- Paperback: 240 pages
- Publisher: Anchor Books; 1 edition (February 1, 1997)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0385486804
- ISBN-13: 978-0385486804
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 6.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (2,926 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #134 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Into the Wild Paperback – January 20, 1997
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"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'tcannotanswer 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.
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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
I watched the movie "Into The Wild" a few years back and have always been curious and saddened to think about Chris's journey. This book seemed to clear the story a bit. Sometimes I had a lump in my throat thinking that this is not a "character" in a made up story but a real life that seemed to yearn for a peace that only existed in his heart. Jon Krakauer does a great job of giving us a key hole view of "Alex's" life. The good times even when he had nothing. I personally feel like unfortunately Chris was a troubled individual weather it was mental imbalance or emotional disconnect and after this book I feel so sad for his torment. The movie left me disliking his parents, but this book turned that emotion completely around. And I loved the Epilogue. Thank you Jon Krakauer for that. If the movie intrigued you most definitely read the book.
The book connected with me almost immediately. The story of Chris McCandless is a story of adventure and freedom, at least that's my perspective. I've had discussions with others about CM, some say he's a fool and some say he's a bad example to other young people that have since ventured into the wild unprepared. My view is that life is about being unprepared sometimes. The bills that tie us down to a job or a precise schedule made us feel the need to plan everything, solve every problem and please every person, but it doesn't have to be that way.
Reading Into the Wild, which is now a required reading for many high school students, it gives a sense of what is like to let go sometimes and a new way to look at life. It doesn't encourage me to go out into the wild and live off the land but encourages me to never stop exploring and doing what I love. For some people, that's a good camping trip, and for others, it might be planting a garden.
After reading this book, I began reading some of the books mentioned in Into the Wild that were read by Chris McCandless. I wanted to put myself into Chris' mind and see how he was thinking at the time. Although I don't possess his ability to recite quotes from Leo Tolstoy and Jack London, I still found the other readings to be enlightening.
I bought my first copy of Into the Wild at a used book story and gave it to my father as a gift. I purchased a new book on Amazon which I will give to a good friend. I then found another copy at a used book sale so, at one point, I owned 3 copies of this book.
Structurally and thematically, I had issues. It was initially written from the perspective of trying to figure out what Chris was looking for, who was this person who ended up dying alone in Alaska? Many examples were provided about other people who wandered off into the wilderness to either die or disappear. London, Thoreau, Kerouac - the romance of the rugged individual on the road, in the wilderness were referenced and quoted - extensively.
There were teasers about his anger at his parents that turned out to be only the moral outrage of a young person when learning he did not know his father had betrayed his mother and the mother of his other children many years earlier. Then it seemed to shift to imbuing him with more depth than the evidence provided with the apparent intent to make his actions have more ethical or philosophical weight. The only true existence is to be one with the environment, etc. He burned his money and walked off into the wilderness, like Jesus casting off all that was worldly and heading into the desert.
There was the need for the author to use 10% of the book just to recount his own experiences in Alaska under the guise of corroborating how difficult it can be to survive in Alaska. There was the technique of using quotes from books McCandless had highlighted to attempt to portray his mindset. These were often accompanied by other quotes from other books. There was so much of that I began to think the author was paid by the word.
Then there was the jumping around in the chronology that, while it does work in many books, does require some structure in how it's done. 100 pages ago I thought we'd covered the time period and all things about it only to learn later that no, there was also this other thing. There was a lot of repetition as a result.
Overall, the editing could have been tighter and the book could have been about 25% shorter.
I do commend the author on both his sensitivity to the family and how well this spins the story of a young wanderer who, through ignorance and some hubris, got himself dead. It does serve as a caution to all of us who think we can just go live off the land when "the big one comes".