Jack London’s continuing critical and popular success is due to the scope and diversity of his work, which extends from stories of romance and adventure to novels of ideas, and from explorations of slum life to heroic quests. Each generation of readers has found something new in London and has learned something about themselves.
The People of the Abyss (1903)
London’s favorite of his own books recounts in graphic detail the dreadful suffering from poverty, crowding, disease and homelessness of people living in the East End slums of London, England.
The Sea-Wolf (1904)
About “The Sea-Wolf,” Ambrose Bierce wrote, “The great thing — and it is among the greatest of things — is that tremendous creation, Wolf Larsen... The hewing out and setting up of such a figure is enough for a man to do in one lifetime.”
The Valley of the Moon (1913)
“The Valley of the Moon” is an unconventional heroic quest for love, land and a home, led by the heroine who overcomes not mythical monsters but economic strife in early 20th century urban California and ineffective farm practices in rural areas.
John Barleycorn (1913)
London’s treatise on alcoholism led indirectly to Prohibition, which lasted 13 years and failed to solve the problem. In it, London candidly records his own drinking history and recounts episodes from his childhood.
Martin Eden (1909)
“Martin Eden” is an indictment of individualism. Martin lives and fights for things such as status and success that turn out to be hollow. Being unaware of the collective human need to belong, he is left with nothing to live for.
Burning Daylight (1910)
Of “Burning Daylight,” London said, “I show a successful superman who at the end of his triumph and career throws his 30 million dollars to the winds in order to win a greater thing, namely, love.”
The Star Rover (1915)
“The Star Rover” is a manuscript smuggled out of prison by its narrator, Darrell Standing, who tells a series of stories based on his own past lives while being tortured in a straight jacket in San Quentin.
The Call of the Wild (1903)
London’s most famous story is of the dog Buck, who sheds the virtues of civilized life and reverts to a wild state and thus survives in the Canadian wilderness during the Klondike gold rush.
White Fang (1906)
“White Fang,” a companion story to “The Call of the Wild,” depicts the domestication of a wolf and has been described as “an allegory of humanity’s progression from nature to civilization.”
The Iron Heel (1908)
“The Iron Heel” is the first modern American novel to sound the alarm about the dangers of a dictatorship in the United States.
Susan Nuernberg is a past president of the Jack London Society and a recipient of the Jack London Foundation’s Woman of the Year award. She is currently writing a biography of Charmian Kittredge London with Iris Jamahl Dunkle.
Special Section: Jack London Centennial