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Wolf: The Lives of Jack London
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Wolf: The Lives of Jack London

3.92  ·  Rating details ·  405 ratings  ·  77 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)
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Average rating 3.92  · 
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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
Jan 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Fascinating-if at times a little unnerving-this is a detailed and thought provoking biography of a man who was truly "larger than life!" ...more
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
Mar 31, 2020 rated it really liked it
In Wolf: the Lives of Jack London, James Haley skillfully portrays the many lives lived by one of America’s most beloved writers. From a poor work beast to an oyster pirate, a lawman with the fish patrol to a seal hunter, a tramp to a student, a prospector to an aspiring writer, a muckraker to a war correspondent, a lover to a celebrity, a sailor to a rancher, he finally succumbed to his failing health as a jaded and terminally ill 40-year-old.

Famous for The Call of the Wild, The Sea-Wolf, Whit
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.
Agnes DiPietrantonio
This seems to be a well researched book. I guess my 3 star rating has more to do with my unhappiness at seeing a brilliant person go down the tubes so quickly when it just didn't have to be. Jack London always will be one of my favorites. ...more
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
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.
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. ...more
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. ...more
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! ...more
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.
Kelly Barham
Apr 17, 2013 rated it did not like it
Authors political bias bleeds throughout the book. Tainting what could be an interesting biography otherwise.
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.
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
This book must become a movie.

I was hesitant to read this, since I’ve not actually read any of London’s works. But as an iconic historical figure in American literature, and a book jacket that touted the wild life he led, I realized that I might not only enjoy the book but be moved to read his classics and have a deeper appreciation for them if I do.

All of that is true! I’ve only just finished so I can’t speak to how this biography will help me enjoy his fiction, but I know that it will. Wolf co
Sarah McBee Conner
This is a very well researched biography of one of the most interesting characters to produce literature. He was born ,into poverty, his mother was hardly loving. He was put to work in factories as a child for long hours and poor wages, for cruel work circumstances. All to support his family. He became a hard drinking sailor during those formative years, took off to the Alaskan Yukon to make his fortune. Then returned to the sea to be almost killed in a typhoon. This was all before he began to w ...more
Vincent Andersen
Nov 01, 2019 rated it did not like it
Did not finish....plowed through to about the halfway point, couldn't read anymore. The author is absolutely obsessed with proving that London was a homosexual or bisexual despite NO evidence other than he had close male friends, once spent thirty days in jail and served briefly on a ship.
It'd be fine to suggest the possibility once....maybe twice, but he just keeps coming back to it over and over and over. London led an amazing life and any account of it should be fascinating. This is not.
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 ...more
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. ...more
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. ...more
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". ...more
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
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