I just finished reading "Into Thin Air" by Jon Krakauer. I enjoyed reading it -- fast-paced, intriguing, and well-written. The story recounts the 1996 Mount Everest disaster where several of Krakauer's fellow mountaineers died in various, tragic ways and one defied death in an unbelievable manner. The tale is told in a careful way, but it is interesting to see how Krakauer alternately paints himself as a hero and a coward. I suppose he is just human and therefore has all of the fortitudes and foibles of any person.

The description of the terrain, the people, and the precise methods used to ascend Everest made me want to try mountain climbing myself (until I read the passages about HAPE and HACE and frostbite/hypothermia, oh my). It was a little difficult to keep track of the many characters, especially when the author would refer to someone by his first name and then, in the same paragraph, by his last name as though it was another person. But the book is certainly an attention-grabbing-and-sustaining account that leaves you tense (even though you know the outcome) and thoughtful (even after you finish the book).

Krakauer's new book, "Under the Banner of Heaven" , is about the "shadowy world of Mormon fundamentalism" . . . I think I'll leave that book-group discussion to someone else! Next up: "Brick Lane".

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