Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Book Review: 'Into Thin Air' by Jon Krakauer

✰✰✰✰½ Tag along as best-selling author Jon Krakauer recounts his harrowing journey to the summit of Mt. Everest back in 1996. Fraught with mishaps, drama, and delays, the expedition was the perfect storm for disaster. Challenged by the confusion brought on from lack of oxygen, Krakauer struggled to make sense of the emerging situation he and others suddenly found themselves in.

Imagine climbing 29,028 feet with little sleep and pushing your body to the limit. Just when you think you should be celebrating, you suddenly realize that reaching the summit is actually just the halfway point. Somehow you have to get yourself back down the mountain, and do it quickly because clouds are forming. Although the clouds look innocent at first, things quickly take a turn for the worse. Before everything is said and done, tough decisions must be made and people will die. Who will be left behind and who will survive? Told in a journalistic style, this a classic tale of survival will keep you on the edge of your seat.

The Bottom Line: Even though the events in this book took place over twenty years ago, this is a timely read. With the passage of time, the warnings in this book have faded. Highly recommended for people who enjoy mountain climbing, extreme sports, and physical challenges. Fans of survival stories will want to revisit the issues raised in this riveting read.

Book Club Notes: This book was very well received by members in our group; some recalled reading it many years ago. With the events that took place on Mt. Everest earlier this year, there was a lot to talk about. There are many sites with discussion questions online; however, we had so much to talk about that we didn't need formal questions. This was a very animated discussion, and we took a look at overcrowding, the business of mountain climbing, the individual fitness to climb, the effects of high altitude on the body, nature conservation, Sherpa culture, survivor's guilt, and much, much more. Many of us wondered why anyone would want to undertake such an endeavor. Really, why? 

We enjoyed the author's investigative journalistic writing style, and several of us expanded our vocabulary due to Krakauer's illustrative wording. In fact, a comment was made that Krakauer's writing is so vivid, it's like watching a movie. As we retraced the missteps to this disaster, it was almost like being on the mountain with him. Yet, we could relive the drama from the safety of our own living room couches. For some in our group, Jon Krakauer is their favorite author. The only negative comments were about the large number of names included, but since this was a true event, there was little the author could do about that.

In sum, we agreed that Into Thin Air is a real page-turner that keeps you coming back, and we highly recommend it to other book clubs interested in survival stories. On a scale of 1 - 5, with 5 being the highest, the group gave it an average of 4.5 (ratings ranged from 4 - 5).

Details: Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer. Paperback published by Anchor Books in 1999. 332 p. ISBN: 978-0-385-49478-6

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