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Gary Paulsen

One of the most striking features of the canon of Paulsen's literary output is its sheer volume: he has published over 200 books in all, with several of the books being interrelated with each other. However, it should perhaps also be noted that Paulsen's works have not generally crossed over the boundary of genre fiction and become a part of the world of serious literature proper. There may thus possibly be something to be said here about quantity versus quality.  

Introduction and Background

Gary Paulsen is an influential American writer of young adult literature. The majority of his work contains coming of age tales about the wilderness. Paulsen is the author of over two hundred books and more than two hundred magazine articles, short stories, and plays. Though he is a very successful writer, he chooses to live in relative poverty and avoids over-indulgence of any kind. He and his wife spend quite a bit of time alone on their houseboat. 


Gary Paulsen is the author of over four hundred fiction and nonfiction works alike. Of his fiction works, there are seven major series that many of his novels fall into. Brian’s Saga is perhaps the most popular, the first of which being Hatchet which is still on the required reading list for some schools. Other series include the five books of the Mr. Tucket Saga, the Murphy series, Alida’s series, World of Adventure, Tales to Tickle the Funnybone, and Culpepper Adventures, which contains thirty books. 

Writing Style

Gary Paulsen’s writing style is incredibly detailed and explanatory. He takes his readers on a step by step journey into, not only what is happening currently, but into each character’s lives and back stories in order to ensure complete understanding of their motives and emotions. His work can sometimes read like a how-to book, with intricate details regarding settings, characters, imagery, etc. Paulsen’s work also reflects a certain sense of urgency and excitement, making the reader eagerly anticipate the next line. 

Additional Information

Gary Paulsen draws a lot of the material for his books from his everyday life. In one of his autobiographical works, he discusses several events that occurred within a couple of years of each other that greatly impacted the rest of his life. In one incidence, Gary snuck out of his home while his mother was resting to go outside. There, he was snatched by a vagrant who attempted to molest him before Paulsen’s mother appeared and beat the man to death. He also mentioned his mother’s countless adulterous affairs and expressed doubt that his ‘father’ was actually the man who sired him. In addition, he spoke of his mother’s alcoholism and recalled how she used to bring him into bars with her when he was a child and make him sing for his supper, though she had enough income that this was unnecessary. 

He and his mother then sailed on a ship to the Philippines to join his father, who was stationed overseas with the military. During the trip, Gary Paulsen witnessed a plane crash and watched as many of the victims were torn apart by sharks. His mother assisted the corpsman in nursing the survivors back to health, and then promptly began an affair with the corpsman. After arriving in Manila and meeting his father for the first time, it became clear to Paulsen that this man who looked and acted nothing like him was not his true father, and the man seemed to know it as well- drinking heavily when his family was around and referring to Paulsen only as ‘the boy’. His family lived with two servants, a man and a woman, and before long, the woman began to molest Paulsen. These horrifying events no doubt greatly influenced Paulsen’s work and evidence of them can be seen in some of his works.


Gary Paulsen is a well-known American contemporary author who has a large and impressive bibliography of over four hundred works, both fiction and non-fiction. His work is deeply influenced by his own personal experiences and they make his writing emotionally rich. Paulsen’s work provides a detailed and imaginative look into his mind and always perfectly represents the exact picture he wishes to conjure. 

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