I don't usually reach for non-fiction, but for I recently dove into Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer, a biography of Christopher McCandless, a privileged suburban kid who changed his identity, burnt his money, and walked into the Alaskan bush with a woeful lack of supplies to live 'man versus wild.'
I picked it up after finishing A Sense of an Ending with a sense of meh. (<--It was good, but I don't see why it won a Booker prize).
Back to Into the Wild. The tricky thing about McCandless is that a lot of people have written him off as a fool, taking ridiculous risks for bragging rights or to inflate his ego. But Krakauer broke down these arguments cleverly, thoughtfully, and by the end, I was left with a story that I kept thinking about long after I put it down. Here was a 24-year old obsessed with the thrill of nature, to the point where he allowed himself to starve to death, a horribly long and painful death, rather than give up that almost-religious experience, not for fame, or ego, but almost more because he was compelled to shun the comforts of modernity to find out how it changed him as a person. His death wasn't intentional, but it also wasn't surprising given the choices he made that preceeded it.
Author Jon Krakauer sure knows how to write. His word choice and vocabulary are stunning. There were many words in this book I had to look up later, such as 'atavistic.' As a writer, I learned a lot about how language can transport a person outdoors and amplify the sheer terrifying beauty of nature. I can't wait to read his other famous work about conquering Everest, Into Thin Air. Five stars for this one.