Much of what makes this book so compelling–besides the story–is Krakauer’s writing. First, he has a knack for finding the most compelling stories, and second, he writes about them beautifully and with meticulous research. There must be hundreds of stories of adventurers who perish in the wilderness, but this story is steeped in why. I’ve heard people say they don’t like that they know what happens to Chris McCandless before the book even opens, but I don’t think that’s the point. It’s why it happened–what lies behind the events and behind this person. That’s the fascinating part. Also, I appreciate that Krakauer puts his bias right out there. He identifies with McCandless, sees a bit of himself in this twenty something young man. So if we feel that Krakauer is a bit more sympathetic toward McCandless than others might be, we know why. And by putting his bias out there, we don’t have to wonder if Krakauer is being entirely fair and balanced (though mostly, I think he is).
I read this book shortly after it came out in 1996, but we rented the movie just a few weeks ago, and then I reread the book. Over ten years later, it still drew me in, and I was amazed at how the movie stayed so true to the book. (non-fiction)