Jon Krakauer is the author of Eiger Dreams, Into the Wild and Into Thin Air and is editor of the Modern Library Exploration series.
Born in 1954, he grew up in Corvallis, Oregon, where his father introduced him to mountaineering as an 8-year-old. After graduating from Hampshire College in 1976, Krakauer divided his time between Colorado, Alaska, and the Pacific Northwest, earning his living primarily as a carpenter and commercial salmon fisherman, spending most of his free moments in the mountains. In 1977 he traveled alone to the remote Stikine Icecap in Southeast Alaska, went three weeks without encountering another person, and climbed a new route on a graceful, intimidating peak called the Devil's Thumb. In 1992 he climbed the West Face of Cerro Torre in the Patagonian Andes (a mile-high spike of granite sheathed in a carapace of frozen rime, Cerro Torre was once considered the most difficult mountain on earth.)
In May 1996 Krakauer reached the top of Mt. Everest, but during the descent a storm engulfed the peak, taking the lives of four of the five teammates who climbed to the summit with him. An analysis of the calamity that he wrote for Outside magazine received a National Magazine Award. The unsparingly honest book he subsequently wrote about Everest, Into Thin Air, became a #1 New York Times bestseller and has been translated into 24 languages. It was also honored as the "Book of the Year" by Time magazine, 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.
For the past two decades Krakauer's writing has been published in the likes of Outside, GEO, Architectural Digest, Rolling Stone, Time, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and National Geographic. An article he wrote for Smithsonian about vulcanology received the 1997 Walter Sullivan Award for Excellence in Science Journalism from the American Geophysical Union. His 1996 book, Into The Wild--about an idealistic young man named Chris McCandless who perished in the Alaskan bush--spent more than two years on the New York Times bestseller list. This followed the publication of two books by Krakauer in 1990: Eiger Dreams, a collection of his mountaineering essays, and Iceland: Land of the Sagas, a book of his photographs.
In 1998 Krakauer established the Everest '96 Memorial Fund at the Boulder Community Foundation, endowing it with royalties from Into Thin Air. Created as a tribute to his companions lost on Everest, the fund provides humanitarian aid to the indigenous peoples of the Himalaya and supports organizations working to preserve the natural environment throughout the world. Krakauer also serves on the boards of the American Himalayan Foundation and the Alex Lowe Charitable Foundation.
In 1999 Krakauer received an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters--a prestigious award intended "to honor writers of exceptional accomplishment." According to the Academy's citation, "Krakauer combines the tenacity and courage of the finest tradition of investigative journalism with the stylish subtlety and profound insight of the born writer. His account of an ascent of Mount Everest has led to a general reevaluation of climbing and of the commercialization of what was once a romantic, solitary sport; while his account of the life and death of Christopher McCandless, who died of starvation after challenging the Alaskan wilderness, delves even more deeply and disturbingly into the fascination of nature and the devastating effects of its lure on a young and curious mind."
Krakauer's latest book, which he has spent the last four years researching and writing, is Under The Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith, published by Doubleday in July 2003. As a child in Oregon, many of the author's playmates, teachers, and athletic coaches were Latter-day Saints. Although he envied the unfluctuating certainty of the faith professed so enthusiastically by these Mormon friends and acquaintances, he was often baffled by it, and has sought to comprehend the formidable power of such belief ever since. The upshot of this lifelong quest is Under The Banner of Heaven, in which Krakauer examines the nature of religious passion through the lens of Mormon Fundamentalism.