Into Thin Air, written by renowned journalist and mountaineer Jon Krakauer, had me from the get-go. A first-hand account of the Mount Everest disaster in 1996, where 12 mountaineers and guides lost their lives in an attempt to summit to the highest place on earth. It was gripping, moving, and saddening, to read of the determination that leads man - and woman - to his untimely, frigid death.
I don't want to give too much detail, but the author takes us into the trying weeks of an ascent up Everest with guides and fellow clients, as they are pummeled with altitude sickness, freezing temperatures, and - on more than one occasion - with death.
Krakauer wrote this with such emotion only months after he arrived down Everest that it's impossible to read without feeling the pain and suffering that climbing to such an alititude presents. As a journalist, he does an incredible job of introducing the sport of climbing, so that even those unaware of the dedication and determination that one such climber carries with him/her are able to have some understanding. His research, interviews, and self-accounts of May 10, 1996, at more than 29,000 feet, had me not wanting to do anything else but read.
"People who don't climb mountains -- the great majority of humankind, that is to say -- tend to assume that the sport is reckless, Dionysian pursuit of escalating thrills. But the notion that climbers are merely adrenaline junkies chasing a righteous fix is a fallacy, at least in the case of Everest. What I was doing up there had almost nothing in common with bungee jumping or skydiving or riding a motorcycle at 120 miles per hour... Above the comforts of Base Camp, the expedition in fact became almost a Calvinistic undertaking. The ratio of misery to pleasure was greater by an order of magnitude than any other mountain I'd been on; I quickly came to understand that climbing Everest was primarily about enduring pain. And 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." (136)
As a journalist, I am both envious and saddened with how Krakauer came to tell this story.
** Other books I read while travelling:
The Help by Karen Stockett - incredible read, I couldn't put it down and would recommend it to anyone.
Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain - Both were incredibly adventurous classics about young childhood and adolescence. Great reads.
Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Walls - Not my favourite by any means. It felt tedious to read and I never felt any connection with the characters.
The Reader - Good, about a young German who falls in love with a Nazi war criminal unknowingly. I believe it's better oriented for the male audience, but not a read-again type.
Memoirs of A Geisha by Arthur Golden - This book was so incredible. I had no idea of the selling of girls in Japan only 50 years ago, nor did I know to what extremes these young women would have to endure. Highly recommended.
i pledge to read the written word. always.