmons' close access to the senior people at Innocent may have compromised his objectivity. The book struggles to find any genuine flaws or mistakes within the people or the business and that did raise my 'cynical' eye as to how balanced this story really is. Maybe his next edition can dig a little deeper, I'm sure the boys at Innocent will be grateful for the candidness and insight. All in all a great read.

Go: An Airline Adventure
Go: An Airline Adventure
by Barbara Cassani
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars A book about leadership in the workplace, 5 Oct. 2011
I found Go to be an inspiring and riveting business book. Barbara Cassani, Go's all American, go getting, CEO, takes the reader on a journey from the airline's inception as a small side project for British Airways, through its meteoric rise to the top of the `low cost' airline sector and finally ending in a controversial takeover by Easyjet.

Cassani's greatest strength seems to be her uncompromising dedication to her staff and customers. She refutes the adage that `low cost means low quality' by challenging many of the standard working practices and inspiring her workforce to be part of a great team that brings out the best in each of them.

She comes across as someone who truly walks her talk. On the one hand she admits to being highly demanding and exacting to her staff while on the other she realizes such pressure needs to be rewarded fairly with positive feedback, fun and greater pay. Perhaps her most audacious demand, that the venture capital firm buying Go must provide equity to every member of staff, is also the most telling of what kind of CEO she is.

At a time when the pay gap between senior management and general staff is at an eye watering disparity, Cassani demonstrates an alternative approach where all long term staff is rewarded with equity within the company. Everyone, from the cabin crew to the Senior Managers, has a stake in the business. Their interests are jointly aligned to the long term success of the company and it may help explain how Go achieved such a collegial atmosphere amongst its workforce.

Cassani openly admits that `low cost' airlines created new market share in air travel by heavily promoting cheap airfares to people who had previously neither the inclination or the means to travel regularly by plane. Whilst it may seem unfair to critcise an organization that is facilitating air travel to people who previously couldn't afford it, it is hard to deny that low cost airlines such as Go produce significant carbon emissions that harm the environment. At no stage in the book does Cassani consider the wider ramifications of Go's rapid expansion and the eventual impact this has on the environment.

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