Into Thin Air – Book Review

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer is a book that I will read many more times in my life. It has everything I love in it, except for polish sausages, but that is a tale for another day. In her wonderful book Leave Me Alone, I’m Reading, Maureen Corrigan places Krakauer’s book into a category with other male, testosterone-laden memoirs about ego and adventure. I agree 100%, and hope you’ll read her book as well, particularly if you like books about books.

But back to the task at hand. Have you ever heard of Mt. Everest? Well, allow me to enlighten you for a moment. Mt. Everest is a mountain. In fact, it is this mountain:

mount everest

click for image credit

Maybe you can’t tell, but from here, my desk in Salt Lake City, it looks like a pretty tall mountain. It also looks quite cold. I’m not going to go climb Mt. Everest, I’ve decided just this minute. But that’s okay, because plenty of other crazy people have done it, including Jon Krakauer.

Into Thin Air Book Review And Summary

The beginning of the book involves the author deciding to go on the climb. As he prepares for the trip, the reader gets a great description of the mountain’s history, and of the disasters that have accompanied many attempted climbs. And yet, he is going to do it. It will make a great book, it will be a great test, it is a really tall mountain, and so on.

There is dread hanging over the book from page one, however. The subtitle is A Personal Account of The Mt. Everest Disaster. So, there is to be a disaster, no matter how interesting or fun the book’s opening chapters are.

Much of the humor in my life comes from watching people who do not work in life or death situations treat things as if they were life and death situations. For instance, I work in a library. I constantly hear myself saying to the worriers, “The worst case scenario really isn’t that bad. This is a library.”

However, there is nothing humorous about the worst case scenarios up on Mt. Everest. For all the successful tourist climbs and tourists that visit the mountain with expert sherpas, the is still a formidable, unpredictable force. When things go wrong in Into Thin Air, they go really, really wrong.

The final quarter or so of the book was as frantic as any page turner I’ve ever read. Lots of the problems center on the other climbers in the party, and their disrespect for the mountain, the weather, and also their own overestimation of their abilities. In parts, it feels just like Krakauer stocked the book with characters from central casting: We need a yuppie who brings her espresso maker up onto the mountain no matter the cost.

Also featured: stupidity, greed, hubris.

I do not want to go more in-depth here in terms of the events. People try to climb the mountain and it goes less smoothly than planned. You already know if that interests you. I hope it does!

This is a book worth approaching with as little information as possible. If you can ignore the “disaster” part of the title, you will be surprised constantly as the events unfold.

I’m about to start reading a book called High Crimes: The Fate of Everest In An Age of Greed, by Michael Kodas. I’ll be back with a review of that soon and we’ll see how it stacks up.

Anyone here read Into Thin Air? Thoughts? Have any of you climbed Mt. Everest?

Josh