Having a good survival book on hand is almost as important as having the right gear. Owning your own book allows you to refer to it time and time again, and helps ensure you have the information you need should an emergency arise.
There’s a lot of survival books out there, and almost every one of them claims to have all the answers. To save you the hassle of sifting through all these options yourself, we’ve compiled list of books that are actually worth your time. We’ve also included some of the best survival stories—both fiction and non-fiction—because you can learn a lot from other people’s stories. (And for the survival enthusiast, it’s a fun read anyways!)
We have a ton of books listed, so to make it easier we broke them down by category:
The Top Non-Fiction Survival Books
Having a good base of survival knowledge is important — you never know when you might need a particular skill. For time-sensitive emergencies, having even a basic understanding of how to address a wound or fight off an attacker could be the difference between life and death. In these books, you’ll learn these type of skills and more, so you’re prepared when the time comes.
Wilderness Survival Books
Bushcraft 101: A Field Guide to the Art of Wilderness Survival
Author: Dave Canterbury
Category: Bushcraft, Wilderness, Outdoor Survival Skills
Publisher: Adams Media
This is an excellent book for beginner outdoorsman because of its clear explanations and use of diagrams. Written by survivalist expert Dave Canterbury, Bushcraft 101 focuses on using minimal gear and instead taking advantage of what’s already available in nature. He bases his advice around the 5C’s of Survivability, cutting tools, covering, combustion devices, containers, and cordages. Canterbury’s teaching isn’t just about surviving; it’s about learning to thrive in the wilderness.
Mountaineering First Aid
Author: Jan Carline, Marth Lentz, and Steven Macdonald
Category: Wilderness, First-aid, Outdoor Survival Skills
Publisher: Mountaineers Books
Mountaineering First Aid is chock-full of information on accident response and first aid care. Plus, it’s pocket-sized, meaning you can easily fit it in your first aid kit and bring it with you. If you ever find yourself needing to deal with an injury, the checklists and instructions on correctly handling common outdoor injuries it contains could easily save your life.
Hawke’s Green Beret Survival Manual
Author: Mykel Hawke
Category: Outdoor Survival Techniques
Publisher: Running Press
In this illustrated guide, Former U.S. Army Special Forces officer Mykel Hawke provides guidance on basic skills everybody needs to survive in the wilderness. He covers subjects like finding shelter, creating fire, navigation skills, first aid, and crafting tools. He also delves into the psychology of survival, teaching you how to prepare both mentally and physically.
98.6 Degrees: The Art Of Keeping Your Ass Alive
Author: Cody Lundin
Category: Wilderness Techniques
Publisher: Gibbs Smith
Most survival books focus on subjects like food, first aid, and navigation. In this book, author Cody Lundin takes a different approach and teaches the importance of maintaining the body’s core temperature. While often overlooked, this is the most crucial aspect of survival. Humans can live without water for three days and without food for a few weeks, but allowing the body’s temperature to slip too far above or below 98.6 degrees could be fatal within hours. In 98.6 Degrees, you’ll learn the art of keeping a safe core temperature in everywhere from the desert to the middle of a blizzard.
Urban Survival Books
The Ultimate Situational Survival Guide: Self-Reliance Strategies for a Dangerous World
Author: Robert Richardson
Category: Real-world Survival, Preparedness, Urban & Wilderness, Self-defense, Emergency Communications
Publisher: Living Ready
If you love this site, you’ll love this book! In The Ultimate Situational Survival Guide, survival expert Robert Richardson, founder of offgridsurvival.com, gives you real-world advice on how to survive the very real dangers present in today’s society. From surviving natural disasters, man-made disasters and disease outbreaks, to essential tactics and step-by-step instructions for surviving urban disasters, crime, violence, and terrorist attacks, readers will learn the self-reliance strategies they need to survive in just about any situation.
SAS Survival Guide
Author: John Wiseman
Category: Urban & Wilderness
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Written by ex-Special Air Service survival expert John ‘Lofty’ Wiseman, the SAS Survival Guide covers both wilderness and urban survival: from basic skills like first aid and finding shelter to more advanced skills like navigation and surviving in different climates. The newer third edition even includes instruction on modern-day survival scenarios, such as what to do during a terrorist attack.
When Technology Fails
Author: Matthew Stein
Category: Sustainable living skills
Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing;
Our modern world is almost entirely dependent on technology, but what happens when it all fails? No electricity to power our homes or allow us to communicate on smart devices would lead to panic and societal breakdown, shortly followed by economic collapse and pandemics. This book explains how to stay safe during such a situation, teaching you self-reliance skills like sterilizing water, finding food, making clothing, and administering first aid.
Just in Case: How to Be Self-Sufficient When the Unexpected Happens
Author: Kathy Harrison
Category: Emergency self-sufficiency
Publisher: Storey Publishing
Some of the worst disasters are the common ones we have the potential to encounter every day, like power outages or fires. In her book, Kathy Harrison outlines the process of developing self-sufficiency in everyday life. If you’re looking for an introduction to household preparedness, this is the book. Not only does it go in depth on common disasters, but it also touches on the rare, things like pandemics and terrorism.
When All Hell Breaks Loose: Stuff You Need to Survive When Disaster Strikes
Author: Cody Lundin
Category: Urban Preparedness
Publisher: Gibbs Smith
Even the most basic things change in emergencies. Every family should know how to prepare for a disaster and what to do when it strikes, in this book Cody Lundin teaches readers just that. Lundin argues that surviving in an emergency is 90 percent psychology, and only 10 percent methodology, and devotes much of this book to methods of dealing with stress and anxiety that comes with emergency situations. When All Hell Breaks Loose is an entertaining read that will give you a lot to think about and make you consider aspects of a disaster you might not think of otherwise, like water purification, food storage, cooking, and sanitation.
How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It: Tactics, Techniques, and Technologies for Uncertain Times
Author: James Rawles
Category: Preparing for the apocalypse
We never expect anything to disrupt our lives, but the unfortunate truth is that it only takes one event to change everything we’ve grown accustomed to. From a global financial collapse to an infrastructure failure or even a disruptive election, there is a myriad of potential problems that we can’t prevent or predict. In How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It, James Rawles, founder of SurvivalBlog.com, outlines a plan to become self-reliant in the face of disaster. His techniques include how to protect your money, what to put in your garden, how to secure your home, and how much food is enough. Readers who understand these tips will be well equipped to survive completely independent of the government in even the worst of scenarios.
Street Survival: Tactics For Armed Encounters
Author: Ronald J. Adams
Category: Defense techniques
Publisher: Calibre Press
Most of the literature around combat shooting actually deals with what works on paper targets. This goal of this book is different; it seeks to provide tactics that really work on the street. After analyzing over 400 officer-involved shooting reports, Ronald J. Adams shares his insight on surviving real-life situations involving armed threats. The techniques Adams emphasizes aren’t just what experts think may work, they’ve actually been tested in real situations and proven to be effective.
When Violence Is the Answer: Learning How to Do What It Takes When Your Life Is at Stake
Author: Tim Larkin
Category: Martial Arts
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Society has conditioned us to believe that violence is never acceptable. Unfortunately, this lie could put your life at risk. While violence is rarely the answer, it can be the only solution when the aggressor isn’t bound by social norms. In this book, former military intelligence officer Tim Larkin breaks down these misconceptions, diving into the psychological, emotional, and social patterns that leave us vulnerable in dangerous situations. He also covers tactics to use when confronted with this kind of destructive violence, arming the readers with the knowledge to survive a real life-or-death scenario.
Facing Violence: Preparing for the Unexpected
Author: Rory Miller
Category: Use of Force, Defensive Tactics, Confrontational Simulations
Publisher: YMAA Publication Center
This book takes a very straightforward approach to the subject of self-defense. The goal is to prepare the reader for every aspect of a violent encounter including, avoidance, what to do in the moment, and how to deal with the aftermath and possible legal issues.
Cheap Shots, Ambushes, and Other Lessons: A Down and Dirty Book on Streetfighting & Survival
Author: Marc MacYoung
Category: Urban Defensive Tactics
Publisher: Carry On Publishing
Ex-streetfighter Marc MacYoung gets into the nitty-gritty details of fighting and shares his personal experiences. In this book, you’ll learn how to recognize a mugging, how to avoid getting punched, and how to protect yourself when dealing with bullies. Macyoung’s humorous and organized writing makes it an enjoyable as well as informational read.
The Top Survival Fiction Books
The best survival stories are both enjoyable and educational. They feature relatable characters that make you think about what you would do in their situation. Fictional stories, even those that seem a bit more far-fetched, can help you consider possible scenarios and might even provide some extra motivation to get yourself prepared. The books on this list possess these qualities, so if you’re a fan of survival stories, check one of them out!
Apocalyptics Dystopian Books
One Second After
Author: William R. Forstchen
Category: Apocalyptic thriller, Reality Fiction
Publisher: Forge Books
America lost the war, and it only took one minute. In the aftermath of an Electro Magnetic Pulse (EMP) attack, one North Carolina man struggles to keep his family and his small town alive. This book reflects just how fragile our modern lives really are, making it one of the most popular prepper fiction books.
Author: Cormac McCarthy
Category: Prepper Fiction, Postapocalyptic
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf
After the breakdown of society, a father and son struggle to survive in a post-apocalyptic world. They have nothing but the clothes on their back, a cart of food, and pistol to defend themselves as they walk south, hoping to escape the worst of winter. In this dark tale of an America stripped of its civility and nature, we catch a glimpse of a terrifying world where the only goal is survival, and every man must fend for himself.
Author: James Wesley Rawles
Category: Prepper Fiction, Socioeconomic collapse
Publisher: Ulysses Press
America is no more. After a stock market collapse and hyperinflation lead to a socioeconomic collapse, society is in chaos. When looting and rioting begin to plague every city, a group of Midwestern friends realizes they need to escape. On their journey to a safe-haven ranch in northern Idaho, the group must use their survival skills to stay alive in a world without communication, transportation, and law enforcement.
Author: Stephen King
In less than a week, the world is stripped of government and without 99 percent of its people. After most of humanity succumbs to a bio-engineered virus accidentally released from a U.S. government lab, the few who remain divide themselves into two factions and turn on each other. This post-apocalyptic battle between good and evil that ensues reveals the worst of human nature.
Author: David Crawford
Publisher: Halffast Publishing
Mark Turner is at work when suddenly, the telephones stop working, cars won’t start, and the power won’t turn on. Mark and his family must struggle to survive without modern conveniences, and grapple with a future without them.
Z for Zachariah
Author: Robert C. O’Brien
Category: Nuclear war
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
It’s been a year since the nuclear war took everybody and everything she loved. Sixteen-year-old Ann Burden lives alone in a remote valley, with reason to believe she is the last surviving human—that is until she spots smoke in the distance. Every day, the smoke moves closer. Ann is both hopeful and terrified as she comes to terms with what this means. There could be another person alive, but can they be trusted?
Wilderness Survival – Fiction
Author: Gary Paulsen
Category: Wilderness, Young Adult & Teens
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
This young adult classic is an easy and enjoyable read. In the story, thirteen-year-old Brian crashes in the Canadian wilderness. He must learn to survive on his own with only his windbreaker and a hatchet. This book is sure to be loved by all ages and is a great choice to read with kids.
Author: Diane Les Becquets
Category: Wilderness Survival
Amy Raye has always been compelled by nature; the quiet serenity just seems to draw her in. On the last weekend of elk hunt season, she ventures out into a remote area for a bow hunting adventure. When she doesn’t return, rescue ranger Pru Hathaway sets out to find her. As both adventurous women survive in the wild, Pru becomes obsessed with searching for the woman whose past is as mysterious as her disappearance.
My Side of the Mountain
Author: Jean Craighead George
Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers
Despite being a children’s book, this novel will be enjoyable for all ages. It’s short, at under 200 pages, and tells the tale of Sam Gribley, a boy who runs away from home to live in the wilderness. He succeeds, sets up a house in a hollowed-out tree, and learns to live off the land. Sam’s appreciation of the simple things in nature will be relatable to any outdoorsman and may give you the urge to escape into the wilderness yourself.
Lord of the Flies
Author: William Golding
Publisher: Penguin Drop Caps
After their plane crashes into the sea, a group of schoolboys band to together after becoming marooned on an uncharted island. With no adult supervision, the boys first relish the freedom and novelty of surviving on their own. But after their attempts at forming a society fall apart, the boys split into factions, initiating a disturbing battle that reflects the worst of human nature.
Survival Biographies – True Stories of Survival
It’s incredible to think about what humans have been able to accomplish. Real people, just like you and me, have persevered through extreme conditions with nothing but their determination and grit. Reading true survival stories is inspiring, and sometimes even unbelievable. The people on this list all pushed themselves to the limit, and we could all learn a thing or two from their experiences.
Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage
Author: Alfred Lansing
Category: Survival at Sea, True Stories, Polar Expeditions
Publisher: Basic Books
It was the summer of 1914 when the Endurance set sail for the South Atlantic. The following year, it was trapped and crushed in the ice, leaving Sir Ernest Shackleton and his crew as castaways in one of the most inhospitable regions of the world. Over the course of five months, the men traveled 1000 miles through glaciers and mountains, making Shackleton’s voyage one of the most dangerous and astonishing in human history. Author Alfred Lansing recounts this astonishing tale, honoring the men who braved the unthinkable and survived.
Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption
Author: Laura Hillenbrand
Category: War, Survival at Sea, P.O.W.
Publisher: Basic Books Laura Hillenbrand
In May of 1943, Olympic runner turned Army Air Force bomber Louis Zamperini crashes into the Pacific Ocean, alone, and thousands of miles from land. For weeks, he deals with sharks and severe starvation, and escapes only to face a new disaster, internment in a Japanese POW camp. Unbroken not only tells one of the most extraordinary stories of World War II but also one of the most incredible survival stories.
Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Author: Aron Ralston
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Aron Ralston was a mechanical engineer who gave up his career and moved to Colorado in pursuit of solo outdoor adventuring. In April 2003, he took a trip to Blue John Canyon in Utah’s Canyonlands National Park—without telling anybody where he was going. Not too far into his canyon climb, a boulder came loose, crushing Ralston’s right arm between it and the canyon wall. For 127 hours, Ralston was trapped and alone, struggling to survive with limited food and water. Eventually, he came to the difficult decision to amputate his right arm and save himself. Readers who enjoy adventure and survival stories will love Between a Rock and a Hard Place, Ralson’s personal account of his experience.
Adrift: Seventy-Six Days Lost at Sea
Author: Steven Callahan
Category: Biographies, Survival at Sea
Publisher: Dey Street Books
Steven Callahan is sleeping when his hand-built sailboat is struck by an unknown object, possibly a whale, just six days after setting sail. The boat begins taking in water, forcing him to abandon ship. Adrift: Seventy-Six Days Lost at Sea is Callahan’s firsthand account of this experience, and the following month he spent fighting for his life on an inflatable raft and surviving alone at sea.
Lost in the Jungle
Author: Yossi Ghinsberg
Category: Jungle Survival
Four backpackers, and total strangers, embark on their dream adventure in the forest. The dream quickly turns into a nightmare as they struggle to survive under the frightening conditions in the jungle. This true story is written by Yossi Ghinsberg, one of the four to take part in the journey.
Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13
Author: Jim Lovell and Jeffery Kluger
Category: Space Survival
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Apollo 13 was America’s fifth mission to the moon. In April of 1970, NASA sent Commander Jim Lovell and two other astronauts into space. Fifty-five hours after takeoff, an explosion nearly ends their life, oxygen begins to drain, and instruments slowly start dying out. Thrust into a situation unlike anything another human had experienced before, the crew spends four days barely sleeping and using everything they have to survive one of the worst disasters in space exploration history.
The Bielski Brothers: The True Story of Three Men Who Defied the Nazis, Built a Village in the Forest, and Saved 1,200 Jews
Author: Peter Duffy
The Bielski brothers exhibit the heights of human courage. After witnessing their parents and other siblings being taken by the Nazis, they didn’t succumb to despair. Instead, they set up base in the forests and waged war on the Nazis. Over the course of a few years, they convinced other Jews to join them, building a community and eventually saving over a thousand lives.
Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10
Author: Marcus Luttrell
Category: Afgan War, SEAL Missions
Publisher: Thorndike Press
Lone Survivor tells the story of Marcus Luttrell and his Navy SEAL teammates, who fought by his side to the end. The mission was to capture or kill an al Qaeda leader located in a mountainous Taliban stronghold. After a terribly intense battle, only Luttrell remained, and though severely injured, he continued to fight off al Qaeda assassins. This story reveals harsh truths about terrorism and shows the lengths those in the military go to serve our country.