Feb 11

Book Review: One Man’s Wilderness

One Man's Wilderness: An Alaskan OdysseyOne Man’s Wilderness: An Alaskan Odyssey by Sam Keith

I didn’t know anything about this book going into it, but I imagine it’s considered a classic of the wilderness-survival memoir subgenre. The author (that is, Pronneke, about whom the book was written, not Keith, who compiled and edited it) was 50 years old in 1969 when he decided to live up in Alaska in a cabin he built himself. I imagine this book’s popularity spread like wildfire when it hit the shelves in the time of back-to-the-land and nostalgic anachronistic skill sets.

This is great escapist fantasy, especially for men. Pronneke’s refined homemmaker skills were probably unusual even in 1969. How many people can cleanly kill and skin and butcher and store and smoke and salt and cook an animal? How many people can build their own log cabin, using hand tools they sharpen themselves? I couldn’t help thinking of that book INTO THE WILD, where the upper-middle class college boy goes into the Alaskan outback to survive on his own, and dies because he doesn’t understand enough. If McCandless had had Pronneke’s skills, wisdom, and foresight, he’d probably be alive today.

Being away from people (and internet! Oh! The horror!) and freezing my buns off for a year or more is not my fantasy, but I did very much enjoy this book. I liked Pronneke’s quaint 20th century phrases, such as “It does a man good to …” and “A man needs X now and again.” and “Fine piece of work.” Certain aspects of his personality reminded me of beloved male members of my family. For example: explaining technical construction details in ways that are both extensive and incomprehensible, eating the same meal for 8 months straight with pleasure rather than anguish, and preferring the company of mosquitoes and bears to that of humans.

I recommend this for campers, people who like memoirs, and anyone who likes to read about a dying breed of men. The audiobook was well read. Pictures of the cabin are readily available on the internet.

View all my reviews

1 comment

  1. I laughed. Out loud. A real cackle. You know at which part.

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