Into the Wild

Posted by Ryan Jerz on Thursday November 8, 2007.

Into the Wild, by Jon Krakauer Author(s): Jon Krakauer
Publisher: Anchor
ISBN: 0307387178
Amazon | Shelfari
Based on a few suggestions, I picked up Into the Wild a few days ago and couldn’t wait to start it. Thanks to the movie, directed by Sean Penn, being recently released, the book has re-emerged on the mainstream circuit. I had been unable to get a copy at the library due to its popularity, so I had reserved myself to buying one, and as soon as I did, it popped up at Costco in a cheap format. Nice.

The story, as simply as possible, is that a guy in his early twenties wants to live off the land. He studies up, bails on his family after graduating college, and starts cruising around the country living out of his car and doing odd jobs along the way. His ultimate goal is to live int he wilderness in Alaska, so he’s always working toward that. He eventually gets there and lives for a few months in and around an abandoned bus before starving to death. The book covers his life on the road, how he left things, and speculates as to what he was doing when he died.

Here is what I wrote on Shelfari:

A tremendous book. Krakauer nails the story by following every clue he could find and interviewing everyone who seemed to have contact with this young man on his journey into the Alaskan wilderness. The story ends (or begins, depending on how you look at it) tragically, but the person whose story it is, Chris McCandless, touched several lives deeply along the way. Fueled by anger toward his parents, he strikes out on a quest to live off the land and criss-crosses the U.S. in preparation for a final trip into Alaska. There he makes his way into the wild and lives in an abandoned bus for several months before succumbing to starvation.

This book is about how he got there and who he met while he was living on his own. People remembered him. And Krakauer makes sure to mention how similar McCandless is to just about all of us, despite the reactions of people in the immediate wake of his death that condemned him for his stupidity and selfishness. It’s just not that simple, and we learn why that’s so in this book with looks into McCandless’s childhood, Krakauer’s own adventures at a similar age, and the disappearance of another “adventurer” in the 1930s. It’s a book that can keep your attention if you’re at all interested in what makes people tick, and what makes them do things that others would consider irrational.

That about sums it up. I’ve quickly read three of Krakauer’s books and consider him to be a fantastic writer. I have rated the books four stars, four stars, and five stars, simply because I liked one better than the other two and I want to rate on a scale of relativity. Otherwise, I’d rate them all five. The one I liked best was Into Thin Air. It held me and interested me more than the others—barely.

I plan on seeing the movie for this book, and I encourage anyone who is happening upon this post while looking for the movie to read this. It’s great, quick, and incredibly interesting.

Ryan JerzRyan Jerz is an all-around good guy who wants people to eventually refer to him as "that dude who climbs mountains."

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