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Book review - Into thin air


There are books you read. And then there are books you experience. Jon Krakauer’s non-fiction ‘Into thin air’ (1996) definitely falls into the latter category.

It is a tragic yet fascinating account of an innocent journalistic mission turned into a disaster. The opening phrase hooked me to the book till the very end. This is the story of heroism, poor decision making, human survival and death, dealing with the aftermath of what is now Mount Everest’s second worst tragedy on record.

In 1996 Jon Krakauer, a journalist and author of ‘Into The Wild’, also a best-seller, agreed to write a story on Everest for ‘Outdoor magazin’. Originally he was to spend time only at base camp while expedition members did the trek. However, we quickly learn that Krakauer is also a thrill seeker and a mountaineer and it isn’t long until he too is ascending the mountain.

After Krakauer published his article, he wrote this book because he felt he had more to say. He spent a considerable amount of time reflecting on what happened and how it has changed his life forever. Krakauer struggles with survivor's guilt and a different view on mortality. He acknowledges and apologises for any pain or anger his book might have arisen in the friends and families of the victims, but is not discouraged from detailing the events, be they heroic, selfish or tragic. And knowing how personal this was for him, made this book that much more captivating for me.

I appreciate how this is formatted, the way the facts are presented, and how coherent the timeline and his commentary is. Just everything about this invites the reader in such an informative and also highly emotional way. In my view, it’s all part of human curiosity and like ants we swarm mother earth in search of every adventure and discovery whether it is the bottom of the sea, the peak of Everest, or the outreach of space.

I truly can’t imagine what I would have done or how I would currently feel if I was in his shoes, but I am so grateful that he felt the desire to share and document this story. Something important I learnt from this book was the fact that we play at tragedy because we do not believe in the reality of the tragedy which is being staged in the civilised world. It explains the reason and joy we receive for doing things people say we cannot and shouldn’t do.


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