Little Princes: One Man's Promise to Bring Home the Lost Children of Nepal, Conor Grennan
Little Princes was a case of love at first listen. I'd been putting it off for a while because the description made me think it would be very similar to Three Cups of Tea, which I liked but didn't want to rehash. I'm glad gave it a shot because it's one of my favourites of the year so far.
Conor Grennan decides to travel around the world for a year, beginning with a three month stint volunteering at an orphanage in Nepal. He readily admits that it wasn't the actual volunteering or the orphans that motivated him, rather the idea of it and of being able to impress people by saying that he did it (here's an article he wrote for the Huffington Post about whether or not one's initial motivation really matters). Once in Nepal, though, he establishes a connection to the kids and when he learns the truth of their circumstances, he is compelled to help.
Grennan reads the audiobook himself, which is great because his enthusiasm and passion really shine through in his reading. He clearly loves Nepal and all of the kids that he's worked with. I loved all of the sections where he talked about the kids because of that enthusiasm.
Grennan is a very engaging narrator. It's easy to like him and get completely drawn into his story. And the story has a little bit of everything: memoir, travelogue, history, adventure, love story. Grennan's efforts to start his own organization and to find the childrens' families are compelling, though the story did drag a bit when he was away from the kids (why I gave the book a 4.5 instead of a perfect 5.0). His long-distance courtship of Liz was sweet and fun to follow; I couldn't help but root for them to get together. Grennan is also a great descriptive writer; I'm a visual person and prefer the written word but I could easily picture everything he was talking about.
My favourite thing about Little Princes is how genuine Grennan appears to be. The book was written several years after the experiences that he details, and Grennan has obviously used that time to reflect on his motivations and his experiences. He is honest and self-aware, which is refreshing. He seemed to be a bit of a douchebag before his trip (the friend he meets in Bangkok reflects that) but he freely admits to it. Later in the book, when he starts interviewing the families of the children, he admits that his initial approach was not the best way to go and that he had, in fact, acted like a jerk. He just seems very human and while I wouldn't have the cojones to do what he has done, I felt like I could still relate to him.
I highly recommend this book. It's entertaining, it's informative, and it's thought-provoking. If you liked Three Cups of Tea, this one is even better.