Follow-Up: Books On Surviving In Desperate Situations

After yesterday’s popular post on survival and personal finance off the grid, I received several requests like this one:

It would be great if you would write a book with detailed instructions about these survival skills you developed. I would buy your book and study it well.


Great post. Is there a how to book you would recommend on the subject of survival?

There actually are several books out there that are quite good on the topic and make for enjoyable reading (and even practicing) and I’ll recommend two of them. But first of all, if you’re actually serious about learning some basic survival skills, don’t bother with the series. While they are quite entertaining, many of the entries are of questionable value – and some are flat-out wrong. For example, one entry on how to properly dress a squirrel would result in some tainted meat that would have to be very carefully cleaned and boiled before ever cooking (does it frighten you that I know this from experience?) – but the entry was pretty clearly written for humor’s sake.

The best all-around book I’ve read on survival skills is Lofty Wiseman’s (SAS referring to Special Air Service). Not only is it well-written, it’s incredibly practical – to the point where you can learn a few things applicable to bad situations that you might face in ordinary life (such as being stuck in your car in the dead of winter). It covers diverse climates and diverse situations, and the explanations of what to do are accurate, clear, concise, and well-illustrated.

So what’s in the book? It’s basically techniques you would use for living for a period in a particular climate without the comforts of civilization. For example, let’s say you were lost in a forest in the Midwest (I have been) and you were walking in circles (this is amazingly easy to do). What do you do? The book identifies several common types of foliage you can eat and also how to snare, dress, and cook a rabbit using nothing but a pocket knife – and the description is highly accurate and detailed. Even if you doubt you’d ever use a single technique in this book, it’s an entertaining read.

If you’re more interested in merely living as simply as possible, is the first book in a series on techniques used for living in deepest Appalachia. These books are a very interesting mix of elements focused on simple living, mostly focusing on the folk culture of the Southern Appalachian mountains in the United States. While almost all of the information in this book is anecdotal and at least some of it is cultural in nature, there are literally mountains of ideas and techniques for very simple living, useful in situations without electricity, telephone, and so forth. Much of the material in this book (and others in the series) are a great supplement to the harder-edged survivalism in the SAS book.

As always, check your local library for these books before you consider buying them! I’ve enjoyed both and have actually given both as gifts in the past.

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