Thursday, December 18, 2008

Into Thin Air

I received Into Thin Air about five years ago from one of my bffs. For some reason I lost track of the book for awhile and had yet to read it. The other day, when I was out of books to read and I didn't want to buy more because Christmas - the book-receiving season in my world - is right around the corner, I searched my bookcase for a book I had yet to read. I found Into Thin Air. I've read Jon Krakauer's other books, Under the Banner of Heaven (utterly amazing) and Into the Wild (depressing but worth the read), so I knew I would like this book. And I did. A lot.

In 1996, Outside magazine sent Krakauer to climb Everest and report back in a feature story. But this trip up Everest was a deadly one, and Krakauer had several teammates perish on the side of the mountain. Afterward, he wrote his article for Outside, but then within 6 months extended it into a book - I think mostly for thearpy, but also to provide his version of the truth.

The book reminded me of how talented Krakauer is as a writer. His books are engaging, while at the same time teaching you about something real. It was very interesting to learn about the art of climbing, and the commercialization of Everest. The fact that people with very little climbing experience can pay enough money to have a guide take them to the top is just amazing to me. It sounds unbelievably dangerous. Krakauer even admitted that the "point" of climbing Everest might not even be to reach the summit - it's to endure the utter pain that comes with reaching the summit. The headaches, the stomach bugs, the coughs, the lack of oxygen to the brain, the freakin' cold. Because, a majority of people, once they get to the top, stay for only several minutes, snap a photo and then turn right back around, because they're too tired or they're hallucinating from the hypoxia.

And more often than not, people make it back down. But not in this case, and the tradegy that follows is scary and heartbreaking. You feel for those who died, and you feel for those who survived, who must now live with the guilt that they couldn't help their fellow climbers. A very interesting read. A true adventure story.

1 comment:

Charley said...

I've read only Into the Wild, but I'd like to read both this and Under the Banner of Heaven. I agree, Krakauer's wriing is engaging.