Books are cheaper than heroin, but they DO add up....

Amy, Carrie, Chanin and Sarah buy (and read and review) their own stuff. They've been known to shop around from dealer to dealer looking for the best price. If you're interested in slipping them something to try out, just contact us.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer

I know....I can't believe I read this book either!  It's not at all something I normally go for.  It's not even fiction, for crying out loud!  I picked it up on the fly at Barnes and Noble one day when I was there with both kids, a latte in one hand and a little boy dragging me back to the train table in the other hand.  He won (he's a freakishly strong kid) and thankfully, so did I.  The book was good.

Into Thin Air is the story of the May 1996 disaster on Mt. Everest that killed eight climbers. The author, Jon Krakauer, was hired to climb to base camp of Mt. Everest and report back to his magazine, Outside.  His story was to simply cover the commercialization of Everest, Nepal and the surrounding Sherpa community. Instead, Krakauer actually made it all the way to the summit and then was engulfed in the deadly storm that killed his guide and three others during their decent.

The first thing that struck me about this book is how many people commented on it when I was out in public.  I was stopped in the lobby of the doctor's office, while I was getting my hair colored (Surprise! I'm not a natural blonde) and even at my son's tae kwon do lesson.  People wanted to talk about this book!  They wanted to tell me about their recent climb or how they sympathized with the sherpa community in Nepal.  I expect comments when I am reading a new release or maybe something about a polarizing political figure, but I wasn't expecting full on conversations about this book.  Something about this book makes people feel a connection to the adventure and ultimately, the mountain.

I don't read non-fiction that often (okay, never) so maybe I am just naive, but the amount of detail and chronological fact in this book astounded me.  Yes, the author was being paid to write about his experience, and yes, this had been a childhood dream, but holy smokes!  When you couple that with the fact that most of this was experienced at lower-than-normal oxygen levels, you really get an appreciation for all of the detail in this book.  The story is told well, follows a nice time line (which if you will remember from previous reviews, I am a big fan of) and provides not only factual but cultural insight.  The only thing that would have made it better was if the storm hadn't come and wiped out half of the climbing team.  That part was a huge bummer.

After reading Into Thin Air, I want to try another non-fiction piece.  As a matter of fact, I would love some suggestions from our readers.  The next time I am being whisked through Barnes and Noble with my latte and my freakishly strong boy, I may not get as lucky. says:  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.
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  1. Thanks, Amy! I struggle with getting my teenagers to read anything other than what they are assigned in school. However, Two did enjoy "Between a Rock and a Hard Place," another story of adventure and tragedy. Maybe this would be up his (dark) alley.

    If you want a break from the cold weather, but still enjoy perilous sports, I could recommend "The Wave," about the crazy culture of big-wave riding.

  2. Here's a list of "the best" 100 nonfiction books according to the Guardian: