Saturday, September 3, 2011

Into Thin Air (non-fiction/memoir)

Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer

I didn't want to read this book. I'm not particularly a fan of adventure-type stories, and I have no interest in mountain climbing or Mount Everest. Even when my friend chose this book for this month's discussion for our book club, I wrote it off as one I'd pass on. So I picked up a different book from my to-read shelf (A Visit From the Goon Squad; have you read it? Thoughts?) and tried to read it, but try as I might, couldn't get into it and abandoned it about fifty pages in (that's generally the chance I'll give a book; if it doesn't grab me within the first fifty pages, I quit. There are too many good books to be read to suffer through a book that isn't enjoyable). At that point, I decided I'd give Into Thin Air a try.

I could not put this book down. In it, Jon Krakauer, then a pretty successful journalist, tells his personal account of the Mt. Everest disaster in May, 1996. Hired by Outside magazine to write an article about the commercialization of Everest expeditions, Krakauer, himself an accomplished mountaineer, convinces the magazine editors to put up the funds allowing him to actually go on one of these commercial expeditions to the summit of Mt. Everest, thereby allowing him to (a) give a firsthand account of the experience, and (b) fulfill a long-held dream of his to climb Mt. Everest. In sharp detail, he tells about that ill-fated Mt. Everest expedition, which ended up claiming the lives of twelve people.

This book really got to me. It's very suspenseful and graphic, and in all seriousness, it pervaded my dreams at night; just about every night during the week or so I spent reading this, visions on snow-covered mountains, glaciers, cliffs and crevasses filled my dreams. It's still very difficult for me to fathom what motivates certain people to engage in such sport that, really, is not only extremely dangerous, but just plain miserable.

Excellent book. It was published way back in 1997, so it's already been widely read, but if you haven't read it, I highly recommend it.

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