Monday, July 25, 2016

Book 21: Into Thin Air

TITLE: Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster
AUTHOR: Jon Krakauer
STARTED: July 6, 2016
FINISHED: July 13, 2016
PAGES: 293
GENRE: Non-Fiction / Memoir

FIRST SENTENCE: In March 1996, Outside magazine sent me to Nepal to participate in, and write about, a guided ascent of Mount Everest.

SUMMARY: [From BN] Into Thin Air is the definitive, personal account of the deadliest season in the history of Mount Everest -- told by acclaimed journalist, and bestselling author of Into the Wild and Eiger Dreams, Jon Krakauer. On assignment for Outside magazine, Krakauer, an accomplished climber, went to the Himalayas to report on the growing commercialization of the planet's highest mountain. When he reached the summit in the early afternoon of May 10, 1996, he hadn't slept in over 57 hours and was reeling from oxygen depletion. Twenty other climbers were pushing for the summit, and no one had noticed the clouds filling the sky. Six hours later, and 3,000 feet lower, Krakauer collapsed in his tent. The next morning he learned that six of the climbers hadn't made it back. Even though one climber in four dies attempting to reach the summit, business is booming as guides take the rich and the adventurous up the mountain for a fee of $65,000. Krakauer examines what it is about Everest that has compelled so many people -- including himself -- to throw caution to the wind and willingly subject themselves to so much danger, hardship, and expense. Written with emotional clarity, Krakauer's account of what happened on the roof of the world is a singular achievement.

THOUGHTS: After I saw the movie Everest, I just had to get my hands on this book. The movie was great and I was in the mood to learn more about this event. The book did not disappoint. Krakauer's reputation for recreating outdoor experiences is well deserved. When he talks about being unable to breath, you will deeply inhale and bless the air. When he details being cold to the bone, you will shiver. When he discusses the emotional pain of the journey, you will want to cry. This book was incredibly vivid and I was engrossed from the first page.

Krakauer's writing style is simple but effective. The book is more or less chronological, but he references moments before and after the expedition when relevant. The story flows smoothly and the book reads almost like a travel narrative. The writing is gorgeous because Krakauer adds just enough detail to set the scene without entering purple prose. When he is cold, he says he is cold, not that he felt encased in ice. There are no wasted words or sentences to clutter the page. Each word makes it's necessary point and then moves on. This simplicity means the starkness of the setting and the drama of the climb take center stage.

My main complaint about this book is that Krakauer pats himself on the back a lot. He discusses that he's better than most climbers and helped the sherpas more. This is all likely true, but something about the tone of those paragraphs comes across as snooty. It's a little off-putting. That said, Krakauer also notes when he was in the wrong. He double-guesses his decisions at the time, and admits that the thin air causes you to act differently. You can feel his anguish in the "what ifs" of the trip.

In some ways, this book might have been written too soon after the tragedy. Krakauer himself admits that. He was haunted by what happened on Everest and need to put words on the page. In many ways, you can feel him working through PTSD. I read the original edition of the book, so I don't know what the newest edition's afterword says, but I would not surprised if distance and time has altered his remembrance about the trip.

This book is haunting. I have a feeling that I will re-read it in the future to see if time changes my own perspective on it.

RATING: 9/10 [Excellent]

Sunday, July 24, 2016

What I Read This Week: July 24, 2016

It's a short list this week. I had the week off so I spent a lot of time checking items off my lengthy, at home to do list. There are so many completed Xs in my bullet journal that I think I earned a merit badge. At the very least I earned a cookie. (*runs to cabinet to grab an oreo*) I feel extra productive this week because I finished the first draft of my first (ever!) article I'm submitting to a journal. I have not written a paper like this since grad school. I was out of practice, but I think it turned out well.
  • Books
    • I finished reading Used and Rare. Once I got over how pretentious the authors sounded, I loved the book. It reminded me of days working in a used and rare bookstore. 
    • I started reading the classic book The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving. Since this book is over 100 years old, it's taking me a little longer to get through the prose. Irving's text is a bit different from the modern writing style I'm used to.
  • Other
    • Everyday The Chronicle of Higher Education sends me several emails with a selection of stories. This week, there was a great piece on millennials becoming managers in the academic work force. This is me. I nodded in agreement through the whole darn thing. (This article is under a premium lock, but if you have access, it's worth the read). 
    • A great piece by Michael Arnovitz on The Policy that basically explain the sexism that keeps Hillary's poll numbers down.... and also why people like her when she's working.

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Friday Find: Underfoot

You can decorate with books in so many ways I've lost track. This book rug is a new one for me.

You can find this (and other matching home decor items) on Society 6.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Why I Love... Bookish Chararacters

When I say I love bookish characters, I don't mean the bookworms you find in books. (Although they are awesome.) In this case, I am referring to the people you meet in bookstores and libraries. You know, the characters who haunt the aisles of used bookstore and grab seats in libraries. I love all the people who add life to what would otherwise be lonely bookcases.

Some bookish characters are quirky, some nerdy, some eccentric, and some appear utterly normal. The only thing all these bookish types have in common is a love of books and reading. There are bookish characters who want to read as many books as humanly possible, while others collect books as art pieces. Some bookish characters love paperbacks they can beat up while reading over and other again, and some characters only want leather-bound first editions to grace their shelves. Some bookish characters would never consider ebooks, while others love toting their entire library on a phone. Each bookish character has a "thing" or two that makes them stand out. I've seen characters who grab a random book from a shelf, plop down on the floor, and start reading the middle of a book. I have also seen characters who delicately turn each page of a book, as if it might fall apart in their hands. I've seen children carrying books that take two hands to hold onto. I see adults slipping incredibly slim tomes into their jacket pockets. These characters are young and old, rich and poor, and come from all walks of lives and have incredibly varied backgrounds. I love bookish characters because, for me, they represent the wonderful diversity that is life.

I count myself as one of these characters. I regularly visit bookstores and libraries. I obsess over titles; talking to anyone who might listen about my favorite authors or latest discovery. I stroke the spines of pretty books. I alphabetize bookstore shelves that are out of order. I have to buy or check-out books in groups of two or more because I don't want the titles to get lonely on the trip home. I have been known to stick my nose in a new (or used) book and deeply inhale to wrap myself in the delicious aroma that is the printed page.

I love bookish characters because were are all cast in the play that is reading. We all add something to the scene, enriching the script, and bring our own style the story.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

What I Read This Week: July 17, 2016

Birthday weekend! WOOO! My birthday is actually this upcoming Wednesday, but we celebrated this weekend because I decided I want a tropical drink with a little umbrella. Tiki Bars are a new(ish) trend in DC, so The Husband gathered many of friends to join us at a bar called Archipelago. It was a fantastic time. We're following up the fun of last night with a brunch today at Le Diplomate. A french style restaurant that is much in demand and has been on my list for awhile. Noms!

Now I have a week off. I would ponder about what to do with myself, but I have a long lists of tasks I want to accomplish and an article to write.
  • Work
  • Magazines
    • Cooking Light, August 2016 - The recipes in this issue
      were just "there" for me, but I loved the articles. Normally, I skim the editor's letter, but this month's was a cute story about the EIC's grandmother, her typwriter, and all the letters she wrote to family and friends. Following the grandma trend, there was a great piece on "Nonna's Sauce" about an Italian family and their homemade sauce making. Finally, there were two healthy pieces about eating for vitamins and nutrients and the benefits of eating raw foods for your health and digestion.
    • Good Housekeeping, August 2016 - I breezed through most of this issue, but the article on why you should get to know your neighbors is a good read. They could just end up saving your life. There was also a feature piece on how to prepare for disasters that was beneficially. Finally, some of the summer recipes looked mighty tasty.
  • Books
    • I motored through Into Thin Air this week and finished it much faster than expected. I was up much later a few nights in a row because I was so absorbed in the book. It was really, really good. Also, makes you appreciate the simple things. Like breathable air.
    • I was kind of at a loss of what to read for my next book. Into Thin Air is sticking with my, so it took me a while to find a book in my apartment that I wanted to read next. I ended up picking Used and Rare. It's a book about a couple and their "travels" in the book world.

Friday, July 15, 2016

The Friday Find: When In Doubt

Hat Tip to The Husband for finding this awesome t-shirt.
 You can buy this from Out of Print.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Links and Stuff: July 14, 2016

Trinity College Old Library