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Into Thin Air

Updated on July 5, 2010

I received this book (The Illustrated Edition, which includes many many photographs as well as line drawings at the start of ever chapter) long ago, at the end of my high school career. I'd forgotten it amongst my pile of books to read, and so I haven't actually read it until now, 2 months after I graduated from college. After finishing this book, I feel sad I hadn't read it earlier.

The book is an expansion on an article Jon Krakauer wrote for "Outside" magazine based on his experiences on Mount Everest, the world's tallest mountain, in May of 1996. In that month 12 people died on the slopes as a result of extreme cold, lack of oxygen, and various other causes. Krakauer's book endeavors to explain what happened and to come to some sort of conclusion as to why it did, 

Krakauer does this by going into depth about the history of Everest, as well as the background of many of the people present on the mountain in May of 1996. Although he doesn't come to any concrete conclusions, the book does serve in my opinion as a good attempt to document what happened and why.

Krakauer is a really good writer, able to make the most arcane piece of mountaineering philosophy both comprehensible and interesting to someone who has no interest in climbing a mountain. He is also incredibly thorough, bringing to life around thirty distinct people to the point it feels like the reader has actually met them in person.

As the ascent of Everest proceeds, and things start to go wrong, a real feeling of menace and doom pervades over the book. I found myself afraid to go on as people I had gotten to know over the course of the book start dropping like flies (often unpredictably), but simultaneously unable to put the book down. Krakauer is able to make the events of this sad true story seem as enthralling as the most engrossing suspense novel out there.

All around, this was a wonderful book, informative and exciting, powerful and objective. I would recomend this book to anyone who's ever wondered why people climb Mount Everest, as well as those looking for a thrilling true-life story. An amazing book


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