Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Review of "Into Thin Air"

While this book has been in publication for 16 years, it is still a haunting account of an expedition to the top of Mount Everest. That it is told in first person by a survivor of the climb is even better. As I consider mountain climbing to be a sport, I wanted to post my review of this excellent book here. This is my review of "Into Thin Air." 

“Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer, narrated by author

Mountain climbing, non-fiction, history

Publish date:
November 12, 1998

293 pages

5 of 5 stars (outstanding)

In the spring of 1996, journalist Jon Krakauer volunteered to embark on an expedition to climb Mount Everest with a guided group to learn first-hand what these groups are like.  The mountain climbing community believed that the expedition to the peak was becoming too commercialized and that a trip to the top of the mountain could be bought by any climber regardless of ability. Krakauer was to write an article for Outside magazine on this topic and this would give him that experience.

The trip became deadly as not only members of his group perished, including the leader Rob Hall.  Scott Fisher lead another group who also had members perish on this climb and the first person narrative from Krakauer of this disaster is a gripping account that pulls no punches on opinions, speculation on what went wrong, and also what could have been done differently.

When reading or listening to the book, the reader will be immediately sucked into the dangers that the climbers, guides and helpers (also known as sherpas) must endure during each phase of the expedition.  Even the time spent in Himalayan lodging while waiting to begin the actual climb will make one stop and wonder why someone wants to take on such an apparently unpleasant task.  Because Krakauer is a seasoned climber himself, the explanation of the many reasons why someone would do this is given more credence.

While there are some passages that may not be clear to people with no experience in the sport, it is explained in easy to understand language so that it does not detract from the story.  I also believe that because I listened to the audio book, it was even more compelling than reading because the inflection in Krakauer’s voice while recalling the events added to the drama even more.

This book is more than a sports book – it is a reflection of the human drive and spirit, it is a tragedy and it is also an example of what a survivor of any disaster goes through with the remorse and guilt that he or she survived while others perished.  This book covers all of that and more.  An excellent read for anyone, no matter what interests him or her.

Did I skim?

Pace of the book: 
For the most part, it moves along very well.  Not being a climber, I was a little lost when it got too technical, but that was minor and these were explained in a manner that helped explain the gear or terminology for readers like me with no experience.

Do I recommend? 
Anyone who likes a true account of any type of adventure, whether it results in tragedy or not, will want to read or listen to this book. 

Book Format Read:

Buying links:


  1. If you liked this one, you have to read Into the Wild about Christopher McCandless. The choices he makes (both fascinating and dumb) and then Krakauer's explanations of the terrain on which McCandless hikes and attempts to survive, along with piecing together the mystery of this rich kid who gave it all up to go "into the wild" is an excellent, gripping read. Here is my review on Goodreads:

    1. I listened to Into the Wild as well. That was just as good as this one.