I was intrigued to read the book Into Thin Air after reading an excerpt of it that was in the literature book I used for my sophomores last year and the year before. Both the students and I thoroughly enjoyed reading the excerpt, so I thought I’d give the book a try. I can say that I did honestly enjoy reading a non-fiction “adventure” story in its entirety. I use the word “adventure” loosely only because this book recounts the most disastrous month in the recent history of Mount Everest. I wasn’t sure how I would like the book, since I’m not a big fan of non-fiction accounts. But this book definitely changed my outlook. Jon Krakauer takes the reader from his arrival by plane, on which he realizes that he is only about one thousand feet above the summit of Everest, all the way to the harrowing descent from the summit during which many of the climbers lost their lives. One part of the book that only took up a chapter or so that I surprisingly enjoyed reading was the history of Mount Everest in which Krakauer included stories of the surveying expeditions of the mountain as well as the first climbers to make it to the summit. I think that understanding the rich history of the mountain and of the people that aspire to reach its heights is vital to really getting into the book and feeling as if you are really watching the desperate attempts of the May 1996 climbers to reach and descend the summit.
One thing that I would recommend doing both before and during the reading of the book is to Google a few pictures of Mount Everest, the different camps, the routes to the summit, and the summit itself. That will really give you an idea of how treacherous Everest really is. Not that Krakauer doesn’t do an exceptional job of describing the various landmarks of the mountain, but to actually see what they look like takes you to an entirely different level.
Back to the actual review of the book, I think that Krakauer, as a journalist, did a good job of piecing together the information to make the book a coherent account of the climb. Understandably, with the events that took place, some of the information is a bit jumbled, but overall, it is fairly well-put together. I thought it was a nod to his effectiveness as a writer that he begins the book in the middle–the first chapter is about when Krakauer reaches the summit. This sets up the reader to be anticipating the disaster that he or she knows is impending. The only thing I would try to change about the book is that, although it flows well for the most par for a non-fiction account, some of the chapters are a bit choppy and you have to re-read a few paragraphs every once in a while. It is a fairly simple read, and the footnotes Krakauer makes regarding the definitions of certain mountaineering terms and Buddhist culture references do help, but it wasn’t one of those books I could just pick up and not put down. It did peak my interest in reading more books like it and even more by Krakauer. I might even try to read this one again. For a final verdict, I give Into Thin Air a B.