Title: Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster
Author: Jon Krakauer
Source: Purchased (Book of the Month Club)
One sentence synopsis
Jon Krakauer writes about his trip to the top of Mount Everest that ended in tragedy.
“This forms the nub of a dilemma that every Everest climber eventually comes up against: in order to succeed you must be exceedingly driven, but if you’re too driven you’re likely to die.”
Being a woman that loves to lose herself in a fantasy setting, I have spent many of my reading years actively avoiding non-fiction books. I had a lot of preconceived notions about non-fiction, chief among them being that they all read like stale textbooks. As I got older, though, I decided to dip my toes into the genre and ended up picking up A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson. I absolutely LOVED it and, just like that, a whole new genre was opened before me.
The main thing I loved about A Walk in the Woods was the narrative writing style. It was far from dry; it was witty and interesting and I couldn’t put it down. As I looked for more non-fiction books to read, I tried to find books that were written in a similar style. Someone suggested Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer, the story of a young man named Christopher McCandless who leaves his life behind to try and survive in the Alaskan wilderness. I was not disappointed. Krakauer definitely wrote with a conversational tone that sucked me into the story and held me in its grip until the end. So, when I noticed that his book about his experience on Mount Everest was available from Book of the Month Club, I picked it up.
So. This book. The delivery was similarly well received by me, but this book still fell flat. And I think it was because of the topic. Not because of the tragedy, though that was rather hard to read, but because mountain climbing just sounds AWFUL. The entire time I was reading this book, I couldn’t stop thinking, “Why are you people willingly putting yourselves through this?!” Krakauer goes into detail about the effects high altitude climbing has on the human body and NONE of it is pleasant. I suppose I get that people do it for the clout, but even reading this account from the viewpoint of a former climbing addict, I just… could not understand the appeal. And that made the tragedy seem that much more pointless.
I did enjoy Krakauer’s attempt to broach the subject of the commercialization of Mount Everest. I felt he spent a decent amount of time discussing what professional climbers felt about the subject and how climbing guides felt. I don’t think enough time was spent discussing how the commercialization has affected Nepal and the Sherpas, but I understand that it wasn’t meant to be the focus of the book. The focus was the tragedy and Krakauer’s attempt to try and give the most accurate account possible. Still, I felt like a little more time could have been spent exploring this topic.
Final thoughts: Though I still enjoyed Krakauer’s writing style, this topic and I just didn’t jive. Also, I will NEVER go mountain climbing. No thank you.
Have any of you read this book? What were your thoughts on it?
Let me know in the comments!
And, as always, happy reading!