I became a history major because I love a good story, and at its core that’s what I have always viewed history to be – a series of really great stories. These stories have larger meanings in that we are able to take our experiences and use them as a method for understanding the forces at play for, and the decisions made by, those who came before us. I’m lucky enough to be able to have the types of conversations in my work as a museum educator since for the past 5 and a half years I have worked at historic sites.
What does that have to do with my five-star rating of Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air? Nearly everything. Krakauer summited Mount Everest May 10, 1996. That same day eight over people lost their lives in that same attempt, four of whom had been members of his team. At the time of the storm in May of 1996 it was the single deadliest day on the mountain, it has since been surpassed.
Krakauer was on Everest on assignment for Outside magazine investigating the commercialization of climbing the world’s tallest peak. Was it safe? Was it fair? Is it sustainable? What he came away with, and what he shares with the world in his 1996 book are the lessons he learned and the larger forces at play in any decision that is made in climbing Everest.
The story is absolutely griping. I had put off reading this book not because I didn’t trust the positive reviews, but more so because I didn’t have a natural interest in mountaineering. I personally think they are all a bit nuts. But what Krakauer excels at here, and what I’m sure I’ll find as I progress through his work, is that he has a way of pulling back the details and revealing universal truths. He gets to the really good story.
So if you’ve not read this book yet, go for it. Learn about the extremes we push ourselves to, learn about how even small decisions can have enormous ramifications, and learn about the majesty of Everest, and her darker, deadlier side.
in subjecting ourselves to week after week of toil, tedium and suffering, it struck me that most of us were probably seeking above all else, something like a state of grace.”
This book was read and reviewed as part of the charitable Cannonball Read.