Jack London was born in San Francisco in 1876. After he was deserted by his father, an itinerant astrologer, he was raised in Oakland by his mother. Although his youth was marked by poverty, he became an avid reader by the age of ten. Young Jack frequented the Oakland Public Library, where he was influenced by the works of Flaubert, Tolstoy, and other major novelists. After leaving school at the age of fourteen, London worked as a seaman, rode freight trains as a hobo, and joined in protest armies of the unemployed during the hard times of the 1890s. In 1894, he was arrested in Niagara Falls and jailed for vagrancy. He then made a vow to better himself. Later these hard-life adventures provided rich material for his well known works, such as The Sea-Wolf. London educated himself in public libraries, and at the age of nineteen, he was accepted to the University of California at Berkeley. However, London left the school before the year was over and went to seek a fortune in the Klondike gold rush of 1897. His attempt to find gold was unsuccessful, and he spent a harsh winter near Dawson City suffering from scurvy before returning to San Francisco.
For the remainder of 1898, London tried to earn his living by writing, finding his first success with The Son of the Wolf in 1900. That same year he married Elisabeth Maddern, but left her and their two daughters three years later to marry Charmian Kittredge. After publishing his first book, he produced a steady stream of fiction novels and short stories. In 1901, London ran unsuccessfully on the Socialist Party ticket for mayor of Oakland. In 1902, he went to England, where he studied the backside of the British Empire. His report about the economic degradation of the poor in The People of the Abyss became a surprise success in the United States but was decried in England. In 1904, London traveled to Korea as a correspondent for one of William Randolph Hearst's newspapers to cover the war between Russia and Japan. The next year he published his first collection of nonfiction pieces, The War of the Classes, which included lectures on socialism.
In 1907, London and his second wife attempted a sailing trip around the world aboard the Snark. They aborted the journey in Australia due to hardships. In 1910, London purchased a ranch land near Glen Ellen, California, and devoted all his energy and money to improving it. He also traveled widely and reported on the Mexican Revolution. In 1913, London's ranch house burned to the ground.Debts, alcoholism, illness, and fear of losing his creativity darkened the author's last years. Jack London died on November 22, 1916.