I’m not a Sourdough (a long-time Alaskan) and never considered myself one, but spending grades 3–5 on Kodiak Island absolutely nurtured my love of books that include outdoor adventure and survival. I’ll admit that Karana from Island of the Blue Dolphins is one of my heroes. Of course Julie of the Wolves is important. And everyone should read Hatchet. But I still agree with my childhood self that Jack London is the king of the genre.
Why is this great American novelist an integral part of my Alaskan childhood? London had been in print for a few generations by the time I read him, but some elements of life in the Land of the Midnight Sun that he described were part of my everyday life. There were huskies all around my neighborhood. We predicted the harshness of the coming winter based on the early snowfall in the mountains. Every house prominently displayed a gold pan painted with a scenic view. Most families had a firsthand story of an encounter with a moose or bear or whale. All of those things brought the adventure in his books to life.
Over the years I’ve met other fans of London who didn’t grow up in northern states or rural environments and I’ve wondered what speaks to us about his books now. At the core, I think it’s the emotion in his stories. His two most popular books, White Fang and Call of the Wild, are full of the universal challenges of negotiating unfamiliar circumstances and finding your place in the world. It somehow doesn’t matter that both are told primarily from a canine’s point of view. I’ll never have to battle in the snow to be accepted, but I will have to enter a room full of strangers and try to figure out what the social norms and dynamics are.
I’m grateful for Jack London, his sense of adventure, his reporter’s eye for detail, and the way he shared his stories with the world. And I hope you’ll join me in celebrating his birthday by reading something he wrote for us.
Jack London was born on January 12, 1876.
You can find White Fang on The Call of the Wild on TAB right now!