8 Survival Books You Have To Read Before SHTF

So, how do you get the smarts for survival?

For some, experience proves to be the best teacher.

These people are involved in careers or lifestyles that allow them to experience a survival situation firsthand…and then live to tell the tale through books filled with tips, tricks, and techniques that might one day save a life.

All the rest of us have to do is read up, absorb as much info as we can, and apply them in our preparation for the worst scenarios.

Survival books are the best sources of tried-and-tested information. A lot of research and experience goes into the making of these books, so you can be sure that you can pick up a life-saving thing or two.

Ready to read up? Here’s your required reading for the apocalypse:

“The SAS Survival Handbook” by John “Lofty” Wiseman

SAS survival handbook
image from Amazon.com

A lot of preppers would agree that the SAS Survival Handbook is THE survival handbook you can stake your life on. As a member of the Special Air Service (SAS), the author John “Lofty” Wiseman belonged to an elite team of British soldiers who specialized in counter-terrorism, hostage rescue, and other dangerous missions that allowed them to develop a mad set of survival skills. Over time and countless experiences, Wiseman became the SAS survival instructor and all that know-how is outlined in this handbook.

The SAS Survival Handbook teaches you how to do just about anything—from putting together the basic survival kit to tracking animals for food. This handbook is used by many modern survivalists. It’s detailed without getting too wordy—it’s so easy to understand that even a beginning prepper can grasp the concepts in a jiffy.

The book has a really good section on gathering and hunting for food where Wiseman shares how to locate the common types of game and the kind of traps and baits to use for each kind of animal. It’s a good resource for both newbies and experts alike.

“The Bushcraft Field Guide to Trapping, Gathering, and Cooking” by Dave Canterbury

the bushcraft field guide to trapping, gathering, and cooking in the wild
image from Amazon.com

Food is of utmost importance in any situation. When the going gets tough, will you be able to catch your own dinner? A lot of us may limit bushcraft food to roasting game or foraging for wild edibles but this book by survival expert Dave Canterbury takes you beyond the usual ways to live off the land. Aside from giving you the basics (like picking the right kind of food), the book also shares a lot of information on the multiple and often unconventional ways to process your catch.

It covers interesting topics like clay ovens, fuel sources, bushcraft recipes, and the nutritional value of game. The best part is it’s small enough to fit in your backpack. It’s a handy book chock-full of useful information. The cover isn’t too bad to look at, too.

“Survive!: Essential Skills and Tactics to Get You Out of Anywhere – Alive” by Les Stroud

survive: essential skills and tactics to get you out of anywhere alive
image from amazon.com

Les Stroud gained popularity in the 2000s for his show Survivorman, a survival program that he filmed in the Canadian wilderness without a camera crew. These were the pre-action camera years, so Stroud, a filmmaker himself, often had to rig a video camera at the end of a stick just to get some of the shots featured on the show.

This is a no-frills book that methodically demonstrates Stroud’s characteristic logic without spoiling his sense of adventure. A lot of people have claimed to survive extreme situations in the wilderness with the help of this book. It’s a straightforward manual that beginners will surely love.

“When All Hell Breaks Loose Stuff You Need to Survive When Disaster Strikes” by Cody Lundin

when all hell breaks loose by Cody Lundin
image from goodreads.com

Cody Lundin is one interesting fellow. During his stint on the survival show Dual Survival, he was often pitted against ex-military men who questioned his choice of footwear…or lack thereof. Quirky as he may appear, Lundin is a veritable survival expert who’s been running his own survival skills school since 1991. Never mind that he likes to wear shorts in all kinds of weather conditions; this guy knows what he’s talking about.

In this book, Lundin talks about survival to urban and suburban readers. The cover and title may look and sound foreboding, but inside you can find useful information told in a funny, conversational tone along with whimsical, cartoony illustrations.

It not only gives you the usual tips on how to make it out alive in case SHTF, it actually touches base on your mental and emotional state during a disaster, which is as important as physically weathering it.

There’s a quote in the prologue that says:

“Planning to survive the effect of a catastrophe is very different from planning to survive its cause.”

Lundin goes on to differentiate that the latter is a fear-mongering mindset, whilst the former is one with common sense and level-headedness.

The book shares a lot of insight on urban survival, self-reliance, and, unlike most manuals or survival gurus who preach guns and ammo, it teaches the power of common sense and living off what you already have.

“Outdoor Survival Skills” by Larry Olsen

outdoor survival skills
image from amazon.com

First published in 1967, Outdoor Survival Skills is a pioneer in modern survivalist literature. There’s a reason why this book has stood the test of time, and it’s simply because it does its job well.

It’s a detailed book on primitive outdoor survival skills with clear, specific instructions on how to carry out tasks. It also comes with a colored index of plants which is pretty useful if you’re in the wilderness. Author Larry Olsen is a renowned survival expert passionate about Native American culture and living off the land.

The later version of the book comes with a foreword by prominent actor/director Robert Redford, who hired the author as technical director for his western movie Jeremiah Johnson. The author also co-founded the ANASAZI Foundation, a wilderness behavioral treatment center that aims to help troubled teens by introducing them to outdoor activities, among other therapeutic programs.

“When Technology Fails: A Manual for Self-Reliance & Planetary Survival” by Matthew Stein

when technology fails by Matthew Stein
image from goodreads.com

For so long, society has relied on technology for almost everything. So, what will you do when technology suddenly fails? Can you make it through without today’s modern conveniences?

In this book, engineer and author Matthew Stein teaches you how to be self-reliant just like how they were in the old days. It’s factual and straightforward—there’s no fear-mongering here—just straight-up facts on how you can prepare for very real threats like bioterrorism, climate change, and nuclear meltdowns.

The book covers a wide range of topics ranging from survival staples (how to obtain clean drinking water and the like) to the more specific points of renewable energy, calculating a year’s food supply, plant chemistry, and engineering. This book was written by an engineer, so expect it to be methodical. It’s really helpful, especially for those who want to go beyond the usual survival book.

“The Forager’s Harvest: A Guide to Identifying Harvesting and Preparing Edible Wild Plants” by Samuel Thayer

the forager's harvest
image from amazon.com

This book is proof that Mother Nature provides for all our needs—we just need to know where to look.

The Forager’s Harvest is an extensive guide to many wild edibles across North America, especially in the Midwest and Northeast. It contains photos and illustrations of the plants that are very helpful for every beginning forager. Flipping through its pages will teach you how to identify the plant, prepare it, and put it on your table.

It also shares some plant preservation techniques that will come in handy if you’ve got a surplus. Knowing what to eat in the wild gives you an edge in survival…and this book teaches you just that.

“The Encyclopedia of Country Living The Original Manual for Living off the Land & Doing It Yourself” by Carla Emery

the encyclopedia of country living
image from amazon.com

Homesteading is basically the most sustainable kind of survival. It’s not just about making it from one meal to another; it’s about being self-sufficient for the long haul. This book by Carla Emery is beloved by homesteaders everywhere. It’s both an encyclopedia of everything you need to know about homesteading and a personal account of the author’s experiences from living on a farm.

If you thought country living was a walk in the park, well, this book will convince you that it’s actually hardcore.

It contains information on specific topics like:

  • How to acquire land
  • Making money off of the land
  • Backwoods housekeeping
  • How to deliver a baby all by your lonesome

Sure, it’s not the easiest thing to lug around, but it will make a great addition to your survival library, and ultimately, to your skillset as well.

Final Thoughts

When SHTF, ignorance is far from bliss. It could mean the difference between danger and safety. Most people don’t survive because they get gripped by panic and don’t know what to do when faced with a potentially life-threatening situation.

As a prepper, you have to equip yourself with useful information that can save your neck someday. Survival books are a great resource. Their pages contain years of experience and a wealth of information that you can use in a tough situation. Remember, your skills are only as good as your know-how so read up and take whatever you can get from these survival manuals and handbooks.

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