Angie Abdou on why we love adventure tales
It's been 20 years since Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer was published. It's a riveting description of an expedition to summit Everest gone horribly wrong and ended with a record number of people killed as the result of a storm on the mountain. The book sparked a lot of debate on the value of climbing and the commercialization of Mount Everest.
Angie Abdou is the author of The Bone Cage and The Canterbury Trail. She's also an athlete and and an outdoors enthusiast. She says if you liked Into Thin Air, you should check out Every Lost Country by Steven Heighton.
The appeal of mountain stories
Mountain stories have built in compelling narrative: Are they going to make the top? Are they going to live? Are they going to die? It's really high stakes, high tensions, the whole way. Someone called Into Thin Air a Hitchcock thriller with better scenery.
An athlete's perspective
I'm really interested in why we push our bodies so hard. Jon Krakauer said the main thing about climbing Everest was enduring pain: how much pain can you endure? Even as an English professor, I like to study sport literature and why people push themselves. Social scientists have come up with this word, edgework, to describe extreme activities and why people do them. There's this idea that you're rebelling against scripted existence — our lives are so heavily scripted but by engaging with these extreme sports, you're pushing outside of those scripts.
Angie Abodu's comments have been edited and condensed.