My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I was of two minds, after reading this.
Bookshelves: non-fiction, man-vs-nature, americana, controversial, journalistic, grittiest-reality, survival, the-great-outdoors, social-commentary
On one hand, we have an idealistic young man, already aware at such a tender age that the things that really matter are not the material, knowing that the riches and privileges that are given will not take him anyplace truly worth being, giving away his college fund and burning what’s in his wallet, living life on the rails and ultimately heading out to the wilderness to experience oneness with the world, to live life at its barest and grittiest and most real, to see what it is all about. That is so freaking awesome. A modern-day Thoreau by Walden Pond, perhaps, or a new-age Siddhārtha Gautama sitting under the Bodhi Tree.
I love this guy.
But on the other hand, we have a bright, well-educated young man ready to embark upon adulthood with all the advantages, throwing it all away to be a bum, going to the wilds of Alaska to live off the land with no word to his family, no gear, no knowledge, no experience, no plan, not so much as a damned map.
This guy, I do not love. This guy is an idiot.
In the more than two decades since the emaciated body of Christopher McCandless, aka Alexander Supertramp, was found in an abandoned bus in the Alaska wilderness, there has been a lot of comment to the effect that he died primarily of stupidity, and that this book glorified that stupidity. But! Maybe not. Maybe he would have died anyway, no matter how knowledgeable or well-prepared he was. This follow-up 2013 article from the New Yorker, also by Jon Krakauer, explains it, and it’s an interesting read. Short version: Alex likely did not die of arrogance/starvation, but of ignorance/poisoning, and this ignorance may especially be forgiven in that it took more than 20 years for scientists to accidentally identify the actual cause of his death.
If you like adventure stories, or stories about people who dare to defy materialism and notions of conformity, or if you like Jon Krakauer, or if you like any two out of those three, check this one out.
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