DER GROSSE DUDEN: VOLS. 4, 7, 8, 10. Hardcover – 1959
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Krakauer's account is so compelling because it reads like a book length confession, which it is in a sense. The author worked through his very considerable feelings of survivor's guilt in the book's pages. His descriptions and not inconsiderable opinions have become legendary. For example, how many people read of AOL Chairman Robert Pittman's recent outster from the company and remembered him as the husband of Sandra Hill Pittman, who personified the rich amature climber who buys their way to the top of the world's tallest peak and who has no business being there? Krakauer's descriptions of Mrs. Pittman on the mountain are an example of his simple but devastating observations.
Krakauer's highly readable prose make the book read like fiction, probably another reason why it was so popular. He signed on for the Everest climb intending to write a standard mountaineering magazine article. That he chose the fateful May 1996 climb is simply a rare case of someone being at the wrong place at precisely the right time. Though it caused him plenty of personal torment, it also allowed him to write a story for the ages.
Overall, "Into Thin Air" fantastic storytelling make it one of the best non-fiction books published in the last decade or so.
Krakauer, a journalist who signed on with Hall's expedition to do a story for Outside magazine, doesn't disappoint as weaver of a tale. I took the book everywhere with me while reading it, always eager to find out what would happen next.
If a book that explores deftly our desire to reach an unreachable summit appeals to you....especially when that book does not shy away from the tragedy caused when the desire to reach it undoes common sense and humanity....I highly recommend "Into Thin Air."
Krakauer is a sensationalist journalist, and since he reports on dangerous and near-death experiences regularly, he really can't help being grandiose and spectacular. The subject of his writing demands that he ratchet up the emotional power of his style and word choice. And let's be honest--don't we, as readers, demand it of him as well? Don't we want a voyeuristic and graphic account, where the size, the shape, and the smell of death seem to lift from the pages? Who wants to read about a mountain climbing disaster sans the emotion and the ego it takes to put one's self unnecessarily into such perilous situations?
Perhaps some readers want a quiet truth about what happened on the mountain, but this is to ask the impossible since every climber is guaranteed to have a different story and different perceptions of similar experiences--none of which are altogether true and none of which are altogether lies. And when he/she goes to tell about it, pieces of reality will inevitably be missed and left forgotten on the mountain. Emotions will well up and color an event with bias. Egos will peek from behind a boulder and whisper truths and nonsense.
No writer can make sense of all of that, but Krakauer has tried, and largely succeeded, to give the reader an idea of what it was like on Mt. Everest in late spring 1996. He may or may not have retraced every path exactly, but he acts as a good guide. He welcomes the reader to disagree with him and simultaneously makes a bold and convincing case. He admits a myriad of his own mistakes and points out the mistakes of others. I'm impressed mostly with the balanced feel of his account. For example, much is made of Krakauer's portrayal of Anatoli Boukreev's actions on the mountain. Those who read Krakauer as blaming Boukreev for the deaths of some climbers must not have closely read the many times Krakauer praises Boukreev's numerous heroic actions. By telling of both the shameful and heroic actions of Boukreev--all told from Krakauer's self-admitted hypoxic state--I find that Krakauer achieves a kind of truth about both Boukreev and himself.
In the end, for me, the book is about how truth changes states: It's solid and reliable when you start to climb Mt. Everest. And then you climb too high, and the truth becomes slippery and liquid; you're not quite sure and you're not quite in doubt. And then sometimes, the truth changes to a gas, a gyre of contradictions--the terrible beauty of chaos, which you'll never completely remember or entirely forget.
television last year, I bought INTO THIN AIR in order to gain more insight. Krakauer delivered.
Have some time on your hands, because once you begin reading Jon's story depicting the turn of
events throughout his journey on Everest in the Spring of '96, you won't be able to stop reading until you've read the last word in his book. This account of summitting Everest is a page turner even though the outcome is old news. It will leave you wanting to know more about other attempts made
on Everest, both failed and successful.
For those who don't understand why on earth anyone would want to do something as dangerous as
climbing "Into Thin Air" on rock and ice ... this book answers that curiosity. Because Jon introduces his readers to the backgrounds and personalities of the main characters in his book, we can better comprehend the different reasons people spend thousands of dollars and two or more months of their lives in "hell" on a mountain - freezing and injured - 'just to get to the top'. We learn through Krakauer why they continue their ascent even though the conditions are pure torture and more life threatening with each step; why they don't give it up once they've lost feeling in their extremities, separated their ribs, lost their vision, can no longer breathe due to oxygen depleted air, why they don't turn back even when they see the dead who've attempted to reach the summit on prior expeditions. You'll understand because of Krakauer's talent as a writer ... his ability to replay his emotions, his thoughts, his experiences, and his opinions through writing.
You'll feel the frigid wind, the snow, the ice, the pain, the desperation, the sorrow, the regrets. The "if only's" will torture your soul just as they have and continue to torture Jon's.
He writes in such a way you will have no choice other than to join him on that mountain. You'll meet and get to know the members and guides of Rob Hall's team as well as Scott Fischer, his guides,
and some of his team members whom you will respect even though you may not like. Unfortunately,
not everyone on the mountain was a "good guy" ... you'll be livid thanks to the danger the teams
encounter due to the inexperience, egos, arrogance, and ruthlessness of the few "bad apples".
For the survivors, Jon's book is an avenue in which fathers, husbands, wives, sons, daughters, and other loved ones are portrayed as the heroes they were. Although some of the deceased's relatives were upset with Krakauer, it will seem unjust because of the respectful way in which he depicts his fellow mountaineers and the Sherpas.
Most of you who have gotten this far in the reviews knows the basic premise. Krakauer was sent to Everest by Outside magazine to join New Zealand guide Ron Hall's expeedition in the spring of 1996. He was there to write an expose about how anyone who is reasonably in shape, has some (and not a lot) of climbing experience, and who can fork over more than $60,000 could be taken to the summit of Everest while Sherpas and yaks carried most of your supplies, cooked your meals, and carried you when you collapsed. One climber even brought an espresso machine. He also wanted to comment on how Everest has become a virtual junk yard, with empty oxygen cannisters strewn all over the face of the mountain.
What he found changed his life forever. Krakauer was caught up in a deadly storm, that appeared virtually "out of thin air", leaving members of his and other teams stranded on the summit and on Hillary Step (a ledge just below the summit) with little chance of making it down. The story is gripping, suspenseful and ultimately deeply moving. The reader may think humans, especially those with pregnant wives at home, have no business at the summit of Everest, but you cannot help being deeply moved as you read about Rob Hall talking to his wife on the other side of the world, via satellite phone, to discuss the name of their unborn child while Hall is stranded on the mountain. The book kept me up nights as few others ever have.
A point about the "feud" with Anatoli Boukreev is worth mentioning, since, in my opinion, this has been blown out of proportion by others. Krakauer recognizes that each climber has his own way of doing things, but he took some shots at the Mountain Madness expedition led by Scott Fischer, and at his guide Boukreev in particular, for climbing without supplemental oxygen and for descending ahead of the group's clients. I think he made some good points there. Boukreev was no doubt a great climber, and his death in an avalanche the next year makes the whole debate a little pointless, but I think a client if I were to fork over $60,000 I have the right to expect that the guide will be out on the mountain with me as I descend, not warming up in the hut drinking tea. Boukreev is credited by Krakauer with a heroic trip back up the mountain during a blizzard to reach Fischer, and he may have been told earlier by Fischer to descend (we'll never know for sure), but those tactics are surely open to debate. Some reviewers here on Amazon have taken personal shots at Krakauer's actions during the storm, but he was no paid guide, and he rightfully takes some blame himself in his book for abandoning Beck Weathers and for giving some false info to the family of one of his guides, Andy Harris that added to the confusion in those first days of the incident.
In any event, if you want to get caught up in the whole Krakauer v. Boukreev debate, be my guest - you can read both of their accounts of what happened on that fateful trip. For my money, Krakauer's account is the definitive, well-written story, which should at the very least be used as a starting point for anyone interested in the 1996 Everest tragedy. And for most people (like myself) with little or no interest in climbing, read Into Thin Air on its own as a gripping, unforgettable account of a very public tragedy which you will not soon forget.