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?

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

I had always been a fan of Jon Krakauer’s writing for Outside magazine, even before I became a writer myself.

Most people are familiar with Krakauer’s work, but this book stands out as a beautifully written tribute not just to human endurance and spirit, but to man’s folly. It’s a story of how the conquest of Mt. Everest, once the ultimate goal of highly experienced mountaineers, became over-commercialized, with deadly consequences.

Poor decisions, bad luck, and hubris lead to tragedy in one of the world’s most unforgiving places. Not to be missed.

If your first is always your best, Jon Krakauer’s telling of a famously fatal, 1996 Mount Everest quest was my first immersion into the retelling of an event based on exhaustive reporting. 

The story of this group of amateur ice climbers, led by professionals, is so gripping that I then had to read two other books based on the same 1996 calamity. All I can think of as I’m reading is: “How did he get this detail, that quote, so much background?” I looked for too little balance or too much underserved sympathy.  

A newsroom co-worker of mine joined me…

A work of nonfiction, this is Krakauer's memoir of the then-worst tragedy to befall climbers on Mount Everest – a doomed 1996 summit bid that left five people dead and another irrevocably changed.

This is an intense and breathless journey to the peak, that leaves you simultaneously longing to go on this journey and see the sights described...and very happy to be home warm in bed and far from this miserable call to adventure.

This is the flagship mountaineering memoir for a reason! 

Mountain climbing is not the typical American team sport such as baseball or basketball but it is definitely exciting … and dangerous.

Jon Krakauer is a skilled nature writer who can give his reader the feel of what it takes to climb a mountain (something I will never do).

Krakauer went to Mount Everest to report for Outside Magazine about the growing phenomenon of professional guides leading tours of the world’s highest mountain. Krakauer had planned to stop at the Everest base camp (about 17,000 feet). He decided, however, to train and go for the summit (29,000 feet) with one…

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.

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