Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer (unabridged audiobook read by Philip Franklin; 9 hrs 10 min on 8 discs): In the mid 1990s, Krakauer was sent as a journalist to join an guided expedition to the top of Mount Everest. Things go massively wrong and twelve people lose their lives. This is, as perhaps should be expected, an extremely difficult book to get through. The history and mechanics of climbing Everest and mountaineering in general are fascinating, but this is clearly the tale of one man’s struggle with grief and loss – a tragedy that is, to me, completely senseless. There’s no necessity to summit Everest. I get why people do it, but there’s nothing noble in dying to do so. I’m not usually interested in sad stories, but the personality of Krakauer’s writing kept me going. The details are shared with such frankness and intimacy that I felt like I was there. Would I recommend this book? Sure, as long as you understand what you’re getting yourself into: there’s no redemption, no happy ending. As such, it should be required reading for anyone planning to scale a major peak, even with a guide. It is not something to be undertaken lightly. Neither, for that matter, is this book, though in a completely different sense.
A note on the audio: Since this was a nonfiction book and thus relatively little dialogue, Franklin had no need for distinct voices. However, his subtle (and, to my ears, accurate) accents for the folks from New Zealand, Britain, and Texas, and elsewhere really accentuated the experience.
Also posted on BookCrossing.