Into Thin Air

By Jon Krakauer,

Book cover of Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster

Book description

#1 NATIONAL BESTSELLER • The epic account of the storm on the summit of Mt. Everest that claimed five lives and left countless more—including Krakauer's—in guilt-ridden disarray. 

"A harrowing tale of the perils of high-altitude climbing, a story of bad luck and worse judgment and of heartbreaking heroism." —PEOPLE


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Why read it?

9 authors picked Into Thin Air as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Jon Krakauer lives to tell and write the tale of two misguided climbs up Mount Everest taking place the same weekend in May 1996. He’s there on a magazine assignment that morphs into a powerful book about bravery and also the hazards of hubris. Two world-class mountaineers (New Zealander Rob Hall and American Scott Fischer) take the risk of escorting commercial clients up Everest, some of whom have no business being there beyond the ability to pay about $60,000 apiece. Eight people perish in wicked weather, including Hall and Fischer. Seven others have to be rescued.

I recommend the paperback…

This book might not make you a more effective persuader, but it provides a teeth-clenching case study about biases affecting decision-making when the stakes are at their highest. Why would anyone risk their life to summit Mount Everest? Reading this book suggests that overconfidence bias and the sunk cost effect are likely to blame. 

I remember reading an I-Can-Read book about Mt. Everest as a little girl, and since then, I’ve always wondered about the people who choose to climb the highest peak in the world. Personally, I would never go near Everest (I hate being cold, for one thing), but Krakauer dives deep into the psyche of the men and women who set out on this ill-fated expedition, some of whom did not survive. He also gives a riveting, first-hand account of what it was like to climb Mt. Everest—the euphoria of getting to the summit, followed quickly by the terror and despair…

This is the ultimate place to understand the epic undertaking of climbing Everest. Krakauer climbed in a season with the worst death toll in the peak’s history. His book takes us through a remarkable ordeal of human fragility, of hurricanes, cold, exposure, lucky and unlucky decisions, all in a place where nothing can be trusted - not the air, not your own body or mind, not even the ground you walk on.

From Roz's list on high-altitude mountaineering.

A second mountaineering book for this list, but very different from Touching the Void. Jon Krakauer’s account of a disastrous storm on Mount Everest captured everything for me about why people do these sports and why they shouldn’t – but it also captured the importance of motivation and the conduct of the sport. The controversy about the events depicted and the whole nature of guided mountaineering to big Himalayan peaks still rolls on, this is the original work.

A lot has been written about the disastrous May 1996 expedition to Mount Everest. Krakauer, who was present then, writes vividly about the storm-ridden, terrifying, and desperate sequence of events that led to the death of five climbers. I learned much about climbing Everest from reading his epic account: the importance of supplemental oxygen and the effects of an oxygen-starved brain; the treacherous sections one must traverse to reach the summit, like ladders draped across the deep crevasses of the Khumbu Icefall; the deadly traffic jams that pile up as too many people try to summit in one day; the…

From Alice's list on gripping books set in the wild.

Let’s face it: This is a must-read for anyone who ventures into wild places. Krakauer delves deep into the personalities and circumstances that led to tragedy on Mount Everest in 1996 and illuminates motivations that any mountaineer would be wise to be conscious of. To this day, no matter what I’m climbing—a staircase in a cheap hotel or a steep trail to a ridgetop—I always hold close to one of the lasting lessons on this book: Bad things happen on the descent.

Hair-raisingly suspenseful, tragic and insane, Into Thin Air is the nonfiction account of journalist’s Jon Krakauer ascent of Mount Everest in 1996, for a magazine assignment that was to turn into one of the most serious disaster’s in the world’s tallest mountain’s history. The book asks some hard questions about commercialising the climbing of the mountain (and by extension, commercialising anything) and Krakauer takes a long hard look at his own actions on the deadly slopes of Everest and lays out what happens when people who are only connected by money face peril. This is a brilliantly researched book that…

From Tom's list on Nepal and the roof of the world.

Did you ever consider saving up for an Everest expedition? Think again. In May 1996 one such expedition was trapped by severe weather in the death zone (altitude above which most humans cannot survive without supplemental oxygen) and found themselves completely dependent on other climbers for their rescue. You meet them all. Some survive; some don’t. I’d prefer to learn the harsh lessons of their tragedy from the comfort of my armchair, thank you.

From John's list on disaster & survival.

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