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Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster Paperback – Oct 19 1999

4.5 out of 5 stars 1,299 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; 1 edition (Oct. 19 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385494785
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385494786
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.8 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 358 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars 1,299 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #8,131 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

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"Intrinsically irrational" is how Jon Krakauer characterizes the compulsion to climb Mount Everest in his audiobook Into Thin Air. The highly publicized fates of the May 1996 Everest expeditions, including the tragic loss of 12 lives, seem to bear out Krakauer's statement. Listening to Krakauer read his own account of the events in this unabridged version adds a uniquely intimate and thought-provoking dimension to the tragedy. Although Krakauer reads his account with journalistic professionalism, it's impossible to forget that you are listening to someone unburdening himself of a great weight, an unburdening that sometimes nearly approaches a confession.

Since the 1980s, more and more "marginally qualified dreamers" have attempted the ascent of Everest, as guided commercial expeditions have dangled the possibility of reaching the roof of the world in front of anyone wealthy enough to pay for the privilege. In 1996, Outside magazine asked Krakauer, a frequent contributor, to write a piece on the commercialization of Everest, and Krakauer signed on as a member of New Zealander Rob Hall's expedition. The disastrous outcome of the 1996 expedition forced Krakauer to write a very different article.

Those who read Krakauer's book may wonder whether the audiobook can possibly shed more light on the unfortunate events. It does. Krakauer's chronicle is chilling and horrifying. He recounts with excruciating detail the physical and mental cost of such a climb. Even under the best of circumstances, each step up the ice-clad mountain is monumentally exhausting, and the oxygen-deprived brain loses the ability to make reliable judgements. And on May 10, 1996, when Hall's expedition and several others made their summit assault, the conditions were far from ideal. The mountain was so "crowded" that climbers had to wait their turn near the summit while their bottled oxygen dwindled by the minute. By afternoon a blinding hurricane-force storm had stranded a number of climbers on the highest, most exposed reaches of the mountain.

By writing and reading Into Thin Air, Krakauer may have hoped to exorcise some of his own demons and lay to rest some of the painful questions that still surround the event. He takes great pains to provide a balanced picture of the people and events he witnessed and gives due credit to the tireless and dedicated Sherpas. He also avoids blasting easy targets such as Sandy Pittman, the wealthy socialite who brought an espresso maker along on the expedition. Krakauer's highly personal inquiry into the catastrophe provides a great deal of insight into what went wrong. But for Krakauer himself, further interviews and investigations only lead him to the conclusion that his perceived failures were directly responsible for a fellow climber's death. Clearly, Krakauer remains haunted by the disaster, and although he relates a number of incidents in which he acted selflessly and even heroically, he seems unable to view those instances objectively. In the end, despite his evenhanded and even generous assessment of others' actions, he reserves a full measure of vitriol for himself. (Running time: 467 minutes; six tapes) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From School Library Journal

Heroism and sacrifice triumph over foolishness, fatal error, and human frailty in this bone-chilling narrative in which the author recounts his experiences on last year's ill-fated, deadly climb. Thrilling armchair reading.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I first read Jon Krakauer's book "Into the Wild". The reason I read it is because I saw an article in a prominent newspaper about a woman who had gone missing while on a walk in the Adirondack Mountains. I am not at all brave when it comes to walking alone in the 'woods'. That doesn't mean I'm not fascinated by the idea. I found Into the Wild riveting and could not put it down. Jon Krakauer is an outstanding writer. I was quick to pick up "Into Thin Air" after my positive experience reading Into the Wild. When it comes to mountain-climbing, I have absolutely no ambition to climb a big mountain let alone a dangerous one like Everest, yet I am intrigued by the people who do. The author draws his reader into the heart of the 1996 guided Everest expedition, and he is very frank about his own experiences preparing for and summiting Everest on a day that everything went wrong. What I found interesting were the psychology of the climbers, the politics of prestige climbing and the physical and mental challenges that climbers face at such high altitudes. The only part of the book that I didn't enjoy was the length to which the author went to defend his position and that of others on the expedition - although I understand why he did - as to what happened on the fateful descent from the summit. Highly recommended reading.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Very good book. It was a great discover to find this book at home. I picked it up without expectations, but it was a real surprise.
Krakauer writes in a very good way, it is simple and quite concise. It gets to the point. But it also gives you a lot of 'parallel-info'; information you really apreciate while reading. I found myself many times going back trough the pages looking for a particular description, either of a place or somebody.
What happened that year on Everest is a big tragedy. Of course there are worst things almost everyday in Africa, India, Indonesia or Bangladesh, but the surroundings, the whole story is the sort of thing that makes you wonder about what we are, what we do, and in particular, why we do it.
By the way, you must read 'The Climb' by Anatoly Boukreev after or before this (preferably after). Krakauer's words make you think the other climber was irresponsible, but in reading the russian's book you start thinking in a different way. Maybe it was just a matter of different cultures, maybe it was just that the clients did not understand the way Boukreev lived and feeled the mountain.
In any case, the best way to get into it, is reading both books.
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Format: Paperback
This is a gripping and harrowing story of a the events surrounding Krakauer's attempt to summit Mount Everest in 1996, during the course of which many of his guides and fellow climbers succumbed on the mountain. It was hard to put this book down, because the story was so dramatic and compelling. It left me with mixed feelings. I am not a mountain climber, but it becomes easy to understand how for people so inclined, the mountain could be a siren call that would be very hard to resist; harder still to turn back when you have almost achieved the summit. It is that drive to reach the summit that can prove fatal so easily in the dangerous conditions well into the "thin air" high on the mountain.

Krakauer wrote this book shortly after the events happened. And it's easy to tell from the way the book is written that the events were still very much raw for him and he was still processing and coming to terms with what happened. The trauma of it all comes through very clearly. He does a reasonable job of acknowledging that some of the things he wrote/said prior to writing this book might have had damaging effects on the characters of his fellow climbers or caused grief to loved ones left behind by those deceased. However, Krakauer does make judgements on his fellow climbers and guides, and paints some individuals in a negative light. It's easy to understand why some of the accusations he makes would draw ire from the people involved. But it is helpful for an outsider to hear some speculation on why the events unfolded as they did, and possible mistakes that were made that might have prevented or reduced some of the harm.

Regardless, this book is a fascinating story and a great read.
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Format: Paperback
An incredible account of the Everest Disaster. Krakauer is an expert at including as many details as possible without being too wordy. This book reads like a novel, and in fact the story is so incredible that at times you have to remind yourself that it is non-fiction. I appreciated the vivid pictures he painted of the important people in this book, a talent for which he is as skilled as the best contemporary fiction writers. Reading the book, you can grow so fond of some of the more likeable characters that you feel a deep sense of sadness when you read about their passing. In a sense, Krakauer has accomplished the difficult task of explaining in laymen's terms the technical aspects of high-altitude mountaineering (which is necessary in a book like this), and somehow also gave the reader a sense of the profound grief of the situation. This is something that is lost among the litany of newspaper articles, less-talented writers, and the controversy of conflicting accounts fails to do.
Oh yes, the controversy. I suppose that it is inevitable that when you're dealing with this magnitude a disaster, with equally-high magnitude of some mountaineers' egos, you're going to get arguments. Unfortunately, Krakauer has been sucked into this and actually has devoted a portion of the book to responding to someone's complaint about his account. Frankly, it reads like an internet message board flamewar, and it detracts from an amazing book. Hopefully, a year from now when I think back about this book, I'll remember not the controversy but rather people like Rob Hall, one of the people who died on the mountain.
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