Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

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I’ve been wanting to do a post on Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer for a while. I loved this book. I was gripped from the onset and read it in one sitting. As a story to get lost in, I can’t recommend it enough. Buy it. Read it. Ponder it. It’s great.Screen shot 2013-09-17 at 11.20.33 AM

Yet I have never picked it up again.

Into the Wild is the controversial true story of Christopher McCandless, a young man who went on a journey of self-discovery only to die in the Alaskan wilderness, scared, alone – just a short distance away from help. It’s been made into a well-known movie and has been discussed at length for Krakauer’s portrayal of McCandless as something of a journeyman hero.

I was recently reminded of this book after I read this article in the New Yorker written by Mr. Krakauer himself, discussing his original conclusion into what may have contributed to Christopher’s death. While the seeds Chris ate may have been the end of him, his choices up to that point, in my opinion, were what truly caused his death.

And it is the choices in this story that make it such a compelling read – the choices of a young man who decides to live his life for himself, to find his place in this world, and to do it all without the advice or opinions or help of those close to him. From the moment he leaves school to the moment he finds himself in the Alaskan wilderness, it is all about him, bent on living off the wild and his own fortitude, without the trappings of society or the intrusion of family.

As Krakauer points out in Screen shot 2013-09-17 at 11.11.20 AMthe book, and in the article above, Chris McCandless was not ignorant about how to survive in the wild. He studied. He tried to prepare. He thought he was ready. But in my opinion Chris was ignorant to the fact that he was not, in fact, alone in this world, and there were those who cared about him, who missed him and worried about him – who would be in pain if he died. Perhaps toward the end he realized that he didn’t have to cut ties with everything and everyone to find out what kind of man he was, but by then it was too late. That is what broke my heart most about this book, and why I can’t read it again.

Do think Chris was selfish, or brave? Maybe both? Do you have a book you loved, but know you won’t ever pick up again?

 

 

4 Responses

  1. The first book that comes to mind is Columbine, by Dave Cullen. It’s a deep look at what really happened the day of the school shooting and the circumstances leading up to it. But it’s also an investigation of the way a media narrative is created almost immediately in a situation like that and how the story is so different from what most people think it is.

    When I read it, I had to take a break and literally put the book down every few pages.

    1. I remember, too well, the horror of hearing the events of Columbine unfold. I can understand having to put Dave Cullen’s book down while reading – nearly impossible to read a recounting of that day dispassionately.

  2. Jon Krakauer writes books that are hard to put down and hard to forget, and reading them once is enough. I read Under the Banner of Heaven several years ago, and still think about it sometimes today, but would never want to read it again!
    I think your analysis of the true tragedy of this man’s story is spot-on.

    1. Under the Banner of Heaven stayed with me for a long time too – although more along the lines of “is this for real??” than anything else, though I knew that world existed. Krakauer has this way of making his stories immensely relatable.

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