By Jon Krakauer

Genre: Non Fiction-meets-adventure story

Major themes: Life and death, doing the impossible, grief, factual analysis

Age range: 16+ due to style of writing, which is complex and uses extensive vocabulary, as well as mature/emotional content matter that could be confusing and painful for some younger readers

Smiles Book Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂


Into Thin Air is based on the stunning true story of the 1996 disaster on Mount Everest. That year, 12 total people died, 11 of whom attempted to summit on the same day, a death toll higher than any single year in Everest history.  With his unique journalistic approach to storytelling, Krakauer captures both your imagination and fear, causing you to think deeply about the problems with climbing Everest.

Krakauer also incorporates details about the scandals and debates within the climbing world into his writing, thereby giving people a rounded out idea of what climbing is really like.  After learning about the climbing world as a whole, you have a deeper understanding of why the ‘96 disaster was so terrifyingly extreme.  Despite the fact that the percentages of people who actually died was similar to a regular year, the sheer quantity of people was surprising.  This, combined with the fact that it happened to Rob Hall’s expedition, made the 12 deaths that year very controversial.

The book is told from the point of view of Krakauer as he climbs Everest, and the aftermath, which allows for an element of entertainment and excitement as you follow this “character” through his adventure.  When read as a fiction novel, the book is lacking in random excitement patches, but it does have great character development and after reading you feel as though you have known each of the characters personally.  

The writing style is also very impressive.  Krakauer, author of Into the Wild, has a talent at describing scenes vividly and with so much description that you feel as though you are breathing the oxygen-deprived Everest air.  His description and characterization is evident in this quote:

“I was forty-one now, well past my climbing prime, with a graying beard, bad gums, and fifteen extra pounds around my midriff.  I was married to a woman I loved fiercely– and who loved me back.  Having stumbled upon a tolerable career, for the first time in my life I was actually living above the poverty line.  My hunger to climb had been blunted, in short, by a bunch of small satisfactions that added up to something like happiness.”

When reading about Everest, it is important to take this book into consideration because of the way it transports you TO Everest (in addition to the fact that it highlights the most important Everest disaster in history)

Besides just this, he also manages to incorporate many quotes from interviews with other survivors of the disaster, thereby giving the reader a rounded out picture of what that year on Everest was truly like.  Unlike Boukreev, an Everest survivor who wrote The Climb about the 1996 climb, Krakauer used his journalist background to find out exactly what people were thinking and doing on May 10th of that year.  This makes the book incredible, since you know that you are not just receiving the byproduct of a biased man’s trauma.  

This book is a must read for everyone looking for an intriguing nonfiction book, especially one about adventure and human nature.  This book raises many questions about people and their beliefs, attitudes, passions, and reactions under duress.  The best nonfiction book I have read in the past year, Into Thin Air is definitely going on my “Favorite Book” list.

To buy Into Thin Air, Click here