The 16 Best Survival Books for When the World Ends
The end of the world is near. Rising sea levels, an increase in natural disasters, and the human race’s lack of care for the planet are all responsible for the demise of civilization. While that might sound a little dramatic, climate change is a thing, and if we don’t try and stop it the world as we know it could be over in a matter of decades. What does this have to do with survival books I hear you ask?
Well if the apocalypse is on its way, everyone is going to have to learn to live without electricity and other amenities. There will be no microwaves or ovens to cook food. There’s a fair chance the house you currently live in will be no longer, either destroyed by the environment or World War III. Humans will have to resort back to their primal instincts and start from scratch.
For some, this will be easy. People who enjoy living off the land or camping and hiking will have the necessary skills to survive. They know how to start a fire, construct a shelter, and set a trap to catch an animal. But for everyone else? Good luck.
That’s where survival books come in handy. These life-saving publications detail everything you need to know about making it in the real world. While my assumptions of the world ending might be premature, knowing how to survive in the wilderness is still a fantastic skill to possess. But if you have no clue what you are doing, at least you can read up on it with one of these great survival books.
This curated list of books covers many different scenarios and survival methods. They are written by former special forces members, wilderness experts, and survivalists. So no matter what situation you find yourself in, these books will be able to help, especially when the world finally turns to shit.
1. SAS Survival Handbook: The Ultimate Guide To Surviving Anywhere - John 'Lofty' Wiseman
The third edition of the SAS Survival Handbook: The Ultimate Guide to Surviving Anywhere is chock full of survival tips. Written by John Lofty Wiseman, a former Special Forces master, this book covers everything from urban survival to fear management techniques when faced with disaster. Considering Wiseman has been in some pretty dodgy situations during his military career, it’s no surprise he’s an expert in these fields.
The book is split into several sections dealing with subjects such as making camp, first aid skills, disaster survival, self-defense techniques, and how to navigate different climates and terrains. A classic survival guide, the SAS Survival Handbook has received rave reviews, with Outside magazine claiming it is “a classic outdoor manual [that] addresses every conceivable disaster scenario. Don’t leave home without it.” Hard to argue with a statement like that.
2. Survivability for the Common Man - Dave Canterbury
Dave Canterbury is a name you might be familiar with. The survival expert has appeared on several survival-themed TV shows, including Discovery Channel’s Dual Survivor and National Geographical Channel’s Dirty Rotten. Canterbury has also written two books, with Survivability For The Common Man the pick of the bunch.
In the book, Canterbury discusses the Pathfinder System he created. It covers the five C’s of survivability; cutting tool, combustion device, container, cover & cordage. These are the main skills you need to survive, with Canterbury also providing a further five C’s that extend on his original ideas. Canterbury uses his years of experience and wilderness survival skills to create a book that is packed with useful information.
3. The Survival Medicine Handbook: The Essential Guide for When Help is NOT on the Way - Joesph and Amy Alton
This is the bible when it comes to surviving medical situations in the middle of nowhere. This fourth edition of The Survival Medicine Handbook: The Essential Guide for When Help is NOT on the Way has it all. Unsure what to do with somebody gets knocked out? Stumble across a chemical spill and are worried you might have inhaled some nasty substances? Fallen down a hill and broken a leg? The solution to all these problems and more can be found in this hefty book.
While some might argue this doesn’t constitute a survival book, due to the fact it is purely medical-based, we don’t agree with that assessment. You need to know how to treat injuries while in the wilderness so you can make it out alive, and this book clearly provides information on that. Be warned though; it is a rather large and hefty book, so if you take it with you, just be prepared to be carrying some extra weight in your pack.
4. How to Stay Alive in the Woods: A Complete Guide to Food, Shelter, and Self-Preservation Anywhere - Bradford Angier
Who hasn’t been lost in the woods before? While most of us make it out ok, sometimes things don’t go to plan. That’s where this nifty guide comes in handy. As the titles suggest, How to Stay Alive in the Woods: A Complete Guide to Food, Shelter, and Self-Preservation Anywhere, provides all the info you need to make it through several nights lost in the woods.
The book is broken down into four main sections; sustenance, warmth, orientation, and safety. Each provides hints and tips on how to survive alongside full-color illustrations, which are also a nice bonus. This is a great field guide with some humorous content well suited for American audiences.
5. The Ultimate Survival Manual: 333 Skills That Will Get You Out Alive - Rick Johnson
This well-researched outdoor survival book comes from Rick Johnson and the good folks at Outdoor Life magazine. As the title indicates, it comprises 333 skills that will assist you when out in the wilderness. As well as large parts of the book being dedicated to wilderness survival, there are also helpful sections on dealing with urban crises and natural disasters.
Johnson really knows his stuff. The former US Army Special Forces, Coast Guard Auxiliary instructor, EMT, firefighter, and policeman, has seen and done it all. He brings a wealth of experience, that combined with the knowledge of the authors from Outdoor Life magazine, results in a book that can be used in any survival situation. A must-read.
6. The Disaster-Ready Home: A Step-by-Step Emergency Preparedness Manual for Sheltering in Place - Creek Stewart
Creek Stewart is another survival expert who is somewhat of a celebrity. He has appeared in reality shows SOS: How to Survive, Fat Guys in the Woods, and Could You Survive? With Creek Stewart. He also owns his own survival training facility, Willow Haven Outdoor, where people can come and learn what they need to make it in the badlands.
Stewart has also written many outdoor pocket guides, but his best work is arguably The Disaster-Ready Home: A Step-by-Step Emergency Preparedness Manual for Sheltering in Place. Only released in 2022, it’s jam-packed with advice on how to prepare your home for any type of disaster. While many of the books on this list focus on the outdoors, this is a great addition for those who might be forced indoors. From stocking the pantry to renewable energy sources and everything in between, this book has you covered.
7. The Boys' Book Of Survival (How To Survive Anything, Anywhere)
Not every survival book is aimed at wilderness warriors. Some contain more basic survival skills that everyone can understand, even kids. The Boys’ Book Of Survival (How To Survive Anything, Anywhere) is ideal for anyone who didn’t go to the Boy Scouts as a child. While the information is detailed and helpful, it’s written in a way that’s easy to understand, for both you and your kids.
The book is a nod to yesteryear with its nostalgic cover and chapters about orienteering, first aid, and escaping quicksand. There’s even a section about how to survive a zombie attack. While this might be a bit of fun, let’s not forget the reality of this happening is greater than ever before. This is a fun and helpful survival guide the whole family can enjoy.
8. The Survival Handbook - Colin Towell
Being in the armed forces seems to lend itself to survival. Colin Towell is an ex-SAS Combat Survival Instructor who decided to try his hand at writing a survival book. Thankfully for him (and us), he knows what he’s talking about. Simply named The Survival Handbook, this 320-page guide features step-by-step instructions alongside easy-to-follow illustrations covering a range of survival topics. Another great thing about this book is the size. It’s perfect for carrying in your rucksack or backpack and won’t take up much space at all.
Along with survival basics, such as how to start a fire and how to catch a fish, this book includes real-life survival stories that will both inspire and scare you. But don’t worry, as long as you have The Survival Handbook with you, you’ll be fine.
9. Man vs. Wild: Survival Techniques From the Most Dangerous Places on Earth - Bear Grylls
You can’t have a collection of survival books without including the modern marvel Bear Grylls. Drawing from the experiences seen in his TV series Man vs. Wild, this book is packed full of tips on how to survive any situation you might find yourself in. Grylls goes into great detail about what to and not to do when faced with dangerous situations. The book has lots of images and diagrams that help explain Grylls survival tips. It’s a great reference guide and will entertain anyone who is a fan of what Grylls does. A great companion piece to those who enjoy the series it’s based upon.
10. Prepper's Long-Term Survival Guide: Food, Shelter, Security, Off-the-Grid Power, and More Life-Saving Strategies for Self-Sufficient Living - Jim Cobb
Doomsday preppers often get a bad rap and are seen as crazy people living off the grid. While this is true for some, many are just concerned citizens preparing for the worst. Jim Cobb falls somewhere in the middle. A seasoned survivalist and prepper who has been part of the community for a number of years, Cobb has written a slew of helpful books about preparing for the world’s demise.
The editor of Survival Weekly has great knowledge about what it takes to be ready for doomsday. All of his books have received glowing reviews on Amazon, with his most well-known and helpful being Prepper’s Long-Term Survival Guide: Food, Shelter, Security, Off-the-Grid Power, and More Life-Saving Strategies for Self-Sufficient Living.
While the title is a bit of a mouthful, the book itself is overflowing with good ideas and helpful hints. Learn about how to prepare your home for a major disaster. Understand how to collect water and create a safe supply, what it takes to grow crops, and strategies for building a community in the new world. While it’s not the best survival book on this list, it does offer something different and plenty of solid advice.
11. Special Forces Survival Guide: Wilderness Survival Skills From the World's Most Elite Military Units - Chris McNab
Not to be confused with fellow author and former special forces operative Andy McNab, Chris McNab is an author specializing in military history and true crime. He has written over 40 books, including several survival guides, with Special Forces Survival Guide: Wilderness Survival Skills from the World’s Most Elite Military Units being his best.
This book presents a variety of skills used by actual special forces units from around the globe, including the Navy SEALS, Army Rangers, Green Berets, and Australian SAS. The techniques detailed can be applied to numerous situations you might find yourself in when lost in the wild. The book is split into different sections that detail how to find food and water, build a shelter, start a fire, craft tools and weapons, navigate without a compass, first aid rules, and signal for help. It’s another great reference book that is the ideal companion when out hiking in the middle of nowhere.
12. The Encyclopedia of Country Living 50th Anniversary Edition: The Original Manual for Living Off the Land & Doing It Yourself - Carla Emery
One of the originals, Carla Emery is the name behind arguably the most successful survival book of all time. The Encyclopedia of Country Living, 50th Anniversary Edition: The Original Manual for Living off the Land & Doing It Yourself was first written by Emery in the early 70s. An organic farmer who believed in the ‘back-to-the-land movement’ that was popular at that time, Emery wanted to help others learn how to live off the land. She began writing a newsletter that turned into a book.
Self-publishing her encyclopedia, Emery sold an incredible 90,000 copies by traveling across America and promoting the book by appearing on talk shows. This landmark guide is regarded as the book for those wanting to understand more about how to live in the country and be self-sufficient. Long before global warming and climate change, Emery was already discussing how to live a sustainable and eco-friendly life. Covering everything from growing your own food to making organic bug spray, this encyclopedia has all the knowledge you could want.
Outdoor survival skills pair with sustainable living in this 928-page behemoth. This 50th anniversary edition includes updated resources and new skills to help you settle on the land.
13. 98.6 Degrees: The Art of Keeping Your Ass Alive - Cody Ludin
This book is a bit different from the others in both the way it is written and the ideas expressed. Author Cody Ludin, a survival instructor at the Aboriginal Living Skills School in Prescott, Arizona, is a bit of a character. He was a co-host of the Discovery Channel series Dual Survival and has some different theories when it comes to surviving in the wild. His most controversial idea is that as long as you keep your body temperature at 98.6 degrees, you can survive any climate or terrain. He believes keeping your body’s core temperature at this level is more important than food and water.
While it sounds a bit extreme, there is some truth to what Ludin is saying, as if you’re core temp does drop, you are in big trouble. Combine this theory with Ludins comical and informative way of writing and you have a very enjoyable book that will keep you gripped until the final pages.
14. Survive!: Essential Skills and Tactics to Get You Out of Anywhere - Alive - Les Stroud
Les Stroud is another survival expert whose been making documentaries and TV shows for over two decades. In that time he’s picked up a great deal of knowledge that he shares in this book. If you happen to find yourself stranded in a jungle, desert, or even an urban environment, Stroud has plenty of useful information to make sure you get out alive.
This book addresses things such as how to make a shelter, why you should own a survival kit, and even how to locate and trap animals to feast on. Stroud uses common sense when discussing his ideas on survival and makes them clear for anyone to understand.
15. Street Survival: Tactics for Armed Encounters - Ronald J. Abrams
Survival guides aren’t just about starting fires and making shelters. They can apply to a wide range of topics, including surviving on the streets. While things aren’t as bad as they once were, there are still certain cities where the crime rate is high, and walking the streets isn’t always a safe option. This book aims to help you feel more confident by detailing how to survive encounters with armed foes.
The book draws on real-life encounters experienced by more than 400 police officers. There is lots of practical knowledge in this book that you can apply to everyday life. It’s great for those who don’t really have street smarts, with this book enabling you to learn how to act in certain situations you might never have thought could happen. Although written in 1980, it’s still relevant today and is a handy guide for anyone living in an urban environment.
16. The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection From the Living Dead - Max Brooks
Let’s end this list on a light-hearted note with The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection From the Living Dead. Written by Max Brooks, the son of Mel Brooks, this is a hilarious manual for surviving the zombie apocalypse. It features the ‘Top 10 Lessons for Surviving a Zombie Attack’ along with other chapters on zombie psychology, defense tactics, and how to turn your home into a fortress against the undead.
This is a fun and engaging book that’s easy to read and full of laughs. Brooks has a canny sense of humor like his father that translates well on the page. If you enjoy this one, do yourself a favor and read Brooks’ follow-up, World War Z, which was turned into a movie starring Brad Pitt.
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