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Deserted by his father, a roving astrologer, he was raised in Oakland, California, by his spiritualist mother and his stepfather, whose surname, London, he took. At age 14 he quit school to escape poverty and gain adventure. He explored San Francisco Bay in his sloop, alternately stealing oysters or working for the government fish patrol. He went to Japan as a sailor and saw much of the United States as a hobo riding freight trains and as a member of Charles T. Kelly’s industrial army (one of the many protest armies of the unemployed, like Coxey’s Army, that was born of the financial panic of 1893). London saw depression conditions, was jailed for vagrancy, and in 1894 became a militant socialist.London educated himself at public libraries with the writings of Charles Darwin, Karl Marx, and Friedrich Nietzsche, usually in popularized forms. At 19 he crammed a four-year high school course into one year and entered the University of California, Berkeley, but after a year he quit school to seek a fortune in the Klondike gold rush. Returning the next year, still poor and unable to find work, he decided to earn a living as a writer.London studied magazines and then set himself a daily schedule of producing sonnets, ballads, jokes, anecdotes, adventure stories, or horror stories, steadily increasing his output. The optimism and energy with which he attacked his task are best conveyed in his autobiographical novel Martin Eden (1909). Within two years, stories of his Alaskan adventures began to win acceptance for their fresh subject matter and virile force. His first book, The Son of the Wolf: Tales of the Far North (1900), a collection of short stories that he had previously published in magazines, gained a wide audience.During the remainder of his life, London wrote and published steadily, completing some 50 books of fiction and nonfiction in 17 years. Although he became the highest-paid writer in the United States at that time, his earnings never matched his expenditures, and he was never freed of the urgency of writing for money. He sailed a ketch to the South Pacific, telling of his adventures in The Cruise of the Snark (1911). In 1910 he settled on a ranch near Glen Ellen, California, where he built his grandiose Wolf House. He maintained his socialist beliefs almost to the end of his life.Jack London’s output, typically hastily written, is of uneven literary quality, though his highly romanticized stories of adventure can be compulsively readable. His Alaskan novels The Call of the Wild (1903), White Fang (1906), and Burning Daylight (1910), in which he dramatized in turn atavism, adaptability, and the appeal of the wilderness, are outstanding. His short story “To Build a Fire” (1908), set in the Klondike, is a masterly depiction of humankind’s inability to overcome nature; it was reprinted in 1910 in the short-story collection Lost Face, one of many such volumes that London published. In addition to Martin Eden, he wrote two other autobiographical novels of considerable interest: The Road (1907) and John Barleycorn (1913). Other important novels are The Sea-Wolf (1904), which features a Nietzschean superman hero, Humphrey Van Weyden, who battles the vicious Wolf Larsen; and The Iron Heel (1908), a fantasy of the future that is a terrifying anticipation of fascism.London’s reputation declined in the United States in the 1920s, when a new generation of writers made the pre-World War I writers seem lacking in sophistication. But his popularity remained high throughout the world after World War II, especially in Russia, where a commemorative edition of his works published in 1956 was reported to have been sold out in five hours. A three-volume set of his letters, edited by Earle Labor et al., was published in 1988.


Jack London, pseudonym of John Griffith Chaney, (1876 - 1916), American novelist and short-story writer whose best-known works—among them The Call of the Wild (1903) and White Fang (1906)—depict elemental struggles for survival. During the 20th century he was one of the most extensively translated of American authors.


  • 1900 The Son of the Wolf
  • 1901 The God of His Fathers
  • 1902 Children of the Frost
  • 1902 The Cruise of the Dazzler
  • 1903 The Kempton-Wace Letters
  • 1903 The Call of the Wild
  • 1903 The People of the Abyss
  • 1904 The Faith of Men
  • 1904 The Sea Wolf
  • 1905 War of the Classes
  • 1905 The Game
  • 1905 Tales of the Fish Patrol
  • 1906 Moon-Face and Other Stories
  • 1906 White Fang
  • 1906 The Scorn of Women
  • 1907 Before Adam
  • 1907 Love of Life and Other Stories
  • 1907 The Road
  • 1908 The Iron Heel
  • 1909 Martin Eden
  • 1910 Lost Face
  • 1910 Theft
  • 1910 Revolution and Other Essays
  • 1910 Burning Daylight
  • 1911 When God Laughs and Other Stories
  • 1911 Adventure
  • 1911 The Cruise of the Snark
  • 1911 South Sea Tales
  • 1912 The House of Pride and Other Stories
  • 1912 A Son of the Sun
  • 1912 Smoke Bellew
  • 1913 The Night-Born
  • 1913 The Abysmal Brute
  • 1913 John Barleycorn
  • 1913 The Valley of the Moon
  • 1914 The Strength of the Strong
  • 1914 The Mutiny of the Elsinore
  • 1915 The Scarlet Plague
  • 1915 The Star Rover
  • 1916 The Little Lady of the Big House
  • 1916 The Acorn Planter
  • 1916 The Turtles of Tasman
  • 1917 The Human Drift
  • 1917 Jerry of the Islands
  • 1917 Michael Brother of Jerry
  • 1918 The Red One
  • 1918 Hearts of Three
  • 1919 On the Makaloa Mat
  • 1922 Dutch Courage and Other Stories
  • 1963 The Assassination Bureau


Web banner for One Book, One Burg: Louisburg Reads 2023. It includes an image with the bookcover and title of the selected book, The Call of the Wild by Jack London.
Book cover of The Call of the Wild by Jack London.  It links to the library's online catalog.

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