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Into the Wild Paperback – Abridged, August 21, 2007


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Amazon.com Review

"God, he was a smart kid..." So why did Christopher McCandless trade a bright future--a college education, material comfort, uncommon ability and charm--for death by starvation in an abandoned bus in the woods of Alaska? This is the question that Jon Krakauer's book tries to answer. While it doesn't—cannot—answer the question with certainty, Into the Wild does shed considerable light along the way. Not only about McCandless's "Alaskan odyssey," but also the forces that drive people to drop out of society and test themselves in other ways. Krakauer quotes Wallace Stegner's writing on a young man who similarly disappeared in the Utah desert in the 1930s: "At 18, in a dream, he saw himself ... wandering through the romantic waste places of the world. No man with any of the juices of boyhood in him has forgotten those dreams." Into the Wild shows that McCandless, while extreme, was hardly unique; the author makes the hermit into one of us, something McCandless himself could never pull off. By book's end, McCandless isn't merely a newspaper clipping, but a sympathetic, oddly magnetic personality. Whether he was "a courageous idealist, or a reckless idiot," you won't soon forget Christopher McCandless. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

From Publishers Weekly

After graduating from Emory University in Atlanta in 1992, top student and athlete Christopher McCandless abandoned his possessions, gave his entire $24,000 savings account to charity and hitchhiked to Alaska, where he went to live in the wilderness. Four months later, he turned up dead. His diary, letters and two notes found at a remote campsite tell of his desperate effort to survive, apparently stranded by an injury and slowly starving. They also reflect the posturing of a confused young man, raised in affluent Annandale, Va., who self-consciously adopted a Tolstoyan renunciation of wealth and return to nature. Krakauer, a contributing editor to Outside and Men's Journal, retraces McCandless's ill-fated antagonism toward his father, Walt, an eminent aerospace engineer. Krakauer also draws parallels to his own reckless youthful exploit in 1977 when he climbed Devils Thumb, a mountain on the Alaska-British Columbia border, partly as a symbolic act of rebellion against his autocratic father. In a moving narrative, Krakauer probes the mystery of McCandless's death, which he attributes to logistical blunders and to accidental poisoning from eating toxic seed pods. Maps. 35,000 first printing; author tour.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 207 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; Reissue edition (August 21, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307387178
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307387172
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2,272 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #45,802 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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585 of 611 people found the following review helpful By J. Mullin on July 19, 2000
There is little suspense (in the traditional sense of the word) in Krakauer's Into the Wild, as anyone who reads the synopsis or picks up the book instantly learns that it is the story of a young man, Chris McCandless, who ventures into the Alaskan Wilderness and who never gets out. Chris' body is found in an abandoned bus used by moose hunters as a makeshift lodge, and Krakauer skillfully attempts to retrace his steps in an effort both to understand what went wrong, and to figure out what made McCandless give away his money, his car, and head off into Denali National Forest in the first place.
His book was one of the most haunting, unforgettable reads in recent years for me. I was mezmerized by passages in the author's other best-selling masterpiece Into Thin Air, such as the passage involving stranded and doomed guide Rob Hall, near the Everest summit, talking to his pregnant wife via satellite phone to discuss names for their unborn child. However, I was unprepared for the depths of emotion felt in reading Into the Wild - it literally kept me up at nights, not just reading but thinking about the book in the dark.
Some reviewers criticized the book because they thought McCandless demonstrated a naive and unhealthy lack of respect for the Alaskan wilderness. This is no hike on the Appalachian Trail - Chris was literally dropped off by a trucker into the middle of nowhere, with no provision stores, guides, or means of assistance nearby at his disposal. He had a big bag of rice and a book about native plants, designed to tell him which plants and berries he could eat. "How could he have been so stupid?", they ask.
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117 of 123 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 20, 2000
After having had this book for some time, I finally set out to make it part of my summer 2000 reading schedule. I am drawn to books of the northern wilderness, which was the initial attraction to this one. I'll state up front that I have not read anything else by Krakauer, so I cannot draw any comparisons as other reviewers have done.
Krakauer tells the tale effectively. He uses an intelligent vocabulary balanced with a conversational writing style. He easily held my attention as the facts unfolded throughout, employing logic and drawing inferences to fill in many questions that remain. He obviously did his research on the central character, Christopher McCandless, and must have invested countless quantities of money and time to gather accurate information. With so many of the facts of this distressing story remaining obscured probably forever, his assumptions and extrapolations about Chris' actual fate are posed as theories rather than as irreproachable conclusions. I appreciate this aspect of Krakauer's account.
Hats off also to the McCandless family, since Krakauer relied upon them not only for information about their son, tragically lost, but also for their courage in allowing many private family issues to be exposed in support of telling the story as thoroughly as possible. Chris' father, mother, and sister are true heroes in my eyes.
I have some degree of understanding of Chris and his northerly wanderlust, and also an appreciation for the not-so-uncommon desire to conquer the wilderness. What concerns me, however, is the apparent arrogance of the central character.
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138 of 151 people found the following review helpful By S. Premo on August 21, 2007
Format: Paperback
Several words come to mind when thinking of Chris McCandless, as reviewers on Amazon and others in Krakauer's book note: rash, impulsive, idealistic, individualistic, selfish, histrionic, foolhardy. Indeed, the book had the trappings of apologia for the young man's destructive nature. Contrary to many reviewers, though, I believe Krakauer gave a fair assessment of Chris.

Krakauer attempts to salvage the good name of Chris, primarily because he saw much of his subject's characteristics in himself as a young man. The renunciation of a comfortable, secure environment for the aesthetic, ascetic, and the existential does not make sense to some. However, Krakauer admits that these are the same attitudes on which countries capitalize to recruit men into battle. In one of his more eloquent writings, Chris declares that nothing is more destructive to a man's adventurous spirit than a secure future. Some who have always had security--a life without hardship--begin to look at it with contempt; it becomes something shameful. Giving 25,000 dollars to OXFAM and feeding homeless on K Street was just as charitable as it was self-serving. As is most philanthropy. I admit character portrayal does border on romanticization, but ultimately Krakauer is more sober. Understanding McCandless's flaws, Krakauer still manages to upon McCandless with empathy

But, all this is beside the point. It would be unfair to attack or support a book solely on a personal judgment about the characters. Let Chris be scorned, but I think Jon Krakauer told a good story, and attempted to fully understand the motivation, emotion, and conflict among his characters.
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