Into Thin Air – Jon Krakauer

Posted 18 October, 2011 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 27 Comments


Title: Into Thin Air
Author: Jon Krakauer
Published: 1997 Pages: 333
Genre: Non-Fiction
Rating: 4/5

Why I read it: After reading Into the Wild with my brother this summer, he gave me Into Thin Air for my birthday. My new goal is to read gifted books sooner rather than later!

Into Thin Air in short: In the spring of 1996, journalist Jon Krakauer joined a Mount Everest climbing expedition in what ended up being the deadliest Everest climbing season ever. Krakauer reports the events that led to the catastrophe and theorizes on what could have gone wrong.

Thoughts in General: Well, hopefully how long it took me to read this book isn’t an indication of how good it is. But, I do have to allow that it took me about two months to finish and I often only read a few pages here and there with days of nothing in between. Such is the life with a baby I’ve learned. I do much better the audiobooks on my work commute these days.

You know, I try writing about books without the little asides and find I just can’t do it anymore. Ramble ramble ramble. You guys asked me a few questions regarding Into Thin Air on my “I finished a book” post, so I’m going to let that guide this review.

You Asked:

Into Thin Air is about climbing Everest, right?  Was all the climbing stuff boring or was the whole story interesting so it didn’t matter? (thanks Jenny Girl!)

Yes, Into Thin Air is about climbing Everest. Krakauer was intially assigned to write an article about the commercialization of Everest but the article was heavily shaped by the tragic events during his climb. I found the book to be very interesting, but sometimes the climbing information was so technical that I had a hard time wrapping my head around parts of the book. While Krakauer gives a lot of background about Everest and climbing, my prior knowledge was so limited that a brief bit about mountain climbing basics actually would have been helpful for me.

Did you know much about mountain climbing before you read it? What surprised you most? (thanks Joanna!)

I didn’t know very much about mountain climbing before reading Into Thin Air and at times I felt like a better understanding of mountain climbing would have helped me while reading the book. Krakauer does go into a lot of detail about the process of acclimating and I was stunned to learn that the process of climbing Everest can take weeks or months! While sometimes the book was a little too technical, it was also very fascinating.

What was your favorite word from the book? (thanks Stacy, who says she loves using the word “sherpa”).

Bahhahahaha! But honestly? My family does Words of the Week with my little brother so I picked up on all of the vocab words–Krakauer uses the word “abate” a lot. And “balk.” Sherpa was a great one and I admit I didn’t really understand what a Sherpa was before reading Into Thin Air. Crampons (the climbing shoe spikes) was another term I learned from the book.

Will you read more Krakauer and have you seen the Everest IMAX movie? (thanks JoAnn!)

Yes, I’m very interested in reading more Krakauer. I almost picked up Eiger Dreams this past weekend but am also really interested in Under the Banner of Heaven. Of course I already listened to and loved Into the Wild. What do you recommend by Krakauer??  And I’m glad JoAnn mentioned the IMAX movie–I hadn’t even thought about seeking that out. Would be fascinating, I think!

Into Thin Air vs. Into The Wild. How do they compare? Which did you like better? Why? (thanks Elise!)

I think it’s probably easier to note how Into Thin Air and Into the Wild are different! Most notably, Krakauer is a character in his own story for Into Thin Air whereas Into the Wild was mostly about other people (with a small exception). I liked Into the Wild better but this might have been because I listened or because I was reading it with my brother or because it only took a week rather than two months or or or. I definitely recommend both but if I could only recommend one, I’d recommend Into the Wild.

Bottom Line: I hear lots of people say they LOVED this book. I didn’t LOVE it, but I did like Into Thin Air a lot. I really wish that there was some type of map or diagram of Everest as I was constantly googling images to get a better visual of the various camps and landmarks described in the book. And some of the parts where Krakauer defends his book in response to Boukreev, a guide who gives his own account of the events in his book The Climb, made me feel a bit uncomfortable. Krakauer’s statements really reminded me that there are multiple perspectives to every story. I certainly don’t want to end this post on a negative note, so in short–fascinating fascinating book.

Have you read Into Thin Air? What did you think? What Krakauer would you recommend?

27 Responses to “Into Thin Air – Jon Krakauer”

  1. I have read Into the Wild, but not this book yet. I really should remedy that and get around to it. I don’t know if he is the sort of author I would LOVE his books. They are more interesting than bookish-crush worthy, but then I have only read one.

  2. I did love this book, and also am amazed at the way the story stayed with me over the years. But probably my favorite Krakaeur is Under the Banner of Heaven.

  3. I suppose it is a character flaw that I just do NOT want to read ANY book that is set in a very cold climate?!?! Reminds me of Jack London and that reminds me of school-dictated reads of boring books by dead white guys and I just can’t.

    so, that said, I am interested in reading Into Thin Air instead.


  4. See?!?! you got me all flustered. I meant the other one. WILD. right? I don’t even know what it’s about. Just let it have warmer temperatures. An author shouldn’t have two books with similar titles.

  5. Kay

    I read this one a long time ago and still remember a lot about it. I should listen to it on audio (my audio listening is usually books I’ve already read). I was fascinated by the whole story and I knew nothing about climbing, Mt. Everest, sherpas or anything else related. It was a book that made me feel cold the whole time I was reading it.

  6. I haven’t read Into the Wild, but I do own it. It kind of scares me though, not sure why. I think I imagine it as icky and creepy and with horrible things like eating bugs. :-)

  7. *Kailana – I really loved Into the Wild but not this one, though others seem to really LOVE him. Honestly I felt the writing was a bit clunky–I think I prefer listening to his books.

    *Rhapsody – I really look forward to Under the Banner of Heaven! I’ve heard really interesting things about the book.

    *Care – Ooooh, I was under brain fog when I emailed you and was confused. Well, I hate to break it to you that Into the Wild is about someone living off the wilderness in Alaska! At least it takes place during summer??

    *Kay – I kind of wish I had listened to this–I also like listening to books I’ve already read. And yes, very very cold! I can’t even fathom just how cold they must have been.

    *Joanna – Hrmmm–I don’t remember him eating bugs but he did eat an array of wild animals. I don’t remember being grossed out by the book, though. I hope you enjoy it!

    *Bermudaonion – Have you read anything by Krakauer? Seems so many bloggers really love his books! Both have been simply fascinating so far!

  8. I did a lot of climbing when I was younger (both mountaineering and technical rock climbing), and I thoroughly enjoyed Krakauer’s book. Good review of a fascinating book. Cheers! Chris

  9. I’m a Krakauer fan – I’ve read this one, Into the Wild and Beyond the Banner of Heaven. All really good, very well researched books. I think I liked Into Thin Air the best even though I have never mountain climbed (and never will). I found the whole story fascinating, horrifying, and thrilling. It made me wonder why ANYONE would EVER climb Mt. Everest. Ever. LOL.

  10. Haven’t read either but they are on my radar. If you are interested in learning about climbing Everest, Discovery channel produced a show called Everest: Beyond the Limit. It ran for 3 seasons. Season 1 was the best and very informative. Season 2 was also quite good, but I never saw season 3.
    My husband and I were riveted to the tv watching Season 1. I would highly recommend it.

  11. I really enjoyed both Into Thin Air and Into The Wild. Interestingly enough, my son had Into Thin Air on his required reading list for his sophomore year lit class (in high school). I liked the IMAX version, but I had a tooth in such bad need of a root canal I must say I rather suffered through it. Though not as much as the climbers! Loved how you had questions from fellow bloggers in your post, Trish.

  12. The movie for Into the Wild crepped me out, I got so frustrated with the main character. My best friend read the book and said it was better, but that she also got frustrated. It turned me off the the author before ever giving him a try, unfortunately. Yay for finishing a book! I was lucky, when my little ones were nursing I was able to hold a book with one hand and read, since the tv would distract them too much and you can only stare at them for so long!

  13. *Wendy – Fascinating, horrifying and thrilling are great ways to describe this book. I felt that way about Into the Wild as well!

    *Vasilly – I wouldn’t have picked up a book on Everest either but Krakauer makes it interesting!

    *Trisha – LOL–you know I love me a good ramble. ;) And yes, you should read Krakauer!

    *Jenny Girl – Oooh, going to see if I can get the Everest show on Netflix! Sounds really good!

    *Bellezza – I actually read Into the Wild because my brother had to read it for his summer reading this year (sophomore!). I’ll have to seek out the IMAX documentary–bet it would be really interesting after having read this.

    *Jill – Yes, I thought the book was much much better than the movie (Into the Wild). But I was also frustrated with the main character, but also fascinated by him. And I thought I’d get more reading done now that I’m back at work but instead use my breaks to blog. Bah…go figure. ;)

  14. Great review format. I knew nothing about mountain climbing before reading this one… fascinating stuff. Had forgotten Krakauer wrote Under the Banner of Heaven – loved it!! My book club had quite a discussion with that one.

  15. *Christopher – I’m so sorry I missed your comment! Good to hear you thought positively about this book given your background with climbing! Have you read any of Krakauer’s others?

    *JoAnn – Yes, really looking forward to seeking out Under the Banner of Heaven. And thanks for the questions to help with my format. ;)

    *Melissa – Yes, I felt much more attached to Into the Wild as well. Wasn’t sure if it was because I listened to it, but having one main character to follow really helped as well.

  16. I’ve met a couple of the climbers. I met Scott Fisher, too.

    Hey, Trish, how did you get a blogger template with your own URL or dot com? Thanks!

  17. *IngridLola – Ya, Into the Wild was great!

    *Casey Klahn – This story (or the events) must have really struck home with you!

    In terms of the domain, if you go to your Blogger settings, click on Publishing and there’s a link that says something about buying a domain. Just $10 a month. Now, I did lose some of the searchability on my blog after dropping blogspot. Not sure why this happened or if there’s a fix, but something to think about…


  18. I am not a huge fan of memoirs. But I have had an interest in reading his Three Cups of Deceit. Perhaps because of the drama behind it. However, that will probably be put on th bottom of the towering TBR.