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Getting ready for survival and various SHTF scenarios doesn’t only require boosting your physical skills and agility. It also demands some serious education. But we’ve got good news for all of you who aren’t very fond of bookworming through thousands of volumes. Here’s a list of handy survival books that will help you weather any storm!

Acquire this handful of titles, and you’ll be ready when the time comes. From medical guides to general emergency preparedness to wilderness survival, they cover almost any scenario you can imagine.

That being said, many survivalist writers consider themselves experts without ever having set their foot in wilderness. You won’t want to waste your time sifting through tons of garbage.

That’s why we compiled this list, with respectable and tested authors who really know what they’re talking about.

It heavily relies on nonfiction because you’ll need practical, workable advice when calamity strikes.

But there are also a couple of fiction survival books.

Firstly, because waiting out a SHTF situation can be pretty boring if you made yourself safe and sound!

And secondly, because fiction widens our views and enriches our imagination.

When catastrophes happen, we need resourcefulness and energy to go on. And a mind’s eye to see things we would otherwise have missed.


1. Wilderness First Responder: How To Recognize, Treat, And Prevent Emergencies In The Backcountry

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Pitching tents is a way more exciting topic than medicine, I know. (Pun intended!)

However, proper medical care can literally save your life, and more than once. And if you ever end up alone in wilderness (voluntarily or not), there won’t be a doctor hiding behind a bush.

Luckily, this book can be a substitute – at least until you manage to go back to civilization. If there is one, that is.

It covers nearly everything, from light injuries to serious stuff such as cardiac arrest and abdominal wounds. You’ll learn about basic human anatomy and how to assess a patient.

More importantly, this book will teach you how to improvise when your IFAK lacks adequate items.

It’s not an overtly exciting read, but it may prove essential for your (or someone else’s) well-being.

And when it comes from Buck Tilton, you should know better than to play a doubting Thomas. The guy founded NOLS, the world’s largest school of wilderness medicine. He also worked for 30 years as a first aid teacher, as well as ambulance and hospital volunteer.

2. The Survival Medicine Handbook: THE essential guide for when medical help is NOT on the way

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What to do when you or someone else gets hurt in the wilderness?

Most emergency preparedness guides will tell you to do this or that until you’re in a position to call an ambulance.

Well, this book rests on an entirely different assumption – that the professional medical help can’t and won’t arrive.

We’ve already witnessed quite a few calamities when the entire medical system collapses or gets frozen.

In such situations, heads and members of households are the ones who have to do all the heavy lifting themselves. When the grid goes down, you have to be up!

This book will teach you not only how to perform first aid and take care of your loved ones and community members, but also how to take responsibility when there’s no one else you can count on.

Apart from standard medical procedures and supplies, it also offers advice on natural remedies, hygiene and sanitation, infections, over-the-counter drugs and antibiotics…

3. Facing Violence: Preparing for the Unexpected

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We already live in a world immersed in violence.

But if (or more precisely: when) s*it hits the fan, violence will soar.

This work addresses this social phenomenon from the perspective of self-defense. Violent encounters are notoriously unpredictable. And aggressors tend to behave erratically. Even if you do what they demand of you, it’s still no guarantee that you’ll stay safe.

So, this practical guide will teach you about the psychology of violence, so that you can maximize your chances of getting out of such situations alive and unhurt.

And no, you don’t have to be a martial arts specialist. Even if you’re a senior who’s never experienced a single brawl, you’ll get some great, workable takeaways from it. Fingers crossed you never need it!

4. Prepper’s Long-Term Survival Guide

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Hurricane? Check. Earthquake? Check. Pandemic? Grid disruption or collapse? Check!

This guide isn’t focused on temporary systemic breakdowns. Rather, it explains what to do when things go awry for longer periods – or even forever.

Just like any other comprehensive, all-purpose title, it leaves a lot to be desired. Nevertheless, it’s a must-have guide that covers most important aspects: water and foods, medicine, sheltering, homesteading, community building. Note, however, that it’s heavily focused on urban survival.

The author is a lifelong prepping expert who has written a number of bestsellers on various survival topics.

5. SAS Survival Handbook: The Ultimate Guide to Surviving Anywhere

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Yep, that’s right – anywhere. This book pretty much has it all. It addresses every concern you may be having in any emergency or SHTF scenario.

What to buy and stockpile? How to plan out your strategy? Examine climate and terrain from the polar North to the desert, to the warmest and dampest rainforest? 

Furthermore, it will teach you how to find your way around nature and how to manage your health. Should you need to rescue a person in jeopardy, it’s got you covered. There are even separate chapters on survival at sea, as well as urban survival.

This great read will teach you to be your “own doctor, dentist, navigator, and cook”. It’s a big book, but you don’t have to read cover to cover. Find a chapter as/when/if needed.

But what credential does the author with the conspicuous name John “Lofty” Wiseman have? Well, he’s a professional soldier with 26 years of service in the Special Air Service (SAS) up his sleeve. Afterwards, he spent some time training other members.

6. Lights Out: A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath

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You are probably aware that the US only has three power grids.

On the other hand, the world has hundreds of thousands of brilliant hackers. These guys may work for various governments or operate independently. But some of them definitely are capable enough to breach through security systems and unleash complete chaos onto our lives.

It’s not even unheard of – many governments, including ours, have already performed similar attacks all over the world.

Put these three together, and you’ll realize that the collapse isn’t only possible or likely, but almost certain. It only takes one successful cyberattack to disable the grid. And our government is underprepared for this type of catastrophe to put it mildly, even though it pays significant attention to all kinds of natural disasters.

The title is a New York Times bestseller. Ted Koppel, the author, has examined the topic far and wide, speaking with senators, politicians, civil servants, and other people who rub shoulders with our decision makers.

The result is a loud warning for top tiers of society to try and prevent a catastrophe. It’s a more realistic account of the state of things than most other survival books could even dream of! 

7. Edible Wild Plants: A North American Field Guide to Over 200 Natural Foods

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Stockpiling emergency food is all very well, as all survival books will teach you. But how do you make do in nature, when you run out of supplies?

Hunting is tough, and it may not always yield results. Plus, proteins won’t meet your full nutritional needs. So, foraging for edible plants is a must. And there’s so much more to it than meets the eye.

This book not only classifies edible plants across America and all seasons and terrains, but it also provides detailed pictures in full color to help you identify them. There are also recipes to help you prep your meals.

Note, however, that it doesn’t provide nearly as detailed instructions for avoiding non-edible or downright poisonous plants. There are some comparisons of edible plants and their lookalikes, but it’s not enough. For a full overview of America’s toxic plants, you might wanna consider this pricey beauty of a book.


1. One Second After (A John Matherson Novel)

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The first part of a trilogy, this novel was so realistic that it became a frequent reference in the Pentagon. It was even dubbed a book that all Americans should read, in no other place than the Congress. 

It’s about a catastrophic turn of events unraveling after the US loses a war to a single high tech weapon. This weapon is so realistic that it’s a wonder it doesn’t already exist.

Or does it?

Anyhow, this event catapults the nation back into the dark age within an instant. The novel’s protagonist takes it upon himself to protect his family, as well as the small community of his town.

The writer, William R. Forstchen, certainly knows his trade. But he also holds a PhD in military history and technology. This is the first part of his survival books trilogy unofficially known as “John Matherson Series”.

2. Hatchet

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What happens when your plane crashes over Canadian wilderness and you are the only survivor?

You make do with what you have. Even if it’s a single hatchet.

That’s exactly what happens to Brian Robeson, this novel’s protagonist. As he struggles through the unforgiving nature trying to survive, he is also haunted by his own personal drama. The choice is simple. Either learn to cope and endure, or succumb to the elements and die.

Luckily for Brian, the rescue will arrive two months later. By that moment, he will have learned much about the vast and brutal wilderness, as well as about himself.

This contemporary blend of Jack London and Daniel Defoe has recently celebrated its 30th anniversary. I really like the fact that it’s a kid-friendly title that adults can also enjoy. And educating the little ones about the outside world through survival books is a must for every serious prepper!

3. Station Eleven – One of the Best Fiction Survival Books

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How bad can a pandemic be?

Every single person on the planet has recently come to acknowledge this type of disaster.

But we haven’t even begun to grasp the consequences our current pandemic will have on the world as a whole. Well, that’s what this novel tries to depict.

Only it isn’t coronavirus but a swine flu pandemic. First, travelers transport it from one country to another via plane. Sounds familiar?

Then, it kills off most of the world’s population within mere weeks. The survivors now have to try and rebuild civilization as best they can. All the while scavenging through the ruins and trying to make sense of their new – and former – lives.

The book has won many accolades and is now officially recognized as one of the best survival books of all time.