I haven’t written a book review in quite awhile so it says a lot about Jon Krakauer’s writing that I’m moved to write one now. “Into Thin Air” is his personal account of the 1996 Mt. Everest disaster which is a pretty well-known story. There are two movies about it and several books. I’m interested in outdoor activities so I’ve read a few articles about the incident before reading this book. The articles in no way made me develop an interest in trying high-altitude climbing for myself and this book reinforced my opinion many times over! Just driving my Jeep up the Pike’s Peak Highway in the 90s scared the heck out of me and gave me such a bad migraine I had to take to my bed the rest of the day! I’m very grateful I live at 479 feet above sea level!
I wanted to read this book because I was curious about what it’s like to attempt such a climb and this book gave me a pretty good idea – it’s horrible! Just to get to base camp apparently involves more physical torment than I would ever dream of putting myself through. The kind of person who is willing to try this is a very different breed. I admire such people in a way though I frankly will admit I think they are crazy! Extreme forms of human behavior are interesting to read about.
If you get to the summit you’ve really achieved a major feat of endurance, but it doesn’t sound like any fun at all. To get back down safely is even harder. Many people make the ultimate sacrifice of their lives to try or while earning a living helping others try. There is a lot of money spent, a lot of environmental damage, a lot of cultural changes in the local area and a lot of injuries and mental suffering for some of the survivors in the attempts. Whether or not it’s worth it is a question you will ask yourself if you read the book.
The people in the expedition endured a lot of suffering by their own choice. A lot of people in this world endure suffering without any choice in the matter, so I don’t think this book is exactly inspiring. It is compelling and I won’t soon forget it – one for the permanent library. There are a lot more questions in it than answers and I like that in a book. It will make you appreciate your nice warm bed which is where I read it!
Here are some of my other older book reviews.