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

Wolf: The Lives of Jack London

3.89  ·  Rating details ·  355 ratings  ·  70 reviews
Jack London was born a working-class, fatherless Californian in 1876. In his youth he was a boundlessly energetic adventurer on the bustling West Coast—by turns playing the role of hobo, sailor, prospector, and oyster pirate. He spent his brief life rapidly accumulating the experiences that would inform his acclaimed, best-selling books: The Call of the Wild, White Fang, a ...more
Hardcover, 400 pages
Published May 25th 2010 by Basic Books (first published April 13th 2010)
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 Wolf, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Wolf

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

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
3.89  · 
Rating details
 ·  355 ratings  ·  70 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Paul Bryant
Jun 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
Jack London lived a great life and this is a very readable no-nonsense biography which along with packing in all the frantic eyepopping thrills and spills of Jack’s hectic – I mean HECTIC – life, also throws up some fascinating issues.

Jack was born poor to a bizarre slightly unhinged termagant of a mother and a father who disappeared; the mother got a new husband who had a three-foot long beard and was a cool stand-up guy but no good at paying the bills. At the age of 15 Jack left school and be
Jason Koivu
Oct 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Holy shnikeys, did I ever underestimate Jack London! Growing up, I only knew him from his Alaskan adventure stories. Later on I discovered his semi-autobiographical stories of working both sides of the law in the San Francisco bay waters. However, only now did I learn of his strident socialism.

There's a reason for that. It's been downplayed. Even after his death he was investigated by the FBI and McCarthy for his socialist leanings. Since the public loved him so dang much for Call of the Wild a
Apr 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The first American writer as Cover Boy, and a precursor to Dos Passos, Steinbeck and, of course, Hemingway, London (born into poverty) had a short life that roars along like a movie-radio serial: Flash Gordon, Buck Rogers, Capt Marvel, Ace Drummond or Jack Armstrong the All-American Boy ! Each life segment ends with a melodramatic cliff-hanger "til next week" in this, the best of 3 London bios I've read. Can it all be true?? Apparently, yes.

Jack, illegitimate, barely survives a Dickensian chil
J.M. Hushour
Feb 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
If anything, my only complaint about this excellent London bio is its shortness. It felt like it could've been twice as long, and I would've been fine with that. The reason is because at the beginning Haley sets out with a clear and noble goal: to reconcile London the author with London the revolutionist/socialist. The first Jack London everybody loves. Who doesn't like books about dogs, sadistic sea captains, and dogs? The second Jack London gets ignored or quietly pushed into a corner. Who lik ...more
Margaret Lozano
May 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
A really enjoyable - at times downright thrilling - biography of Jack London. Sometimes I wished the author would elaborate a bit more here or there, but I also appreciate the restraint. And with so much material, there wasn’t any need to be inventive! It’s really quite incredible how much adventure London crammed into his 40 years.
Feb 21, 2013 rated it liked it
In Jack London’s life as in many of the artists, actors and writers of today sometimes it better not to know about their personal life or their politics. Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, Sean Penn, Jane Fonda among many others may be very successful entertainers in their chosen careers as artists but would do well to just keep their opinions to themselves. Not that they’re not entitled to their opinions they certainly are but for me personally I just want to be entertained not lectured to about their ...more
May 06, 2011 rated it really liked it
For a biography, this was a pretty good read. The book dealt a lot with London's socialist beliefs and quite a bit with his personal life. He was certainly a handsome, charismatic, possessed man who died far too young. The book does a good, speedy job with London's life before he became a writer, and it seems to deal fairly with many of the people that were major in his life: his mother, his stepfather, his stepsister, the Greek, Charmian, and Bessie. His hedonistic sojourns were hinted at but n ...more
Mar 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: biography
Wolf is a fascinating biography of the man behind the classics The Call of the Wild and White Fang. The book discusses Jack London's various adventures including as a sailor, war correspondent, hobo, and convict. We learn about his first failed marriage, his second wife and best friend who he referred to as "mate woman", as well as his lifetime penchant for casual trysts. All of his still-famous and many of his now-forgotten books are of course covered, with the contemporary happenings providing ...more
Patrick Santana
Aug 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
For anyone who thinks that they have had it rough, or the times we live in are tough, this should be your first book to read. The story of Jack London's life told here is a fantastic, potent antidote to self-pity. And every page is loaded with tidbits of history and that lost world of a mere century ago. Loved it.
Edward Sullivan
Mar 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Quite an engaging and engrossing biography of Jack London. Haley places a strong emphasis on London as a dedicated socialist and champion of social justice, aspects of London I knew nothing about and found very interesting. What impresses me most is how much living London did in his short life and his prolific work ethic.
Aug 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
I'm not big on biographies. Even biographies of people I admire easily bore me. But the level of overall analysis that went into learning the truth about Jack London makes this a fascinating read for me.
Oct 24, 2010 rated it it was ok
Wish that I had never learned the truth about his life. I liked him better when I didn't know the facts!
Diane Challenor
Biography is not my favorite genre, however I really enjoyed this audiobook and the narration was excellent. Jack London is a fascinating character and his life is full of surprises.
Charles Kerns
Bad writing. Interesting life. Interesting details are there, but plowing thru the prose is difficult at times.
Feb 08, 2011 added it
London only lived to be 40. It was difficult getting him started. He came from a harsh background and began to write in order to avoid being ground down and worked to death for 10 cents an hour.
Ken Cartisano
Oct 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a wonderful book: A richly detailed story of a unique, robust and all-but-fearless individual who, in addition to being a perfectionist, it appears that he was also honest, industrious, gregarious, generous, confident, shrewd, daring and calculating.

The biography faithfully follows the chronology of Jack London’s life, a decidedly interesting life, and thoughtfully organizes it into broadly defined but distinct phases, or chapters, from his very early childhood, to his last two ailing ye
Laurie Berry
Apr 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult-nonfiction
I picked this book up at the Jack London State Historic Park last November when I visited. I am just now getting around to reading the book and so glad I did. James Haley was relentless in his research and did not leave any detail uncovered. This is the first Jack London biography that seems to tell the whole of Jack London's story: the son, the brother, the friend, the lover, the reader, the orator, the work beast, the dreamer, the writer, and the beautiful, inspiring adventurer we would like t ...more
Ibrahim Sofian
Sep 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This story " wolf " written by Jack London talk about a dog which looks like wolf the dog go to man and woman they feed him after one day man came his name was Mullar he came to the man and woman he see the dog and he said this my own dog they started argue in the end of the argue Mullar find an idea which let to the dog to choose where he want to stay the dog choose Mullar
Apr 23, 2018 rated it liked it
Fascinating story of Jack London's life and works. I appreciated the research into London's adventures at sea and in reporting the San Francisco earthquake/fire and foreign wars and in the hustling he had to do to make a living and support loved ones.
Jan 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-on-cd
Interesting, especially after visiting Oakland. He had ties to Seattle also.
Good, detailed biography, but I heard there is a better one, so I'm going to read that one too. He was a very fascinating character. Quite masculine, but very sensitive too.
Terri Naughton
Mar 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was an interesting biography, but I did feel it was a little "soft" on London's faults: his harsh cruelty to his daughters, for instance, and his overt racism. However, he led a very interesting life, very much shortened by hard drinking. I've visited Jack London State Park and was particularly interested in the chapters that chronicled his years at "Beauty Ranch".
Nov 28, 2016 rated it really liked it
Jack London is often overlooked as one of the great American authors as for a long time after his death a hundred years ago this month his two most popular novels 'The Call of the Wild' (1903) and 'White Fang' (1906) set in the Klondike Gold Rush were considered adventure books for boys but there was much more depth and experience to the man. James L. Haley digs into the lives of London from the impoverished boy growing up by the San Francisco docks where he did every horrible miserable job avai ...more
Jun 07, 2011 rated it liked it
This is essentially an unauthorized biography of Jack London that at times was a great book but occasionally fell victim to its own indulgence. Irving Stone’s biography, Sailor on Horseback, was a wonderful account of this great American author and was not necessarily inaccurate, but Haley correctly demonstrates with his own account that Stone’s version was sanitized to a certain degree. Stone got a lot of information from London’s widow, but some was withheld, and the biography was more upbeat. ...more
Corey Ryan
Jan 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012, non-fiction
First off, I haven't read much of Jack London. I read the abridged, Great Classic Story versions of "The Call of The Wild" and "White Fang" when I was quite young, "The Call of the Wild" mostly during my college graduation ceremony and various short stories during college American Lit classes. But for some odd reason I've always been curious of the man. I am no longer curious, just, well envious. A complicated figure, London has much that he could teach us today. Work ethic would be the first: 1 ...more
Oct 20, 2016 rated it liked it
The Call of the Wild has long been one of my favorite books, and it's the first novel we read together in my AP Literature class to illustrate The Hero's Journey and introduce literary movements. I'd read London's The Road memoir of his life as a tramp previously and liked it, so when I found this full biography at a Half-Price Books there was no leaving it behind.

To say London led an amazing life would be a gross understatement. From poverty-stricken child with a crazy mother to oyster pirate t
Feb 09, 2017 rated it liked it
The best quote comes at the end: The proper function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days in trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.

Jack London certainly lived a varied life that took him into all sorts of professions and causes and continents. However I just really couldn't get into it. I suppose it just felt like I was reading about a random guy from history as opposed to most biographies where the work that they did resonates in some tangible way in the present. Tha
Mar 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
In my quest to read the works of classic authors, I somehow managed to completely overlook Jack London. I knew nothing about his life and little about his novels. My bad.

Haley's biography provided an incredibly detailed and accessible account of a truly remarkable man, a self-made writer and intellect with the spirit of a genuine American icon. From his humble origins as the bastard son of a selfish and unstable mother, growing up in the poorest areas of Oakland at the turn of the century, Londo
Sep 06, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2011
Suffers (?) from the same thing as most recent London bios, which is that it spends most of its time refuting what's already been said, scrubbing London clean, glossing over his drinking and womanizing and making feeble (read: unsubstantiated and unsustained) attempts to argue against his being a racist. This one especially tries to set itself out from the pack (pun intended) by including a bunch of incidents not mentioned in other (recent) bios, so it lags a bit in details that don't really mat ...more
D Dozier
Aug 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I love Jack London he is my one of my favorite authors - Read "To the man on the Trail' and "Lost Face" I love the Klondike stories but his stories of Headhunters and Mexican Revolutionaries are cool too.

I first became aware of Jack London on vacation in the hill country in a cabin with no phone - no wireless- no TV - my husband and I just looked at each other. So I suggested that I read out loud any book in the cabin. We found a small paperback of Jack London short stories and I opened the book
« previous 1 3 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Blood and Thunder: The Life and Art of Robert E. Howard
  • The Secret Voyage of Sir Francis Drake: 1577-1580
  • The Friar and the Cipher: Roger Bacon and the Unsolved Mystery of the Most Unusual Manuscript in the World
  • Hen Frigates
  • Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher: A Political Marriage
  • Mark Twain: Man in White: The Grand Adventure of His Final Years
  • Will Eisner: A Dreamer's Life in Comics
  • Jack London: An American Life
  • Patrick O'Brian: A Life
  • Hemingway: A Life Without Consequences
  • I Married the Klondike
  • Raymond Chandler: A Mysterious Something in the Light: A New Biography
  • The National Dream: The Great Railway, 1871-1881
  • Athelstan: The Making of England
  • Now the Drum of War: Walt Whitman and His Brothers in the Civil War
  • Charles Fort: The Man Who Invented the Supernatural
  • A Splendid Savage: The Restless Life of Frederick Russell Burnham
  • Disraeli: A Picture of the Victorian Age
See similar books…