There are not many things more enjoyable than a good book about survival and adventure that gets your heart pounding and keeps you on the edge of your seat.  It's even better when the stories are true.  I have read a lot of true adventure and survival stories in my lifetime that I believe everyone should read and enjoy.  Below are some of the best survival books I have ever read, and they are all true stories.

Warning:  Readers of the below books sometimes report not being able to put the books down, addiction to reading, getting so absorbed in the books that they lose track of time, having their teenagers actually want to read a book, and feeling as if they are living the exciting story themselves.  Read at your own risk.  

Best Survival Books

 Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors

A Uruguayan rugby team and some of their friends are on a plane headed to Chile for a rugby match when the plane suddenly crashes into the Andes Mountains.  Those that survive the crash are left stranded high in the freezing and unforgiving Andes with few provisions and no contact with the outside world.  They must cope with serious injuries, avalanches, and depression. 

This is an unbelievable story of their 10 week struggle to stay alive in such awful circumstances, the drama that unfolds, and the nightmarish ethical and moral dilemnas they face in order survive.  This is as epic a survival story as you will ever read, and one that will stay with you and help you appreciate life for a long time to come.        

The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom

This book chronicles what is likely the most remarkable journey ever made on foot by a human being.  The book tells of Slavomir Rawicz, who is falsely accused, tortured, and imprisoned by the Russians during World War II.  The Russians transport him by train in the middle of winter to a Gulag in the frozen wasteland of Siberia.  There, he is one of many overworked and underfed forced laborers. 

Together with a few of his fellow prisoners, Slavomir devises a bold and dangerous plan to escape.  With few provisions in hand, they embark on a long and treacherous journey to freedom in India, which is thousands of miles away.  Along the way they face the freezing Siberian elements, the unforgiving Gobi desert, and finally the inhospitable Himalayan Mountains.  Their determination to survive despite their challenges and suffering is inspiring.

Although doubt has been cast on whether Slavomir himself actually made this journey or whether he is taking credit for another man’s epic journey.  Whatever the case may be, there is evidence that this journey was made and that several very malnourished and dirty men eventually made their way to India.  If you thought the move based on this story was inspiring, wait until you the read the book.  You are in for a big treat.    

Skeletons on the Zahara: A True Story of Survival

A dozen American sailors are marooned off the coast of Africa in 1815, apprehended by African nomads, and sold as slaves.  This book chronicles their treacherous journey through the merciless Sahara Desert.  During their ordeal, they had to deal with death, starvation, murder, dehydration, and fierce nomads.  The book contains a lot of interesting information on surviving in the desert, dehydration, riding camels, African nomads, and a lot of other things that will be new to most readers.

Touching the Void: The Harrowing First Person Account of One Man’s Miraculous Survival

Joe Simpson and Simon Yates had just barely reached the summit of a tall Andean mountain when Joe falls off a slippery ledge and breaks his leg.  Simon attempts to lower Joe to safety, but then must make a split second decision to either cut the rope or be pulled off the mountain with Joe.

Simon returns to base camp stricken with remorse and anguish over the death of his friend.  Meanwhile, Joe had inexplicably survived his fall into a deep chasm.  Somehow, Joe fights through the pain, cold, and hunger to muster up the inner strength to slowly crawl back to base camp and arrive literally hours before Simon was going to leave.

This is a riveting story that will bring you along for a thrilling ride over treacherous snow covered peaks at the top of the world, where the slightest mistake can lead to death.

Over the Edge of the World: Magellan’s Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe

Take a history book, an adventure book, a business book, and a political science book and combine them into one super book.  That’s what this book is, an enthralling Middle Ages story about Magellan’s historic voyage around the globe, that in addition to being highly entertaining, is incredibly informative about the political and financial climate of that time.  This book contains everything that you would want in a great story about an explorer discovering the unknown world: storms, mutiny, wars, natives, etc.  The fact that it is a true story makes it even better. 

Of the handful of ships and several hundred men who embarked on this adventure with Magellan, only one pitiful looking ship and 18 men returned to tell their astounding story of what happened on the greatest sea voyage of all time.  Get the details behind what happened in the story that you already know from school.  You will not be disappointed.


I sincerely hope that you and your family enjoy reading these classic tales of survival and having them in your home as much as I do.  All of them are available online or at various bookstores.  Enjoy!!