Son of a doctor and amateur mountaineer, Jon Krakauer was born on April 12, 1954, in Brookline, Massachusetts, and grew up in Oregon, where he began mountain-climbing at eight years old. After graduating from Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts, in 1976, Krakauer worked as a carpenter and a commercial fisherman in Colorado, the Pacific Northwest, and Alaska, devoting most of his free time to climbing. In 1977 he pioneered a new route up the Devils Thumb in southeast Alaska, and in 1996 he reached the top of Mt. Everest, though four of his five teammates died on the descent down the mountain — an experience Krakauer would write about for Outside magazine and in his book Into Thin Air.
Jon Krakauer is a journalist whose work has been published in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Time, Smithsonian, National Geographic, Rolling Stone, Outside, Architectural Digest, and other periodicals. Some of Krakauer's essays and articles on mountain-climbing were collected in his first book, Eiger Dreams: Ventures Among Men and Mountains, published in 1990. His next book, Into the Wild (1996), became a bestseller and was adapted in 2007 as a feature film directed by Sean Penn.
Into Thin Air (1997), Krakauer's third book, investigates the commercialization of the world's highest mountain, Everest. It reached #1 on the New York Times bestseller list and has been translated into 24 languages. It also was a finalist for both the National Book Critics Circle award and the Pulitzer Prize and was named Book of the Year by Time magazine.
His other books include Under the Banner of Heaven (2003), about the Mormon church, which inspired the 2006 documentary Damned to Heaven; and Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman (2009), about an All-Pro NFL football player and U.S. Army Ranger killed in Afghanistan.
In 1999 Jon Krakauer received the Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He is editor of the Modern Library's Exploration series.