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7 Survival books you must read to stay alive in this chaotic world

The modern world is fraught with terrifying dangers lurking beneath its civilized surface.

Many people live in a bubble thinking that bad things will never befall them.

The grim reality, however, is that the moment you step out of your house, bad things can happen to you.

Unbeknownst to you, you could be in the crosshairs of a carjacker, a kidnapper, a gang member, or worse, a terrorist, on a bad day.

If those scenarios give you creeps, consider less extreme ones. Your neighbor’s mastiff makes an unwarranted charge at you as you are walking toward your car or your GPS stops working when you are deep in the woods.

See, unexpected events like these can throw your life out of gear unless you know a thing or two about survival.

You might ask why the hell do I need to read books that teach fighting techniques, weaponry, and bushcraft?

Because you don’t know what life’s going to throw at you when things go haywire. If there is a scarcity of finite resources, let’s say – from food items to water to gas – people are likely to switch to instinctual survival mode and that could lead to hairy situations.

Basically, everyone should have some level of survival skill.

The following survival books frame 100s of scenarios where uncertainty can punch you right out of your socks.

While no book can replace actual hands-on experience, these survival guides are meant to get you started on the right path, with sound advice and recommendations for skills.

Reading even a few of these 7 survival books will keep you from going into a panic or shock mode when disaster strikes.

#1. SEAL Survival Guide

Author: Cade Courtley 

Credentials: Ex-Navy SEAL
SEAL Survival Guide

This is your ultimate guide to getting away unharmed when all hell breaks loose.

Cade Courtley does not restrict himself to a particular type of emergency so you will get life-saving tips on surviving a terrorist strike, extreme floods, robbers, wild animals and many more.

He ensures that all the survival secrets reach the reader in an intuitive and comprehensive fashion.

The central message of this ultimate survival book and the one that Cade Courtley repeatedly emphasizes is, “Be a survivor – not a statistic!

#2. Deep Survival: Who lives, Who dies and Why

Author: Laurence Gonzales

Credentials: Stunt pilot, Adventure fanatic and reporter of extreme disasters

The moot question Laurence Gonzales tries to address is: why is it that someone lives while someone else, who would seem to be even more qualified to survive, dies?

He says sometimes those who survive the worst case scenarios are the ones who are least prepared to come out unscathed.

Are they just lucky? Are they statistical outliers? Or, is there something more than meets the eye?

Readers will appreciate the authenticity of Deep Survival and the spirit in which it is written. Gonzales underlines that human beings can endure much more than they think they’re capable of enduring.

The survival ideas that Gonzales promotes are useful in any stressful aspect of life, whether you’re adrift in the middle of a stormy Atlantic Ocean or you’re just trying to make a deadline at work.

“Fear is good; too much fear is not.” – Laurence Gonzales

#3. SAS Survival Guide

Author: John Wiseman

Credentials: Ex-Special Air Service (SAS)

Enthusiasts call it the most definitive survival guide out there. Unsurprisingly, John Wiseman’s book is also one of the longest surviving in the survival genre. The first edition hit the bookstands in 1986 and the third, larger edition came out in 2014.

The current edition runs to 672 pages, but don’t worry, this is not one of those sleep-inducing tomes written by Pulitzer award winners. It is one of the best survival books ever written.

The book teems with color drawings that will keep you busy on many an evening as you make your way through John Wiseman’s clear and thorough instructions.

His insights on figuring out the topography of a terrain section form the best part of the book. He checks off everything you would need to navigate and travel in all terrains.

SAS Survival Guide is loaded with critical information. If you follow John Wiseman’s advice, he could get you out of pretty much any situation. He declares:

“Survival training is the best insurance policy you can take out in an unstable world.”

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#4. How to Eat in the Woods

Author: Bradford Angier

Credentials: Wilderness survivalist

Many survival books over the years have been written on the catastrophic scenarios and wilderness, but very few on what food to eat. Bradford Angier’s book plugs that crucial gap.

This will allow anybody who suddenly finds themselves dependent upon their own resources to stay alive.

Starvation is awful especially when you are stuck in the wilderness. But for those who can take advantage of what it freely offers, nature will furnish every necessity.

One of the most complete books written on the subject, this portable guide includes essential information on how to recognize edible plants, fruits, berries, and nuts; locate bird eggs; catch edible insects, and find potable water. Also included is information on building a fire and preparing food without utensils.

“A lot of us are working harder than we want, at things we don’t like to do. Why? In order to afford the sort of existence we don’t care to live.”  – Bradford Angier

#5. When Technology Fails

Author: Matthew Stein

Credentials: Mountain Climber, MIT scholar

The central premise of this book, as you would have guessed, is: technology can fail and its failure can lead to irreparable damage.

In the list of survival books, this one holds a distinct place.

Matthew Stein focuses on a host of what-if scenarios that could unravel in case a potential cataclysmic threat turns into reality.

He helps you manufacture tools that do not rely on fossil fuels or an operating electricity grid.

Yeah, you got it, his agenda is to equip you with the knowledge that enabled your ancestors to thrive.

Stein walks you through the required supplies and preparations for every conceivable disaster – from earthquakes and volcanoes to terrorism and bio-threats – from short-term glitches to long-term emergencies.

He puts forth some of the best information I have read on first aid and medicine in the post-calamity scenario.

It’s a well-researched and mentally stimulating book. So do yourself a favor and pick up a copy while you can and before you no longer can.

#6. Spy Secrets That Can Save Your Life

Author: Jason Hanson

Credentials: Former CIA officer

Jason Hanson offers basic practical advice on how to avoid threats to your life and to those of your loved ones.

He is a former CIA clandestine agent who has appeared on Shark Tank and has a number of YouTube videos and a blog out there in which he promotes his self-protection knowledge.

For the average Joe, this book is a goldmine of personal security wisdom. 

He is a professional who’s great desire is to help the regular Joe avoid the pitfalls and sinister intrigues of the cold and nasty world in which we live.

Those with their heads in the sand will dismiss this resource. So be it.

But for the rest of us, Spy Secrets is just the book to turn us into a sheepdog who can defend ourselves and our loved ones from the wolves.

“Life doesn’t always go as planned, and it’s crucial to be ready to tackle what it throws at you.” – Jason Hanson

#7. Bushcraft 101

Author: Dave Canterbury

Credentials: Former US Army Sergeant
Survival books you must read

We can all need a little bushcraft in our lives.

The main way that Dave’s book differs from the other books on this list is due to its focus on the skills necessary to thrive in the woods – not just the skills essential to surviving a chaos.

The book is based on Canterbury’s Five Cs of Survivability – cutting tools, covering elements, combustion devices, containers, and cordages.

There is also detailed information about choosing kits, making tools and supplies, collecting and cooking food and sheltering yourself from the elements.

Dave Canterbury surely knows his stuff and has tips that make great sense. His instructions on chopping wood are a case in point. He says if you don’t want to whack yourself in the foot with your ax when you split wood, split wood while you kneel.

“Sharpen your knife once and hone it forever.” – Dave Canterbury


Friends, these books are a great choice for a survival library.

If it were a book list of some other genre, I would have refrained from making such a statement, but this list covers the best of the lot that survival genre has to offer.

If you wish to learn something about survival, look no beyond this list.

People sometimes criticize this genre for its gloom and doom approach, but there is no other way to stir people up, is there?

Let me know if you think there is a book out there that deserves to be on this list. Do share your thoughts in the comment box below.

Survival books you must read

Final word? Adjust your own oxygen mask before helping others.

©BookJelly. All rights reserved


  1. That’s a great list. I have read When technology fails, think it is worth it.

    I am surprised you did not include Bear Grylles book on that list.

    1. Thanks for dropping by, Ritika. Since I had to have only 7 books on the list, I had to leave a few out. Which one of all his books are you talking about?

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