This recent compilation contains eleven essays (dated 1985 to 2014), two or three of which I read before. I consider Krakauer a first class documentary writer. I got hooked when I read Into Thin Air, published in 1997. I read three more of his books. Into Thin Air sparked my interest in mountaineering, and I’ve continued to read on the subject.
The best new-to-me essay in this book is “Death and Anger on Everest” originally published in The New Yorker in 2014. The conflict between those who aspire to climb Mount Everest and the essential local guides who support them continues to simmer. More recently, in May 2019, The New York Times reported 11 deaths, describing conditions “reminiscent of Lord of the Flies – at 29,000 feet”.
The best reason for me to read Krakauer is that I really don’t understand people who love risk. Plainly Krakauer is hooked on risk and fascinated by people who share his obsession. I can’t imagine undertaking the physical risks involved in mountain climbing and caving.
For anyone who hasn’t read Krakauer, I suggest starting with Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman. If there’s anything that seriously needs to be documented, it’s the reality of America’s wars in Afghanistan and elsewhere the Middle East.