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Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

into-the-wild In April 1992 a young man from a well-to-do family hitchhiked to Alaska and walked alone into the wilderness north of Mt. McKinley. His name was Christopher Johnson McCandless. He had given $25,000 in savings to charity, abandoned his car and most of his possessions, burned all the cash in his wallet, and invented a new life for himself. Four months later, his decomposed body was found by a moose hunter. How McCandless came to die is the unforgettable story of Into the Wild.

Immediately after graduating from college in 1991, McCandless had roamed through the West and Southwest on a vision quest like those made by his heroes Jack London and John Muir. In the Mojave Desert he abandoned his car, stripped it of its license plates, and burned all of his cash. He would give himself a new name, Alexander Supertramp, and, unencumbered by money and belongings, he would be free to wallow in the raw, unfiltered experiences that nature presented. Craving a blank spot on the map, McCandless simply threw the maps away. Leaving behind his desperate parents and sister, he vanished into the wild.

Read more . . .

Jon Krakauer constructs a clarifying prism through which he reassembles the disquieting facts of McCandless’s short life. Admitting an interest that borders on obsession, he searches for the clues to the drives and desires that propelled McCandless.  Digging deeply, he takes an inherently compelling mystery and unravels the larger riddles it holds: the profound pull of the American wilderness on our imagination; the allure of high-risk activities to young men of a certain cast of mind; the complex, charged bond between fathers and sons.
 Publisher: Anchor Books; 1 edition (February 1, 1997)

Book Club Party Ideas for Into the Wild

We held our Into the Wild book club party during a camping trip at a state park just north of town and had a wonderful time talking, eating, hiking and just sitting down by the beautiful Guadalupe River.  Since we had the real nature deal we didn’t have to worry about decorations.  But for at home entertaining, I would definitely suggest a camping-theme party.

This camp fire centerpiece and camp out paper plates would be perfect!

You could also encourage guests to wear their hiking/outdoorsy gear (flannel shirts, boots, backpack . . . ) and pass around the book, Tanaina Plantlore, that Chris used for guidance.


The soundtrack for the motion picture, Into the Wild, was done by Eddie Vedder, lead vocalist for Pearl Jam.

Book Club Menu for Into the Wild

Fresh fruit with mixed berries, grapes, cantaloupe and kiwi.

Mixed Fruit

Backpack Snack with mixed nuts, sesame sticks, raisins and chocolate candies.

chocolate candy, pretzels, cashews, raisins

Trail Mix Quinoa Salad

Quinoa Salad

Southwestern Cornbread Salad


Sandwich Tray


S’mores Bars


Book Club Resources for Into the Wild

Ratings at the time this post was published

Goodreads: 3.9 stars (?567,371 ratings)
Amazon: 4.2 stars (2,642 ratings)
LibraryThing: 3.89 stars (3,846 ratings)
My Rating: 4 stars I was intrigued by McCandless’ journey and his longing to experience life away from modern society.

Discussion Questions for Into The Wild

The article Jon Krakauer wrote for Outside magazine on Chris McCandless generated more mail than any other article in the magazine’s history. Some admired McCandless and understood his motivation while others thought McCandless “a reckless idiot, a wacko, a narcissist who perished out of arrogance and stupidity.” Our book club was no different than the Outside readers. We had differing views on what we thought were McCandless’ motives to give up his life, his possessions and to trek into the wild.

  1. What kind of relationship did Chris McCandless have with his parents? What influence did this relationship have on his decision to leave everything behind and live his life with no possessions, shelter or money?
  2. McCandless takes on the name of Alexander Supertramp and cut ties completely with his family. Why was it important to McCandless to hide his identity when he met people along his journey? How did he impact the lives of these people? How did they impact the life of McCandless?
  3. Why did the words of Henry David Thoreau, Jack London, Boris Pasternak and Leo Tolstoy speak so profoundly to McCandless?
  4. Did the inclusion of past climbers, idealists and seekers, as well as Jon Krakauer’s own experiences, add to the story? Did it help you to understand the motivation of McCandless?
  5. Before McCandless became ill he noted “Happiness only real when shared.” (Page 189) Was McCandless ready to return to civilization and his family? What would McCandless’ life been like if he would have walked out of the wild?

More intriguing discussion topics and questions can be found at ELA Teacher’s Guide.

Purchase Into the Wild at your favorite bookseller

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The Author

Jon Krakauer was born in 1954. He is a journalist, author and mountaineer. In 1992, Krakauer wrote an article for Outside magazine about a young man who was found dead in an abandoned bus in Alaska. His fascination with Chris McCandless led him to further his research and write Into the Wild in 1996. Into the Wild remained on The New York Times bestseller list for more than two years. In 1997, he wrote Into Thin Air, which chronicles his experiences on an expedition to Mount Everest which turned deadly for some of his teammates when a storm engulfed the mountain. Into Thin Air earned numerous awards and made Krakauer a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

Other Works by Jon Krakauer

Into the Wild Movie

Into the Wild was made into a motion picture in 2007 starring Emile Hirsch as Chris McCandless. It was directed by Sean Penn and is available on DVD and Blu-ray.

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