If you ever harbored a vague dream of summiting Mount Everest someday, Into Thin Air will cause you to reconsider. Jon Krakauer is no killer of dreams, but the Himalayan peaks are—blinding blizzards and freezing temperatures are. The hypoxia induced by high altitudes disorients and disables even the best of mountaineers, which explains how a dozen individuals died climbing the world’s tallest peak with Krakauer in 1996.
At least, that partially explains the disaster that ravaged his team. As Krakauer makes clear throughout his retelling, nothing can ever be made entirely clear: too much of what happened is lost to the mountain, frozen over and buried in snow like the bodies of the dead. He nevertheless does his damnedest to piece together the tragedy’s chronology, supplementing his own recollections and notes with camp records and a slew of interviews. His high-caliber reporting combines with his characteristic lyricism to produce a marvelous, fascinating page-turner of a book.
Into Thin Air is gut-wrenching, cringe-inducing, and heartbreaking. Lose yourself in its pages—but please, please, do not lose yourself climbing Mount Everest. I’ve had all I can take of such needless tragedy.