Reviewed by John Glover, Reference Librarian for the Humanities
The 1992 death of the wanderer Christopher McCandless was a strange one. He died of starvation, alone in the Alaskan bush, with few possessions. With a little more preparedness for his surroundings—a compass, a map—he might have left his campsite and traveled to a nearby cabin, or the few dozens miles to civilization. Instead he wasted away, his body eventually found by moose hunters. This story makes for a gripping, thought-provoking read. It's difficult not to wonder what one would have done under similar circumstances, what choices one would have made and what the result would have been.
Jon Krakauer, an experienced outdoorsman, went north to learn about McCandless, publishing an article in Outside the next year that became the basis for Into the Wild. The book explores McCandless' life and wanderings, as well as those of others who have traveled into the American wilderness to find themselves, or solitude, or escape from society. Krakauer spent much time with McCandless' journal and correspondence, interviewing his family and other people who knew him, and learning whatever could be reconstructed of his travels. Along the way, Krakauer recounts his own outdoor experiences under harsh conditions, musing over how close he himself might have come to death.