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Into the Wild

A book by Jon Krakauer

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Into the Wild ~Was it madness or suicide?

  • Aug 28, 2000
Pros: A clear but jaded look

Cons: none

Jon Krakauer, noted author of Into Thin Air and Eiger Dreams, as well as contributing editor to Outside magazine, investigates the life and ultimate death of Christopher McCandless. McCandless, a 24 year old college graduate from a comfortable family, turned his back on society and entered his dream, transversing the wilds of Alaska, alone. McCandless hopped from the passenger seat of a jeep owned by Jim Gallien on April 19, 1992. On September 9, 1992, his emaciated body was found by two young campers as they passed through his camp. McCandless had starved to death only 6 miles from civilization.

Krakauer uses his intense knowledge of the causes and effects of life in the unknown wilderness. Indeed, he devotes a portion of the book recounting his own 'walk into the wild' when he was a young man much like McCandless. He admits, in the prologue, that he is not an impartial biographer as he views McCandless as a person 'unprepared' for his trek and a 'victim' of the circumstances that lead to his death.

Unfortunately, as a good many biographies are, this account is full of conjecture and ideals. Because McCandless was spotty at best with his journal entries, in fact almost all entries deal with food, one is left to their own decision regarding what created the man that became known as Alexander Supertramp and what caused the death of the man he finally admits to being, Chris McCandless.

In my opinion, Krakauer identified so completely to McCandless he jaded his feelings about him. With the amount of information available, it can only appear Chris McCandless entered into a suicide mission, later changed his mind and then was unable to correct his decision. For someone that held true to his dream for two years, he entered the Alaskan wilderness woefully unprepared. Taking no noticeable provisions, letting no one know exactly where he was, ridding himself of all his possessions (including his Alaskan map), writing goodbye notes to everyone ~ clearly someone not intending to return.

We will never know the reasoning behind his thoughts or his dreams. We will never understand why he chose to walk into the wild without looking back, Krakauer, however, gives an informative look into the background of McCandless and the choices he made. I think, in the end of the book, when he makes the same journey that Chris did, ending at the bus where Chris finally died of starvation, you find just how deeply Krakauer was affected by these events. Later, when he returns with Chris's parents, you don't get a feeling of peace in Krakauer. He is still deeply immersed in this young mans life, comparing it to his own.

Although I am not an outdoors fan, I thoroughly enjoy reading Krakauer's works. Even with his years if experience he makes the articles informative and enjoyable without being too detail oriented. Not meaning he is not detailed in his descriptions because he can certainly make you feel the cold and desolation, but he doesn't heap technical knowledge on you that you do not understand.

After reading this book twice I am still undecided about the life of Chris McCandless. Perhaps that was what he was striving for, the very complexity of being an undescribable person. But I did come away believing he never truly entered the wild but that the wild was part and parcel of his very being.


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More Into the Wild (book) reviews
review by . July 01, 2010
(Note:  Personal info)  I work at Outside Magazine (where this story was first published as an article) and received this book from my father back in 1990.  When I applied for my position at Outside, my high school english teacher based his recommendation for my position here, by way of  a comparison between myself and McCandless.  I think many of us can relate to the experience of finding ourselves, often in the most extreme and dangerous of situations. (In my case, I …
review by . June 28, 2010
What a fascinating book!  John Krakauer is a literary genius.  The story of Chris McCandless will live on in everyone's heart and soul.  A young college graduate who decides there has got to be more out there goes on the adventure of a lifetime.  A grippping novel that opens your eyes to a whole new world.  I read this book when it was first published and years later it was turned into a movie, which was surprisingly as good as the book itself!  The way the author …
review by . March 03, 2010
Jon Krakauer just can’t help but write bestselling books that are some of my favorites! Krakauer originally wrote a lengthy piece for Outside magazine about the story of Christopher McCandless, a young college graduate who decides to abandon social norms and the comforts of civilization to venture into the wilderness of Alaska. In 1996 Krakauer expanded the article into this bestselling book and true story. On his way to Alaska, McCandless (who renamed himself Alexander Supertramp) meets several …
review by . July 01, 2010
   This is one of my Favourite books. I love wild life and when I saw the name into the wild I really wanted to watch the film. I saw the ratings of the film and decided to watch thinking it would be about wildlife. But after watching it, I wasn't disappointed. Even though it wasn't about wildlife I really enjoyed it. I love it so much that I googled it and found out that it was a true story and there was a book written about it, I went straight to amazon and ordered a book. After …
review by . June 05, 2010
Into The Wild is an informative and interesting book. I read it quickly, if not exactly easily, and I learned a lot about wildlife and survival in a part of America I was not familiar with. It painted a vivid portrait of the outdoor world. For those reasons I did enjoy the story. It was not, however, entirely enjoyable for me, and in fact the main character infuriated me so much that I often had to put the book down to rant at my fiance about it.      I felt guilty about this, …
Quick Tip by . July 29, 2010
Intriguing investigation of a young man in search of an old ideal. Doesn't give easy answers, but illuminates the situation.
Quick Tip by . July 15, 2010
A fast read and a very interesting look into the victim of Alaska's bush psyche. And a good mix of the stories of other people as well.
Quick Tip by . July 13, 2010
Really well-written nonfiction book. The writer makes you really care for Chris McCandless, while simultaneously disdaining him.
Quick Tip by . July 12, 2010
Excellent book! I loved the message that Alex Supertramp was trying to get across. I think he went on the ultimate adventure, and I only wish I had the guts to try something like that. Tragic ending.
Quick Tip by . July 05, 2010
Found myself feeling less than sympathetic toward the protagonist.
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About this book


Into the Wild (1996) by Jon Krakauer is a bestselling non-fiction book about the adventures of Christopher McCandless. It is an expansion of Krakauer's 9,000-word article, "Death of an Innocent", which appeared in the January 1993 issue of Outside.  The book was adapted into a 2007 movie of the same name directed by Sean Penn with Emile Hirsch starring as McCandless. McCandless died in a wilderness area in the state of Alaska.

INTO THE WILD developed out of an article Jon Krakauer wrote for Outside magazine. Emory University honors graduate Christopher Johnson McCandless--"Alexander Supertramp"--took off after college in rebellion against authority and his privileged upbringing. Krakauer reveals the details leading up to the boy's death in the Alaskan wilderness, where he was found by hunters in September of 1992, at the age of 24. The author shares personal reflections about his own risk-taking adventures, as well as impressions of those who knew Christopher. In 2007, the book was made into a film directed by Sean Penn.

The story of Chris McCandless, a young man who embarked on a solo journey into the wilds of Alaska and whose body was discovered four months later, explores the allure of the wilderness.
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ISBN-13: 978-0307387172
Author: Jon Krakauer
Genre: Travel, Social Science, Nature, Biography & Autobiography
Publisher: Anchor Books
Date Published: August 07, 2007
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