For book club, it was my month to choose our reading material. I decided to read something I’ve been meaning to read for a while and just hadn’t gotten around to. On top of that, I wanted to give my co-readers a choice. I needed at least two books with similar plots or themes. That’s when I decided on Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air and Into the Wild. Both by the same author, on my ‘need to read’ shelf, and adventure writing, I thought they’d be different than other books we read.
Into the Wild is a book that stirs up opinions. God knows it did in book club. Chris McCandless just graduated from Emery and decided to go on his very own Odyssey out to the west of the United States. The year is 1992 and Chris didn’t tell anyone where he was going, opting to be like his favorite writers and spend time in the wild away from civilization. His ultimate goal: make it to Alaska, the last wilderness and live off the land. Along the way, he made friends, had near death experiences, and lived his idealized life. Unfortunately, there’s a reason it’s an idealized life. Chris was found outside of Fairbanks, Alaska dead. In Krakauer’s book, we follow Chris around the country and get to know him the best we can.
I hesitantly picked up this book. All I could think of was, this kid is a dumb ass. Who burns their money, deserts their family, and goes into Alaska with very little knowledge of how to live off the land? He deserved what he got for his arrogance. But then I started reading about McCandless. I started understanding his longing for nature, the unknown, testing his limits, and a life altering trip. I envied his ability to have a philosophy that he lived by, truly live by. His ideas were romantic, and as Krakauer points out, not always based on truth in the case of The Call of the Wild, but there was something innocent and beautiful in his ideals. I connected with McCandless. Although I’m not going to hike around the country, I understood the longing to get out of modern society with all its distractions and reconnect with the beauty and overwhelming power of nature.
The book brought up great discussion points from communing with nature, ideals, the power of fiction, youth and stupidity, and somehow sex (it always seems to creep in there, that’s what she said).
I highly recommend this book to the adventure seeker or nature lover. Maybe you will hate McCandless for being a selfish kid. Maybe you’ll love the idea of traveling without expectation or limits. It was surprising how much I enjoyed this book while still having reservations about the main character. If you’ve seen the movie, give the book a try. I’ve heard they paint two different pictures.
If you liked this book and want others like it here are my suggestions:
- A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
- Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck
- A Walk Across America by Peter Jenkins
- The Call of the Wild by Jack London