Naughty Naughty Authors…

Three Cups of Tea: One Man's Mission to Promote Peace . . . One School at a TimeWith the whole Greg Mortenson debacle that has been buzzing on Twitter and everywhere else on the interwebs, I’ve found myself feeling wary of ever picking up Three Cups Of Tea despite how excited I was when I bought it last year (we’ll move on from the fact that I buy books and don’t read them until decades later).

This is something that happens to me often when I see similar controversies or authors behaving badly. I owned two James Frey books and I couldn’t bring myself to read them after he lied about his supposed “memoir” and the whole “Fiction Factory” thing. It doesn’t matter how badly I want to read it…when I see an author lying or acting like a straight up asshat it just makes something inside of me feel like I don’t want any part in that. I feel almost disrespected as a reader. I mean..if your memoir isn’t true, please don’t label it as a memoir. Fiction sells..clearly…so don’t trick me or manipulate me.

I know that a book like Three Cups of Tea still DOES have value to it and teaches some great lessons whether or not he fudged some details. But I don’t know, I just feel conflicted and think it would mar my perception of his work. I understand that authors are people and they make mistakes but there is something within my being that won’t let me get past REALLY bad behavior enough to read the book.

Even on a small scale, I’ve heard of authors being nasty to reviewers or saying something really offensive on Twitter/blogs. I’ve never experienced it personally but I see how a bad encounter with an author it might leave a bad taste in my mouth toward the book. I’ve never dealt with it so I don’t know. I can handle that an author might have a bad personality or have different beliefs than me. I think I can separate that from their work. Some of my favorite authors, musicians or actors are McDoucheys (and McBitches) but I can still appreciate their work and separate their less than stellar personality.

What about you guys? Does something like the Greg Mortenson controversy dissuade you from picking up a book by that author? If you’ve already read it, does it affect your feelings toward it? Have you ever had an encounter with an author (no names, please!) that made you think differently about them or their books? Can you separate the authors actions from their work? Or does it depend on WHAT the action is? Authors, how do you feel about this when you see your peers doing things like this? Do you think your actions affect readers? Let me know your thoughts!

And I’ll just have you know that my Naughty Naughty Authors is said in the same tone as the end of this.

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About Jamie

Jamie is a 32 year old married lady (with a new baby!!) who is in denial that she's actually that old to be a married lady and a mom. When she's not reading you can find her doing Pilates followed by eating ice cream, belting out Hamilton (loud and offkey) and having adventures with her husband, daughter and rescue dog.


  1. I haven't even heard of the controversy! I read that book ages ago and okay, obviously I believed what he was doing and applauded him for it, but it wasn't a very good book. His co-author wrote with too many frills and the prose got superfluous. He seemed nearly enraptured with his subject and I got tired of the neverending praise. It was an honourable message to send out but by the end of it all, I couldn't stand the book.

  2. Yes, it dissuades me. I hadn't ever gotten to this book… I'd heard good and bad about it so I wasn't sure if I would get to it. But now I definitely don't want to. It would be a shame, of course, if it really were true and the allegations were false.

  3. I read the book several years ago and I liked it. It's not the best book written by any means. But I do think that books of that nature, whether they are completely accurate or not, do inspire a lot of people to seek out more humanitarian pursuits.

    Sometimes, even though it's an awful expression, the ends do justify the means. But I completely get your point of "if the memoir isn't true, don't label it a memoir."

  4. Utah Mom says:

    This book has been on my to-read list for awhile but I haven't actually bought it yet. 🙂 I laughed at your comment about buying books you don't read. I have a full shelves of to-ready books. It's a fun addiction.

    Anyway, I can pretty much separate the author from the work in fiction but I would have trouble with a book if I knew the author was less than honest and it's supposed to be a memoir. I would doubt everything about it.

  5. I very much enjoyed Three Cups of Tea and Stones Into Schools. I am disenchanted by Mortenson's behavior concerning CAI, but still very much believe in the work they're doing. I understand Mortenson felt like he had to give a sensational story to get people interested in what he is doing, but I'll bet people would have been interested regardless. At this point, I think the best thing CAI can do is ditch him and find someone else to head the organization. I think he really believes in his cause and I also think the popularity of it went to his head. Sad situation all around, especially if this dissuades people from ever donating to CIA again, even if they reconcile what has happened.

  6. I think we also need to remember that Jon Krakauer, author of fantastic books like Into the Wild and Under the Banner of Heaven is the one who blew the whistle. He's a journalist and so it makes sense, but I think just the title of his piece is a TAD dramatic. THREE CUPS OF DECEIT. I mean, come on. Here's a link:

  7. Meredith says:

    I haven't read Three Cups of Tea or Stones into Schools, but I'm familiar with them. I also read Jon Krakauer's story. While it's disappointing that Mortenson seems to have embellished his books and maybe even lied about the events that take place in the book, I can understand why he might do that, for the sake of the story. It doesn't make it right, but he's trying to sell books, so of course he wants them to be interesting.

    The bigger issue (for me, at least) is the financial mismanagement of his nonprofit. That's something that should be investigated further, because if he's used donations inappropriately, that could be getting into illegal territory, not to mention misleading all of those donors who wanted to help a worthy cause.

  8. Man of la Book says:

    I liked the book but I think it should be subtitled "How NOT to Start a Charity".

    I'm going to wait a bit before I pass judgment on Mr. Mortenson, even if he exaggerate­d, he still did a heck of a lot more than anyone I know.

  9. wereadtoknow says:

    What's perhaps most interesting is that Greg Mortenson recently came to my university to speak to a sold out house and when someone asked him about the controversy he said "…..". He basically ignored the question, which led me to question the validity of the controversy much more than if he had at least tried to address the topic. Maybe it's because I assume that all memoirs are at least in some way fictional (owed to, if nothing else, the fact that the human memory is so fallible) but this kind of thing doesn't really bother me. I'm confused – why not just label it fictin, as you were saying – but I'm not necessarily angry. I think it's sad, more than anything. But thats how I usually feel when people lie in order to…make themselves look better? Sell more books? Who knows. Either way, it reeks of desperation.

    PS: total bonus points for the use of McDouche, McBitch, and asshat. You had me literally laughing out loud at work, to some very awkward glances, hehe!

  10. Jacinda (The Reading Housewives) says:

    I've never read a book where the author acted "naughty." Maybe this is why stuff like Greg Mortsen and James Frey doesn't bother me as much.

    I can say this: If I ever read a book which I was emotionally invested in and come to find out is was all fake…I WOULD BE VERY, VERY PISSED OFF!

    Would I pick up a book by an author who behaves this way? Possibly. I read I Am Number Four and loved it! I think it depends on the situation. So technically I have read a book where the author was "naughty," but James Frey didn't technically write I Am Number Four…all the technicalities, haha. If it was a memoir and I found out it was chocked full of lies…No, I wouldn't read it.

  11. Well I am pleased to see this blog post. I love a good hearty discussion.

    I have had Three Cups of Tea as a to read book for a long time. I'm not big on false advertising. If it's fiction then it should be labeled as such. That being said, given the controversy surrounding this book I have no intention of reading it. If he had been honest from the start I would have still read the book, but the principle of the matter is that by buying his book I would feel as if I were condoning his action. It is never okay to lie.

    I have unfortunately had a nasty encounter, as you called it, with an author. The encounter was unrelated to their book, but as the encounter has stayed with me (you always seem to remember the bad) it has left a bitter taste in my mouth. Their books could be fabulous, but the author wasn’t very nice and now I have no desire to read the authors books. It makes a part of me sad as I try not to judge a book by its cover, but there are plenty of other books out there to read.

  12. I'm sure it's a great book (I've heard some stellar things about it), but yeah, it does stop me from picking it up. I don't read much nonfiction as it is so what I do read as nonfiction… well, at they very least it should *actually be nonfiction.*

  13. Cat the Librarian says:

    Things like that make me glad I live under a rock and refuse to follow current events – if you're going to write fiction, publish it as such!

  14. I look at it like this……..if I feel a bit put off or a little unsure then why would I waste my time when I could be reading something else. Also, why in an industry where fiction is a genre that appeals to the majority would you class a book that *is* fiction as non-ficiton. Also, I think it's more than a little disrespectful to us as readers to try and decieve us into beleiving that a book is a memoir when it actually isn't. Thats a lie. i don't like liars, so i'm not going to read a book that isn't truth, expecially if it's marketed as that.

  15. Avid Reader says:

    I do have a hard time reading an author (like Frey) after something like this. I've already read this particular book, so I won't avoid it, but I will say that he doesn't come across as the best guy in the book either. He seems like a difficult person in gerneral.

  16. Miss Ash Tuesday says:

    I loved this book. Greg Mortenson became my HERO after I finished.

    I still love the book, whether it is all the way truth or not. Mortenson got pushed off my hero pedestal. I hope that the book, though, continues to inspire people to help… just in other ways besides donating to his business.

  17. I read this book long before e controversy came out but couldn’t stand the guy when I was finished. I think the work he did to try to educate the girls in afghanistan is noble, however…he built schools that were or will be destroyed or taken over by the Taliban. He did the hard work for them. Also, Mortenson got married, then left for extended periods of time to build schools and fundraise. When he was home, he was in the basement on an opposite schedule of his family. I don’t think he even knew the names of his own kids’ teachers.
    I won’t read any more books by him.