Saturday, March 29, 2008

Into Thin Air - Jon Krakauer

Welcome to my holiday book review....  Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer.

I have meant to read this book for YEARS.  Maybe I am the only one who hasn't read it?  Well, if you've been putting it off or haven't heard of it, I suggest you head down to the bookstore ASAP.  

WOW! is all I can say...  Well, that and, "I'm never going to climb Mt. Everest!"

To enjoy this book you probably need to be interested in at least one of the following:  mountaineering, huge challenges, teamwork under pressure, pushing the limits, survival, heroism, tragedy, nature, endurance...  I would say a love of, or understanding of mountaineering is completely unnecessary to get into it though.

One warning...  if your lifelong dream is to climb Mt. Everest you may not want to read this. Keep the dream alive and don't scare the @#$%! out of yourself...

As mentioned, any thoughts I have ever entertained (none really) of climbing Everest are hereby shelved.  In fact, I have instructed Sacha not to allow me to ever consider the idea.  The book is at times terrifying...  imagining the ordeal was quite enough thank you!

It's been a while since I reviewed a book (like maybe 20 years), so bear with me as I get around to describing why this book is so good...

1.  Man against nature is a compelling storyline (for me).  A man (or woman's) car, house, job, clothes, bank account comes to mean exactly ZERO when he or she may die on the side of a mountain.  (OK, well maybe the clothes will matter...)

2.  Critical decision making and teamwork became interesting elements of the unfolding disaster.  Krakauer does a great job of allowing the reader into the minds of the key figures. 

3.  Everest - I learnt an amazing amount about the mountain.  We've all heard of it but to hear how it is tackled by a modern expedition (and what can go wrong!!) is super-interesting.  NOTE:  If there is a photo edition - buy it....  My copy had a paltry handful of black and white photos.

All told, this is a fascinating, sickening, heartbreaking account of an adventure that went seriously off the tracks.  It is amazing and horrifying to put yourself into the crampons of the people who lived and died during this expedition....

This book gets my highest rating - two thumbs up, five stars, a gold statuette....  

Rating:  * * * * *

Next Read:  The Kite Runner (whenever Sacha finishes it...)

Aloha from Kauai...

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Ri said...

I read into "Into Thin Air" several years ago, which might explain why I'd turn several shades of purple when you mused about taking up climbing. It was an excruciating read but it dominated my time until I finished it and I still remember it clearly.

Krakauer also wrote "Into the Wild", a book that was subsequently made into the film.
This time the focus is on Chris McCandless, a young man who attempted to survice the Alaskan wilderness armed with a small rifle and a bag of rice. Does that sound reasonable? Anyone?

Anyway, although I haven't caught either, my guess is that they'd be well worth the time. "Into the Wild" is available on Shaw PPV now.

MJ said...

Sacha and I saw "Into the Wild" in a tiny theatre heated by a fireplace on Hornby Island with our kids sleeping all bundled up in a sleeping bag at our feet on the floor - was one of the coolest experiences we had this winter... right up until the projector crashed with about 20 minutes to go. We have since seen the rest and it is a great movie... you should check it out.

I'd like to read the book but it's a lot harder once you know the whole story...