Jack London’s top 10 books

*Review of the best according to the editors. About the selection criteria. This material is subjective, not an advertisement and is not intended as a guide to purchase. Consultation with an expert is necessary before purchase.

The famous American writer of the early 20th century, Jack London, is now known and loved by many, though he did not receive a quality literary education because he could not pay for it. Nevertheless, Jack London was the second most published book in the USSR. Total circulation of books published was 77.153 million. copies.

Jack has traveled the hard road from laborer, sailor, and gold prospector to a classic whose books are read by children and adults alike. He wrote his first serious work, entitled Typhoon off the coast of Japan, as a 17-year-old young man. This work was critically acclaimed, and the writer’s fame from that time began to spread far beyond America.

The writer’s love of literature helped him develop such a heartfelt, vivid, and rich syllable. He avidly read the works of the acknowledged classics of the world. Unable to go to university, the young man took up self-education and was quite successful. Working hard to be able to at least get by, the future writer came to the conclusion that you can make a good living only by doing intellectual work. But life has once again forced Jack to go to Alaska as a prospector. By the way, he did not find any gold there, but he was able to gather a lot of material for his future books. Jack London’s later works revealed to a wide range of readers the true beauty of the North and revealed the young writer’s talent to the world. London began to earn good money, printing and publishing his literary works. Our ranking compiles the most popular and interesting, according to readers and writers, works by Jack London.

Rating of the best books by Jack London

NominationplaceThe workrating
Rating of the best Jack London books1Martin Eden4.9
2White Fang4.8
3A wanderer through the stars4.8
4The Sea Wolf4.7
5Hearts of Three4.7
6Call of the ancestors4.7
8Little Mistress of the Big House4.5
9Moon Valley4.5
10Love of Life4.5

Martin Eden

Rating: 4.9

“Martin Eden” is at the top of our ranking, being one of Jack London’s most popular novels, both in his homeland and far beyond. The novel was first printed in 1908. In the magazine “Pacific Mansley” and only in 1909 was published as a separate book by the Macmillan Company.

The novel is in many ways autobiographical. An attentive reader can draw many parallels between the author and his main character. Martin Eden and Jack himself come from a lower class of society and succeeded in the literary field through nothing more than their own efforts. As a young man Jack had tried many trades, which is why he weaves so seamlessly into the story the adventures of the main character, who to achieve his dreams working as a sailor, a factory worker and a laundryman.

The image of the main character, Martin’s beloved – a girl from high bourgeois circles, for which he decided to succeed, was inspired by the writer of his first love – Mabel Applegarth. At the end of the novel Jack London leads to the idea that the main character, who all his life was looking for love only and for love to achieve recognition in society, has come to the realization that he has squandered himself on emptiness and illusion. Creative vulnerability really 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 – the premature inner death of the individual. Jack London drew on the philosophy of Herbert Spencer and Friedrich Nietzsche to create the character. A movie based on the novel was released 10 years after its first publication (1918).

White Fang

Rating: 4.8

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

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

Much of the book is shown through the eyes of animals, who clearly notice people’s attitudes toward themselves. The author subtly reveals the psychology and motives behind 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. Goodness begets only goodness.

The novel has been screened six times. It was first filmed in the USSR in 1946 (dir. a. Zguridi). The latest film adaptation was presented to the public in 2018, in the form of an animated feature film (dir. a. Espigares).

Wanderer through the Stars

Rating: 4.8

The novel Hearts of Three, written actually before the writer’s death, and published in 1919-1920, is on the fifth rung of the literary rankings. This is an atypical work for Jack London that stands out from his overall literary legacy for its adventurous nature. The book has room for pirates, treasure, women, and intriguing dangers.

The novel was originally written to order, as a screenplay, in co-authorship with screenwriter. This is stated in the preface to the book. Perhaps this is why many readers note that they expected more from this work. There are no deep psychological characters, vivid inner world of the characters, intriguing behind the scenes, which is what fans of London’s work 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. It’s simple enough: a love triangle formed between the flighty Leonsia and two brothers, Henry Morgan Francis and Henry Morgan, who come to an island in South America in search of treasure. Think of this book most likely as a novel with which to relax, take your mind off your own problems, and dive into an exciting cinematic adventure.

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

The Call of the Ancestors

Rating: 4.7

Call of ancestors

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

Events are set in 19th-century Canada, in the days of gold prospectors who were surviving in the harsh North. This book is about inner strength, dignity, animal origins and loyalty. It shows how powerful the primal instincts are, and how nature takes possession over the animal essence, once one is akin to the wild environment. Beck (Buck), caught from a shepherd’s ranch in California, into the harsh everyday life of a sled dog, eventually becomes a beast of prey and forgets about his former life. The tale tells us that the primal savagery of the animal always remains at the level of dormant instincts, in animals and humans alike. But if an animal, in fact, has no choice, then people, even in spite of the harsh and wild conditions of life can still remain human.

The prototype of Beck (Buck) was a dog owned by the writer’s friends Louis and Marshall Bond. The author gained material for the novel while on his way to the Klondike via Alaska, in 1897. There he had the opportunity to gather a lot of information about the real life of sled dogs, which formed the basis of the story. The film has survived 7 film adaptations, the first of which was released as a silent film in 1927. The last one was in 2009. As a 3D movie (USA).


Rating: 4.6


“Time-Isn’t-Waiting,” a novel about the adventurer Elam Harnish, nicknamed Time-Isn’t-Waiting, published in 1910, is ranked number seven. The book was popular in certain circles, although it did not gain much recognition among the general public.

But the work is still noteworthy above all because it reveals the meaning and intricacies of the stock market of the late 19th, early 20th century. This is probably the only story where the reader is introduced to the stock market before the 1st world crisis (“Great Depression”), caused by just the same stock market activity. To some extent, this work can be called a cult, because it describes the real backstage of exchange games aimed at the takeover of companies.

The main character is Elam Harnish, who lives by the principles of the game, cynically making millions by bluffing, cheating, anticipating, and shaping many financial events. However, life according to the law of the jungle continues exactly until the hero meets Deed Manson. It is from that moment that his life changes abruptly: from gambler, hustler, and millionaire, he turns into a good family man. Harnish gives up his fortune and settles into a small country ranch, thus choosing peace of mind and love over material possessions. The image of the main character the author drew in the real stockbroker Frank Smith, who eventually went bankrupt. The novel was filmed several times in 1914, 1923, 1928, and 1975.

The Little Mistress of the Big House

Rating: 4.5

The Little Mistress of the Big House

The Little Mistress of the Big House, first published in 1916, hits the eighth spot in the rankings. Jack London himself considered it to be his best work, though many critics and admirers of the writer’s wise, exemplary and deeply penetrating psychological style are somewhat perplexed by this 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 protagonists are Paola Dusten and Dick Forrest, who have been married for 12 years. Dick is a near-perfect husband and businessman. He is constantly at work, maintaining the manor and his wife, investing all his free time. Paola is an athlete, a “Komsomol girl,” and simply the perfect woman in every way who combines the incongruous. It would seem that they are happy in their little world, but then Evan enters the arena and everything falls apart. Gradually, Paola falls in love with the new hero, who, realizing this, nevertheless, is in no hurry to leave his friend’s hospitable manor.

Reading about the lives of almost Nietzschean demigods, one cannot believe that such people really exist. They, like the screen characters, do not evoke a response and heartfelt emotion. And even the tragic finale seems somehow far-fetched and illogical. After all, superhumans always do the right thing. They have long since overcome their own weaknesses and solve problems as adults, not as teenagers. Maybe the author is leading us to believe that perfect people do not exist, and that all this ostentatious gloss is just a mask for an immature soul that succumbs to temptation just as an ordinary person does?

Part of the novel is autobiographical. The author tried to create a “perfect estate” on his farm in California, constantly applying new agricultural techniques. And in The Little Mistress of the Big House, he most likely embodied his dreams of an ideal life. In reality, however, such experiments led to a great deal of debt. The novel was adapted in 1921, in the United States (The

  • ttle Fool).

    Moon Valley

    Rating: 4.5

    Valley of the Moon

    “Moon Valley,” which is one of the last works written in 1913, takes the penultimate, ninth ranking. The book describes real historical events in early 19th century America, using the example of a working family.

    Saxon Brown and Bill Roberts are ordinary workers facing a difficult economic period. Strikes, fights, strikebreakers, the beginning of the “Great Depression.”. And they decide to embark on a journey in search of Moon Valley, where they believe they will finally find happiness.

    In the novel, the author shows the embodiment of the American dream of his time, the strength of spirit of ordinary people and their desire for a better life. It vividly demonstrates the difference between the different classes of the population and the difficult situation into which the common working people have fallen. The writer also stresses the need to be able to dream and achieve one’s goals. After all, the heroes were still able to find their valley of the moon despite all the difficulties they had to overcome. Critics call the novel utopian, a kind of early 20th century fiction. It is said 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 his dreams of it in the next work. In 1914 a movie based on the novel starring Myrtle Steadman and Jack Conway was made.

    Love of Life

    Rating: 4.5

    Love of life

    The story “Love of Life,” written by Jack London in 1905, and published as part of the Gold Diggers Adventure Series in 1907., Completes our ranking. The main idea of the work was the writer’s need to show that everything pales before the love of life. In a critical situation, the will to survive at any cost becomes the main weapon that can defeat even nature. If love, life, freedom and hope are at stake, a man is ready to fight to the last man and even yesterday’s lust for material gain recedes into the background.

    The story is not that long, but it is absolutely wild and unromantic. At the forefront is the survival under inhumane conditions of a simple laborer who has been betrayed and abandoned by a comrade. This certain someone, a man with no name, is doing the best and the impossible, wresting his right to life from the merciless impenetrable Canadian tundra. He leaves behind all his valuables: his gun, his hat, his matches, and even his hard-won sack of gold… He is pursued by a bear and a wolf, who are also so exhausted that they cannot attack the man and just follow him on his heels, waiting for him to die soon.

    In a way, that story is very symbolic. Who follows a man in the hope of eating him? Maybe this wild animal is part of each of us and all we have to do is not surrender to it and go all the way, throwing away everything unnecessary and leaving the love of life? Maybe. But the love of life conquers all.

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