Jon Krakauer (born April 12, 1954) is an American writer and mountaineer known for his writing about the outdoors and mountain-climbing. He is the author of best-selling non-fiction books—Into the Wild, Into Thin Air, Under the Banner of Heaven, and Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman—as well as numerous magazine articles.
(Into the Wild) The author wrote in his book that he was "haunted by the particulars of the boy's starvation and by vague, unsettling parallels between events in his life and those in my own." As a young man, Mr. Krakauer climbed a suicide peak in Alaska, Devils Thumb, pushed by the same inexplicable force that pushed Mr. McCandless to the edge.
The book that followed, Into Thin Air, became a New York Times bestseller and has been translated into 24 languages. It was also honored as the "Book of the Year" by Time, one of the "Best Books of the Year" by the New York Times Book Review, a finalist for a 1997 National Book Critics Circle Award, and one of three finalists for the 1998 Pulitzer Prize in General Non-Fiction.
Jon Krakauer shares his secret for outlining complicated subjects, which he compares to rock climbing: “When you embark on a really big climb, like, say, the Salathé wall of El Capitan, which rises three thousand vertical feet from the floor of the Yosemite Valley, the enormity of the undertaking can be paralyzing. So a climber breaks down the ascent into rope-lengths, or pitches. If you can think of the climb as a series of 20 or 30 pitches, and focus on each of these pitches to the exclusion of the scary pitches that lie above, climbing El Cap suddenly doesn’t seem to be such an intimidating project.”
Jon Krakauer's Into thin air, as the leading text in this episode, has perpetuated explanations of disaster that are rooted primarily in notions of failed leadership and decision-making, dysfunctional group dynamics, flawed personality, and the absence of appropriate planning and control.
The tendency to transform experience from game to play and spectacle is illustrated by Jon Krakauer's (1997:113) observation about their present complex interconnection. A climber in Krakauer's Everest party had carried (by a Sherpa) a telephone, computer and satellite communication equipment to the final base camp, and some five websites monitored that 1996 Everest ascent. Virtual reality, simulation, and digital communication are new and expanding sources of private and semi-private risky experience.
In July 2003, journalist Jon Krakauer's Under the Banner of Heaven touched off a minor media firestorm. Within weeks, Krakauer's book — an examination of two gruesome Utah murders in the context of Mormon fundamentalism and the broader history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints — had been publicly denounced by high-ranking Mormon officials, reviewed in local papers and prestigious weeklies ranging from the Salt Lake City Tribune to the New Yorker and USA Today, and feverishly debated in online forums around the world. Under the Banner of Heaven continues to be widely invoked in discussions of fanaticism, violence, and religious faith.
Jon Krakauer has climbed Mount Everest and made a solo ascent of Devils Thumb, a treacherous peak on the Alaska-Canada border. To research his new book, “Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman,” he embedded himself twice with the military in Afghanistan. He claims not to be as foolhardy as he was in his youth, but he still thrives on a certain amount of risk.
Krakauer talked about his approach in the 2005 anthology The New New Journalism. "Essentially, I grab a shovel and start digging hard, for a long time," he said, describing a "feverish hunt for material." As for topic selection, he said, "I'm intrigued by fanatics—people who are seduced by the promise, or the illusion, of the absolute."
In 1996 Krakauer climbed Mt. Everest, but a storm took the lives of four of the five teammates who reached the summit with him. An analysis of the calamity he wrote for Outside magazine received a National Magazine Award.
When he was eight years old, his father took him to (unsuccessfully) climb Oregon's ten-thousand-foot South Sister, sparking Krakauer's lifelong obsession with mountaineering.