My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Jon Krakauer writes a masterful account of the tragic May, 1996 Everest climb of which he was a participant on assignment from Outside magazine. My friend Christine frequently recommends awesome books to me, so I had to start this one 40 seconds after she made the recommendation. That's the thing about ebooks. Way too easy to get. No regrets though. I did enjoy this book as evidenced by the five star rating I gave it.
I'm not one to take risks for adventure's sake, so I immediately set out to try and wrap my mind around the psyche that compels people to do something so dangerous. My mistake was trying to apply reason to my analysis. Jon straightened me out in this passage from the book:
There were many, many fine reasons not to go, but attempting to climb Everest is an intrinsically irrational act—a triumph of desire over sensibility. Any person who would seriously consider it is almost by definition beyond the sway of reasoned argument.
So, I pulled a Frozen on my attitude and just "Let It Go."
The first half of the book is dedicated to providing context for the events that led to the tragedy detailed in the second half. Jon's journalistic style made me take a leisurely stroll through the first half. It wasn't exactly a page-turner, but it was necessary. However, I found the second half of the book very hard to disengage from, and I dare you to read that second half and try putting it down. The last 5% of the book is a rebuttal of The Climb, which gives the point of view of one of the guides on that venture whose recollection is flawed and, as Jon points out, can't be backed up by evidence.
Jon Krakauer is painfully honest in his accounting of the events. As he blamed himself for some of the deaths, it must have been very hard for him to write. While he did make me understand what compelled these people to climb to the highest point above sea level on Earth's surface, I still can't relate to it, and probably never will. What I did gain by reading this excellent book was a better understanding of what it takes to be a skilled mountain climber and an appreciation of the challenges involved. I highly recommend reading Wikipedia's entry on Mount Everest before reading this book, because the history and geology of the area is fascinating gives even more important context to the story.
Read this book. You won't regret it.
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