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To Build a Fire

3.92  ·  Rating Details ·  12,567 Ratings  ·  435 Reviews
To Build a Fire is one of Jack London's most beloved short stories. A heartbreaking tale set in the vast wintry landscape of the North, it endures as one of the greatest adventures ever written.
Paperback, 32 pages
Published March 1st 2003 by Wolf Creek Books (first published 1903)
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Annika The title is to build a fire because the story teaches you a bit about survival. Read more to find out :)

Community Reviews

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Mohsin Maqbool
Mar 29, 2017 Mohsin Maqbool rated it it was amazing
A most imaginative cover of Jack London's book.

WHEN the going gets rough, the tough get going. Man can prove himself to be real tough when the odds are stacked against him. But can man really fight against nature, especially extreme weather?
I had read Jack London's "The Call of the Wild" last year and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Today I read his short story "To Build A Fire" and enjoyed myself as much.
In the story the protagonist is shown walking across the frozen Yukon towards the old camp at H
Feb 23, 2016 Stephanie rated it it was amazing
Descriptive dead of winter Yukon setting.... a story of Man vs. Nature... Classic that is well worth a read!!!

WOW -- I listened to this gem of a tale on my commute to and from work today - about 45 minutes total. I was spellbound by the great descriptions of a day in the life of a man (unnamed) and a husky on the Yukon Trail in dangerously cold temperatures (-75 C / -95 F)!!

How cold is -75 C?
* It's so cold that your spit will freeze mid-air.
* It's so cold that exposed fingers will go numb in 1
It's easy to see how this is considered one of the great short stories in literature. London's ability to describe the setting and the conditions of the Great North is second to none. This story is so descriptive of what can happen to someone ill prepared to deal with severe conditions, like 75 degrees below zero, that it borders on horror, at least for me. Jack London at his best.
Mar 27, 2008 Brad rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
To Build a Fire is one of the stories that made me want to be a writer.

I remember hearing a radio version of this when I was young, long before I ever read it. My Dad and I were on a camping trip in one of the provincial parks, and he'd brought along a little transistor radio. In the dark of our tent we picked up a radio station that played old radio shows, and that night the story was To Build a Fire. It was wonderful to listen to it in that setting. The old crackly radio hummed, the static mi
Jul 14, 2016 Elyse rated it it was amazing
and the Stephanie....both inspired me with their reviews here on Goodreads.
I immediately paid my 99 cents, (Kindle treasure addiction)....and downloaded Jack London's short story about building a fire. I was in the mood to read a little John Steinbeck this short story was perfect.

Paul and I are Survivor fans ( the TV show), and every season, there are players who can't start a fire. Paul and I always talk about how 'you'd think", after sooooo many seasons of the show, it's
Jul 23, 2017 Amber rated it it was amazing
This was a pretty good heart-wrenching tragic short story by Jack London about a man trying to survive the harsh Alaskan wilderness in the Yukon during a dangerous cold snap. If you like these adventure type stories, definitely look for this short story to read online and wherever books are sold.
Jan 18, 2015 M. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An unnamed man leaves the Yukon Trail and sets out to meet up with friends, but the weather is no good for traveling on foot. He has a husky with him, and the dog knows he shouldn't go out in such weather, but he does anyway. If you ever wondered what it's like to be ill prepared and lost in the middle of winter out in the great Yukon wilderness, this story can give you an idea. (If you also ever wondered what it would be like to have hypothermia while a dog gives you the "told you so" look, thi ...more
May 09, 2016 Kenchiin rated it really liked it
This is somehow a short version of The Call of the Wild, but it was really enjoyable.
Jan 27, 2017 Farith rated it it was ok
2 stars.

"The trouble with him was that he was without imagination. He was quick and alert in the things of life, but only in the things, and not in the significances."

I wanted to like this book. I almost DNFed it, but didn't because it was just a short story.
The story is good, and I liked a bit the writing. My problem with the book is that I felt it too dense, too complex. To Build a Fire is a classic and classics and I don't really get along anymore. I used to like them but stopped reading them
May 18, 2017 Willow rated it it was amazing
This short story packs a punch. And I say that because when I read it, I had no idea what it was going to be about. It starts off almost boring (at least it was to me) about a man trekking over the snow in very cold weather. Then things start to go very wrong. I think what sticks out for me is it's very visceral. London makes you see and feel the dangers of 70 below weather. And while I was bored in the beginning, that quickly changed to where I was quite concerned. Then there's the sucker punch ...more

Tell me he didn't just stop the story like that. I really can't take books about idiots, I really can't. I do not like it when people think they know better than people who already have experienced what they are going through. If you are planning a trip north in the winter I wouldn't read this first, it's enough to make anyone paranoid.

We have a very foolish man who thinks he knows all about the cold, and he is so sure of his own capabilities that he doesn't take a partner with him on a t
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
In "The Trial" Franz Kafka says men die like dogs.

Here, Jack London shows how a man can die worse than a dog.

In a snow-covered wilderness such a man trudges alone with his dog, hoping to reach a safe place with the boys somewhere. Quick and alert, they both are, but Mr. London is careful to point out that this man can only repeat to himself that "it is certainly cold" and no further. He has no awareness of his frailty, nor is he capable of leading himself "to the conjectural field of immortality
Sanjay Gautam
Jan 12, 2015 Sanjay Gautam rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Charles Kato
Jul 04, 2010 Charles Kato rated it it was amazing
Jack London’s “To Build a Fire” is a haunting story about the divide between some men’s intelligence and their sometimes buried instincts, otherwise known as common sense. The story opens with “the man” hiking through the absurdly cold Klondike in the dead of winter with little experience, few supplies and only his dog as a companion. He has been warned about travelling alone in such harsh conditions but feels he is intelligent enough to overcome any problem that nature may sling his way. Probl ...more
Jul 08, 2012 Katherine rated it it was amazing
This is an excellent short-story. Lots of thematic substance about naturalism, the fate of man, etc. Oh, and man vs. nature. Definitely. I loved the juxtaposition of the dog's instinct vs. the man's ignorance/inexperience when dealing with the harsh elements. Some may infer an existential/agnostic view of God from this story (we are just subject to the fates/weather). But I don't. I am not familiar with Jack London's beliefs on that stuff, but I really don't know that's the point.

Take away less
Ahmad Sharabiani
To Build a Fire, Jack London
عنوان: در تلاش آتش و داستانهای آبروباخته، قانون زندگی، عقل پوربورتوک؛ اثر: جک لندن، مترجم: احمد بهشتی؛ مشخصات نشر: تهران، سپهر، 1352، در 155 ص، اندازه 17 در 5/11 س.م
در سال 1363 با عنوان «در تلاش آتش و چند داستان دیگر»، در 318 ص، از آثار جک لندن و ...، با ترجمه احمد بهشتی و دیگران چاپ و در سالهای بعد در سال 1368 نیز تجدید چاپ شده است
Kathleen Valentine
Mar 14, 2014 Kathleen Valentine rated it it was amazing
One of the scariest stories I have ever read. I read it on a cold night before I went to sleep and I was searching for matches all night long. This is a flawless story--excellent descriptions and yet no wasted words. Just brilliant.
Intensely detailed short story, so compact l found it difficult to believe so much could be packed into such a few pages. Jack London was a master story teller and To Build a Fire is a perfect example.
Emily Togstad
Nov 01, 2013 Emily Togstad rated it did not like it
Emily Togstad
Good Reads
“To Build a Fire”

“To Build a Fire” is a short story written by Jack London. I've only read a select few of Jack London's books, or stories. This one was not one of my favorites. The story took place on the Yukon trail and near the Henderson creek. The weather ranged from -50 degrees to -107 degrees. It was very cold and dark. It made the story dreary. The main character, the man, was trying to get to the camp to meet the boys. From Henderson creek he was 10 miles away.
Oct 13, 2016 Hosanna rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction, classics
As a naturalism, classic read, To Build a Fire is the depressing story of one man's desperate battle for survival in the frozen north in −75°F weather. Typical of Jack London, this book portrays nature vs. man in the midst of the wilderness. One might enjoy this read if they appreciated other forms of naturalism books. However, I found the book needless and with a terrible ending.
Dec 31, 2016 Richard rated it really liked it
am cold
Sep 08, 2016 Kaitlin rated it it was ok
Rating: 1.5 stars

This connects to Into the Wild which is why my American Lit. Teacher made me read it :/
May 28, 2008 Nikki rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Nikki by: G/T teacher
I learned that I should probably live as close to the equator as possible
Poria Da
Jun 28, 2017 Poria Da rated it really liked it
جک لندن سبک مخصوص به خود دارد، سبک رئالیسم کوبندهای که حقیقت تلخ را محکم به صورت خواننده میزند!
مثل بیشتر کارهای لندن این داستان کوتاه هم در فضایی سرد و یخبندان رخ میدهد و توصیفات نویسنده از فضای سرد حتی در این تابستان گرم هم بدن خواننده را به لرزه میاندازد.
Hailee Gorges
Oct 28, 2013 Hailee Gorges rated it liked it
"To Build a Fire" was a great short story. It is about this man that is traveling through the Yukon to find this old claim. The Yukon is not a good place for him to be traveling alone. The temperature gets to below 50 degrees. Along the way he faces horrible weather, freezing water, and the thought of failing. While walking across the wide river, he breaks through the ice and falls in water up to his knees. He builds a fire to keep his feet from freezing, and to warm up his hands and face. The h ...more
Sep 01, 2014 Scott rated it really liked it
Shelves: flat-capped
“It certainly was cold, he thought” To Build a Fire is the title of two short stories by Jack London published in 1902 and 1908. The 1908 story is the one which I have read. The story follows an unnamed man walking along the main trail in the Yukon, Alaska on an extremely cold, grey morning. His only companion on this journey is a husky wolf-dog. The man estimates he has about nine hours of hiking ahead until he will reach camp with his men. The story follows the man’s futile attempt to travel a ...more
Jun 19, 2012 Amy rated it liked it
I think I read To Build A Fire for the first time in junior high. I loved it then. Maybe because I was young and unjaded. Back then this story was horrifying. To so badly need to do something as simple as build a fire and to not be able to do so, and then to have to pay the ultimate price for that?! Well, that was just so unfair and so horrifying! In junior high the moral that I took away from this short story was, people are so frail and fragile, and we are no match for Mother Nature.

Now I'm ol
Aug 24, 2014 MT rated it it was amazing
This is the frontier. This was one of the first books about it, sure. But it remains one of the best books about it, have you no doubt.

To build a fire is to overcome. To not build a fire is to end up at the mercy of harshest elements any contemporary of London's or ours, for that matter, could ever face.

We go through our life one day at a time, some days are dull, some days we face a battle. But on those latter days you and I are not in the Yukon, and there might not be snow blowing into our lu
Jan 27, 2011 Ashley rated it it was amazing
Shelves: classics
This story aches silent cold and gray, and finally, black. I can't help but think of it as I look across my yard (where it is not, incidentally, 50 degrees below zero) to see 4 foot drifts that I never want to have to trudge through. How I hated this story for making me feel and see things I never wanted to! And hoping that all the work in reading it, all the vicarious pain, would amount to a reward, and finding that I - as I found I became the man while I read - made irrevocable, and deadly cri ...more
Jan 19, 2016 Jody rated it it was amazing
Wow. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that a short story about building a fire would be so gripping and compelling. Jack London did an incredible job of setting the scene - I was right there with him. I could almost feel the cold. I felt like I was holding my breath for the entire time that I was reading it.

After this, I think I'll have to bump The Call of the Wild up on my priority list. I absolutely loved his writing style.
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Jack London was an American novelist, journalist, social-activist and short-story writer whose works deal romantically with elemental struggles for survival. At his peak, he was the highest paid and the most popular of all living writers. Because of early financial difficulties, he was largely self educated past grammar school.

London drew heavily on his life experiences in his writing. He spent ti
More about Jack London...

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“The trouble with him was that he was without imagination. He was quick and alert in the things of life, but only in the things, and not in the significances. Fifty degrees below zero meant eighty-odd degrees of frost. Such fact impressed him as being cold and uncomfortable, and that was all. It did not lead him to meditate upon his frailty as a creature of temperature, and upon man's frailty in general, able only to live within certain narrow limits of heat and cold; and from there on it did not lead him to the conjectural field of immortality and man's place in the universe.” 18 likes
“The proper function of man is to live, not to exist.” 15 likes
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