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15 Books Like Into The Wild

Books Like Into The Wild

Have you ever felt the call of the wild, the urge to leave behind the comforts of civilization and venture into the untamed wilderness, seeking adventure and self-discovery? 

If so, you’re not alone. 

Countless souls throughout history have been drawn to the mystery of nature’s uncharted realms, captivated by the promise of freedom and solitude. 

Perhaps you’ve even heard of Chris McCandless, the enigmatic young man whose real-life journey into the Alaskan wilderness was immortalized in Jon Krakauer’s gripping narrative, “Into the Wild.” 

But what if you’re craving more tales of exploration, solitude, and the quest for meaning in the great outdoors? 

Nothing to worry about, for in this blog post, we’ll take you on a literary expedition to discover a collection of books that resonate with the spirit of McCandless’s unforgettable odyssey. 

So, strap on your hiking boots and prepare to explore the wilderness of the written word.

Books Like Into The Wild

1. “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” by Cheryl Strayed

This memoir recounts Cheryl Strayed’s solo hike on the Pacific Crest Trail, undertaken as a way to recover from a series of personal tragedies, including the death of her mother and the dissolution of her marriage. 

Without any significant long-distance hiking experience, Strayed embarks on this challenging journey, confronting both the physical hardships of the trail and the emotional turmoil of her past. 

Through her vivid storytelling, Strayed captures the beauty of the natural world and the profound transformations that solitude and endurance can foster.

Major Similarities: 

Like “Into the Wild,” “Wild” explores themes of self-discovery, the healing power of nature, and the pursuit of a transformative journey as a means to cope with grief and personal crisis. 

Both books feature protagonists who leave their former lives behind to embark on a perilous adventure in the wilderness, seeking to find themselves and a sense of purpose in the process. 

The raw and honest reflections shared by the authors underscore the profound impact of solitude and the natural world on the human spirit.

2. “A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail” by Bill Bryson

In this humorous and insightful memoir, Bill Bryson recounts his attempt to walk the Appalachian Trail with his friend Stephen Katz. 

The book not only details the physical challenges and comedic mishaps they encounter but also delves into the history and ecology of the trail, reflecting on the beauty and fragility of the American wilderness. 

Bryson’s witty narrative explores the complexities of friendship, the joys and perils of adventuring in nature, and the importance of preserving the natural world.

Major Similarities: 

Both “Into the Wild” and “A Walk in the Woods” share a deep appreciation for the transformative power of nature and the adventure of exploring the American wilderness. 

While Bryson’s journey is infused with humor and companionship, both books highlight the challenges and rewards of venturing into the unknown and reflect on the personal growth that comes from pushing one’s limits in the great outdoors.

3. “The Wild Truth” by Carine McCandless

Written by the sister of Chris McCandless, the subject of “Into the Wild,” “The Wild Truth” delves deeper into the complexities of Chris’s family life and the factors that drove him to seek solace and meaning in the Alaskan wilderness. 

Carine McCandless provides a more nuanced and personal perspective on her brother’s story, addressing the impact of their family’s dynamics on his decision to cut ties and embark on his fatal journey. 

The book offers insights into the challenges and traumas that shaped both siblings and the healing power of facing and sharing their truth.

Major Similarities: 

“The Wild Truth” is directly connected to “Into the Wild” through its exploration of Chris McCandless’s life and motivations. Both books confront the themes of escape, the quest for authenticity, and the critical examination of family relationships. 

Carine’s account adds depth to the understanding of the emotional and psychological drives behind Chris’s journey, highlighting the complexities of seeking freedom and identity in the wilderness.

4. “Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster” by Jon Krakauer

Jon Krakauer, also the author of “Into the Wild,” provides a gripping firsthand account of the 1996 Mount Everest disaster, in which eight climbers were killed and several others were stranded by a sudden storm. 

As a member of the ill-fated expedition, Krakauer not only recounts the harrowing events but also reflects on the risks, obsession, and commercialization associated with high-altitude climbing. 

Through his narrative, Krakauer questions the ethics and motivations driving people to confront such extreme challenges, exploring the thin line between ambition and recklessness.

Major Similarities: 

Both “Into the Wild” and “Into Thin Air” are written by Krakauer and delve into true stories of adventure and survival against the backdrop of some of the most unforgiving landscapes on Earth. 

Krakauer’s investigative journalism skills shine in both books, as he meticulously reconstructs events and examines the psychological and environmental factors contributing to the outcomes. 

Themes of human ambition, the power of nature, and the profound consequences of seeking transcendence in the wild link these two compelling narratives.

5. “The Call of the Wild” by Jack London

This classic novel follows the story of Buck, a domestic dog stolen from his home in California and sold into the brutal life of an Alaskan sled dog during the Klondike Gold Rush. 

Through Buck’s journey, London explores the themes of survival, the return to primal instincts, and the natural world’s stark beauty and cruelty. As Buck adapts to the harsh realities of his new life, he feels the pull of the wild, leading him to a profound transformation that reconnects him with his ancestral roots and the freedom of the wilderness.

Major Similarities: 

“The Call of the Wild” and “Into the Wild” both examine the theme of returning to nature and the transformative impact of the wilderness on the protagonist. 

While London’s work is a novel and McCandless’s story is true, both narratives deeply resonate with the allure of the untamed wild, the struggle for survival, and the quest for a more authentic existence beyond the confines of civilized society. 

The exploration of the instinctual call to embrace the natural world links these stories across the century that separates their publication.

6. “Desert Solitaire: A Season in the Wilderness” by Edward Abbey

This work is a collection of essays by Edward Abbey based on his experiences as a park ranger in Utah’s Arches National Monument. Abbey vividly describes the beauty, vastness, and intricacies of the desert landscape, while also reflecting on environmental philosophy, the value of solitude, and the impact of human intervention on natural spaces. 

His passionate advocacy for the preservation of wilderness areas and his deep connection to the land offer a compelling argument for the importance of untouched natural environments.

Major Similarities:

Like “Into the Wild,” “Desert Solitaire” emphasizes the profound effect that immersion in nature can have on an individual. Both Abbey and Chris McCandless (the protagonist of “Into the Wild”) share a deep-seated urge to escape the confines of society and find freedom in the wilderness. 

Abbey’s reflections on solitude, self-reliance, and the spiritual nourishment derived from nature mirror the journey undertaken by McCandless, making this book resonate with readers who are moved by stories of wilderness exploration and environmental advocacy.

7. “Tracks: A Woman’s Solo Trek Across 1700 Miles of Australian Outback” by Robyn Davidson

Robyn Davidson’s memoir recounts her extraordinary journey across the Australian desert to the Indian Ocean, accompanied only by her dog and four camels. 

Davidson’s narrative explores the physical challenges of the trek, the beauty of the landscape, and the encounters with various people, including Aboriginal Australians, which add depth to her understanding of the land and herself. 

“Tracks” is a story of determination, survival, and the quest for personal freedom within the vast expanse of the wilderness.

Major Similarities: 

Similar to “Into the Wild,” “Tracks” is a tale of adventure and self-discovery set against the backdrop of a daunting and unforgiving landscape. 

Both Davidson and Chris McCandless embark on their journeys to challenge themselves and to escape the expectations of society, seeking solitude and a deeper connection with the natural world. Their stories highlight the transformative power of confronting nature’s vastness alone and the introspective journey that such a challenge entails.

8. “The Last American Man” by Elizabeth Gilbert

Elizabeth Gilbert’s biography of Eustace Conway traces his life from a young boy in suburban America to a man who has spent three decades living in the Appalachian Mountains, surviving off the land. 

Conway’s story is one of extreme self-sufficiency, a profound connection with nature, and a critique of modern American life. Gilbert explores the complexities of Conway’s character, his ideals, and his attempts to inspire others to live closer to the natural world.

Major Similarities: 

“The Last American Man” and “Into the Wild” both explore the themes of rejecting societal norms to return to a more natural way of living. 

Eustace Conway, like Chris McCandless, becomes disillusioned with conventional life and seeks meaning and authenticity in the wilderness. Both narratives delve into the challenges and rewards of such a lifestyle, the philosophical underpinnings of their protagonists’ choices, and the impact of those choices on themselves and others.

9. “River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey” by Candice Millard

This non-fiction book details Theodore Roosevelt’s perilous expedition down an uncharted tributary of the Amazon River following his defeat in the 1912 presidential election. 

Millard provides a thrilling account of the journey’s dangers, including treacherous rapids, disease, and potential starvation, while also exploring the personalities of Roosevelt and his fellow explorers. The book is a testament to human endurance and the drive to explore the unknown.

Major Similarities:

Like “Into the Wild,” “River of Doubt” showcases the human spirit’s capacity to confront the wilderness and the challenges it presents. Both stories are driven by a powerful desire to explore and to test one’s limits in the face of nature’s grandeur and danger. 

The themes of adventure, the quest for discovery, and the impact of such journeys on the individuals involved draw a parallel between Roosevelt’s expedition and Chris McCandless’s Alaskan venture.

10. “The Dharma Bums” by Jack Kerouac

This novel, based on the experiences of Jack Kerouac and his friends in the late 1950s, explores the themes of Buddhism, poetry, and the quest for a more meaningful existence against the backdrop of the American landscape. 

The protagonist, Ray Smith, journeys through the country, engaging in hikes, climbing mountains, and seeking spiritual enlightenment through nature and simplicity. 

“The Dharma Bums” reflects the beat generation’s disillusionment with materialistic society and their pursuit of a deeper connection with the world.

Major Similarities: 

“The Dharma Bums” and “Into the Wild” both resonate with the desire to break free from societal constraints and find a deeper meaning in life through connection with nature. 

The protagonists of both stories are young men who embark on journeys that are as much about internal discovery as they are about exploring the physical world. 

The themes of seeking solitude, spiritual enlightenment, and the transformative power of the wilderness are central to both narratives, making them kindred tales of adventure and self-exploration.

11. “The Sun is a Compass: A 4,000-Mile Journey into the Alaskan Wilds” by Caroline Van Hemert

This memoir details the author’s extraordinary journey with her husband as they travel over 4,000 miles from the Pacific rainforest to the Arctic coast, entirely by their own power, without the use of motorized transport. Caroline Van Hemert, a biologist by training, weaves together the science of the natural world with a deeply personal narrative of adventure and self-discovery. 

The book captures the challenges, risks, and rewards of venturing into some of the planet’s most remote and rugged landscapes, driven by the desire to connect with the wild in a profound and unmediated way.

Major Similarities: 

Like “Into the Wild,” “The Sun is a Compass” explores the deep yearning for connection with nature and the lengths to which individuals will go to seek out that connection. 

Both narratives are marked by a journey into the Alaskan wilderness, showcasing the beauty and brutality of the landscape, as well as the introspective journey that such a physical challenge catalyzes. 

The themes of adventure, survival, and the transformative power of nature are central to both books, appealing to those who are fascinated by the call of the wild.

12. “Finding Everett Ruess: The Life and Unsolved Disappearance of a Legendary Wilderness Explorer” by David Roberts

This biography explores the life and mysterious disappearance of Everett Ruess, a young artist and explorer who vanished in the Utah desert in 1934. 

Ruess’s story has become legendary among adventurers and nature lovers, celebrated for his profound connection to the American Southwest’s wilderness and his passionate writings and art. 

Roberts delves into Ruess’s life, his solo wanderings, and the enduring mystery of his fate, while also reflecting on the allure of the wild that draws individuals to explore and sometimes disappear.

Major Similarities: 

“Finding Everett Ruess” and “Into the Wild” both recount the lives of young men who are deeply drawn to the wilderness, seeking solitude, beauty, and a form of purity away from society. 

The themes of adventure, the search for meaning in nature, and the enigmatic disappearances of both Ruess and Chris McCandless highlight the risks inherent in such pursuits. 

These stories resonate with readers intrigued by the mystery and allure of the wild, as well as the introspective journey that solitude in nature can provoke.

13. “The Snow Leopard” by Peter Matthiessen

In this classic of nature writing, Peter Matthiessen sets out on a journey to the remote Dolpo region in the Himalayas with the goal of studying the Himalayan blue sheep and, hopefully, catching a glimpse of the elusive snow leopard. 

“The Snow Leopard” is not only a record of a physical journey but also a meditative exploration of the author’s inner journey, grappling with grief after the death of his wife and searching for spiritual solace. 

The book beautifully captures the landscapes of the Himalayas, the challenges of the expedition, and the quest for enlightenment.

Major Similarities: 

Both “The Snow Leopard” and “Into the Wild” are narratives that intertwine the physical adventure with a profound spiritual and personal quest. 

The protagonists of both stories embark on their journeys due to a deep-seated need for healing and self-discovery, set against the backdrop of some of the most stunning and challenging wilderness areas on Earth. 

The exploration of themes such as solitude, the power of nature, and the pursuit of meaning links these two works, appealing to those who are moved by stories of personal transformation through connection with the natural world.

14. “Wilderness Essays” by John Muir

John Muir, one of the most influential environmentalists and nature writers, shares his experiences, observations, and reflections from his time spent in the American wilderness, particularly in the Sierra Nevada and Yosemite. 

“Wilderness Essays” is a collection that showcases Muir’s deep love for the outdoors, his advocacy for the preservation of natural landscapes, and his philosophical insights into the relationship between humans and the natural world. 

His vivid descriptions and passionate prose invite readers to appreciate the beauty and sanctity of the wilderness.

Major Similarities: 

Like “Into the Wild,” Muir’s “Wilderness Essays” celebrates the transformative power of nature and the importance of preserving wild spaces. Both Muir and Chris McCandless possess a profound reverence for the natural world and a desire to live closely with it, albeit in different eras and contexts. 

The themes of exploration, the spiritual and emotional nourishment provided by nature, and the critique of modern civilization’s disconnect from the natural world are central to both works, offering insight and inspiration to those drawn to the call of the wild.

15. “Blue Highways: A Journey into America” by William Least Heat-Moon

After losing his job and separating from his wife, William Least Heat-Moon embarks on a journey across America, traveling on the “blue highways,” which are the lesser-known, back roads marked in blue on old maps. 

His travels take him to small towns and through diverse landscapes, allowing him to meet a variety of Americans and explore the country’s vast cultural and natural richness. 

“Blue Highways” is a reflective and engaging narrative about discovery, both of the self and of the American spirit, through the lens of travel and exploration.

Major Similarities: 

“Blue Highways” and “Into the Wild” share a theme of journeying as a means of self-discovery and an attempt to escape from personal crises. 

While McCandless’s journey takes him into the wilderness, Least Heat-Moon’s travels bring him into contact with the landscapes and peoples of America’s backroads. 

Both books reflect on the transformative power of travel and the search for meaning outside conventional society, highlighting the profound impact of new experiences and the natural world on personal growth and understanding.

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