“Wild,” in reference to the great outdoors, conveys an image of land and creatures untarnished by human contact. Yet the adjective is just as often used to describe humans themselves—the bold, the unfettered, the daring, the dangerous. It is precisely at the intersection of these definitions that great adventures unfold. From Jack London’s novel The Call of the Wild to Cheryl Strayed’s memoir Wild, the literary canon is replete with tales of man’s negotiation of nature. But for me, an armchair explorer and an avid consumer of literary fiction, few books of this genre make my heart ache in the way of the stories I hold dear. There is just one tale of man versus nature that has enraptured and captivated me in my lifetime, and that is Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild.
Originally a long-form article published in Outside magazine, Into the Wild is the true story of Christopher McCandless, who in 1992 renounced all his worldly possessions and human connections to venture into the Alaskan wild. Though arguably ill-equipped for the harsh landscape, he survived for a time by hunting and gathering, and taking shelter from the elements in an abandoned bus.