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

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  291 Ratings  ·  61 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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Paul Bryant
Jun 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
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
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
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.
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.
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.
Charles Kerns
Bad writing. Interesting life. Interesting details are there, but plowing thru the prose is difficult at times.
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: non-fiction, 2012
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
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
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
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
Let me admit up front that I have never read one of Jack London's books, but I should have and I will. I have seen some of the movies that were based on his books. But the fact that I have not read his books did not hinder my reading of this excellent biography by James Haley. Haley tells the story of London's birth to his death. London was a world traveler who drew his stories from his travels. Poor for most of his short life, London grew to be a socialist and political activist. A prolific wri ...more
Feb 17, 2012 rated it really liked it
I don't read a lot of biographies, I usually find them to be somewhat dry. This one I enjoyed. London was a fascinating person who lived a wide variety of experiences. A rugged adventurer, a social philosopher and reporter, a wealthy man and a hobo, he travelled the world and wrote about his experiences. Big-hearted and generous, also cold and indifferent, a very complex man. This is a book well written and balanced in it's view of it's subject. Well worth the read, especially since London is a ...more
May 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
Biography of author Jack London who had an eventful, albeit short life. He was apparently a controversial figure during his lifetime, an outspoken proponent of socialism, a womanizer and a racist. Also a self-centered egotistic bully as far as I can tell. This biographer spends a lot of time presenting evidence that Jack had sexual relationships with both men and women. On the plus side, Jack was a talented, basically self made, self educated man who knew what he wanted and made it happen. And i ...more
Prima Seadiva
Audiobook. Reader okay.
I've read quite a bit of London's writings but never knew much about him as a person (sometimes that's better). The author of this biography seems quite the fan. I'm not sure about all his speculations and interjections of opinion even those I agreed with. London prevailed in spite of a very difficult childhood, not unlike that of many working class people at the time. I sympathized with his socialist leanings yet like so many people who become successful he seemed at tim
LeeAnn Heringer
This book is an interesting biography that ties together the threads of his writing and the personal inspirations for his writings, the arc of how he got from "Wage Beast" 10 cents an hour shoving coal to one of the most celebrated writers of his age, traveling widely, and owning a large ranch in Somona. It covers his ties and beliefs about socialism, his problems with drinking, the relationships with the women in his life. It provides background on lesser known works by London.

Jack London is a
Jan 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
What an amazing, brief life. I have to confess, I've only read one short story, To Light A Fire, but it has lingered with me for a very long time. While reading this biography, I rushed out and bought Call Of The Wild and White Fang. I will read them soon.
I was amazed to learn how much living London did in only 40 years. Although I don't agree with everything he did (his treatment of women is less than desirable and his decision to plant eucalyptus trees in the Sonoma mountains makes my heart ac
Dec 24, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobook
My only familiarity with Jack London before this was from having read White Fang in junior high. That said, this book tells the story of Jack London's life in a compelling way. The author seems to address JL's life head-on. The book does not flinch from some of the more unsavory points, nor does it revel in the darker side of an American literary hero. At various points throughout the book I found myself admiring the man and being disappointed in him. All said, I really enjoyed the book and foun ...more
Jun 30, 2013 rated it it was ok
Having never read a biography of Jack London, this was a decent overview - from a high bird's eye. The author skims over various phases of London's life without delving deeply into them. So, while I got very nice sketches of phases of London's life, I never felt deeply engaged. The biggest issues I had with this book were occasional poor writing - unclear and ungrammatical - and a failure to quote London, his writings, his friends, or his family much. However, it whet my appetite for more readin ...more
Aug 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-read-2012
I love biographies . . . it's always interesting to discover what circumstances created a spark of genius in someone's life and kept the fire alive. My only reference to Jack London's life previous to listening to this audiobook had been a movie made about him starring Michael O'Shea years ago . . . so most of the material offered was new to me. And I thought the author did a good job with the information and Bronson Pinchot (whom I had only known from TV & movies) did a great job with the n ...more
Feb 02, 2013 rated it really liked it
“And how have I lived? Frankly and openly, though crudely. I have not been afraid of life. I have not shrunk from it. I have taken it for what it was at its own valuation. And I have not been ashamed of it. Just as it was, it was mine.”
― Jack London
I thought the author did fairly, giving some different points of view to a very complex life and man. The book was entertaining and informative, although I did get a little confused at times (some back and forth in time). But I did listen to it, inste
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