The Call of the Wild by Jack London: Book Review

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Cover of The Call of the Wild by Jack London

4 Stars

Buck is a dog’s dog, in and out of the house, accompanying the masters around at well, and just generally living the good life in California. But when the Alaskan gold rush starts, big dogs are suddenly worth a small fortune because of their ability to pull fully-laden sleds. Buck is furtively sold by one of the gardeners and he finds himself in a veritable Hell on earth, but this version of Hell is frozen over.

But Buck is a survivor and he adapts to his new circumstances. No, he doesn’t adapt; he thrives.

This was shelved in the juvenile section of my local library, and I have to say that surprises me a little bit. It’s just that the vocabulary seemed pretty tough for the juvenile crowd. Had I read this as a pre-teen, I would have hated it. I would have been focused on Buck being kidnapped and how hard his life was in Alaska.

Now that I’m a little older, I appreciate the book more. Some parts bothered me, as Buck passed through the hands of various owners, some of whom were vicious. I’m pretty sure I just skimmed through the worst of the beatings. I ultimately found myself admiring Buck’s strength. He thrived on his work and he thrived on being the Alpha dog. He was ultimately in his element. The harsh life he found himself in brought out some of his worst and best qualities. Isn’t it funny how the two just naturally go hand in hand in some situations? He’s a bully but he’s a survivor. He’s a natural leader. He has a boundless capacity for love. He’s a hard worker. He’s intuitive. He gives his all to every task he’s given. There’s a lot to admire in him, even when he’s practically feral.

The essay writer I keep buried (deeply) within sees the potential here for a great essay on the nature of man and beast and how our civility is nothing more than a thin veneer over our baser instincts. Some of my favorite parts in the book are when buck’s ancestral memories come bubbling up and he can remember his ancestors living with cave men at the dawn of time.

If you can get through the sections of abuse, I do recommend this classic adventure tale. It’s a quick read, it left me thinking, and it would be perfect to read as a winter storm blows outside.

Banned/Challenged: I came across this blog post at Banned Books Awareness that address this issue more eloquently than I ever could. Go check it out.

Read an excerpt.

Read more reviews at Pages Unbound, Reading With Tequila, and Opinions of a Wolf.

If you liked The Call of the Wild, you might also like The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein, Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, and Seabiscuit by Laura Hillenbrand.

Buy The Call of the Wild at

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of the American Library Association.

I have an affiliate relationship with Malaprop’s, my local independent bookstore located in beautiful downtown Asheville, NC; and Better World Books. I will receive a small commission at no cost to you if you purchase books through links on my site.

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  1. This was one of my favourite books as a teenager. I first read a digested kids version but have since read the proper book many times.
    It is an interesting to read in comparison with London's White Fang which has almost the opposite message, a wild wolf becoming civilised.
    Must see if I can find time to reread them both.

  2. I can't read this book because it kills me, but I am familiar with the story. Jack London is my brother's favorite author (well one of them) so I have heard the stories secondhand. 🙂 The closest I could get is the movie with Ethan Hawke. Lol.

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