Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer
Author: Jon Krakauer
Read by: Jon Krakauer
Short Review: An author-narrated memoir of one of the most tragic seasons on Mt. Everest.
Long Review: This book was highly recommended to me by a family member, and I was very curious to literally hear the tale in the author’s own voice. Anyone familiar with the story of that tragic season on Everest is familiar with the controversy surrounding the actions of the guide companies and some of the climbers, and the flak that Krakauer himself has received. I’m certainly no expert on climbing, Everest, the 1996 tragedies, or on the validity of Krakauer’s version of events, but the book itself was riveting and seemed believable throughout.
I know some audio book fans aren’t particularly fond of author-read material, but I think it’s absolutely vital in this instance. Krakauer’s book is intensely personal in parts, and reliant on journalistic integrity and accuracy in others. Throughout, his grasp of the facts is vital–speaking for his own work as a journalist is one of those acts of bravery any non-fiction writer should face. But the personal material is even more important to transmit in his own voice. In the book, Krakauer recounts his friendship with several of the people on the 1996 climb, his own role and experiences on the climb, his work for Outside magazine, his own survivor’s guilt–and none of it would have rung as true in another person’s voice.
That said, he’s not a professional actor or speaker. Krakauer doesn’t have a Voice voice. But he does a great job all the same. His pacing is good, he’s careful in pronouncing names and words that come from other languages, and he is meticulous when he reads the really important bits–facts about elevation sickness, oxygen tanks, times and messages, historical material, and the like. At no point did I feel like his voice or pacing was keeping me from taking in the material.
Overall, I came away from the book pretty impressed by Krakauer’s honesty and his reporting skills. He’s critical of several of the guides and climbers who were on that mountain with him, but he’s intensely critical of himself as well. I’m glad to have heard his story, and have no ambition whatsoever to court that level of danger on a mountain anytime soon.