Book #15: Into Thin Air

The brevity of this review should in no way be a reflection of my thoughts on this wonderful book by Jon Krakauer, who previously wrote Into the Wild.  This is a gripping book about the ill-fated May 1996 expedition to the summit of Mount Everest.  Krakauer was a part of that expedition - an avid climber and correspondent for Outside magazine, it was a great potential story and an chance for Krakauer to climb what was for many climbers the apex of the sport.

What he got instead, soon after reaching the top, was a devastating storm that claimed the lives of 17 people, including all the other members of his team.  Into Thin Air deals with the adventure of the climb, but more importantly it deals with the incredible race for survival, the horror of nature versus man, and the anguish of living when so many others had died, and living with the knowledge that it was blind luck that was the factor between life and death.

Like his previous book, reading Into Thin Air I was deeply affected.  Krackauer has a way of writing that brings you completely into the environment, even as he's desperately separating himself to cast a critical eye on events.  This becomes doubly difficult in Into Thin Air, as he's a main character in the story.  A few days after finishing it I had a long argument with a friend who thought the book was essentially a waste because "anyone, as he put it, "stupid enough to climb a mountain like deserves what's coming to him."  I think people who cannot take a moment to step outside of themselves and see the drives of others would perhaps be the perfect candidate for a book like this, if we could only get them to read it.