Book Review: Into the Wild

John Krakauer’s “Into The Wild” is the compelling story of the events leading to the disappearance of 24 year old Chris McCandless. A free thinking recent college graduate, McCandless sets off on a solo adventure into Alaska’s backcountry where he meets his eventual death. Along the way, he gives his 25K savings account to Oxfam, burns his remaining cash, abandons his car, and and makes a few friends under the pseudonym “Alexander Supertramp.” His journal entries, the stories of those whose lives he touched before disappearing into the wildnerness, and interviews with his parents and sister are the raw material for Krakauer’s story.

Krakauer does a fine job not only of telling an engaging tale, but he draws you into his story by painting a vivid picture of the man he imagined McCandless to be. Our winsome protagonist is at turns charming, funny, and bright, yet troubled, dark and misanthropic at times. The reader cannot help but root for McCandless as he embarks on what many Alaskans would later judge a foolhardy mission. Equipped with a few essentials and a bold sense of adventure, McCandless entered the wilderness, unbeknownst to his worried family, seeking to suck all the juice he could from life.

The author weaves McCandless’s tale through stories of his own, and those of other adventure-seekers. To say this was a seamless melding would be inaccurate, however this choppiness is offset by the candor with which Krakauer speaks of his personal interest in his work. I was struck by his honest description of the way in which McCandless’s tragic end made him consider his own mortality. The author describes some of the wild expeditions he undertook in his 20’s and marvels in hindsight that he lived to tell the tale. I appreciated the fact that Krakauer explored his own biases and brought them to the forefront of the book, as if to say “Reader, I never claimed this to be a completely objective account. After all, I am looking at the available information through the lens of someone with my experiences, beliefs, and perceptions, and here they are.” Krakauer saw an image of himself in McCandless’s story. Originally born out of a short article for Outside magazine, I got the impression the book was as much a personal journey as it was a professional project for the author. The author’s inclusion of himself added a dimension to this book that made it more than just a biography. I am not sure how well this flowed with the content of the book but I definitely think its part of what made this book stand out for me.

I don’t usually read non-fiction but I really liked this one. I give it a B+. Also, in case you were wondering the movie is good too. Overall I think it did the book justice. I feel Catherine Keener should get a Best Supporting Actress award for her role. She’s just perfect for the role and for once she’s not playing a pitiful, spineless woman. Also Emile Hirsch was good as McCandless not to mention easy on the eyes.

6 thoughts on “Book Review: Into the Wild

  1. Natalie says:

    Steve read this a few months ago and now he is on a “Krakauer” kick, reading all his books he can get his hands on.. We listened to “Under the Banner of Heaven” (book on tape) on our car ride back from NC. Love your book reviews!

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  2. Pam says:

    Hey girl. I actually read most of it on the plane to and from my trip to see you guys in November! (I am a tardy reviewer). Glad you enjoyed. Next up may be that Amy Tan one I mentioned to you, have you finished it? Did you LOVE it??

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  3. Anonymous says:

    Pam, thanks for the book review. That book only came out, I dunno, 10 years ago? Whats next for you to review, the illiad?all kidding aside, I love that book and also into think air. It reads like fiction, as its an adventure story, which is why I think you liked it despite it being non fiction. XOXOJohn

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  4. Pam says:

    John- I hope you weren’t misled by the pink backdrop or the title “Whatevs” but.. brace yourself… you are not reading The New York Times Book Review. Actually this is my blog. I never said my book reviews would be super current. But anyway, yeah I do want to read Into Thin Air, its on my “to read” list

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