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Jon Krakauer Books: Into Thin Air Under the Banner of Heaven and More

Updated on April 24, 2012


Prior to joining the 1996 expedition to Mt. Everest that led Jon Krakauer to write and publish "Into Thin Air", he was already a full-time journalist writing for "Outside" Magazine and was publishing articles and short stories elsewhere, as well. "Eiger Dreams", in fact, was his first mountain-climbing centered book, before Into Thin Air.

Krakauer has since gone on to prove his merit as a skilled writer by authoring books on very diverse topics and hitting the best-seller list with many of them.

Aerial view of Mt. Everest
Aerial view of Mt. Everest | Source

Into Thin Air

This is the book that made Jon Krakauer familiar to readers who didn't usually follow the mountaineering or climbing genre.

In 1996, Krakauer, a skilled mountaineer in his own right, joined a guided expedition to climb and chronicle an ascent of Mt. Everest. The tragedy that occured on the descent became known as "the Everest disaster". A storm rapidly enveloped the mountain and by the time it was over, four of six expedition members were dead, including their guide. The other climbing team that was to be featured for the planned "Outside" magazine article also lost most of their team members and their guide.

Krakauer did publish his planned article in "Outside" in late 1996. By 1997, he had expanded on the article by writing "Into Thin Air". This detailed and riveting account of the climb, the summit and the disaster will have you holding your breath and anticipating the next page. Even though most people know the tragic outcome, the book is still a jaw-dropping, suspenseful page-turner.

Krakauer also uses the book to discuss the controversial commercialism of "climbing Everest". The idea that anyone with a little climbing experience and enough money to get there should be able to summit, in many climbers' opinions, has led to dangerous consequences and is destroying the experience and the mountain.

Eiger Dreams: Ventures Among Men and Mountains

Eiger Dreams is a compilation of Krakauer's previously published, climbing related articles. Many are first-hand accounts of his own experiences. Krakauer presents these stories with humor, some of it self-depricating, and candor.

Eiger Dreams is great for those who don't wish to dive into a full-length novel. Each story in Eiger Dreams is self-contained and just the right length for the short attention span.

Those who climb will appreciate that the author was himself, an avid climber and mountaineer at the time he was writing these stories. Those who do not climb, but are interested in reading about it will get a glimpse into the mind of these adventurers. It may still not answer the questions "why climb"? but this book provides some clues.


Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith

"Under the Banner of Heaven" uses the true murder story of a young woman and her infant daughter as step stone to reveal the world of mormon fundamentalism.

The murderers claim that the murders were divinely sanctioned and justified. Krakauer goes on to explore the foundation and tenets of the mormon church. He shows how these groups hold a good deal of power, even though they aren't part of "mainstream" mormonism.

The extreme groups still practice polygamy, use violence and sexual brutality to advance the interests of the their self-proclaimed leaders.

Reading this book, you do not get the sense of an anti-mormon sentiment. Rather, Krakauer uses the example to show how any religious fundamentalists can justify any behavior by invoking the will of God.

Into the Wild

"Into the Wild" tells the tale of a young man who gave up everything, including a promising future, to move to Alaska for a minimal subsistence. Christopher McCandless graduated from college in 1991 and set off on a journey that started in the desert and ended, permanently, in the Alaskan wild. He started calling himself "Alexander Supertramp" and after burning his cash an ditching his car, hitchhiked into the Alaskan bush with a bag of rice and a .22 caliber rifle.

Krakauer explores the possible events that could have led up to and from this point until McCandless was found dead at his campsite, just 4 months later.

Where Men Win Glory: The Pat Tillman Odyssey

This most recent edition to Jon Krakauer's bibliography explores the story of Pat Tillman. Tillman was the American patriot who gave up a multi-million dollar NFL contract to serve in the military after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

After enlisting in the Army in 2002, Tillman served a tour in Iraq. His second deployment to Afghanistan would be his last, however. He died while serving there in 2004. The circumstances surrounding his death were not revealed, however, for over a month after he died. In the mean time, the president, then George W. Bush, used his name, his story and his sacrifice as a rallying cry to renew support for the war. It was finally confirmed by the Army that he was killed by friendly fire.

Krakauer interviewed Tillman's friends, wife and family to paint a picture of Tillman. He spent time in Afghanistan and talked to the soldiers who were there with him. Some critics think Krakauer uses Tillman's story to promote an anti-war agenda, but Tillman, himself called the war in Iraq illegal, so this may not be a disservice to his memory.

Which Krakauer book is your favorite?

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    • TahoeDoc profile image

      TahoeDoc 7 years ago from Lake Tahoe, California

      Hi Joyus Crynoid! He really does write well. Eiger Dreams is different, being the collection of short-stories, but well worth having in your collection. I really do recommend "Under the Banner of Heaven", as well. Different subject matter but I still think about that book and it's been a couple years since I read it. Nice to 'meet' you.

    • Joyus Crynoid profile image

      Joyus Crynoid 7 years ago from Eden

      I read Into the Wild and Into Thin Air when they came out in Outside magazine, before Krakauer expanded them into books. Both stories were incredibly poignant--I recall they stuck with me long after I finished reading them. He is a great writer. I might have to check out Eiger Dreams.... Good hub!

    • TahoeDoc profile image

      TahoeDoc 7 years ago from Lake Tahoe, California

      Climbing and mountaineering are great exercise and a lot of fun once you get the basics down. Get a guide or take a short-course to learn about the gear and knots and stuff. These books show the extremes of the sport and once you try climbing, you realize how amazing some of these climbers are. Happy Reading!

    • rhensley11 profile image

      rhensley11 7 years ago from Lexington, KY

      Jon Krahauer's books look very interesting. I am not an avid climber, however I love the idea of shorter climbs. In Kentucky, we have some great family owned climbing places in the Red River Gorge. Will definitely try one of his reads to learn more about climbing. It seems like a wonderful way to spend the day.