Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Book Review - Into Thin Air

High on a list of things that I wish I could make more time for is reading. The only time I really find to read is at night before going to bed. However, this is not every night. Daily “to-dos” and favorite prime time TV shows typically trump opening my books sitting on the nightstand. However, lately, I’ve been trying to make a better effort to pick up them up and put a few chapters away before hitting the sack.

A book I had been reading for quite a while and finally finished up the other night was
Into Thin Air. This book was written by an mountaineer/journalist, Jon Krakauer, and tells a detailed, firsthand account of a very deadly season on Mount Everest. Jon got the opportunity to travel to Nepal to summit Mount Everest and in return, document his journey for an article in Outside magazine.

The book starts with a thorough history of Mount Everest and tells of the pioneers that lost their lives attempting the summit as well as those who first made successful ascents and descents. He describes the geography of the mountain and how features like the Hillary Step inherited its name. He also describes how Mount Everest went from being a mountaineer’s biggest goal to it being a tourist attraction that anyone could attempt to summit, if they had enough money to pay a guiding company.

He describes his trip to Nepal in pretty good detail and does a great job describing his team mates that would later attempt Everest with him. I found myself at this point, not being bored with the story, but more or less anxious to get to the actual climbing of the mountain.

About half way through, the book got very exciting as he and his team worked on acclimatization and finally pushed forward to the day they were going to summit. Summiting the mountain ended up not being the climax of the story. But instead the decent, due to some pretty horrible weather and some very bad decisions, ended up being the point where I couldn’t put the book down. A series of misfortunes and poor judgment caused many people to lose their lives on the mountain during Jon’s team’s summit bid. He does a phenomenal job bringing the reader to Everest and really describing the emotions that accompanied him during the terrible decent.

Pretty great book for sure! Two thumbs up! Next on my list, Spencer’s Mountain by Earl Hamner, Jr.



  1. This is one book I stayed up all night reading. And that was seven years before I became a hiker.

    Many of Krakauer's premises and descriptions were hotly debated in the years afterward, but it was a great read nevertheless.

  2. Thanks for the review Karl. I've not read but if I ever do, I'll be prepared for struggling through the first parts. That usually kills books for me. If it's hard to get through the first few chapters, I usually put them aside.

  3. Listened to the audio book on a recent long drive. Worth it. Krakauer's work raises many emotions and a definite page turner.

  4. Hi Tom - I definitely think I'm going to read some of the books from other perspectives of this trek. One follower on my Facebook page told me to check out The Climb, which I hope to do soon. You're right, it was a great read!

    Hi Tim - Yes, the first part regarding the history of Everest was very interesting to me. It was just the portion of his journey to basecamp which seemed to drag. I think that was only due to the fact that I really wanted to read about the climb, so I was impatient. That happens when you don't read much like me!

    Hi Christopher - I bet this was an awesome book to listen to in the car! I need to try that sometime...I always forget about that option when planning a trip.


  5. Great book review Karl, this is one of my favorite books. I couldn't put it down either from about halfway through, it's very chilling and an unfortunate chain of events that happened up there.

    Have you read Not Without Peril yet by Nicholas Howe? That's my favorite book to read about the Whites, lots of history in that book as well!


  6. I've read this one, too. I borrowed it from the town library and pretty much couldn't put it down.

    I'll second Chris Dailey's suggestion of Not Without Peril by Nicholas Howe. Great book, and I've met Nicholas Howe - he's a great guy and knows his stuff. He and his family have lived in the Whites a long time, and he's full of interesting stories of the old Mt. Washington Observatory and other White Mountain stuff.

  7. Hi Chris - Yes, I have read Not Without Peril. Great book! It can be pretty depressing at times but I really how the author analyzes each situation. I also like how it goes in historical order. If I recall, the last story that took place in the early 90's really sent a chill up my spine...when one hiker left another on Jefferson and didn't think much of it.

    Hi Summerset - I love the history of the Whites. Other than a few books, there isn't a whole lot out there. One good book that I purchased through the MWObs is Shrouded Memories...nice book about all different misfortunes in the Whites.

  8. An incredible read and must have for any hikers collection.

    I also have in my collection Into The Wild from Krakauer as well, Not Without Peril which I couldn't put down. I recently added A Walk in the Woods which I'm about to start reading.

    Fellow hikers and friends of mine were just published and their book is "It's Not About The Hike". They also have seminars about their book, journeys and experiences.

  9. Hi Two Brother's Hikes - Both great books. I read A Walk in the Woods this past year and it was a great book! I was very happy with it and Bill Bryson puts a good amount of amusement in the writing.

    You should definitely share some more info about your friends book on your blog. I'm sure a lot of people would be interested. The title itself makes it sound great. Is he from NH?


  10. Hi Karl. I'm glad I found our blog! Great stuff. I live in New Jersey but I've been traveling to the Lake Region/White Mountains to hike for the last couple of years. I love it up there (in fact I'm heading up there this weekend and hopefully will hike Mt. Washington depending on the weather).

    If you like Krakauer I strongly recommend his collection of articles and essays in "Eiger Dreams". Every story is different and captivating. He is a great writer and can truly capture the essence of the outdoors.

    Also, I recommend "No Shortcuts to the Top" by Ed Viesturs. It is a really inspiring book and definitely makes you want to go on an awesome outdoor adventure of your own.

    I look forward to reading your blog!

  11. Great review! I also really liked that book. Krakauer does a nice job with the story.

    I recently came across a documentary film "Touching the Void." Amazing. It is about a Peruvian ascent. If you haven't seen it, definitely worth checking out.