Jack London's 10 best books

Review of the best according to the editorial board. About selection criteria. This material is subjective and does not constitute advertising and does not serve as a purchase guide. Before buying, you need to consult with a specialist.

The famous American writer of the early 20th century, Jack London, is known and loved by many today, although he did not receive a quality literary education due to the fact that he could not pay for it. However, Jack London was the second most published book in the USSR. The total circulation of published books amounted to 77.153 million copies.

Jack has come a long way from a laborer, sailor and gold digger to a classic, whose books are read by both children and adults. He wrote his first serious work, “Typhoon off the coast of Japan,” when he was 17 years old. This work was highly praised by critics, and since that time the writer's fame began to spread far beyond America.

The love of literature helped the writer to develop such a heartfelt, bright and rich syllable. He avidly read the works of recognized world classics. Unable to enter the university, the young man took up self-education and was quite successful. Working hard to be able to at least feed himself, the future writer came to the conclusion that it is possible to earn good money only by doing intellectual work. But life again forced Jack to go to Alaska as a prospector. By the way, he never found gold there, but he was able to collect a lot of material for his future books. Subsequent works by Jack London opened the true beauty of the North to a wide range of readers and showed the talent of the young writer to the world. London began to make good money by printing and publishing its literary works. Our rating contains the most popular and interesting, according to readers and writers, the works of Jack London.

Rating of the best books by Jack London

Nomination a place Composition rating
Rating of the best books by Jack London 1 Martin Eden 4.9
2 White Fang 4.8
3 Star Traveler 4.8
4 Sea wolf 4.7
5 Hearts of three 4.7
6 Call of the ancestors 4.7
7 Time-not-waiting 4.6
8 Little mistress of a big house 4.5
9 Lunar valley 4.5
10 Love of life 4.5

Martin Eden

Book author: Jack London

Rating: 4.9

MARTIN Eden JACK LONDON.jpg

'Martin Eden' – occupies the first line of our rating, being one of the most popular novels by Jack London, both in his homeland and far beyond its borders. For the first time the novel was published in 1908 in the magazine 'Pacific Munsley' and only in 1909 was published as a separate book by the publishing house 'Macmillan Company'.

The novel is largely autobiographical. An attentive reader can draw many parallels between the author and his protagonist. Martin Eden and Jack himself are from the lower strata of society who have achieved success in the literary field thanks only to their own efforts. As a young man, Jack tried many professions, which is why he so organically weaves into the plot of the adventure of the protagonist, who, in order to achieve his dreams, works as a sailor, a worker in a factory and in a laundry.

The image of the main character – Martin's beloved – a girl from the highest bourgeois circles, for whose sake he decided to achieve success, was inspired by the writer by his first love – Mabel Applegarth. At the end of the novel, Jack London leads to the idea that the main character, who had been looking only for love all his life and for the sake of love, sought recognition in society, came to the understanding that he wasted himself on emptiness and illusion. The creative vulnerable personality actually has no place in bourgeois society. And all attempts to become one's own among strangers, the pursuit of material values ​​- lead to only one thing – to the premature inner death of the individual. When forming the character's image, Jack London relied on the philosophy of Herbert Spencer and Friedrich Nietzsche. The film based on the novel was released 10 years after its first publication (1918).

White Fang

Book author: Jack London

Rating: 4.8

White Fang, Jack London

The legendary story of a wolf named White Fang takes the second position in our literary ranking. The adventure novel 'White Fang' was first published in The Outing Magazine, in issues from May to October, in 1906.

The novel tells about the difficult fate of a half-dog, half-wolf, which was tamed by people during the gold rush in Alaska, which began in the late 19th century. This story is full of different events – sometimes strange, sometimes sentimental and even dramatic. But life teaches our protagonist that no matter how harsh the outside world around, a person can cause much more suffering to another. And so that we, people, could see ourselves from the outside, the writer helped the reader to look at himself.

Most of the book is shown through the eyes of animals, which clearly notice the attitude of people towards themselves. The author subtly reveals the psychology and motives of White Fang's actions and leads to the fact that sometimes an affectionate word and a simple kind attitude to the world, to animals, people and nature – can save your life. Good breeds only good.

The novel was filmed 6 times. It was filmed for the first time in the USSR in 1946 (directed by A. Zguridi). The last film adaptation was presented to the public in 2018, in the form of an animated feature film (directed by A. Espigares).

Star Traveler

Book author: Jack London

Rating: 4.8

Star Traveler

'Star Traveler' or 'Straitjacket', which is the apotheosis of Jack London's creativity, is ranked third. Published in 1915, the novel actually describes real events. At that time, the prisons in San Quentin did indeed torture prisoners with a straitjacket. Jack London learned this story from a former convict convicted of robbery, Ed Morrell, who became the prototype for the main character, and his name was used for a minor character. London achieved the release of Morrell and subsequently he often visited the writer on his ranch.

Based on the title, one could argue that this work is science fiction, but this is too atypical for the author. The novel represents a kind of branch of esotericism, which is also not quite in the London format.

The plot is based on the story of a former professor of agronomy who was sentenced to life in solitary confinement in a California prison. Tied by a piece of tarpaulin, and forced to stay in this state for hours, the prisoner finds a way to free himself from the fetters of matter and begins to travel outside the body and space, getting either to old France, then to ancient Egypt, then to the West of the United States during the time of the great resettlement.

Some of these journeys are described very vividly and emotionally, others are carried through the plot in light strokes. However, a realistic storytelling is combined with an inattention to the story. The novel is replete with imprecise dates, titles, and fictional historical events that an attentive reader will easily notice.

The theme of the superiority of spirit over matter runs through the entire work as a burning thread. London accurately reveals the theme of the invincibility of spirit, optimism and willpower of a person even in the face of difficult life circumstances. This may not be the best book to get to know the author, but it would be wrong for fans of Jack London to ignore it. The novel has gone through two adaptations. In 1920, under the name The Star Rover and in 2005, when The Jacket was released, based on the work 'The Wanderer by the Stars'.

Sea wolf

Book author: Jack London

Rating: 4.7

Sea wolf

Jack London's novel “The Sea Wolf”, written back in 1904 and stormy acclaimed by the public and critics, falls into the fourth step of the rating. The work tells about the complex human relationship of two completely opposite people who have extremely different views on life.

In the center of the plot is either a man or a beast named Wolf Larsen, who is read by the works of Shakespeare and, at the same time, is not shy about his expressed animal instincts. He is ferocious, cruel and implacable. Wolf Larsen was inspired by Alexander MacLaine, one of the most famous poachers of the 19th century, who by the age of 34 had become an outstanding captain of the Western Flotilla. By the time the novel was written, MacLaine had become a true legend – he was wanted by 5 states and was suspected of 70 murders.

But one day life confronts Wolf Larsen with its complete opposite. On the ship 'Ghost', the captain of which he is, by chance gets pampered by the social life of the intellectual and literary critic, a real gentleman Humphrey Van Weyden. The only thing these two have in common is their love of literature. Where will this chance encounter lead? Which will win – highly moral human qualities or animal nature?

Through the eyes of two characters, we seem to see the world from different angles – on the one hand, it is kind and beautiful, and on the other, it is cruel and ruthless. And it all depends only on what the observer is inside. In this, in places, a dark plot, there was a place for true love, which is precisely that saving schooner, capable of carrying through all sorrows and suffering and showing the way to salvation.

Hearts of three

Book author: Jack London

Rating: 4.7

HEARTS THREE JACK LONDON.jpg

The novel “Hearts of Three”, written actually before the writer's death, and published in 1919-1920, is on the fifth step of the literary rating. This is an atypical piece for Jack London, which stands out from his general literary heritage for its adventurous character. The book has room for pirates, treasure, women, and intriguing dangers.

Initially, the novel was written to order, like a screenplay, in collaboration with a screenwriter. This is stated in the foreword to the book. Perhaps that is why many readers note that they expected more from this work. There are no deep psychological characters, a bright inner world of heroes, an intriguing backstage, which is what fans of London's creativity like there.

The plot is based on a constant change of scenery. And even despite the fact that love is almost the central theme, there are no particularly sensual lyrical moments in the book. Everything is quite simple: a love triangle that formed between eccentric Leoncia and two brothers Henry Morgan Francis and Henry Morgan, who came to an island in South America in search of treasures. Most likely, you need to perceive this book as a novel with which you can relax, get away from your own problems and plunge into exciting cinematic adventures.

Initially, together with screenwriter Charles Goddard, Jack London planned to release a serial based on the novel in 1916, but filming never took place. The second attempt was made in 1992: the film of the same name was filmed at the A. Dovzhenko film studio and became the last film released in the USSR.

Call of the ancestors

Book author: Jack London

Rating: 4.7

Call of the ancestors

The story 'Call of the Wild', which was published in 1903, is in the sixth place in the ranking. The main character of the work is a dog named Beck (Buck), who turned from a pet into the leader of a wolf pack.

Events unfold in Canada in the 19th century, at the time of gold diggers who survived in the harsh North. This book is about inner strength, dignity, animal nature and loyalty. It shows how strong the primary instincts are, and how nature takes possession of the animal essence, one has only to become akin to the wild environment. Back (Buck), who got from a shepherd ranch in California, into the harsh everyday life of a sled dog, eventually becomes a predatory beast and forgets about his former life. The story tells that the primitive savagery of an animal always remains at the level of dormant instincts, both in animals and in humans. But if the animal, in fact, has no choice, then people, even despite the harsh and wild living conditions, can still remain human.

The prototype of Beck (Buck) was a dog, owned by the writer's friends – Louis and Marshal Bond. The author received the material for the novel while on his way to the Klondike via Alaska, in 1897. There he had the opportunity to collect a lot of information about the real life of sled dogs, which formed the basis of the story. The film has gone through 7 adaptations, the first of which was released in 1927 in the form of silent films. The latter – in 2009 as 3D cinema (USA).

Time-not-waiting

Book author: Jack London

Rating: 4.6

Time-not-waiting

Time Does Not Wait, a novel about adventurer Elam Harnish, nicknamed Time Does Not Wait, published in 1910, is in seventh place in the ranking. The book was popular in certain circles, although it did not receive much recognition among the general public.

But the work still deserves attention, first of all, because it reveals the meaning and subtleties of the work of the stock exchange at the end of the 19th, beginning of the 20th century. This is perhaps the only story where the reader sees the stock exchange before the 1st world crisis (the 'Great Depression'), caused by just the same stock exchange activity. To some extent, this work can be called cult, because it describes the real behind the scenes of stock exchange games aimed at taking over companies.

The main character is Elam Harnish, who lives by the principles of the game, cynically making millions by bluffing, cheating, predicting and shaping many financial events. However, life according to the laws of the jungle continues exactly until the moment when the hero meets Did Manson. It was from this moment that his life changed abruptly: from a gambler, a sharpie and a millionaire, he turned into a kind family man. Harnish gives up his fortune and settles in a small country ranch, thus choosing peace of mind and love over material values. The author got the image of the main character in the real stock exchange Frank Smith, who eventually went broke. The novel was filmed several times in 1914, 1923, 1928 and 1975.

Little mistress of a big house

Book author: Jack London

Rating: 4.5

Little mistress of a big house

The Little Mistress of a Big House, first published in 1916, is ranked eighth. Jack London himself considered this work the best, although many critics and lovers of the writer’s wise style, saturated with life examples and deep soulful psychology, are in some bewilderment about such a lyrical digression. The author noted in an interview that the novel is the peak of his writing career and what he has been striving for all his life.

The plot is based on the usual 'love triangle'. The main characters are Paola Dustin and Dick Forrest, who have been married for 12 years. Dick is practically the perfect husband and businessman. He is constantly at work, supports the estate and his wife, investing all his free time in this. Paola is an athlete, a Komsomol member and just an ideal woman in all respects, in which the incompatible is combined. It would seem that they are happy in their little world, but then Ivan appears in the arena, and everything collapses. Gradually, Paola falls in love with a new hero, who, realizing this, nevertheless is in no hurry to leave his friend's hospitable estate.

Reading about the life of practically Nietzschean demigods, one cannot believe that such people really exist. They, like on-screen characters, do not evoke a response and emotional experiences. And even the tragic ending seems somehow far-fetched and illogical. After all, superhumans always do the right thing. They have long conquered their own weaknesses and solve problems like adults, not like teenagers. Maybe the author leads to the idea that ideal people do not exist, and all this ostentatious gloss is just a mask for an immature soul, which succumbs to temptations in the same way as an ordinary person?

The novel is partly autobiographical. The author tried to create the 'perfect estate' on his farm in California, constantly applying new agricultural technologies. And in the work 'The Little Mistress of a Big House', he most likely realized his dreams of an ideal life. In reality, however, such experiments led to large debts. The novel was filmed in 1921, in the USA (The Little Fool).

Lunar valley

Book author: Jack London

Rating: 4.5

Lunar valley

'Valley of the Moon', which is one of the last works written in 1913, occupies the penultimate, ninth line of the rating. The book describes the real historical events of the early 19th century in America using the example of one of the working families.

Saxon Brown and Bill Roberts are ordinary workers who are facing a difficult economic period. Strikes, fights, strikebreakers, the beginning of the Great Depression. And they decide to go on a journey in search of the Valley of the Moon, in which, in their opinion, they will finally find happiness.

In the novel, the author shows the embodiment of the American dream of his time, the fortitude of ordinary people and their desire for a better life. He clearly demonstrates the difference between different strata of the population and the difficult situation in which the common working people fell. The writer also emphasizes that you need to be able to dream and achieve your goals. After all, the heroes were still able to find their Moon Valley, despite all the difficulties that they had to overcome. Critics call the novel utopian, a kind of fantasy of the early 20th century. They say that Jack London had a powerful creative crisis at the end of his life and, perhaps, in this way the author himself tried to find his own valley, embodying dreams of it in another work. In 1914, a film was made based on the novel with Myrtle Steadman and Jack Conway in the lead roles.

Love of life

Book author: Jack London

Rating: 4.5

Love of life

The story 'Love of Life', written by Jack London in 1905 and published as part of the adventure series of gold diggers in 1907, rounds out our rating. The main idea of ​​the work was the need of the writer to show that everything pales before the love of life. In a critical situation, it is the desire to survive at any cost that becomes the main weapon that can defeat even nature. If love, life, freedom and hope are at stake – a person is ready to go to the last and even yesterday's thirst for material gain fades into the background.

The story is not that long, but absolutely wild and not romantic. Survival in the inhuman conditions of a simple hard worker who was betrayed and abandoned by his comrade comes to the fore. This someone, a man without a name, does everything possible and impossible, winning his right to life from the ruthless impassable Canadian tundra. He leaves all his valuables – a gun, a hat, matches and even a bag of gold, which was obtained with great difficulty. He is pursued by a bear and a wolf, who are also so exhausted that they cannot attack a person, and simply follow him on his heels, expecting his imminent death.

In some ways, that story is very symbolic. Who follows on the heels of a man, hoping to feast on him? Maybe this wild animal is a part of each of us and all we need is not to surrender to him and go to the end, throwing away everything unnecessary and leaving the love of life? Maybe. But the love of life conquers everything.


Attention! This rating is subjective and does not constitute advertising and does not serve as a purchase guide. Before buying, you need to consult with a specialist.

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