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Into the Wild Paperback – Abridged, August 21, 2007

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Editorial Reviews 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 (2,481 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #73,454 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jon Krakauer grew up in Corvallis, Oregon, where his father introduced him to mountaineering as an 8-year-old. In 1999, upon presenting him with an Academy Award in Literature, the American Academy of Arts and Letters declared, "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."

Photos documenting Krakauer's books and non-writing life can be viewed on his personal Instagram account:

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

600 of 626 people found the following review helpful By J. Mullin on July 19, 2000
Format: Paperback
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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125 of 131 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 20, 2000
Format: Paperback
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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192 of 212 people found the following review helpful By lawyeraau HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 30, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a poignant, compelling narrative about Chris McCandless, an intelligent, intense, and idealistic young man, who cut off all ties to his upper middle class family. He then reinvented himself as Alexander Supertramp, a drifter living out of a backpack, eking out a marginal existence as he wandered throughout the United States. A modern day King of the Road, McCandless ended his journey in 1992 in Alaska, when he walked alone into the wilderness north of Denali. He never returned.

Krakauer investigates this young man's short life in an attempt to explain why someone who has everything going for him would have chosen this lifestyle, only to end up dead in one of the most remote, rugged areas of the Alaskan wilderness. Whether one views McCandless as a fool or as a modern day Thoreau is a question ripe for discussion. It is clear, however, from Krakauer's writing that his investigation led him to feel a strong, spiritual kinship with McCandless. It is this kindred spirit approach to his understanding of this young man that makes Krakauer's writing so absorbing and moving.

Krakauer retraced McCandless' journey, interviewing many of those with whom he came into contact. What metamorphosed is a haunting, riveting account of McCandless' travels and travails, and the impact he had on those with whom he came into contact. Krakauer followed McCandless' last steps into the Alaskan wilderness, so that he could see for himself how McCandless had lived, and how he had died. This book is his epitaph.
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