BOOK REVIEW: Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

Into the WildInto the Wild by Jon Krakauer

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Nature is a harsh teacher. That was the last lesson Chris McCandless ever learned. A recent college graduate, McCandless struck out for the Alaskan wilderness with minimal resources, his body was found by a party of moose-hunters several months after he’d begun his Alaskan adventure.

Into the Wild gives us a well-researched explanation for how McCandless died, but it also tells us a great deal about how he lived– and that story is fascinating in its own right. Many thought McCandless must have been crazy, but refusing to acquiesce to the work-a-day world is often incorrectly diagnosed as insanity.

McCandless had an obsessive desire to find out whether he could make it on his own, not just separate from his parent’s wealth but from all the trappings of modern society. McCandless’s most iconic indicator of insanity-by-way-of-thwarting-convention was when he gave away the entirety of his $25,000 savings account and burnt all the money in his wallet. He wanted to know whether he could survive if he was returned to the state of nature from whence mankind came. Sadly, the answer was no.

It would be easy to dismiss McCandless as a dumb kid who got in over his head. Though he certainly was that. On his deathbed, in a bus carcass in the remote Alaskan wilderness, McCandless likely had a revelation that most teenagers pass into adulthood without ever realizing, that he was mortal.

However, McCandless was more than a kid with an underdeveloped sense of his own mortality. He was a kid with the courage to confront a question that most of us just let nag in the back of our minds. That question being,do we have what it takes to live not as a cog in a machine but as a human in the natural world.

I know many are intrigued by this question in part because there are entire TV channels that are practically devoted to survival shows. Yet most people don’t take it beyond sitting on a couch contemplating whether they could survive. Will thinking man (Homo sapiens) be replaced by doing man (Homo effectus)?

View all my reviews

There was a movie based on this book. I didn’t see it, but here is its trailer.