A good survival book is something everyone needs on their shelf or in the bug out bag. It comes particularly handy in the unfortunate moment of emergency or disaster arrives, and you need to know how to survive without the everyday luxuries. However, not all survival books are made the same, and not all of them will be effective in keeping you alive in an emergency.
There are specific subjects that survival books must cover. They need to prepare for an emergency and teach how to hunt, cook, and treat wounds. Otherwise, your chances of survival will significantly diminish. You will be left without food, water, and shelter, which you absolutely need to survive.
Survival books can truly be the difference between life and death. The great thing, though, is that helpful and comprehensive survival books do exist. I read quite a few of them and would like to present my reviews and recommendations. Each review is linked to the book’s Amazon page, where more reviews from readers are available.
Before the detailed reviews, I will also explain how to decide if a survival book is good and deserves to be read.
Best Survival Books
How to Choose the Best Survival Books
Before we proceed to the reviews, let’s have a quick look at the criteria for a good survival book. As mentioned earlier, you cannot survive without the knowledge of certain topics. Let’s see what topics of survival must be included in the survival books. If you wish to skip this explanation and go directly to the book reviews, please click here.
Prepping for Survival
While it is not always possible to foresee every future scenario, you should nonetheless start now and get prepped for a potential emergency. In every good survival book, it should be recommended having a go-bag packed and ready.
This go-bag should contain all the important things you would need in an emergency such as:
- Extra clothes
- First aid kit (click the link to find out which first aid kit is the best)
- Copies of all important documents
- Non-perishable food or snacks
- A sizeable amount in cash
- Any self-defense weapons you might have
- A strong flashlight with several batteries – see my list of recommended flashlights
- A multitool that has several tools and attachments that can serve you in a wide variety of situations
- Other important items you may deem necessary
A good survival book should also outline how to effectively prep for a food, power, or water shortage. You need extra nonperishable food, extra clean water, or a way to sanitize water. You will also need fuel sources that are not based around an electrical grid.
Hunting and Foraging
If you need to survive, you will need a food source that isn’t a grocery store or a restaurant. Knowing how to hunt is the best way to ensure that you will be able to have a food source that allows you to survive for as long as animals roam the earth.
Most importantly, you need to know how to make weapons that can effectively kill and clean animals. Ammo and guns won’t be easy to come by in a survival-type atmosphere, so anything you can make from sticks, stones, or ropes will be worth making.
Foraging is also an option that can replenish your food resources. Survival books can teach you what edible plants, berries and mushrooms you can find, and which ones you better avoid. And if the disaster lasts for months, you should also have the basic know-how regarding growing your own food and storing it for later use.
First Aid Knowledge
Knowing how to fix a wound, be it shallow or deep, is necessary to keep yourself healthy and alive. Without first aid, you risk bleeding, infections, dehydration, and being poisoned. It’s imperative to know how to take care of these issues.
Any good survival book should explain how to do things such as:
- Fix snake bites
- Prevent infection
- Start an IV
- Make saline solution
The knowledge of these specific skills can save your life when tragedy happens, and you have to get over an ailment. Without this knowledge, you could bleed out, or succumb to any injury rather quickly.
Using Organic Items
In nature, you truly have everything you would need to sustain life. You can create fire, which is not only a heat source, but it can also cook food, sanitize water, and give you light. You can use branches, dirt and natural caves to create a life-saving shelter. You need a survival book to explain and show you the hundreds of ways that things can be used to sustain life.
Anything found in nature can usually be used to create a power source and help to cook, kill, or grow your food. Without this know-how, you most likely wouldn’t be able to survive much more than a few days.
You can have all the necessary items and physical skills, but there is also the psychological side to surviving. Any survival book should teach about the survival mindset. When your head is at the right place, when you approach any situation in a calm and calculated manner, then your survival chances greatly improve. Without any panic to distract you, you will function at your peak performance and overcome any challenges.
Mental preparation should also include guidance related to the size of your group. If you are surviving on your own, you should learn how do deal with loneliness and how to fully depend on yourself. If you with a family, you need to know how to take care of others, provide them with emotional support and rational instructions. For more information on the survivalist’s mindset, see my article on survival qualities.
Reviews of Most Recommended Survival Books
When Crisis Hits Suburbia: A Modern-Day Prepping Guide to Effectively Bug in and Protect Your Family Home in a Societal Collapse by Ted Riley
The recent pandemic and social unrest have emphasized just how unstable the outside world can be. In Ted Riley’s “When Crisis Hits Suburbia”, you will find precise instructions on how to transform your house into a safe place. Your own house can become the shelter, where you can find protection from whatever disaster is wreaking havoc on the streets.
This survival book takes into consideration your entire family and guides what exact actions need to be taken. Ted explains everything you need to know about survival priorities, about keeping your water and food safe, about calmly preparing your children for any future emergencies, and so on. There are checklists, task lists, item lists, and everything else necessary to become effectively organized when facing disasters, incidents, and even terrorist attacks.
There is one additional bit of knowledge that convinced me to recommend this book to others. Even though Ted Riley helps you turn your house into a secure shelter, he also delivers clear instructions when to evacuate. This is a very important survival aspect to know, when it’s time to leave the cozy shelter before it becomes dangerously unsafe. And this is another reason why I wholeheartedly suggest you keep this book in your house.
Tiny Survival Guide: A Life Insurance Policy in Your Pocket – The Ultimate “Survive Anything” Everyday Carry: Emergency, Disaster Preparedness Micro-Guide
I wanted to specifically recommend this tiny survival guide, because you can carry it with you without adding any weight to your backpack. It’s an Amazon’s Choice item with literally thousands of positive reviews.
This survival guide is so small that it can be stored anywhere – your pocket, the car’s glove box, purse, wallet, etc. Despite its size, it carries tons of life-saving knowledge on such topics as:
- Survival tactics
- First aid
- The absolute necessities: shelter, fire, and water
- Hunting and trapping
- Survival skills and mindset
It also prepares you for what should be done in various extreme situations, such as civil unrest, natural and manmade disasters, hostage and terror threats, car accidents, camping emergencies, and so forth.
While not technically a book, the guide summarizes the knowledge contained in any other survival book. Its material is tear-resistant and weather-resistant, which means it’s tough enough to survive any situation and help you survive it, too.
Total Survival: How to Organize Your Life, Home, Vehicle, and Family for Natural Disasters, Civil Unrest, Financial Meltdowns, Medical Epidemics, and Political Upheaval by James C. Jones
James C. Jones brings his 5 decades of survival and self-reliance experience to create this quite useful and informative book. “Total Survival” is an all-in-one survival guide that covers all those important survival topics I mentioned earlier.
There are 13 chapters, and each of them focuses on one specific survival situation or skill. For instance, there are chapters that deal with terrorist attacks, street crime, home invasion, and other disasters and dangerous situations. You will learn how to maintain fire, forage, trap food, purify contaminated water, treat wounds and heart attacks, plus several other lifesaving skills.
The book especially stands out when it lists the ten items that should always be on you (such as a whistle and a small flashlight), as well as ten items to include in your survival backpack. The first list is particularly interesting and helpful, but I won’t spoil it for you – you’ll just have to read this highly recommended book.
When The Grid Goes Down, Disaster Preparations and Survival Gear For Making Your Home Self-Reliant by Tony Nester
When the power is out and the streets are unsafe, it is up to you to defend your home, your family, and yourself. The book “When The Grid Goes Down” explains how you can be prepared for the worst possible scenarios. For instance, if the tap water is no longer available, you can find alternative water sources inside your house, as well as use the water you stockpiled ahead. The book even teaches how to create a water map of your vicinity, and then purify the located water.
Another example is how you deal with the lack of electricity. The book clearly explains how you can cook food, control the inside temperature (warming or cooling the air) and light up the house when the city’s power lines stop supplying electricity.
Additional topics include making a medical kit, guarding and defending your house, stockpiling food, and much more.
This no-nonsense book from a survival expert is short, but it contains every bit of knowledge needed to weather local disasters. A must on every shelf.
If you’re interested to learn more on dealing with any urban crisis, I have published a separate article on urban survival, you should really check it out.
Prepper’s Long-Term Survival Guide: Food, Shelter, Security, Off-the-Grid Power and More Life-Saving Strategies for Self-Sufficient Living by Jim Cobb
While there are many survival guides, this one earned its spot on my list by focusing on long-term survival. You might be prepared to withstand a disastrous event that lasts for a few hours or days, but have you considered what it takes to live through a much longer emergency?
Jim Cobb is a well-known prepper and disaster consult. In his book he delivers an incredible amount of knowledge that helps efficiently dealing with extensive social disruptions. I’m talking about disasters, in which a 72 hours bug out bag will not suffice. While hurricanes come and go, pandemics and total grid failures are challenges on a much grander scale.
So, what must be done when things don’t return to normal for months and even years? The book teaches:
- Medical treatments when no doctor is expected to arrive
- Home defense and fortification when the social hierarchy collapses
- Filtering and storing water from various unexpected sources
- Growing and storing your own food, as well as foraging, hunting and fishing
- Building a new community to overcome the chaos
As you can see, these strategies and advices are not that common among the survival books, which is why I recommend you get this guide as well.
Survive ANYTHING: The Ultimate Prepping and Survival Guide to Perfect Your Survival Skills and Survive ANY Disaster, ANYWHERE in the World! by Beau Griffin
I’m including Beau Griffin’s guide on my list of recommendations because it’s succinct and to the point. In my opinion, short and precise guidance should be a priority, especially when it comes to survival books. This one is only 49 pages long, the shortest entry on the list. It’s also available in an audio format, so you can listen to “Survive ANYTHING” on the go.
The guide covers both the familiar ground, as well as new perspectives on survival situations. For example, it teaches how you can figure out the best strategy with the optimal outcome, meaning the one correct strategy that will take you from emergency and back to safety. Naturally, it also teaches every basic and necessary survival skill: making shelter, finding food, finding water, maintaining the right mindset, etc.
Give this survival book a chance, you might be surprised how much it can deliver in just a few words.
57 Scientifically-Proven Survival Foods to Stockpile: How to Maximize Your Health With Everyday Shelf-Stable Grocery Store Foods, Bulk Foods, And Superfoods by Damian Brindle
This unique survival book from Damian Brindle focuses solely on the survival food. I mentioned earlier that once disaster strikes, your regular food from the store will become unavailable. The book lists what shelf-stable good you must stockpile ahead of any emergency.
This is not just a grocery list of obvious items. Damian did a thorough job finding the food sources that ensure you have a healthy and nutritious diet. He found the items rich in minerals, vitamins, fibers, calories, and so on. Additionally, he lists superfoods that strengthen your immune system and improve digestion, which greatly helps when you’re facing a survival situation.
All in all, the book is well written and contains a lot of valuable information. If you stockpile on these foods, you can overcome any unexpected food shortages without compromising on your health and diet.
Dave Canterbury is an outdoors expert, famous for his bestselling Bushcraft series. I selected this field guide for the list of recommended books, since it explains so well every single aspect of food for survival. While the book is mostly oriented for trekkers and outdoors adventurers, its knowledge is also significant for us survivalists.
If you’re stranded in the woods, and no help is expected soon, you will need food to sustain you. Hunting and gathering will surely save you from starving to death. “The Bushcraft Field Guide to Trapping, Gathering, and Cooking in the Wild” is well-illustrated and full of instructions on:
- How to hunt
- How to fish
- How to trap
- Which berries and plants you can gather for food, and which ones you should avoid
- How you can cook in the wild
- How you can pack food for later use
The book even comes with recipes for delicious yet easy-to-make meals. I especially loved the detailed and illustrated instructions for an earth oven, which greatly helps to cook those meals.
Surviving in the wild does not mean you have to suffer with an empty stomach. Take this guide with you whenever you head outdoors. It’s guaranteed to keep you energized and fed.
Food Storage for Self-Sufficiency and Survival: The Essential Guide for Family Preparedness by Angela Paskett
While other survival books function as complete guides, Angela Paskett decided to focus on one particular side of the survival. And, as it turns out, when it comes to storing survival food, there is a lot that we don’t know.
Storing food is much more than just stockpiling long-lasting ingredients. This in-depth guidebook tells how you can select the right storing method according to the size of your family, their preferences, medical conditions, age, and so on.
The book comes with tons of useful tips and advices, such as:
- How to ensure the stored food’s variety
- How to store on budget
- How to store for both short-term emergencies and long-term situations
- How to cook without wasting or throwing away expired food
- How to preserve your produces food using dehydrations, cans, freezing, and so on
“Food Storage for Self-Sufficiency and Survival” compliments the food-related area of survival knowledge and expands the neglected topic of food preservation. Whether you have a large family or you’re planning to survive on your own, knowing how to store food for years to come can save you from starving in the future.
Just like the previous entry deals with a very specific survival subject, “The Handbook of Medicinal Herbs” does so as well. James A. Duke has published a revised and complete encyclopedia of hundreds of medicinal plants from all over the world. Therefore, no matter where you live or where you’re unfortunately stranded, this book can show you what plants you can use to heal yourself.
The book includes:
- Color maps
- 100+ color plates
- 200+ illustrations
- 800+ medicinal plants organized alphabetically, synonyms and Latin names included
- Herbs from numerous medical traditions
While it might not be the lightest book to carry around, it does prove useful when you’re in a dire situation and need to identify a plant that can alleviate your pain and illness. The book is also available in a downloadable format.
This hugely popular bestseller leaves behind the sensationalism and over-romantism of today’s survival trend and goes back to the proven survival techniques. Written by the Netflix MeatEater’s host, the guide shares Steven Rinella’s well-tried methods, recommendations, and tips.
The wilderness skills taught in this book include:
- Building a survival kit
- Knowing what to wear when heading into the wild
- First aid – treating wounds, bites, broken bones, sunburn, dehydrations, and so forth
- Multiple methods of water purification
- Navigation, both old-school and modern (with satellites)
- Food sourcing
- Avoiding dangerous wild animals
- Building a shelter
- Hiking (adjusted to various physical levels)
The MeatEater approaches nature with respect and wisdom. While he warns against what to avoid and teaches how to survive, he’s also pro-conservation and encourages not to cause any damage to the environment. This is not just another survival book; it is a well-thought guide based on incredible expertise and outdoors experience.
This highly rated handbook helps treating injuries and illnesses that even the most inclusive survival guides don’t mention. Imagine facing a catastrophic event, after which no ambulances are expected to arrive soon. You must take care of yourself and your loved ones, but your medical knowledge is limited.
Thankfully, “The Survival Medicine Handbook” by Joseph Alton can successfully help you. Even if you’re not a medical professional, the book explains in a simple matter such topics as:
- Treating hypothermia and hyperthermia
- Treating many types of infections
- Getting rid of parasites
- Mending bones
- Treating animal bites
- Stapling skin
- Treating hemorrhages
- Growing a medicinal garden
- Finding natural remedies
- Assisting with psychological problems, such as anxiety, sleep deprivation, or depression
And this is just 10% of the lifesaving topics covered by the book! When no help is on its way, you will have to become your own doctor. There is no other book on this list or among other survival books that goes into so many details and teaches so much about the survival medicine.
Survival gear is not always an option, especially if something unplanned happens while you were camping or hiking. This is where ingenuity can save you. Creek Stewart, a real-life MacGyver, explains in his book how the regular items in your backpack can be transformed into an actual survival gear.
The book teaches every possible trick that can make a difference. From tying sticks to create a table to using common trash bags as a shelter, this survival guide has it. The survival hacks are simply amazing, a lot of things I have never thought of using. For instance, have you ever used a credit card to fish? How about using a flashlight to start fire? Even the common using plastic bottles can be utilized to purify water and collect rainwater.
“Survival Hacks” is a true treasure, as it turns everyday items and garbage into a real treasure of life-sustaining tools. Even the most grizzled veterans of camping and trekking can learn a lot of new tricks from this book.
Dave and his Bushcraft series have made their appearance earlier in the list of top survival books. “Bushcraft 101” is a well-known bestseller, which almost every survivalist, trekker, or outdoors enthusiast carry in their backpack.
While the previously mentioned guide to trapping, gathering, and cooking focuses solely on the food, “Bushcraft 101” covers every possible subject of wilderness survival:
- Making tools
- Finding supplies
- Gathering food and cooking nutritious meals
- Locating and filtering water
- Making a shelter and finding safety from the elements
- Correctly using tools and weapons that you packed and brought with you
- Starting fire
- Tying knots
- Identifying medicinal plants
- Defending against animals and bugs
The full list of topics is just too large for this article. Needless to say, every single one of these topics is essential to your survival. Which is why it’s so great to find them all organized in one excellent book. Dave Canterbury’s writing is clear and straightforward, which makes his instructions easy to follow and utilize.
SAS Survival Handbook, Third Edition: The Ultimate Guide to Surviving Anywhere by John ‘Lofty’ Wiseman
Survival knowledge is not just well-proven methods that were established decades and centuries ago. Just like many other areas of human knowledge, it evolves and updates. The newest edition of “SAS Survival Handbook” reflects current advances in survival technology and techniques. It includes the threats that rose in the recent years, such as terrorism and urban survival, and helps facing and surviving such threats.
The book also prepares you to overcome what harsh challenges you can encounter in the wild. It covers absolutely every type of terrain and climate, from the poles to tropics. You will learn how to survive in the sea, desert, woods, mountains, and so forth. You will also learn how to read weather and prepare yourself for upcoming weather changes.
In addition to explaining important physical skills (establishing a shelter, finding food and water, treating injuries, self-defense, etc.), the handbook teaches psychological skills as well, such as coping with extreme situations and managing your fear.
If you’re looking for the most updated and comprehensive survival book, this is the one you probably should pick up.
I hope you don’t mind me mentioning my own book as a bonus. It’s not a part of the top 15 survival books listed above. Nevertheless, it deals with a certain type of survival – surviving when you live off the grid. I did my best explaining what preparations you need to take before starting your off grid living; what are the best places and climates in the world to live off the grid; what mindset and skills you need in order to overcome the many potential challenges; how to get clean water sources, grow your own food, and power your new house with a clean, renewable energy. This is the knowledge required to survive and success in the independent and free off-the-grid life.
Survival books are great for those who want to ensure their ability to do things without the luxuries we have on a daily basis. In my honest opinion, a survival book should definitely be a part of any emergency kit. You can’t be expected to know by heart every bit of survival knowledge. I hope that one of the books I reviewed will find its place in your backpack.
I have more survival-related articles on this blog. As it was acknowledged throughout this post, wilderness is an incredibly tough environment. To learn more how you can face it, please read my article on surviving in the wilderness with nothing.
Safe journeys, my friend!