Into the Wild

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Chris’s Books Symbol Icon
Throughout his journey, McCandless carries many books with him and reads avidly, highlighting passages from Doctor Zhivago and Henry David Thoreau’s Walden as well as encouraging the people he meets to read Tolstoy’s War and Peace and Jack London’s The Call of the Wild. McCandless takes the views espoused by these authors to heart and seeks to live them out through his itinerant lifestyle off the grid. These books embody Chris’s idealism and quest for wisdom.

Chris’s Books Quotes in Into the Wild

The Into the Wild quotes below all refer to the symbol of Chris’s Books. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The American Wilderness Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Anchor Books edition of Into the Wild published in 1997.
Chapter 5 Quotes

[Chris] was so enthralled by [Jack London’s] tales, however, that he seemed to forget they were works of fiction, constructions of the imagination that had more to do with London’s romantic sensibilities than with the actualities of life in the subarctic wilderness.

Related Characters: Jon Krakauer (speaker), Chris McCandless
Related Symbols: Alaska, Chris’s Books
Page Number: 45
Explanation and Analysis:

Krakauer is describing how Chris helps Jan sell secondhand books by recommending the works of Jack London to the visitors. Jack London set a number of his works in the Klondike area of Canada and Alaska. Here, Krakauer suggests that Chris let himself be carried away by the romantic vision of the wilderness as described in London's literary works.

Although Krakauer is very sympathetic towards Chris, he doesn't shy away from attempting to explain his actions based on his own mistakes. In particular, Krakauer identifies a potentially dangerous strain of Chris's idealism, in that it can blind Chris to seeing reality – in particular, the potentially treacherous realities of life in the wilderness.

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Chapter 18 Quotes

HAPPINESS ONLY REAL WHEN SHARED.

Related Characters: Chris McCandless (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Stampede Trail, Chris’s Books
Page Number: 188
Explanation and Analysis:

This handwritten phrase is scrawled in the margins of one of Chris's books, Doctor Zhivago, which he reads in Alaska as he grows weaker and thinner, though still continuing his hunting and gathering. In a way, the phrase is consistent with Chris's general idealism: here, his conviction that truth and meaning are to be found in literature, and can be applied to real life as well. But in addition, the passage tragically suggests that Chris went through a belated epiphany, one that it was too late to act upon.

Throughout the book, Chris has been unwilling to grow too close to other people, wary of intimacy and instead embracing isolation and solitude as ensuring real happiness. Now – perhaps thanks to his reading, perhaps as a result of other thoughts during his time alone – Chris has come to realize that he must be open to sharing experiences with other people in order to achieve real happiness. Of course, it is impossible to know whether this was a complete epiphany, or whether it was simply a passing thought scrawled in a book, but we know that it at least occurred to Chris at some point during his time in the Alaska wilderness before he died, alone.

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Chris’s Books Symbol Timeline in Into the Wild

The timeline below shows where the symbol Chris’s Books appears in Into the Wild. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 3 – Carthage
Materialism and Idealism Theme Icon
Isolation v. Intimacy Theme Icon
...of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, inscribed with a directive to “Listen to Pierre,” the novel’s “questing, altruistic, and illegitimately born” protagonist. He continues to write to Wayne and identifies South... (full context)
Chapter 5 - Bullhead City
The American Wilderness Theme Icon
Arrogance, Innocence, and Ignorance Theme Icon
Materialism and Idealism Theme Icon
Chris helps Jan sell secondhand books at the Slab’s flea market by recommending books and stories by his favorite author and... (full context)
Chapter 16 - The Alaska Interior
...nothing else but his rifle, his backpack filled with rice, and a small collection of books. (full context)
Chapter 18 - The Stampede Trail
Risk and Self-Reinvention Theme Icon
Unable to walk, McCandless spends his last days reading books and pens a goodbye in his journal, thanking God for a happy life, before crawling... (full context)