Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

Oh. My. Gosh.

Have you read Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air?  If you have, I feel quite certain that you understand what I’m going on about; why I need to talk about this book.  You understand why I began talking about Mount Everest to my youngest host brother and why, when my Dad sent me a postcard with a mountain on it, I kind of freaked out.  This book is that well written and tells a story that is that will stay with you for a long time after you turn the final page.

Into Thin Air tells the story of a group of ill-fated expeditions up Mount Everest during spring 1996.  Krakauer was a part of the expedition, climbing as a journalist writing about the current state of Everest climbing.  He, along with a group of five others, set out to tackle Everest.  Although he had previous mountain experience, he admits to lacking good high-altitude training.  You see, the thing about climbing Mount Everest is that it’s really high, much higher than we can even conceptualize.  At the summit, which is at 29,000 feet,  you’re above the clouds.  That’s only 16,000 feet lower than a regular plane flies.  Could anyone truly be ready to climb such a beast?

The book tells the story of the expedition from their arrival at the mountain, acclimitaziation process, initial ascent, the climb to the summit and the chaotic descent.  There’s a good bit of history and background knowledge woven in, to give those of us who aren’t mountain climbing encyclopedias a good understanding of the task at hand.  Krakauer also discusses the aftermath at length as this is, above all, a quasi-therapeutic book for him.  Retelling his account of the events allow Krakauer to work through the demons that have haunted him since his time on the mountain.  I find the fact that he is even able to write such a moving, powerful and comprehensive book about his experience astonishing.

You may be thinking, well Emilia, that sounds great, but I’m not particularly interested in Mount Everest.  I hear you.  If I hadn’t read Into The Wild (another haunting book), I probably wouldn’t have thought to read more of Krakauer’s books.  Into Thin Air, however, tickles something in us besides just an interest in mountains.  The book talks about human survival under extreme conditions, human decisions and possible errors as well as being a fascinating history of what drives people to such extremes.  Into Thin Air talks about human nature through this fascinating and terrifying event.

I’m not going to lie to you, this book kind of freaked me out.  True, I simply had to keep reading and had to know what happened, but it definitely stuck with me in a way that wasn’t always comfortable.  There’s a lot of death, there’s a lot of difficult circumstances and there’s a lot of emotional turmoil to deal with.  While it’s most definitely a worthy read, I’d recommend reading it a group to have someone with whom to talk about the story.

Into Thin Air is, without a doubt, one of the best books I’ve read this year, absolutely captivating and a must-read for anyone who likes thinking.  If you need someone to talk about this book with, I’m here and eager to discuss.

Extreme sports or extreme experiences: yay or nay?


4 thoughts on “Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

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