10 Survival Books for the Adventure Obsessed

Adventure Book

Do you ever wonder what might happen if you were placed into a dramatic survival situation? Would you have enough grit and determination to survive, or would you just roll over and give up when faced with adversity?  In these ten real life survival stories, the will to live was never an option.  These books will entertain, teach, and hopefully inspire you to get out there and take on your next adventure.  Fingers crossed you don't end up in a situation like this!


 Skeletons on the Zahara

Skeletons on the Zahara by Dean King

Skeletons on the Zahara may just be our favorite survival story.   Set in 1815, it tells the story of a shipwreck on the African coast.  Captured, robbed and enslaved, the crew of the Commerce were dragged and driven through the desert by their new owners.  They were reduced to drinking urine, flayed by the sun, and crippled by walking miles across burning stones and sand.  To reach safety, they would have to overcome not only the desert but also the greed and anger of those who would keep them in captivity.


The Long Walk

The Long Walk: The True Story Of A Trek To Freedom by Slavomir Rawicz

The Long Walk is a truly unbelievable story.  In 1941, the author and six other fellow prisoners were imprisoned in a Soviet labor camp where they endured hunger, cold, untended wounds, untreated illnesses, the daily threat of execution. They escaped and marched over thousands of miles by foot (the worst thru hike of all time!).  Out of Siberia and through China, the Gobi Desert, Tibet, and over the Himalayas to British India; a remarkable journey through some of the most inhospitable conditions on the face of the earth.



Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

From the author of Seabiscuit comes Unbroken, the inspiring story of a man who lived through a series of catastrophes almost too incredible to be believed.  Louie Zamperini is a juvenile delinquent turned Olympic runner turned Army hero.  During a routine search mission over the Pacific, Louie’s plane crashed into the ocean.  He then embarked on a journey that involved sharks, enemy aircraft, and ultimately imprisonment in a POW camp.  Unbroken is an incredible testament to the resilience of the human mind, body, and spirit.


in the heart of the sea

In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick

In the Heart of the Sea is the inspiration for Moby Dick!  In 1820, the 240-ton Essex set sail from Nantucket on a routine voyage to go whale hunting. Fifteen months later, in the middle of the South Pacific, it was repeatedly rammed and sunk by an eighty-ton bull sperm whale. Its twenty-man crew couldn't go to local islands for fear of cannibals.  Instead, they made for the coast of South America (3,000 miles away!) in three tiny boats. During ninety days at sea under horrendous conditions, they clung to life as one by one, they succumbed to hunger, thirst, disease, and fear.  Note this book is an incredible read not only from the survival aspect, but also because of it's description of the whaling process and whaling community.


in harms way

In Harm's Way: The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors by Doug Stanton

In Harm's Way tells the tale of America's worst Naval disaster.  On July 30, 1945, the USS Indianapolis was torpedoed in the South Pacific by a Japanese submarine. An estimated 300 men were killed upon impact.  Nearly 900 sailors were cast into the Pacific Ocean, where they remained undetected by the navy for nearly four days and nights. Battered by the sea, they struggled to stay alive.  The men fought off sharks, hypothermia, and dementia. Only 317 sailors survived long enough to be rescued.


Deep Survival

Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why by Laurence Gonzales

If you want to know the science behind who lives and dies in survival situations, check out Deep Survival.  A mix of adventure narrative, survival science, and practical advice, it can help you learn how to take control of stress, assess risk, and make better decisions under pressure.  Of all the books in this article, this one has the most practical advice you can implement on your next trip.


we die alone

We Die Alone: A WWII Epic of Escape and Endurance by David Howarth

In March 1943, a team of Norwegian commandos sailed from northern England for Nazi-occupied arctic Norway.  Their mission was to organize and supply the Norwegian resistance. But soon after landing they were ambushed by the Nazis. Jan Baalsrud escaped with a few hundred yard head start, leaving a trail of blood in the snow.  How he avoids capture and ultimately escapes make for one incredible story.


the river of doubt

The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey by Candice Millard

If you have read anything about TR you know he was a pretty tough dude who didn't back down from a challenge.  After his humiliating election defeat in 1912, Roosevelt set his sights on the most punishing physical challenge he could find: the first descent of an unmapped Amazon tributary.  Along the way, Roosevelt and his men faced an unbelievable series of hardships - losing their canoes and supplies to punishing whitewater rapids, enduring starvation, Indian attack, disease, drowning, and even a murder within their team.



Adrift: Seventy-Six Days Lost at Sea by Steven Callahan

Adrift was on the New York Times bestseller list for 36 weeks!  That should give you a clue that it is a good book.  Steven Callahan is the only known man to survive more than a month alone at sea.  How he survives is the stuff of legend.  Could you survive 76 days alone at sea in an inflatable raft?



Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing

Shackleton's leadership in the face of adversity is a definition for heroism.  In August 1914, polar explorer Ernest Shackleton boarded the Endurance and set sail for Antarctica.  Shackleton planned to be the first person to cross the last uncharted continent on foot.  Only a day short of their destination, the Endurance become locked in ice.  When the ship was finally crushed between two ice floes, Shackleton and a few men attempted an insane journey over 850 miles of the South Atlantic's heaviest seas to reach a whaling station.


Is your favorite survival book on this list?  Leave us a comment!

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  • All these books look great. I’m going to see if they have them at the library.

  • Woah can’t wait to read these books!

  • My boyfriend absolutely loved this and couldn’t stop telling everyone how great they were.

    Anita Kennett
  • i must really read up on this. sound great

    Donna L Holder
  • Wow. Great set of survival books. Thanks.

    Matthew V Alaniz

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