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13 Best Survival Books to Get You Through Hell and Back

In search of the best survival books to enhance your skills for when SHTF? Stay on this page, as we’re reviewing 13 guides on prepping, outdoors, bushcraft, and more.

13 Best Survival Books

Everyday life can present challenging situations or emergencies that will need you to have at least some basic survival skills. In fact, if you’re an enthusiastic weekend warrior who loves adventure and excursions in the wild, you’d agree that self-preservation books are an invaluable companion. 

Whether it’s facing natural disasters such as tornados or landslides, to a vast wilderness, wildlife, the seas, or other unchartered terrains, the best survival books offer necessary knowledge on how to avoid injury or death.

Not only will you receive hands-on survival tips from experts in endurance, but you can also get exposed to high-level tips and tactics that valiant men in the military use. You’ll receive practical instructions on how to use common survival tools, navigate through unexplored territories, innovative ideas for basic survival in the wild, and so forth.

We’ve curated this list to enrich your survival kit with quality self-preservation books that could save a life (namely yours). Remember, great gear without the skills to deploy it may still leave you squarely in harm’s way.

Jump to our reviews of the 13 best survival books:

  1. SAS Survival Guide | John “Lofty” Wiseman
  2. The Ultimate Survival Manual | Rich Johnson
  3. How to Stay Alive in the Woods | Bradford Angier
  4. Special Forces Survival Guide | Chris McNab
  5. The Survival Handbook | Colin Towell
  6. 98.6 Degrees: The Art of Keeping Your Ass Alive | Cody Lundin
  7. Your Survival | Dr. Bob Arnot & Mark Cohen
  8. Edible Wild Plants: Wild Foods from Dirt to Plate | John Kallas
  9. Peterson’s Field Guide to Edible Wild Plant | Lee Allen Peterson
  10. When Technology Fails | Matthew Stein
  11. When All Hell Breaks Loose | Cody Lundin
  12. Street Survival: Tactics for Armed Encounters | Ronald J Adams
  13. The Encyclopaedia of Country Living | Carla Emery

Types of Survival Books: Creating Your Survival Library

Quality survival books that are practical and well-thought-out are simply irreplaceable. 

Book titles that make it to our list of best survival books fall into a few main categories. Let’s assess this a little further before we delve into the specific survival books that will enrich your library tremendously.

Wilderness Survival Books

There is perhaps no quintessential survival situation than the wilderness. It’s no surprise that multiple texts have been written about how to survive in the wild. Timeless classics will prove invaluable to neophytes and old-timers alike as they outline potentially hazardous situations and explain the respective survival strategies.

Modern Survival Guides

Danger seems to lurk in just about every space in our modern-day congested urban places. You certainly require a practical handbook to prepare you for any eventuality in your home, office, or car. For instance, fires, automobile accidents, natural catastrophes, mugging, etc.

There’s a string of witty guides for surviving such emergency scenarios.

Bushcraft Books on Edible Plants

Foraging wild plants and herbs in an emergency situation can be a dangerous affair for most of us. Therefore, a collection of fine handbooks that cover this subject in satisfying detail are indispensable.

Books in this category will help you distinguish the poisonous from the nutritious, and the detailed descriptions accompanied by beautiful photos of greens in the wild can help you make the most of nutritious herbs scattered all around you in the wild. You’ll also be well-guided to avoid some cute-looking shrubs that could send you six feet under.

Gardening and Homesteading Books

Homesteading is its own type of survival. While you may not face immediate starvation or exposure to the elements, preparing your home for when SHTF is nevertheless an invaluable skillset.

You’ll learn subsistence farming, permaculture, preservation, livestock, water and power generation, plus many other skills needed to set up an off-grid home.

(#1-7) Best Survival Books for the Wilderness

1. SAS Survival Guide | John “Lofty” Wiseman

SAS Survival Guide - John “Lofty” Wiseman
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SAS Survival Guide is a bestseller and highly reliable manual written by a former Special Service survival master; an all-around resource for all manner of survival settings from outdoor camping to adventures in the wilderness.

Regardless of the terrain, climate, on land, or even at sea, the handbook offers trusted time-tested nuggets on how to survive. Whether you’re depending on traditional navigational tools or state-of-the-art GPS there’s something you can learn from the vast experience of John “Lofty” Wiseman.

Topics include inventing tools and weapons, first aid skills, hand-to-hand combat, and surviving extreme environments in every imaginable scenario. You also learn how to make camp, find food and prepare it, read the weather, keep warm, do first aid, and survive without supplies.

Recent revisions of the text have added topics that capture contemporary survival themes and tricks including urban survival and terrorism.

2. The Ultimate Survival Manual | Rich Johnson

The Ultimate Survival Manual - Rich Johnson
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Rich Johnson’s background is serving as a paratrooper and a demolition officer in the US Special Forces. This means he knows a thing or two about surviving disasters. In his classic The Ultimate Survival Manual, he outlines 333 fundamental skills that can help you pull through the extremes that nature or life could throw at you.

Whether you need to navigate through a foreign terrain when lost, or are faced with the insurmountable task of crossing a fast-moving river, you’ll get it all in here. This will be your go-to guide to face and survive vicious armed attacks, relentless assaults from the elements of nature such as tornadoes and floods, and attacks by ravenous beasts. Good thing,  it’s accompanied by photos and well-illustrated diagrams for better understanding.

3. How to Stay Alive in the Woods | Bradford Angier

How to Stay Alive in the Woods - Bradford Angier
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Any outdoor aficionado will find this an indispensable companion in the wild that can be quickly shuffled into your gear on the go. A classic written in 1956, How to Stay Alive in the Woods contains timeless survival tricks that will make it almost impossible for you to starve in the wilderness. Full-color photos of edible plants in the world are provided.

Even though the language used isn’t so contemporary, the content stays fresh, sound, and relevant. This small manual is easy to read and handy in more than one way.

The book comprises four segments: Sustenance, Warmth, Orientation, and Safety. You’ll know how to successfully hunt down the game without sophisticated weaponry, construct a simple shelter, and send distress signals when in need of rescue.

4. Special Forces Survival Guide | Chris McNab

Special Forces Survival Guide - Chris McNab
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This survival guide is a compilation of survival tips from some of the most elite military troops in the world. It holds time-tested survival tactics from Navy Seals, Green Berets, French Foreign Legion, Delta Force, and other best-trained military units on how to stay alive in the wilderness.

Special Forces Survival Guide covers a host of survival tips ranging from setting up a shelter in the wild, navigating the wild without a compass, devising weapons and tools, starting a fire, and how to send distress signals.

You’ll be glad you have these tried survival tips that can take you through some of the most unforgiving terrains and stay alive in the midst of critical life-and-death situations.

5. The Survival Handbook | Colin Towell

The Survival Handbook - Colin Towell
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Many swear that if you could have one survival handbook in your library, then The Survival Handbook should be it.

Written in a contemporary style, the comprehensive survival manual covers survival in different environments, seasons, and regions across the globe.

Novices in this field will particularly appreciate this manual as it covers the basics unassumingly. All survival is rooted in the basics and it’s those same skills you’ll need further on.

The manual is packed with valuable tips from making shelter, lighting a fire, a survival checklist, finding water and food in the wilderness, first aid, and navigating through the wilderness when lost till you’re located.

6. 98.6 Degrees: The Art of Keeping Your Ass Alive | Cody Lundin

98.6 Degrees_ The Art of Keeping Your Ass Alive - Cody Lundin
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Cody Lundin chooses an unconventional route to deliver his survival message. The director of Aboriginal Living Skills School in Arizona puts forward some controversial survival tips in 98.6 Degrees: The Art of Keeping Your Ass Alive.

His main argument is based on the commonsense concept that as long as you can keep your body’s temperature 98.6 degrees, you have a fighting chance. Cody explains that keeping your body’s core temperature at its optimum is more important than even food or water.

The author explores how you can maintain your body temperature whether in a blizzard or in the desert for your survival. Delivered with wit and humor, the book features peculiar drawings by an expert cartoonist making it an even more interesting read.

It stands out as one of the most celebrated survival books of modern history. If you’re a fan of Cody Lundin’s television show “Dual Survival”, it’s likely you’ll enjoy this read.

7. Your Survival | Dr. Bob Arnot & Mark Cohen

Your Survival - Dr. Bob Arnot & Mark Cohen
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This survival manual by Dr. Bob Arnot and Mark Cohen is an easy-to-understand manual written in a non-complicated style. Intended as a survival guidebook for the home, it explains in well-outlined sections what to do before a disaster, when it occurs, and steps to be taken after the crisis.

Your Survival is more than a manual. The handbook comes with a video and an organizer. In-depth interviews with emergency experts on a 90-minute video, a checklist for food stocks to prepare for an emergency, vital emergency SOS contacts, and more, await you in this survival package.

A helpful resource for disaster preparedness for your home against pandemics, gang attacks, landslides, earthquakes, or any such predicament you may encounter. You’ll identify the 10 must-have items in your readiness for any crisis in the home.

 

(#8-9) Survival Books on Edible Wild Foods and Herbs 

8. Edible Wild Plants: Wild Foods from Dirt to Plate | John Kallas

Edible Wild Plants_ Wild Foods from Dirt to Plate - John Kallas
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Edible Wild Plants is one of the best bushcraft books for finding edible greens in the wild. This manual contains photos of the various plants for ease of identification, their nutritive value, and cooking options.

The text is authoritatively written since John Kallas is a nutritionist and an expert at wild foods. He’s foraged extensively in European and North American territory. The book will explain how wild foods are edible and their nutritive value at different stages of growth and also how to best prepare them.

In his coverage, rather than rush through numerous plant options, he’s focussed on fewer plants choosing to provide in-depth coverage that makes it extremely beneficial.

9. Peterson Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants | Lee Allen Peterson

Peterson’s Field Guide to Edible Wild Plant - Lee Allen Peterson
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The Peterson Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants is a comprehensive foraging guide covering close to 400 plants found in the United States of America. This guide shows which plants are edible, with multiple drawings and colored photos to enable you to identify the plants.

The book contains close to 40 poisonous plants that resemble wild edible plants. Without this sort of outdoor survival guide, you could easily end up consuming these poisonous herbs of the wilderness.

With this book as a companion in the wild, you can beat the hunger pangs.

(#10-12) Urban Survival Books 

#10. When Technology Fails | Matthew Stein

When Technology Fails - Matthew Stein
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Matthew Stein looks into how we can survive off-grid in When Technology Fails. He crafts a modern survival strategy for when we can no longer get services from the electronic gadgets that have become part and parcel of modern living and convenience.

When modern infrastructure fails on a large scale, there will be a resulting meltdown in the economy, environmental degradation, and a breakdown in society, sustainability becomes the only feasible solution.

The book exhaustively discusses how to survive when we encounter these disruptions in modern living. Topics include putting up shelters, sterilizing water, exploiting and installing renewable energy sources, basic medication, how to make clothes, and building resilience and self-reliance. These will foster survival in the event that the societal structure as is now known collapses.

#11. When All Hell Breaks Loose | Cody Lundin

When All Hell Breaks Loose by Cody Lundin
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Naturalist Cody Lundin does it again with When All Hell Breaks Loose, a masterpiece that follows his earlier survival book “98.6 Degrees”. It’s larger and more detailed with lots of disaster preparedness tips and contingency measures to deal with a crisis.

An urban survival book and more, it covers a host of topics ranging from portable drinking water to trapping rodents for food, to handling a dead body. There are numerous functional survival tips in this book. If the information within is not enough, it’s narrated in an entertaining fashion with memorable quotes found all over the pages of the text.

Cody asserts that disaster preparedness is majorly psychological with gear and technique making a paltry 10%. Arm yourself with valuable survival tips and tricks for your home, workplace, and anywhere in between.

#12. Street Survival: Tactics for Armed Encounters | Ronald J Adams

Street Survival_ Tactics for Armed Encounters - Ronald J Adams
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Street Survival: Tactics for Armed Encounters is not some theory-based textbook, but one that’s been born from the heat of real-life armed encounters between more than 400 police officers and armed aggressors. The book analyzes different encounters of these officers for a deeper appreciation of armed confrontations.

The book picks up lessons learned in those encounters and how to prepare for such situations. This manual imparts street-smartness so that you’re situation-aware and survival-conscious whenever there is the potential for such dangerous encounters.

Equipped with this book, you can know how to adequately prepare and how to react should the scenario escalate into the danger zone. In the text, the authors discuss engaging in high-risk situations while maintaining your safety. They discuss how you can use concealment, surprise, and your gear to have an upper hand over the enemy.

(#13) Gardening and Homesteading Books

#13. The Encyclopaedia of Country Living | Carla Emery

The Encyclopaedia of Country Living - Carla Emery
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The Encyclopaedia of Country Living guides you on how to live off the land on your own. With this survival book, you can survive off the grid in the farmhouse and raise just about every domestic animal. Whether you want to be an urban farmer or want to create a country ranch, this compilation will give you the wherewithal to do so.

The result is a sustainable life for a better planet.

Some of the topics include plant and animal husbandry interests such as raising poultry, goats, sheep, and beekeeping.

Best Survival Books: Share Your Favorites

This list is by no means exhaustive, and part of being prepared for anything is having a well-stocked library of resources you can turn to when SHTF. We’ve covered 13 of the best survival books, but there are plenty more out there. 

Do you have any suggestions for good survival books? How do you implement the lessons imparted in these survival guides in your own lifestyle? Leave us your thoughts in a comment below!

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