November 09, 2012
Reader responseChris's Review
Jon Krakauer is the author of one of my favorite works on nonfiction, the biography/memoir/story of Chris McCandless, "Into the Wild." I remember reading this book when I was in high school because my dad had read it, and my dad is not much of a reader at all. He's read maybe five books for fun in his life. I read as a means to bond with him.
And, man, am I glad I did. "Into the Wild" tells the story of McCandless, a smart, college grad who burned his life's savings and identity in effort to hitch hike to Alaska on an insane cross-country road trip. The book chronicles the people he meets and the places he goes. The story, unfortunately, ends in McCandless' death after eating poisonous berries while sitting in the freezing cold. But what we learn from his adventure, and more importantly from the observations of Krakauer, are fascinating to read.
We learn that McCandless was not a bad guy, just a man on a path doomed for failure. It doesn't matter how great of a hiker you are if you cannot survive in the wild, which is something McCandless was not prepared for at all. Krakauer shows the reader just how difficult his journey must have been and does so through incredible investigative journalism and by putting himself through similar moments of suffering. Krakauer's story is not just assumed, but is also recounted through the people McCandless met and by visiting the places he visited.
Krakauer also interjects McCandless' story with a story of his own. The author was one of the few people to successfully climb Mount Everest during the 1996 Mount Everest disaster in which 15 people died trying to complete the climb. Krakauer relates his story to what McCandless may have gone though, which gives a book about someone else's adventure a fascinating tone of first person. Krakauer does this through beautiful writing and storytelling that just reads effortlessly.
If you are looking for an author who combines personal struggle, adventure and the thrill of life-or-death experiences, Jon Krakauer is your man.
So, every week, when Chris and I write these reviews, we switch off who chooses. This week, Chris said: "Hey, Jazmine. Let's do another writer you have absolutely no idea about," and I said, "All right." I'm really happy I did.
Jon Kraukauer is not the usual type of genre I would go for. He writes a lot of outdoorsy things, and I have to admit the last novel I read like that was "The Hatchet" by Gary Paulsen in fifth grade. Once again, Chris has introduced me to a writer I actually enjoy.
I haven't had a chance to read the full version, but I did read excerpts from a few of his works. I think that the way he writes is what helps me to enjoy what he's writing about. "Eiger Dreams," a collection of nonfiction essays, describes mountaineering and rock climbing, but not in a way that is difficult to understand. I also had a chance to look at some of his writing from "Into the Wild" as well. Looking at the way Kraukauer writes, I found him to be a bit comical. I'm not quite sure if that was his intention, but just by the detailed way that he explains things, I can get a good feel of what something looks like or how a person reacts, and it is so believable.
Actually, really all of his writing is believable. When I was reading "Eiger Dreams," I could see the circles of tents on the snow-covered mountains, the burly men who were a part of the rescue team, the blowing winds and blinding snow. That's what helped to draw me in; I could picture exactly what was going on without realizing that I was reading a nonfiction piece of work.
Another way I was able to read the stories was his description of people. Alex quickly became a favorite in the excerpt I read from Into the Wild. His mannerisms, lack of provisions, unwanted relationship with the government--it all drew me in. When I got to the end of the excerpt, I desperately wanted to read more, which I plan on doing now that I've been introduced to Kraukauer.
All in all, the best advice I can give is to not knock a writer or genre until you have read it.
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