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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Notable: Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

Title: Into Thin Air
Author: Jon Krakauer
Edition: Regular book

Best read for: Personal enjoyment, book club read

In a nutshell: An indepth look at the author's experience climbing Mount Everst during the tragic climb of 1996. This book gives you a pretty good perspective of what climbers go through on high-altitude climbs. Once I started it, I couldn't put it down.

Description from Amazon.com:
Into Thin Air is a riveting first-hand account of a catastrophic expedition up Mount Everest. In March 1996, Outside magazine sent veteran journalist and seasoned climber Jon Krakauer on an expedition led by celebrated Everest guide Rob Hall. Despite the expertise of Hall and the other leaders, by the end of summit day eight people were dead. Krakauer's book is at once the story of the ill-fated adventure and an analysis of the factors leading up to its tragic end. Written within months of the events it chronicles, Into Thin Air clearly evokes the majestic Everest landscape. As the journey up the mountain progresses, Krakauer puts it in context by recalling the triumphs and perils of other Everest trips throughout history. The author's own anguish over what happened on the mountain is palpable as he leads readers to ponder timeless questions.

The book covers the tragedy that took place on Mount Everest around May 10th, 1996 involving two primary climbing teams, those of Scott Fischer and Rob Hall. The author was a member of the latter team. The mountain claimed the lives of 12 people within a short amount of time. Jon Krakauer did a wonderful job of telling readers about the groups and individuals on the mountain during their ascent. He also details the conditions the climbers face and how they prepare to reach the top.

At times, I feel the author may have been too hard on himself, but at least he shares his thoughts on what may have contributed to the disaster, and includes some reactions from relatives of those members who were lost as well as conversations with survivors.

On occasion I found the book a little hard to follow, as some descriptions and accounts of people or places didn't flow along with the story as well as I would have liked. That said, once I picked it up, I couldn't put it down.

I don't think I will ever truly understand what drives people to climb this mountain, especially after I read about what the climbers go through for a chance to try to reach the summit of the mountain. Learning what these climbers go through to make it to the top was amazing. There didn't seem to be any fun to be had on the journey, and the climbers sure seemed to suffer through a lot of medical problems and environmental challenges.

Reading about Jon's firsthand account of the expedition gives the reader great insight into what goes on, and the different reasons people choose to aim for the highest place on earth. He also provides a lot of factors that probably had a negative impact on the climb, and ultimately culminated in the disaster that so shocked everyone.

I read this book after my husband gently reminded me for two months or more that he was interested in discussing the events detailed in the book. I am glad I finally took the time to read it. I ended up recommending the book to one of the book clubs I participate in, and it turned out to be a very well-liked and very much discussed book.


Melissa said...

I read this one a while ago and really enjoyed it!

Cindy Dashnaw said...

My husband and I read this book at nearly the same time so we, too, could discuss it; it was just after we watched a Discovery Channel (I think) special about the same climb. The book is great; we couldn't put it down, either.

We then read "The Climb" by Anatoli Boukreev, which tells his side of the story. If you think Krakauer was hard on himself, you'll think Boukreev is really hard on him (Krakauer)!

But, like you, I still can't understand the drive to climb this mountain. And now parents are letting their young kids do it -- no way!

esahm said...

This is a great review. I agree that this book was impossible to put down once started. The real life adventure and compelling story telling was enthralling. New GFC follower from Blogaholic on my way to Alexa to leave a review.

Stacy Taylor said...

I can't understand the urge to climb this mountain either, but (as usual) Jon Krakauer "almost" makes me want to experience it firsthand. Almost:)

Great review!

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