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15 Best Survival Books Non-Fiction

An easy-to-read guide to a selection of some of the best survival books non-fiction

In the realm of survival, the power of storytelling transcends the pages of books, becoming a lifeline of wisdom and inspiration.

In my exploration of the best survival books non-fiction, I immerse myself in narratives that encapsulate the indomitable spirit of the human will. 

These tales of triumph over adversity, practical guides honed from real-world experiences, and timeless wisdom passed down through the written word converge to form a literary arsenal for those drawn to the art of survival. 

Transform your library into a captivating haven with a carefully curated collection of coffee table books and adventure books that invite exploration and ignite the imagination.

Join me on a journey through the pages of these extraordinary books, where stories unfold as survival guides, and each chapter is a testament to the strength that resides within us all.

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Best Survival Books Non-Fiction

1. Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster

by Jon Krakauer

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My heart was racing as I turned the pages of Into Thin Air. Jon Krakauer’s powerful retelling of the tragic events that unfolded on Mt. Everest in May 1996 drew me in from the first sentence. 

As someone who has always been fascinated by tales of survival, this book quickly became one of my all-time favorites. 

With unparalleled reporting and emotional clarity, Krakauer takes readers on a harrowing journey to the top of the world and into the hearts and minds of those who risk everything to get there.

I was in awe of these climbers’ courage and tenacity, even as I read about the risks they faced and the losses they suffered. 

Into Thin Air is truly one of the best survival books non-fiction out there, and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a gripping and unforgettable read.

Check out other inspiring books like the best adventure books for adults. 

2. Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors

by Piers Paul Read

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What would you do if you were stranded in the middle of nowhere, with no food or water, and only your own will to survive? 

This question has intrigued me for as long as I can remember, which is why I’m a huge fan of survival books, especially non-fiction ones.

Recently, I came across the book Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors by Piers Paul Read, which chronicles the true story of a group of young rugby players who survived a plane crash in the Andes Mountains. 

The story is an incredible testament to human endurance and determination, as these men and women faced unimaginable challenges in their quest to stay alive. 

They not only had to brave the harshest of environments but also made the difficult decision of whether to cannibalize the dead to survive. 

Reading this book, I was struck by the sheer grit and resilience of the human spirit and left with a newfound appreciation for the power of the human will to survive.

3. The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon

by David Grann

- 15 Best Survival Books Non-Fiction

I recently discovered one of the best survival stories in David Grann’s The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon. 

Grann’s painstaking research into the lost expedition of Percy Fawcett leads us deep into the Amazon rainforest, where for centuries explorers had searched for the fabled kingdom of El Dorado. 

Fawcett’s disappearance during his quest for “The Lost City of Z” became one of the most enduring mysteries of the region. 

Grann’s account is both informative and enthusiastic as he brings to life the story of Fawcett’s deadly obsession and the countless others who lost their lives in pursuit of a dream. 

This book is a must-read for any lover of true adventure books.

4. Into the Wild

by Jon Krakauer

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I’ll never forget the first time I read Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild. From the first page, I was captivated by Christopher Johnson McCandless’ story.

The stories is about a young man with a privileged upbringing who decided to leave it all behind and venture into the Alaskan wilderness alone. 

As someone who’s always been drawn to the best wilderness survival books, I couldn’t put it down. I was fascinated by McCandless’s journey and saddened by its tragic end. 

Krakauer’s writing beautifully captures the allure of the wild and the unforgiving nature of its challenges. 

While McCandless’ story may not be for everyone, it’s certainly one that will stay with you long after you turn the final page.

5. Alone on the Ice: The Greatest Survival Story in the History of Exploration

by David Roberts

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I wasn’t much of a survival stories reader until I picked up “Alone on the Ice: The Greatest Survival Story in the History of Exploration” by David Roberts. 

As I delved into the pages, I was transported to the frigid landscape of Antarctica in 1913, where Douglas Mawson, leader of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition, was facing unimaginable hardship. 

Alone and starving, Mawson was forced to crawl at times, his feet detached from the flesh beneath them. 

But through it all, a single line of poetry gave him the strength to keep going. 

When I read about his incredible journey and ultimate survival, I was amazed at his resilience and leadership. 

Frank Hurley’s incredible photographs only added to the immersive experience.

This book is a must-read for anyone interested in non-fiction books for beginners and for anyone looking to be inspired by the incredible human spirit.

6. The Worst Journey in the World

by Apsley Cherry-Garrard

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Having been an avid reader of the best survival books non-fiction, I recently stumbled upon The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard.

As I delved into the pages of this gripping and emotional story, I felt as though I was right there alongside Cherry-Garrard and the rest of the brave expedition members. 

Through his personal account, Cherry-Garrard tells of their treacherous journey to the Antarctic in search of accomplishment and discovery. 

What I found most compelling was the intense dedication and courage displayed by these individuals despite the bleak and merciless conditions they faced. 

The loss of Scott and his companions was devastating, but Cherry-Garrard’s retelling of their story is truly unforgettable. 

As I read the final pages, I was left with a profound sense of awe and admiration for these resilient explorers.

7. The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea

by Sebastian Junger

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I have always been fascinated by the sheer power of nature, and The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea is one of the best true survival stories I have ever read. 

Sebastian Junger’s vivid storytelling transports you to the tumultuous waters off the New England coast during the infamous storm of 1991, where fishermen battled monstrous waves and fierce winds in a fight for their lives. 

But this book is more than just an edge-of-your-seat adventure. Through Junger’s research and interviews with survivors, The Perfect Storm also offers a fascinating look at the history of the fishing industry, the science of storms, and the indomitable human spirit. 

Reading this book made me feel like I was right there in the midst of the action, experiencing all the fear, adrenaline, and hope of the brave men who faced down the perfect storm. 

I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves true stories of survival and human resilience.

8. Touching the Void: The True Story of One Man’s Miraculous Survival

by Joe Simpson

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If you’re looking for the best survival books in non-fiction, then Joe Simpson’s “Touching the Void” is an absolute must-read. 

This remarkable true story chronicles Joe and Simon’s incredible journey to climb the unclimbed West Face of Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes, only for disaster to strike and for Simon to leave Joe behind. 

The guilt Simon felt for Joe’s supposed death would weigh heavy on his soul for days, until the pair were reunited in a heart-wrenching twist of fate. 

But “Touching the Void” isn’t just a story of incredible survival; it’s also a testament to true friendship, as both men deal with the psychological trauma caused by the ordeal. 

Simpson’s writing is both informative and personal, making this book a truly engaging read that will stay with you long after you’ve turned the final page.

9. Only When I Step On It: One Man’s Inspiring Journey to Hike The Appalachian Trail Alone

by Peter E Conti and Donna Partow

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I’ll never forget stumbling across Peter E Conti’s inspirational memoir, “Only When I Step On It: One Man’s Inspiring Journey to Hike The Appalachian Trail Alone.” 

Reading it from the first-person perspective drew me into his world immediately. I could feel his pain as he struggled with constant agony 23 months after his accident, something that all readers can deeply empathize with. 

But then, his unlikely epiphany beckoned him to set out on an incredible journey that brought far more rewards than he’d ever imagined. 

His story is equal parts entertaining, enthralling, and enlightening, touching upon the darkest of moments and hilarious adventures alike. 

As someone who is constantly on the lookout for the best survival books, non-fictional accounts like Peter’s genuinely inspire me.

10. 81 Days Below Zero: The Incredible Survival Story of a World War II Pilot in Alaska’s Frozen Wilderness

by Brian Murphy

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Wow, I just finished reading 81 Days Below Zero by Brian Murphy and I have to say it’s one of the best wilderness survival books I’ve ever read. 

This non-fiction account tells the story of Leon Crane, an Army aviator who survived a horrific crash in the Alaskan wilderness during winter. 

As someone who loves reading about survival stories, I was immediately drawn to this book. The fact that it’s based on a true story made it even more captivating. 

Murphy does an excellent job of providing all the necessary factual details while also keeping the reader engaged with Crane’s personal account. 

I was on the edge of my seat throughout the entire book as I followed Crane’s struggle to survive with little more than a parachute and an old Boy Scout knife. 

This book is a must-read for anyone who looks for the best survival books based on true stories.

11. Skeletons on the Zahara: A True Story of Survival

by Dean King

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I have always been a lover of true story adventure books, and Skeletons on the Zahara by Dean King is hands down the best one I have ever read. 

The book details the harrowing journey of twelve American sailors who were shipwrecked off the coast of Africa and captured by desert nomads. 

As I read through the pages, I felt like I was right there alongside them, enduring the same grueling conditions and desperate for survival.

From the incredible courage and solidarity shown by the sailors to the unwavering resilience and ingenuity that kept them alive, this book truly showcases the limitless capacity of the human spirit. 

If you’re a fan of the best adventure books and real-life tales of survival, Skeletons on the Zahara is an absolute must-read.

12. The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics

by Daniel James Brown

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I recently came across one of the best true survival stories I have ever read: The Boys in the Boat. 

This gripping tale follows the journey of nine young men from the American West who defy all odds and win the gold medal in rowing at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. 

What makes this story particularly inspiring is that these boys came from working-class backgrounds with very little hope for the future. 

Led by Joe Rantz, one of the team members who had endured a difficult childhood and lacked familial support, they set out on an unlikely quest to prove to themselves and the world that they were capable of greatness. 

Through their determination and grit, they were able to overcome elite competitors and secure Olympic victory. 

The Boys in the Boat is truly an epic tale that is sure to leave you feeling inspired and motivated.

13. Paradise Creek: A True Story of Adventure and Survival

by David Scott

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I’ll never forget when I first stumbled upon the non-fiction book, “Paradise Creek: A True Story of Adventure and Survival.” 

As I delved into the pages, I was transported to a remote corner of the Canadian wilderness, 125 miles from the nearest human being. 

The land was as wild and unpredictable as the adventure that awaited two young men seeking adventure in the great outdoors. 

Imagine stepping out of a bush plane, into -50º temperatures, and setting out to find a cabin that would be their home for a year. It took six long, bitter days to find it. 

The book details their struggles for survival, their hunt for winter meat, and the trials they faced while building their cabin on Paradise Creek. 

I couldn’t help but feel like I was journeying with them on their bushcraft adventure. It made me appreciate the luxuries of modern life, while also inspiring me to seek adventure in the great outdoors.

“Paradise Creek” is just one of many fascinating non-fiction books about survival that I highly recommend as well as one of the best outdoor adventure books

14. The Twenty-Ninth Day: Surviving a Grizzly Attack in the Canadian Tundra

by Alex Messenger

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I cannot recommend The Twenty-Ninth Day enough to those seeking a captivating read that is not only informative but also deeply personal. 

Alex Messenger’s near-lethal encounter with a grizzly bear on a six-hundred-mile canoe trip in the Canadian wilderness is nothing short of harrowing. 

As a young adult on my own journey of growth, I was struck by how this coming-of-age story challenged Alex and his five companions to push past their limits and dig deep within themselves to persevere through the most trying of moments. 

This book is one of the best survival non-fiction books I’ve ever read, filled with inspiring subarctic landscapes, thrilling riverine paddling, and a trial by fire of the human spirit. 

Through his story, Messenger perfectly captures the resilience and ingenuity it takes to survive and thrive in the face of seemingly insurmountable adversity.

15. Extreme Survival: Lessons from Those Who Have Triumphed Against All Odds

by Michael Tougias

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As an avid reader, I am constantly on the lookout for the best non-fiction survival books. That’s when I stumbled upon Extreme Survival: Lessons from Those Who Have Triumphed Against All Odds by Michael Tougias. 

This New York Times bestselling author has tackled a topic that has always intrigued me — how do some individuals survive against all odds? 

Tougias’ exceptional research skills are on full display, as he explores the causes behind man-made disasters and the lessons learned by those who have overcome them. 

What I loved most about this book is that it offers captivating and narrative survival stories, told in true Tougias trademark style. 

It’s safe to say that after reading Extreme Survival, my personal collection of best non-fiction survival books has found a new must-read entry.

My final thoughts on the best survival books non-fiction

Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies and Why, one of the best survival books non-fiction

Having read and explored a wide variety of non-fiction survival books, I truly believe that there is something for everyone in this brilliant selection. 

Whether you are a seasoned adventurer or just starting out on your journey, these titles are sure to impart some invaluable knowledge and open the door to expanding your understanding. 

So go ahead and dive into any one of them – they each offer unique perspectives about what it takes to survive in various harsh environments. 

As far as I’m concerned, these fourteen titles have been carefully selected to represent the best survival books in non-fiction – so what are you waiting for? 

Venture beyond your comfort zone and explore the world with these fantastic literary journeys and give a read to this best fiction survival books as well.

FAQ about best survival books non-fiction

What are the best adventure survival books non fiction?

Some of the best adventure survival books non fiction are Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer, Adrift: Seventy Six Days Lost At Sea by Steven Callahan, or Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston.

What are the best survival books of all time?

Some of the best survival books of all time are When Technology Fails by Matthew Stein, Can’t Hurt Me: Master Your Mind and Defy the Odds by David Goggins, or The Survival Handbook by John Wiseman.

What are the best wilderness survival books non fiction?

Some of the best wilderness survival books non fiction are Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer, Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston, or In the Heart of the Sea by Nathaniel Philbrick.