Books, Non-Fiction, Reviews

BOOK REVIEW: Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

Into the WildInto the Wild by Jon Krakauer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“For a few minutes the roof of the bus remains visible among the stunted trees, a tiny white gleam in a wild green sea, growing smaller and smaller, and then it’s gone.” –Into The Wild

In April 1992, a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. His name was Christopher Johnson McCandless but he liked to call himself ‘Alex Supertramp’.

Before, Christopher McCandless’s story unfolded in these pages, Jon Krakauer wrote an article for Outside magazine from where the initial idea to develop this book came to him.

Six years back, I watched a documentary on the television about the story of Christopher McCandless being made into a movie. The theme of that documentary was the nomadic life an enthusiast traveller, inspired by the beauty of wilderness. The documentary mostly covered the making of the movie using the knowledge about McCandless from Jon Krakauer’s book. But it also showed the fascinating wildness where the nomad McCandless wandered in the April of 1992, towards the escapement by setting himself free from all man-made demons that not only consume our daily life and but whose slaves we really are. Though, this fact I realised after reading the book and not watching the documentary, six years back.

“I have had a happy life and thank the Lord. Goodbye and may God bless you all!” -from the diary of Christopher McCandless, dated 12 August 1992. He felt that his body was getting weak, that he was losing weight fast, that his end was near. On or shortly after this day, he died. Three weeks later, his body was discovered by a group of hunters.

The narrative in the book provides an easy picture of Chris and his exploration. After his graduation from the university without considering his family to notify them of his upcoming adventures, in his old Datsun he motors away. In the total span of two years, when Chris exploring his way into the wilderness, he travel to places with extreme conditions without any money, only earning when he felt the need by doing all kinds of odd jobs that no one would like to do. With a mixture of hitch-hiking rides and bonding with fewer people, he eventually leaves on the way to Alaska with a certain determination and under the influence of his own consciousness.

Some might entitle his quest as a self discovery but some might also argue that it was a run away from the everyday grind of the society. I consider it a mixture of both which suites the fact well. There is no doubt the journey must have taught him a lot about himself, his ability to do things in extreme conditions but it was also an escape from the man-made reality which we all are part of. We all want to escape our own realities every day, most of us do, in the form of day dreaming.

After reading Krakauer’s words and learning much about McCandless’s odyssey, I asked myself a question regarding the course of one’s life? Born. School and College. Job for rest of the life. Simultaneously, at some point, pretend to be a part of the society. Retire. And, last but not the least, Die. Is that it? Is that what I am living for. To die! And after I die, whatever happens, no matter how rich I had been or how poor (in terms of wealth) in my life’s course, it will not matter to me anymore. I am dead. Could it still affect me? No.

Don’t get me wrong here. I do not mean that we should leave our jobs or abandon our studies for the sake of doing something which satisfies us and will be a part of our glorious memories in those dying days. But what I am trying to say is that we must try on getting a better use of ourselves in exploring new heights and trying our hands behind new wheels. With fulfilling our necessary needs, simultaneously we must also concentrate to achieve something that can make us feel joyous and proud for the rest of our lives. After all, its in our hands to live our life for ourselves and not for our deaths.

Krakauer has dug deep enough into McCandless’ life. He tries to make sense of McCandless life in his words and through this book. McCandless was mainly influenced by Jack London, Leo Tolstoy and Henry Thoreau and Krakauer makes a well account of these authors words in the book. Nothing comes cheap and easy in life and so the story of McCandless’ reality. It’s definitely a page turner.

I’d like to appreciate Jon Krakauer for this exceptional work. The arrangement of facts and timeline are well suited and enjoyable as the story unfolds to the reader. A lot of hard work goes into developing real stories into books and Into The Wild is one perfect example.


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57 thoughts on “BOOK REVIEW: Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer”

  1. Great book selection and another excellent review, Aman.

    I read this book years ago and loved it. I know many find McCandless’ journey to be very self-absorbed and selfish, but the spirit of it really spoke to me. You capture it perfectly, Aman, when you write:

    “we must try on getting a better use of ourselves in exploring new heights and trying our hands behind new wheels. With fulfilling our necessary needs, simultaneously we must also concentrate to achieve something that can make us feel joyous and proud for the rest of our lives. After all, its in our hands to live our life for ourselves and not for our deaths.”

    We don’t have to take off for the wilds of Alaska like McCandless, but I think his story reminds us that along our journey we need to take stock and try to make our life meaningful, lest we die and simply turn to dust. In other words, Carpe Diem!


  2. Awesome!! I have my post on this book ready to go (debating whether to post it today or tomorrow – leaning toward tomorrow). BTW – I think that what we do (reading, sharing ideas, etc) provides us a way to live a meaningful life. And really, isn’t that all we want?

    Cheers, and thanks for all your great posts!!


  3. I’d highly recommend “Into Thin Air.” It’s written in the same conversational, accessible style as “Into the Wild.” Krakaur is a brilliant writer and imbeds many philosophical and aesthetic discourses into his adventure stories. There’s also a strong sense of man’s fragility that runs through both books that made me have the same existential pause that you have.

    Excellent review of an excellent book.


  4. Great Review. I too had seen the documentary a few years back and I admired this guy for his strength to follow his heart, but I also felt he gave up too soon. After reading your review, I think maybe I should read the book also.


  5. I loved this book. I read an excerpt of the book years ago in the Seattle Times. Watched the movie when it came out and have since reread the book again and watched the PBS Documentary on it. His sister recently wrote a new book on it and things that she had now previously told Jon Krakauer. It is called the Wild Truth by Carine McCandless it is very well written and more detailed that what Jon was able to write. Very good read indeed.


  6. I have yet to read this book though I did see the movie (broke my own rule!). I was enthralled by the story, so I look forward to burying my nose in the book. It really does make you take a look at what society tells us is the acceptable way in which to live our lives.


  7. Great post! You wrote: “Some might entitle his quest as a self discovery but some might also argue that it was a run away from the everyday grind of the society. I consider it a mixture of both which suits the fact well.”
    This is a very apt observation. Offers much to consider in terms of balancing the responsibilities we have to the world and to contribute to society, and the responsibilities we have to ourselves to follow our own quests for self-understanding. Is it possible for them to overlap or must we choose?
    Thank you!


    1. Thank you for reading it.
      I think we as human beings often forget that the quest of self-understanding is important and it will provide us a better understanding in our contribution and responsibilities towards the society we live. I think it’s our choice, instead of considering it a possibility.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I like that! So much activism literature suggests we must take care of ourselves in order to care for the others and the world, and yet in so many activist communities and movements it has to be either or, and people burn out this way. I need to believe that the work we do on ourselves, in understanding ourselves and taking care of ourselves, does make a difference–especially if it then informs our decisions to do good work in the world. Thanks for your reply!

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I have been wanting to read this book for so long. I think you’ve just convinced me. I loved the movie, especially the soundtrack. I might read the book while listening to Eddie Vedder on repeat, that should be great!


  9. We’ll have to get this one on audiobook next time we take a trip. Sounds like an interesting read. My husband and I and even our son have really come to enjoy books like this. Thank you for the thoughtful review!


  10. Great review of one of my favorite books! I’ve always thought people who found McCandless to be “self-absorbed” missed the point. I think we all need to be a little more “self-centered” – not selfish, mind you, but self-centered – and quit worrying about what everyone else thinks…what goals we should set, what dreams we pursue. Those things have to come from the inside. I think that’s what McCandless was chasing, all the way into that cold, lonely Alaskan wilderness.


  11. I know after reading it, I also wondered about escaping from society’s clutches and running away into the wilderness. However, sanity prevailed, and I will simply enjoy the wild thru the author’s words.


  12. I think you nailed it down. I have a copy on my shelf and should have given it away long ago, but somehow, I cannot. It reminds me to thrive, and I do so selfishly. Regardless of the lack of an answer as to why we start the journey, I have had so much fun, and now I write about it. As to where we are going, we’ll not get the answer in this life.


    1. Thanks Peter. I am glad you read this post. The ‘uncertainty’ is a factor in life which we due our human nature or say comfort zone either completely ignore or run in different directions. But we tend to forget that is due this uncertainty life’s interesting, curious.


  13. Thanks for liking my blog post. Since you like “Into the Wild,” you should also read Krakauer’s “Into Thin Air” and “Under the Banner of Heaven,” which I think are even better. He’s a great writer.


  14. Interesting review! I appreciate your making your review as much a personal response to the work as a description of it. When we bring ourselves to our reading, as you did, it is so much more meaningful.


  15. Awesome review! I have been a fan of Krakauer since reading “Missoula”. I actually have “Into Thin Air” and “Under the Banner of Heaven” on my bookshelf right now! Really like your comments about being in that cycle of school, job, death. I’ve really been feeling that lately, and have definitely been making more of an effort to live mindfully. It’s a race to get out of the rat race.


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