Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Jack London: A Life” as Want to Read:
Jack London: A Life
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Jack London: A Life

3.85  ·  Rating Details  ·  115 Ratings  ·  13 Reviews
Raised in poverty as an illegitimate child, Jack London dropped out of school to support his mother, working in mind-deadening jobs that would foster a lifelong interest in socialism. Brilliant and self-taught, he haunted California's waterside bars, brawling with drunken sailors and learning about love from prostitutes. His lust for adventure took him from the beaches of ...more
Paperback, 334 pages
Published February 15th 1999 by St. Martin's Griffin (first published 1997)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Jack London, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Jack London

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 226)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Feb 03, 2015 Don rated it it was amazing
Feb 3, 2015

Jack London - A life by Alex Kershaw

I first read The Call of the Wild when I was probably 13. Of course I loved it and then went on to read The Sea Wolf. That was pretty much my exposure to Jack London, until I read Alex Kershaw’s biography.

Although he only lived to 40, what an amazing life Jack London lived. A man of many contradictions, he witnessed first hand the depths of depravity that man could sink to - in prison when he was 18; working thankless, dangerous jobs for pennies an
Jun 17, 2012 Stewart rated it liked it
Living in Oakland, I am well aware of Jack London, who grew up in Oakland in the late 19th century. Jack London Square in four miles away; the saloon that he frequented, Heinold’s First and Last Chance Saloon, still offers beer, wine, and hard liquor; and one of the houses that London lived in is only a few blocks from where I live.
At his literary height at the beginning of the 20th century, London was the most widely read writer in the world. His novels and short stories are still in print to
John Alt
May 04, 2013 John Alt rated it really liked it
Jack London was a brilliant man, brilliant but uneducated. Forced to work grueling jobs to support his mother and family, he had no time for schooling, and when he did return to high school he had sailed the Pacific in a schooner,* tramped across America with Kelly’s Army, masses of the unemployed, converging on Washington, and been thrown in jail for being a bum. At nineteen, he looked on his fifteen-year-old classmates and heard the innocence in their questions about freedom and democracy. At ...more
Denis Scott
Oct 16, 2013 Denis Scott rated it liked it
Jack London is most famous for his book “Call of the Wild”, but the reason I chose him is because of my favorite book by him “White Fang”. I loved his description in his book and the clarity was amazing. I could read the book and actually see what was going on.

Jack London was a very poor throughout his life. Jack London’s mom was born into a wealthy family, but when it was time to marry she choose an old Civil War veteran named John London. He had a daughter of his own and they were very poor.
Sep 05, 2013 Mark rated it it was amazing
It had been about 30 years since I had read anything by or about Jack London. Back then I was, like many young dreamers enamored of his adventurous life and the tales it spawned. This book left me just as enthralled as I was in my twenties.

Sailor, gold seeker, war correspondent, revolutionary socialist and gentleman farmer. Jack London was a man of contrasts and contradictions; a socialist that strove to accumulate money and espoused the genetic supremacy of the Anglo-Saxon, an alcoholic that wr
Oct 22, 2008 Robert rated it liked it
Not a bad bio, but not a great one, either. I had a real sense that this was sort of dashed together from cutting, pasting and rewriting already published London bios. Kershaw cvers London's involvement with the movie business in a paragraph--and considering that London's last great adventure was in trying to get his stories on screen, this seems to be a major oversight. Most other London biographies don't do any better, however; but perhaps I'm just annoyed because I managed to get a 58 page ar ...more
Sep 25, 2013 Ron rated it really liked it
Alex Kershaw has written an outstanding biography of Jack London, starting with his early life growing up along the Oakland waterfront, through his exploits on San Francisco Bay, his sailing across the Pacific on a seal hunting expedition, his travels to the Klondike and his many trips around the world. The focus of course is on his writing, but even more so on his relationships and his self destructive life style. This is a very good look at a famous author as well as the generation he lived in ...more
I honestly shouldn't count this as "read" given that I'm stopping exactly halfway through the book. Kershaw's premise consists of proving that London is more than a writer of "dog stories" but has done little to overturn that impression or make London more interesting or sympathetic than his desperate hard life. The book gives a good try though & I'll go back & skim for any facts I might be curious about, but as a bio, this one is just average.
Aug 31, 2011 Paul rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
Informative and fairly fair, but overall blatantly boosterismy and apologetic. Skims over London's drinking and womanizing in an attempt, maybe, to neutralize what had been written before and make him seem more saintly? Again, fair (and again informative), but in the end too lionizing for me to really trust it.
Jan 31, 2014 Cindy rated it liked it
Shelves: biograhpy
I wasn't sure I was up to reading this but as the pages turned my fasination grew and I couldn't wait to be part of the next adventure. This very complicated man led an exciging life and yet he never really obtained any peace from all his efforts. How sad.
Dec 09, 2013 Marina rated it liked it
A tradução não é das melhores mas a vida de Jack London é intensa e cheia de aventuras. Vale a leitura!
Julia Adams
Jun 23, 2011 Julia Adams rated it really liked it
Great book, much detail about his life and works.
Marjorie Semmens
Jan 23, 2016 Marjorie Semmens rated it it was amazing
Read so I could lead discussion on Martin Eden but also selected for nonfiction club
Carrie Niemi
Carrie Niemi marked it as to-read
Jul 18, 2016
Max Latham
Max Latham rated it liked it
Jul 18, 2016
Dougfann rated it liked it
Jul 09, 2016
Mary marked it as to-read
Jun 24, 2016
Sarah marked it as to-read
Jun 20, 2016
Julia Marie Sparrow
Julia Marie Sparrow marked it as to-read
Jun 13, 2016
Gene  E. Carasick
Gene E. Carasick is currently reading it
Jun 10, 2016
M marked it as to-read
Jun 07, 2016
David A. Hiatt
David A. Hiatt marked it as to-read
Jun 03, 2016
Susan Keady
Susan Keady rated it it was amazing
May 27, 2016
Kieu Nguyen
Kieu Nguyen marked it as to-read
May 18, 2016
Paul Patterson
Paul Patterson marked it as to-read
May 16, 2016
Errdog marked it as to-read
May 15, 2016
Mariya Aleksieva
Mariya Aleksieva marked it as to-read
May 01, 2016
Murdoch Maxwell
Murdoch Maxwell marked it as to-read
Apr 20, 2016
Mary Moore
Mary Moore marked it as to-read
Apr 19, 2016
Meg Paxton
Meg Paxton rated it really liked it
Apr 11, 2016
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Wolf: The Lives of Jack London
  • I Married the Klondike
  • Hen Frigates
  • The Secret Voyage of Sir Francis Drake: 1577-1580
  • Fatal Passage: The Story of John Rae, the Arctic Hero Time Forgot
  • The Mint (Modern Classics)
  • Jack London: An American Life
  • The Princeton Field Guide to Dinosaurs
  • Extinction: How Life on Earth Nearly Ended 250 Million Years Ago
  • The Dinosaur Hunters
  • Dreaming of East: Western Women and the Exotic Allure of the Orient
  • The Last Viking: The Life of Roald Amundsen
  • A World of My Own: The first ever non-stop solo round the world voyage
  • Rimbaud: A Biography
  • The Autobiography of a Tibetan Monk
  • Wild Years: The Music and Myth of Tom Waits
  • Abroad: British Literary Traveling Between the Wars
  • Ivan the Terrible
Alex Kershaw is the author of the widely acclaimed best sellers The Bedford Boys, The Longest Winter, The Few, The Liberator, and Escape from the Deep, as well as biographies of Jack London, Raoul Wallenberg and Robert Capa. His latest book is Avenue of Spies. He lives in Massachusetts.
More about Alex Kershaw...

Share This Book