To Build a Fire


by Jack London


Jack London is referred by some as one of the greatest American authors and by others as an over-rated alcoholic. I find no value pinning Mr. London down as either. To Build a Fire, however, is a short story by Jack London that has always stuck with me.

When I was younger, my parents would choose a book or story that my five siblings and I would have to read. We would then all go out to dinner to discuss the book at some fancy restaurant where kids would pay their weight for their meal and patrons would throw peanut shells onto the floor. Only the fanciest! 

I remember reading Black Like Me, The Westinghouse Game, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to discuss them as a family. One of those books we read was “To Build a Fire.” Something about this story has always stuck with me. I’m not sure if it was the terror of falling through the ice, or the the idea of cutting open a dog and climbing into it for warmth, or the matter-of-fact description of death, but something about this harrowing story by London has stuck with me since I was a young boy.


“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”


“Life is not a matter of holding good cards, but sometimes playing a poor hand well.”


“Man always gets less than he demands from life.”


“Any man who was a man could travel alone.”


“The proper function of man is to live, not to exist.”


“I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet.”


“This man did not know cold. Possibly, all the generations of his ancestry had been ignorant of cold, of real cold, of cold 107 degrees below freezing point. But the dog knew; all its ancestry knew, and it had inherited the knowledge.”



Sticky Books are those that you just can’t get out of your head. They stick with you long after you have put the book down and have moved on to something else. These are some of my Sticky Books. I don’t enjoy reviewing books myself. I find I am either full of far too much praise for the book because I know how difficult it can be to write a book, or I am far too negative about a book because, well, I guess I was just in a bad mood. So instead of reviews, I have pulled some of my favorite quotes from each Sticky Book.


Find more writing and publishing tips at Nothing Any Good.