15 Best Survival Books If You Want To Be MacGyver

By Will Brendza | Last Updated: February 1, 2017

Survival BooksSurvival books are one of my all time favorite investments.

They are simply pages with words all bound together to transfer knowledge.

Doing so silently between human beings across time and space.

When you read, you’re learning from (and being entertained by) someone who’s not in the same room as you.

Who you’ll likely never meet and who may no longer be with us.

Let that sink in for a moment and you’ll realize how epic an invention they are.

Books became the most dependable method of storing and sharing information for centuries.

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.

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Everyone Should Invest In The Best Survival Books

Owning survival books on edible plants, trapping, building shelters, and making fires are extremely helpful. They’re resources you can consult over and over again, whenever you like.

It’s like having a miniature survival expert in your backpack or on your shelf. One who you can ask for help when faced with difficult survival challenges.

Some survival books focus on specific survival topics. Deep diving into specific survival fields such as edible plants or ascending mountains. While other survival books are more general in nature and speak to a wider range of essential survival skills.

Survival books earn a spot in your library, and in a serious emergency, you’ll be thankful to have your own mini “Survivopedia” on hand.

But beyond being incredibly useful, survival books are also a fantastic form of entertainment.

Getting trapped in a remote cabin by a winter storm is rarely fun, but it’s bearable with something good to read.

Being stuck in a car caught in a mudslide is a major bummer, no doubt. But you can at least take your mind off of the situation with a good book.

Books are a great escape. Even dull fact-filled ones are surprisingly interesting when there’s no other form of distraction

But, there are a lot of survival books out there. Many claiming to be, “the best and most thorough guide to survival ever written by anyone in the history of anything ever”! So, to save you the time and trouble of wading through the mass of options, I’ve compiled a shortlist of my favorites.

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NonFiction Survival Books

Of course, the non-fiction variety of survival books includes the densest information. These are your straight-up guides, how-to’s, fact-based DIY types.

If you are looking for an entertaining story to go along with your research, skip down to the next section. You won’t find many stories here. But if you want a valuable resource to keep for emergencies then I recommend the following:

1. Bushcraft 101 – A Field Guide To The Art Of Wilderness Survival

Bushcraft 101bushcraft 101 is a survival book that’s been called, “the ultimate resource for experiencing the backcountry”. And that claim is hard to dispute.

Dave Canterbury covers everything from:

  • What to pack in your backcountry bag
  • How to manufacture tools needed for wilderness survival
  • How to protect oneself from harsh natural elements
  • Collecting and preparing food
  • And more!

This guide has everything you need to get the most out of your wilderness experience. Helping you master the art of bushcraft and connect with nature like never before.

And for those who have mastered the 101 bushcraft series, it may be time to upgrade to Dave Canterbury’s more advanced bushcraft series:

2. US Army Survival Manual

us army survival manualThere 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.

3. Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills

freedom of the hillsThis is my 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.

4. Field Guide to North American Edible Wild Plants

edible wild plantsThey 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.

5. How To Eat In The Woods

how to eat in the woodsPracticality 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.

6. Outdoor Survival Skills

outdoor survival skillsThis book has been around for decades. It’s helped three generations of survivors hone their outdoor and wilderness skills.

It covers:

  • Building fires
  • Collecting food
  • Building shelters
  • Making tools

All with personal anecdotes from the author’s life. Outdoor Survival Skills should find space as one of the best survival options on your bookshelf.

7. Hawke’s Green Beret Survival Manual

hawkes green beret survival manualHave you ever heard of the Green Berets? If not, they are US Special Forces, and they are badass.

Insanely BADASS.

They prepare to survive any mission they are charged with. Which means their training is brutal and intense.

In Hawke’s Green Beret Survival Manual, retired Special Forces officer Mykel Hawke gives a crash course in Green Beret survival knowledge.

Perfect for both everyday citizens and skilled survivalists alike.

8. SAS Survival Handbook

sas survival handbookThe SAS Survival Handbook goes over almost every plausible disaster/emergency/shit-hits-the-fan scenario.

No matter whether you’re a keen prepper, a savvy survivalist, a simple hiker, you should keep a copy of this book with you.

It has something useful for everyone in every situation. It even covers surviving in different geographic areas with different terrain and climates.

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Survival Novels (Nonfiction and Fiction)

Fiction survival novels are not textbooks. They are not crammed with dry factual information. However, there’s still much one can learn from nonfiction and fiction survival novels.

Reading stories of these characters and how they prolong their lives can help you survive. They serve as inspiration that can save your life.

Plus, having a story to entertain yourself with can be incredibly useful as well. Entertainment is a valuable resource, especially if it’s full of useful survival information.

9. Hatchet

hatchetThis 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!

10. Robinson Crusoe

robinson cursoe survival bookThis book is an older one, but the skill of survival has remained much the same for thousands of years.

When it comes to being stranded and forced to survive as a castaway, even a two hundred old story is still full of relevant knowledge today

But thankfully they shortened the title from its original.

“The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, Of York, Mariner: Who lived Eight and Twenty Years” to simply “Robinson Crusoe“.

11. The Life of Pi

life of piThis 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 its weird adventures.

12. Lord of the Flies

lord of the fliesA 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.

13. Into Thin Air

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

This story is a personal account of 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.

14. The Stand

the standA 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.

15. Into The Wild

into the wildWe couldn’t mention the book “Into The Wild” earlier in this article without adding this epic survival novel to the list. This survival book was adapted into a very good movie of the same name.

The movie was good, the book is better. 

If you’re looking for a good survival page-turner, this is it.

If you’ve ever felt the desire to leave your current life behind and go live in the remote wilderness all alone, you’ll have an immediate and deep connection with Chris McCandless. However, this is a cautionary tale as well.

Remote wilderness survival has its romantic side but it also has a brutal uncaring nature.

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The Final Word

Books are not the first thing people think of when they start planning for 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. Plus, in a post-order economy, books will become treasured items. Their trade value will skyrocket. You may find yourself with some serious power of commerce.

They are useful on other levels as well: they can work as makeshift pillows and pages as a fire starter. Although, I’d be hesitant to burn any valuable information in the book.

There’s no excuse not to have a few of the best survival books on your shelf. So select the ones best suited to you, and waste no time adding them to your survival arsenal.

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

Will Brendza

P.s. Do you know where the closest nuclear bunker is from your home?

There are a lot of natural nuclear shelters in the US that are absolutely free. And one of them is near your home.

Click on the image above to find out where you need to take shelter.

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