Book Review: “Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer (1996)

“A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster”

Recently an adaptation of this fascinating book hit the theaters, a film that revived in me the same sense of suspense and danger that I had felt when I first read the book back in high school. Into Thin Air was the first true-adventure book I ever read, a genre that has since captivated me and become one of my favorites. Here, journalist Jon Krakauer records events as he and his team of climbers they ascend in near-traffic-jam conditions the dangerous slopes of the world’s tallest mountain, only to face a killer storm on their trek back down. That day marked the single deadliest day for Everest climbers, and Krakauer’s riveting delivery ensures that the event will never be forgotten.

Though I read this book twice in as many years, this isn’t as much a book review as it is a praise song for the whole genre of adventure writing. Krakauer was my first in this genre, but he certainly wasn’t my last. Quickly after I completed this book, I followed it with others such as Endurance by Alfred Lansing, The Perfect Storm by Sebastian Junger, and Alive by Piers Paul Read. Mortal men meeting true danger, some surviving and others not—these testaments of courage and discipline in the face of ferocious nature inspire and encourage me like few other books can.

Of course, I’m not naturally as adventurous as the men depicted in these books or the authors who wrote them. I doubt I will ever attempt to scale the world’s tallest (or even hundredth tallest) mountain. The ocean terrifies me, so I also doubt that I’ll ever make it onto a fishing trawler in the Bering Straits. And in all honesty, I don’t often imagine myself surviving a harsh and wintry environment by eating the bodies of my dead friends. But like any other blue-blooded male, I very often fantasize about how I might survive a plane crash in the wilderness or a shipwreck on a deserted island, and my occasional hikes into nature always have the subconscious hope that I’ll get lost and have to fight my way back to civilization. Shows like Naked and Afraid or Survivor Man thrive because there truly is something special placed inside us all, a desire to subdue the earth.

Books such as these inspire more in me than just an adventuring spirit, however. They also make me thirst for opportunities to write about real-life experiences, to take readers into the dangerous unknown and leave a tangible record of all that I the author might have experienced. Perhaps there’s a disparity between both my fear to experience and my desire to have experienced, but I think not. All that I lack is the initial gumption to act, like I’m standing at the edge of the bridge with the bungee cord already tied about my legs and all I need to do is jump (or, perhaps more accurately, let someone give me a little shove from behind). So whether it’s the investigative prowess of Read or the hands-on, feet-in-the-fire approach of Krakauer or Junger, the writers of these books who took the leap themselves are the true source of inspiration.

Someday, I’ll most likely read Into Thin Air or Alive again for the third time, just to relive the fear, chill, and heroism that these timeless, epic tales encapsulate. And someday, perhaps I’ll also endure some challenging trial of my own that I can then share with the world. Really, only one thing is stopping me now, and that is to jump.

©2016 E.T.

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Gallery | This entry was posted in Book Review, Environment, Non-Fiction, Pleasure, Travel, Writing. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Book Review: “Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer (1996)

  1. Pingback: Book Review: “The China Voyage” by Tim Severin (1994) | Elliot's Blog

  2. Pingback: Book Review: “The Island of Lost Maps” by Miles Harvey (2000) | Elliot's Blog

  3. Pingback: Book Review: “Touching the Void” by Joe Simpson (1988) | Elliot's Blog

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