Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer – Nonfiction Review

book1 I initially had some reservations about reading this book. I had heard a lot of hype about it, both good and bad, and it seemed like most people who read it focused on judging the decisions made by the subject, Chris McCandless. It’s definitely tempting. An educated young man from an affluent family decides to live as a bum, ultimately ending up in the wilds of Alaska where he dies, seemingly from his own recklessness, when he could have opted for one of the many opportunities at his disposal instead and had a bright and successful future.

Well, there are no guarantees in life. McCandless could have died just as easily while crossing the street. He could have seized the more conventional opportunities that life presented him with and ended up living a miserable, if lucrative, life. Who’s to say which is a better choice for someone else to make? So as I read this book, (with the exception of noting that the book is well researched, and the author seems passionate about getting the facts straight), I considered it a work of fiction, thereby freeing myself from making judgements about McCandless and worrying that my comments would in any way be construed as condoning his behavior.

book2Jon Krakauer has an easy writing style that holds the attention. He tells the tale of a young man who seeks a deeper meaning which can only come from within. In order to achieve the level of introspection needed to accomplish this, the young man leaves his family and hits the road, learning to live in solitude, off the land, and in extreme conditions. The man enjoys the company of others and is by no means a recluse, but seems to feel that the answers he seeks can only be discovered when stripped of company and comforts. It is by no means a new tale, as narratives abound in which man turns to nature to answer the questions that burn within his soul, but it is a retelling that I enjoyed very much.

Nonfiction – Clever as a Fox by Sonja Yoerg

cleverI really enjoyed this book. Much like Jane Goodall, Sonja Yoerg writes in a way that both inspires confidence in the author’s knowledge and creates a world of imagery for the reader to immerse themselves in. This book is reader friendly in that you don’t have to be an animal behaviorist to enjoy, appreciate and understand the subject matter. That said, you will most likely learn something while reading this book. It entails a certain amount of effort. If you’re looking for a story to entertain you while you’ve got one eye on the kids and the other on a pitcher of margaritas, you should probably opt for a fictional beach read and save this book for another day.

This book is written to make you think. It doesn’t just discuss animal behaviors and their varying degrees of intelligence. It educates the reader on how intelligence tests are created, the history of methods used by different sects of behaviorists, the inherent flaws of each method – basically this book will challenge your very definition of the concept of intelligence. It made me think of my perceptions of the members of the animal kingdom in an entirely new way. It even made me consider that (gasp!) my Jack Russell might not be quite the genius I thought her to be. (But then she made it quite clear – she is indeed a genius – an evil genius 😉 naughtypups

Joking aside, this book has made a huge impact in the way I think about not just animal intelligence, but also animal equality. As the author suggests, perhaps the Great Chain of Being is wrong. Perhaps an animal is not more intelligent (or worthy) simply because they are considered to have more human-like qualities than another creature. And when you start to consider the impact (or lack thereof) of intelligence on survival? Wow. I will be enjoying the information I learned from having read this book (and the private mental debates stemming from this new info) for a long time to come!

Create a website or blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: