The 31 Best Survival Books To Read

Survival books
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What are some of the best survival books?

That is a question that comes a lot.

After all..

Not everyone's a Navy Seal or an Eagle Scout, right?

So for those who haven't received hands-on training in survival skills, studying  quality survival books is your next best option.

Whether you have a full library of survival books, or you are looking to buy your first survival guide.

They’re one of the best survival resources because they teach vast amounts of knowledge.

First, you read, then you understand, then you apply, and finally, you master.

We’ve compiled our list of the Top 31 Survival Books to help you find one that fits your needs.

TOP 31 Best Survival Books

1. Bushcraft 101

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Bushcraft 101 is A Field Guide to the Art of Wilderness Survival, written by Dave Canterbury. Dave is the co-owner and supervising instructor at the Pathfinder School (1), which was named one of the Top 12 Survival Schools in the United States by USA Today.

This book covers building your survival kit, manufacturing tools and supplies on the go, scavenging food, cooking, and protecting yourself from the elements. Coined “The Ultimate Resources for experiencing the backcountry,” it is based on the 5 Cs of Survivability: cutting tools, covering, combustion devices, containers, and cordages.

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2. How to Stay Alive in the Woods

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This Bradford Angier book is an absolute classic, and the small paperback can be easily tucked into your gear and taken along for the trip.

The content is fairly solid, though the drawings leave you a little short on the details of certain skills like setting traps and fire building.

Although the language is somewhat dated now (it was written in 1956), the book has one great thing going for it: The information is evergreen.

That is, the skills presented have anyways worked and always will work. If you are lucky, this little book might be all you ever need.

3. Outdoor Survival Skills

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This is a solid little wilderness survival book that shows us that less is sometimes more.

The book teaches Native American-inspired skill sets to acquire shelter, water, food, fire, tools, and much more.

With this book you can effectively learn how to make string, archery tackle, and even functional friction fire equipment. 

4. The Survival Handbook

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The Survival Handbook, by Colin Towell, is exactly what you would expect from the looks of it.

This big book is a thorough study in all things survival.

From different scenarios to different climates, the book covers the global skills you would need to survive in a wide variety of conditions and regions.

The contemporary writing and illustrations make this book attractive to younger readers, but the skills are the same as the those you would find in a more venerable book. If you can afford only one survival manual, this might be the one for you.

5. 98.6 Degrees

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Cody Lundin's first book, 98.6 Degrees, may be the ultimate "survival kit" book.

It explains the physiological needs for certain things, and then explains the gear required to provide for these needs.

With humorous text from Lundin and quirky drawings from professional cartoonist Russ Miller, the book is loaded with legitimate backcountry expertise presented in a memorable way.

This book may not be everybody's cup of tea, but it's one of the most highly rated survival books to come out in recent years.

If you like survivalist/naturalist Cody Lundin on the "Dual Survival" television show, then you'll probably enjoy the skills and techniques taught in his book.

6. When All Hell Breaks Loose

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Another great read from Cody Lundin is his 2009 disaster survival guide, When All Hell Breaks Loose.

For those that liked 98.6 Degrees, you'll love this large book filled with disaster preps and emergency skills.

With topics ranging from bugging out, to building an emergency outdoor kitchen, to dealing with a dead body, there is a wealth of information covered in this very detailed book.

This is not just a disaster survival or urban survival book; there are lessons in here for almost any type of emergency. This is one of my favorite books.

7. SAS Survival Guide

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This book by John and Geri McPherson is subtitled "Primitive Wilderness Living & Survival Skills."

It is similar to Larry Dean Olsen's book, and although it doesn't cover as many skills, it does delve more deeply into the skills covered.

Learn how to brain-tan deerskins, make sharp stone blades, build bow drill equipment, and many other trades of the outdoorsman.

This book is ideal for those who need a hands-on approach to primitive living skills.

8. Tom Brown's Field Guide to Wilderness Survival

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This back-to-basics book shows you how to take care of shelter, water, fire, food, tools, and supplies, along with instructions on identifying wild edible plants, tanning hides, improving your archery skills and much more.

This book, along with the author's score of other books, have created an East Coast survival skills phenomenon.

9. The Outward Bound Wilderness First-Aid Handbook

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This handbook by Jeffrey Isaac, PA-C, is a very detailed medical book, full of technical info written in easily understood language.

This book caters to the outdoorsy crowd and covers many scenarios that you would commonly face while in the wilderness.

Muscular and skeletal injuries, toxins, cold injuries, dental problems, and many other ailments and injuries are explained and a variety of treatments are offered. If this book doesn't keep you in one piece on the way to the doctor, nothing will.

10. Mountaineering First Aid

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Mountaineering First Aid by Jan Carline, Martha Lentz, and Steven Macdonald is a pocket-sized book on accident response and first aid care, which would fit nicely in a wilderness medical kit.

This book has a number of good checklists, and provides instruction on dealing with many typical outdoor injuries. I keep this book in my largest medical bag as a reference guide for symptoms and signs of trouble.

11. Build The Perfect Bug Out Bag

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The title pretty much says it all.

Survival instructor/recently turned author, Creek Stewart, has written a play-by-play book to guide us through the art of building an evacuation kit that would be our life line if we ever had to "bug out."

This book helps us determine the gear we would need to assemble a 72-hour kit on virtually any budget.

Loaded with options, each chapter helps us assess our needs and find a way to meet them. ​

umerous checklists and photos make the book easy to read, understand, and use.

12. Be Ready When The Sh*t Goes Down

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For millennia, man has struggled to control the beast within himself. UFC fighter and author Forrest Griffin, however, has ridden that beast into uncharted waters, possibly drowning the poor thing. ​

This book is mostly a dirty joke book--at least that's how I read it--but it has two useful points for real survival skills enthusiasts.

Point one is that Forrest isn't in the same rut that we may be trapped in.

I find the book thought provoking, like the chapter on digging up your wife's flower garden in order to build a bunker with a separate jail inside to lock up annoying family members.

And the chapter on building a Vehicle of Destruction (with an onboard brewery) is inspired.

It may be inspired by a lunatic, but I stand by my opinion. Which brings me to the second point I take from this book: Don't take everything so seriously. It's easy to get all gloom-and-doom with urban survival and disaster prep, so this book could possibly be your foul-mouthed palate cleanser.

Warning: This book is absolutely NOT for young people.

13. Survive!: Essential Skills and Tactics to Get You Out of Anywhere

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Les Stroud is an amazing survivalist, and this is unquestionably one of the best survival books on the market today.

He(Les) is so passionate about this topic that he created and produced his own television series “Survivorman”.

Les also took some time to write this great guide on his favorite topic.

What’s different about this book is that it hits on survival skills for every climate and locale. There’s also a heavy emphasis on adapting your own, personal set of skills – taking from broad, general survival theory and making something that fits your style.

Les is a very entertaining man and I think you’ll be pleased with this book from cover to cover.

14. Wildwood Wisdom

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Wildwood Wisdom is a classic.

Published in 1992, you may consider this to be outdated but I encourage you discover this book as more of a historical textbook.

This book was originally written in 1945 and is based on life in the 1800’s.

You won’t find any state of the art techniques, zombie apocalypse references or ways to make a parachute from a drinking straw and paper clip like MacGyver.  

Instead, Wildwood Wisdom is packed full of old-world, traditional survival skills and techniques.

Humans have been surviving for thousands of years and I would say if anything, the classic theories have been proven effective and will always be the basis for modern concepts.

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15. US Army Survival Manual

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There are not a lot of organizations out there that know more about the art of survival than the US Army.

They know how to survive in any climate, on any geographical terrain, under any circumstance.

The information in the US Army Survival Manual has been field-tested and battlefield-proven to an efficient and effective level.

It ‘s the perfect guide for your wilderness survival needs.

16. Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills

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This is one of personal favorite outdoor survival guide out there, but it’s particular.

It’s for those of us who enjoy the challenges of mountaineering.

It doesn’t cover things like “how to build a fire with wet firewood“. You won’t learn “how to skin, clean, and cook a dead snake“.

While it doesn’t have any fancy survival tricks SkilledSurvival.com is known for, Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills is JAM-PACKED with important alpine survival info.

If you are at all interested in rock climbing, ice climbing or backcountry medicine, this book is for you.​ Get it.

17. Field Guide to North American Edible Wild Plants

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They got super creative with the title on this one, right? Where the authors lacked imagination, they made up for it with plenty of foraging knowledge.

The Field Guide to North American Edible Wild Plants covers over 200 edible wild plants and contains 400 bright color photos. Making it easy to identify specific plants in their images and descriptions.

Anyone interested in determining, collecting, and eating wild plants ​needs a copy

Eating wild plants can be a dangerous business. One should be 100% certain of what they are eating before they eat it.

Lest they risk ending up like Chris McCandless from Into the Wild. Who died of severe food poisoning all alone in the woods. Which would suck, right?

Eating wild edible plants can prolong your survival, or they can end it.Get this book BEFORE you consume any wild edibles

18. How To Eat In The Woods

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Practicality meets reliability in this comprehensive wilderness survival guide.

  • Need tips on foraging? How To Survive In The Woods shows you how
  • Need fishing lessons? This book can help
  • Never trapped animals before? You will learn the key concepts

How To Eat In The Woods is a book all about maintaining your sustenance without grocery stores, pantries, and restaurants.

Good for both survival and preparedness.

19. The SAS Survival Guide

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The SAS Survival Guide details How to Survive in the Wild, on Land or Sea, and is written by John ‘Lofty’ Wiseman.

Wiseman served 26 years with and was Chief Survival Instructor for the Special Air Service (SAS). He is widely considered the foremost authority on SAS training techniques for civilians.

This book details survival techniques for every climate imaginable, including a newly added section for handing urban dangers. It covers preparation, navigation, food and health, urban safety and security, and disaster survival.

20. Primitive Skills and Crafts

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Primitive Skills and Crafts is An Outdoorsman’s Guide to Shelters, Tools, Weapons, Tracking, Survival, and More. Richard and Linda Jamison compiled the information in the book. It contains insights from archaeologists, anthropologists, primitive practitioners, craftsmen, and artisans.

It’s a great read for mastering survival skills or simply being more prepared for family-friendly outdoor adventures.

The contributing experts discuss topics including, fire making, camp cooking, basket weaving, pottery making, animal tracking, and much more.

21. The Survival Medicine Handbook

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The Survival Medicine Handbook is THE Essential Guide for when Medical Help is NOT on the way.

The author is Joseph Alton, M.D., who practiced as a board-certified Obstetrician and Pelvic Surgeon for more than 25 years.

When he retired, Alton dedicated himself to the mission of “put[ting] a medical prepared person in every family for any disaster.”

His book is an incredibly detailed, 670-page guide for anyone that wants to stay prepared for medical situations when immediate help isn’t available.

It covers principles of medical preparedness, spirituality and survival, modern medicine vs. survival medicine, how to sterilize medical supplies, and much more.

22. Prepper’s Long-Term Survival Guide

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Prepper’s Long-Term Survival Guide includes information on Food, Shelter, Security, Off-the-Grid Power, and More Life-Saving Strategies for Self-Sufficient Living.

Jim Cobb is the author of this fantastic resource. Jim has worked for nearly 20 years in the security management and investigation fields and is the owner and lead trainer of the Disaster Prep Consultants.

This guide isn’t designed just to prepare you for a hurricane, earthquake, or other short-term disasters.

Jim gives you the information you need to know about a global pandemic, failure of the power grid, or other long-term crisis.

It includes tips for practical water and food collection and storage, first aid and medical treatments, techniques for fortifying and defending your home, and more.

23. 100 Deadly Skills

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The Survival Edition of 100 Deadly Skills is The SEAL Operative’s Guide to Surviving in the Wild and Being Prepare for Any Disaster.

Clint Emerson is the author of this New York Times Bestseller. Clint served in the Navy for 20 years, including stints with SEAL Team Three and SEAL Team Six. He now runs a crisis management consulting company called Escape the Wolf.

This survival guide was inspired by the real-life field experiences of Special Forces operations and adapted for civilians.

It covers the basics of securing shelter, building fire, and finding food, but also details tested techniques for surviving a hostage situation, an active shooter, a suicide bomber, or even a terrorist threat on the subway.

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Deep Survivais a psychological investigation of Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why.

Laurence Gonzales is the author of this riveting resource that intertwines real-life survival stories with science-based analyses of why certain people survive in certain situations, and why!

For more than a decade since its original publication, this book has helped save lives from the deepest wildernesses, as well as lending to the improvement of readers’ everyday lives.

It contains advice from business leaders, military officers, educators, and psychiatric professionals on taking control of stress, assessing risk, and improving decision-making under pressure.

25. Hawke’s Green Beret Survival Manual

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Hawke’s Green Beret Survival Manual contains Essential Strategies for Shelter and Water, Food and Fire, Tools and Medicine, Navigation and Signaling, Survival Psychology, and Getting Out Alive!

Mykel Hawke is the author and is a Green Beret combat veteran, Retired Captain in the U.S. Army Special Forces, and Director of Spec Ops Inc, an international outdoor-survival training company.

His book is a home reference designed to be useful for seasoned outdoorsmen and average citizens alike. It features illustrated instruction and Hawke’s engaging, matter-of-fact writing style, which is buoyed by his incredible resume in the survival arena.

26. Advanced Bushcraft 

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Advanced Bushcraft is An Expert Field Guide to the Art of Wilderness Survival. Author Dave Canterbury provides a more in-depth follow-up to Bushcraft 101.

It goes beyond the basics to teach readers how to survive in the backcountry with little to no equipment.

This book is designed to teach you how to immerse yourself in the wilderness with advanced bushcraft and woodcraft techniques.

 It includes more advanced information about tracking, plant medicine, and navigating without the use of a map or compass.

27. Hatchet

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This one’s a classic.

Hatchet was one of my favorite books growing up. Gary Paulson, the author, taught me more about the vast wild and the human will to survive than I could ever explain.

A young man traveling in a small plane crashes in the Canadian wilderness.

Where he’s forced to live out a season besides the lake, which swallowed his plane and pilot. He has to hunt, trap, fish, make fire, and seek help all with only a single tool: his hatchet.

A hatchet that saves his life and allows him to survive time and time again throughout the story. If you want a great read that you will learn a lot from, look no further!

28. The Life of Pi

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This book goes beyond combining survival information with a great story.

It’s also a spiritual survival journey.

The Life of Pi has recently been adapted for the big screen. It chronicles the adventures of a boy, who becomes stranded on a life raft at sea with a tiger, zebra, and monkey.

The story is every bit as strange as it sounds. And it’s every bit as full of useful survival intelligence as it’s weird adventures.

29. Lord of the Flies

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A horrifying study of the human survival spirit. This book is about a group of young boys who become stranded on an island by a plane crash, without a single adult.

They’re forced to:

  • Organize themselves
  • Create rules
  • Delegate responsibility
  • And strive for social power

The boys must learn to hunt boars, start and maintain fire and live with one another.

Lord of the Flies is a harrowing illustration of the savage that lives in all of us.

30. Into Thin Air

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In 1997 a team of mountain climbers got caught in a horrible storm while descending Mt. Everest.

This story is a personal account from one of the only survivors.

The destructive storm took five lives and put the climbers through physical and emotional hell.

Into Thin Air is a story full of conflict, struggle, personal turmoil, and above all else, survival.

31. The Stand

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A military super-virus escapes a lab in California. It’s contagious and infects the entire world, killing off 99% of human beings on Earth.

The remaining 1% is forced into a world littered with dead bodies.

Where lawlessness reigns and wickedness flourishes.

The survivors form into two encampments that both strive to rebuild what was lost.

One is good, and the other is evil.

The Stand is one of Stephen King’s finest works. He illustrates masterfully how mankind might fall into chaos and rise from the ashes.

FAQ Survival Books

On average, the National Park Services in the United States responds to 11.2 incidents daily. 

Each operation costs around $895. We hope that these survival books can bring both of these numbers down, and this section will feature some of the most frequently asked questions about survival.

What is the most critical part of wilderness survival?

Most experts will tell you that the first ten minutes of being lost is when most search fatalities make their deadly mistake. Staying calm and using your head (not your feet) very well may be the most critical aspect of survival.

What is Bushcraft?

The dictionary defines bushcraft as “skill at living in the bush.” In greater depth, bushcraft is the art of using the resources provided by our natural environment to survive and thrive in the great outdoors (8).

What is a bug out bag?

A bug out bag is an emergency evacuation kit that contains everything you’ll need to help your family go from a dangerous area to a safe area without a lack of supplies or equipment.

They contain essential survival gear and are used widely by first responders, military personnel, and medical professionals. 

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What are the 5 keys to wilderness survival?

The five common keys most people talk about are:

  1. know how to build a shelter, 
  2. know how to signal for help, 
  3. know what to eat and how to find it,
  4. know how to build and maintain a fire, and 
  5. know how to find water and prepare safe water to drink.

What are some common mistakes people make in the wilderness?

Common mistakes that reduce your odds of survival include no shelter, a lack of navigation tools, poor knowledge, miscalculating risk, incorrect clothing, an inability to obtain drinkable water, no signal plan, and the lack of ability to make fire.

What is the best way to orient your position in the wilderness?

While it can be tempting to use a prominent peak or another feature of land marked on a map to orient yourself, many experts suggest using a baseline, such as a road or a river.

This is because it’s easier to hit a long target (like a power line or stream) than it is to hit a tall one (think hilltop) or a small one (like a pond).

When you’re heading out on a hunt or hike, note which direction you need to travel to hit your baseline.

That way, if you become confused and disoriented later on you can take a bearing and walk a straight line in that direction until you find your baseline.

What is your first step when you realize you’re lost?

Your first step immediately after you realize you’re lost is to mark your position and find your way back to the last familiar place. Survival experts refer to this as the “home base” method of navigation.

What is the warmest place to camp once the sun goes down?

Generally, the warmest place to make camp if you’re lost and the sun is going down shortly is a forested north slope.

South-facing slopes, whether they’re wooded or open, are more subject to extreme temperature shifts. North-facing slopes, although they may be colder during the day, will say warmer during the nights.

Conclusion on Survival Books

Books are not the first thing people think of when they start planning for a survival. Instinct drives you to grab weapons, food, water purification, and shelter gear first.

But I urge you to invest in a few key survival books.

Honestly, any book in a survival situation is a good book, even if it is a fairy tale, that has nothing to do with reality.

Because entertainment and distraction can be every bit as important in a SHTF scenario as food and water.

But survival books are good for the mind and they are good for the soul.

And maintaining a sharp and focused mind is imperative. 

What survival books or survival novels are your favorites? Which ones did I miss? Let me know in the comments below.

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