One Man’s Wilderness (1973) by Sam Keith and Richard L. Proenneke is account of Proenneke’s first year or so living by a lake in Alaska and his construction of a cabin from scratch. It covers the same ground as the documentary ‘Alone in the Wilderness’.
The book is very straightforward, it details the slow progress of the cabin and life through a year and a bit more in Alaska. Proenneke’s skills are incredible. Not many people have the range of abilities required to build a cabin and keep themselves in conditions as in Alaska. Proenneke isn’t a complete hermit, he is resupplied by air a number of times. The accounts of living, fishing and providing for himself occupy the rest of the book.
In Wild, an account of a traverse of the Pacific Crest Trail there is too much about the author’s life and not nearly enough about the wilderness and progress along the trail. In One Man’s Wilderness there are remarkable things that are not said. It would be fascinating to know some more of why Proenneke decided to live in Alaska and more about his life. There are also some more things that Proenneke doesn’t say about his adventure. He took film and still cameras along as well. There was some intention to record things from the start.
The book is fairly slow going but does have a deliberateness that echoes Proenneke’s achievements. If you’re into accounts of the wild it’s worth a look. If you’re unsure then watching the documentary first before deciding on whether or not to read the book might be wise.