Jon Krakauer, renown author and Outside magazine’s journalist
Jon Krakauer

Jon Krakauer, born on April 12, 1954, is a well-known American writer and mountaineer. He has written numerous nonfiction books that have become bestsellers. Some of his most famous works include “Into the Wild,” “Eiger Dreams,” “Into Thin Air,” “Where Men Win Glory,” “Under the Banner of Heaven,” and “Three Cups of Deceit.” Krakauer is a regular contributor to Outside magazine. In 1996, he was a member of the Adventure Consultants team involved in the infamous Everest disaster. While on assignment to investigate the commercialization of the mountain, eight climbers tragically lost their lives in a storm. Krakauer wrote about this incident in his book “Into Thin Air,” which received several prestigious awards, such as Time magazine’s Book of the Year. It was also a finalist for the 1998 Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction.

Early Life and Climbing

Krakauer was born in Brookline, Massachusetts, in 1954. He grew up in Corvallis, Oregon after his family moved there when he was two years old. At the age of eight, his father encouraged him to start climbing, and by the time he was ten, he had already reached the summit of Mt. Rainier. In addition to climbing, Krakauer also played tennis in high school. He attended Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts and graduated in 1976 with a degree in Environmental Studies. After college, Krakauer focused on climbing while working as a commercial fisherman and carpenter in various locations such as the Pacific Northwest, Colorado, and Alaska. In 1977, he accomplished a solo climb up the East Ridge of Devils Thumb, a challenging peak in Alaska’s Stikine Icecap. He spent five weeks alone in the region during this expedition. Details of this climb can be found in his books “Eiger Dreams” and “Into the Wild”. It was also in 1977 that he met his future wife, Linda Mariam Moore. They got married in 1980 and settled in Seattle, Washington. By the early 1980s, Krakauer was able to pursue writing full-time as a career. His work has been featured in various magazines such as GQ, The New Yorker, National Geographic, Rolling Stone, The New York Times, and Smithsonian. He received the Walter Sullivan Award for Excellence in Science Journalism for his article on Rainier published in Smithsonian. In 1990, he published his first full-length book titled “Eiger Dreams: Ventures Among Men and Mountains”, which is a collection of essays written during the 1980s. During this time, he also successfully ascended the Patagonia spire Cerro Torre in 1992, which stands at 10,262 feet.

Into the Wild

Into the Wild (1996) was an immensely successful book by Krakauer, expanding on an earlier article he wrote for Outside magazine. Originally titled “Death of an Innocent,” the book remained on The New York Times Bestseller List for over two years and has gained even more popularity since then. It delves into the nomadic life of Chris McCandless, an adventurous soul who tragically met his demise in an abandoned bus in the Alaskan wilderness. Today, it is a staple in high school and college reading lists. The book was later made into a movie with the same title in 2007, directed by Sean Penn and featuring Emile Hirsch. This cinematic adaptation was highly acclaimed, earning two Golden Globes and two Academy Award nominations.

1996 Everest Expedition and Into Thin Air

During his assignment for Outside magazine, Jon Krakauer participated in an expedition led by Rob Hall’s Adventure Consultants team to explore commercialization in Himalayan mountaineering. Their goal was to reach the summit of Mt. Everest, which stands at a daunting 8,048 meters, in May 1996. Although Krakauer successfully accomplished his objective and reached camp safely, tragedy struck as four team members, including Hall, perished in a severe blizzard during their descent. Scott Fischer, the leader of another commercial expedition, and three Indian climbers from the Indo-Tibetan Border Police also lost their lives in the unfortunate event. Krakauer’s gripping account of this incident, titled Into Thin Air and published in 1997, achieved remarkable success. It reached the top spot on The New York Times bestseller list and was translated into 24 languages. Furthermore, the book was recognized as Time magazine’s Book of the Year and received nominations for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction. Krakauer’s analysis of the accident, which he wrote for Outside, was also honored with a National Magazine Award. The Everest disaster and Into Thin Air have both been portrayed in various films and television shows. Notably, a star-studded Hollywood adaptation was released in 2015. However, Krakauer expressed his dissatisfaction with the movie in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, dismissing it as “total bull.” He urged anyone seeking an accurate account to instead read his book, Into Thin Air.

Other Works and Later Life

Following his great success with “Into Thin Air,” Krakauer and his wife made the decision to relocate to Boulder, Colorado. In recognition of his outstanding literary achievements, he was honored with the Academy Award in Literature by the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1999. The award citation praised Krakauer’s unique blend of relentless determination and bravery, characteristic of exceptional investigative journalists, along with his elegant writing style and profound understanding of human nature. Krakauer’s literary career encompasses a total of eight published books thus far. Among his highly distinguished works is “Where Men Win Glory,” a compelling exploration of the life of Pat Tillman, an American football player who enlisted in the U.S. military after the tragic events of 9/11, only to meet his untimely demise due to friendly fire in Afghanistan. Another noteworthy book by Krakauer is “Under the Banner of Heaven,” an in-depth investigation into the historical roots of Mormonism and a shocking case of double murder committed by two fundamentalist Mormon brothers. Additionally, he wrote “Three Cups of Deceit,” an eye-opening exposé that uncovers allegations of mismanagement and fraud against the influential humanitarian Greg Mortenson and his charity, the Central Asia Institute. Furthermore, Krakauer has taken on the role of editor for the esteemed Modern Library Exploration series, which showcases a diverse collection of nonfiction works focused on exploration and thrilling outdoor adventures, with an emphasis on polar regions.

Selected Works and Awards

Here are some selected works and awards of Jon Krakauer:


  1. Eiger Dreams: Ventures Among Men and Mountains (1990)
  2. Into the Wild (1996)
  3. Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster (1997)
  4. Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith (2003)
  5. Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman (2009)
  6. Three Cups of Deceit: How Greg Mortenson, Humanitarian Hero, Lost His Way (2011)
  7. Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town (2015)
  8. Classic Krakauer: Essays on Wilderness and Risk (2019)


  • Into Thin Air was named Time Magazine Book of the Year in 1997.
  • Krakauer received the Walter Sullivan Award for Excellence in Science Journalism in 1997.
  • Into Thin Air was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1997.
  • Into Thin Air was also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in General Nonfiction in 1998.
  • Krakauer was awarded the Academy Award in Literature by the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1999.


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