Monday, April 30, 2012

Into Thin Air - Jon Krakauer

Rating: 5 stars

Into Thin Air has been sitting on my shelf for at least a few years now, bought shortly after I'd completed Into the Wild, and left to the wiles of the dubious To Be Read pile. A conversation within Twitter's #fridayreads thread in which I stated, "I need to read more Krakauer," to another user, prompted me to pluck this out of the pile on his recommendation. I had told him that Into the Wild left, "such an impression on me." While having no doubt that Into Thin Air would display Krakauer's extraordinary talent as a journalist and writer - I still was skeptical that it could surpass Into the Wild in my heart and mind.

It has.

Similar to the start of Wild - Krakauer begins Thin Air about 3/4 of the way through his story. Before you even get moving, he's already shown you what is to come. You would think that this would help stall the shock and overwhelming emotion as in each chapter Krakauer and his teammates climb higher and higher to the summit of Everest. It doesn't. Not at all.

The book is Krakauer's personal account of the Everest tragedy in 1996. Sent on assignment by Outside magazine to report on the commercialization of the mountain, Krakauer and several, several others are caught up in a storm near the top of the mountain where they all faced severe hypothermia, hypoxia, and - for eight climbers - death. The story is harrowing tale of the beautiful danger of nature, survival against all odds, and - ultimately - the struggle to come to terms with leaving others behind. Krakauer leads us up the mountain, working hard to capture every detail, to accurately represent what he can and fill the gaps with as balanced speculation as possible.

Most amazingly, Krakauer manages to bring each of the people on that mountain to life again. I began to feel like they were people that I'd met - and when the inevitable tragedy struck, I found myself shaken to my core at their deaths. Throughout my day, I kept going back to the internet to search for their faces. To  continue to try and connect with people long gone, who weren't even mine to know.  Now - having finished - I am grieving.

Another interesting read: Paul Deegan's 1998 review of Anatoli Boukreev's "rival" book, The Climb. Though other supplemental reading suggests that the two were not enemies, persay, they did have different opinions on what happened that day. Krakauer writes Boukreev (a guide with the rival team) fairly poorly in Into Thin Air. 

Purchase Now from Amazon: Into Thin AirInto the WildThe Climb: Tragic Ambitions on Everest


  1. I have not read Into the Wild or Into Thin Air, but it sounds like you'd recommend the latter more? Especially since I've seen the movie Into the Wild, so the book's already ruined. I think I'd definitely like to read Into Thin Air. I really like your review, and I can totally relate to your reference to "the wiles of the To Be Read pile." Just thinking of my To Be Read pile makes me sigh...

    1. Mine too - especially since I've started making a pile of books that I will - "most definitely read next." Ha! It's grown way too large.

      And yes! I HIGHLY recommend this one. I still think Into the Wild made a better book than movie. But, you'll like this one better, I think. I'm passing it around right now, but can send it to you if you'd like, once it make its way back to me.


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