16 Books About Crazy Survival Stories That Will Have You On The Edge Of Your Seat

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There are a few types of books I will read everything I can find about them: survival stories, solo female travel memoirs, North Korea, Mount Everest, the Amazon Rainforest, dystopians, books like Pretty Little Liars, and thrillers.

I’ve covered all of those topics already (Everest and Amazon are linked in the post below) and am finishing that list off today with books about survival stories.

Most of them are sailing survival stories, but there are some plane crashes, and a few others as well.

I don’t want to call these adventure books because they obviously weren’t adventure-on-purpose, but they also sort of turned into adventure? But it’s actually survival?

Either way, these are incredible stories of survival that you definitely need to read like, all of. I’ve probably read half of these and either have the rest or have them on my wishlist/TBR.

  • If you’re want to listen to some of these, consider trying Audible! You can get your first month free (one free book) plus tons of others they have for free.  Get that Audible deal here.
  • If you’re on more of a budget, try Scribd!  You can get your first month free there. You can read books and listen to audiobooks. It is unlimited (especially the reading) but if you listen to tons of new audiobooks you may be restricted after a few. I don’t listen to enough to confirm this, but I do use Scribd myself and like it a lot.
  • If you want to read more on your Kindle but don’t want to buy books, Kindle Unlimited is a wonderful option and right now you can get four months for $4.99! It’s usually $9.99 so this is a great deal. Get that deal here!

Adrift: 76 Days Lost at Sea

This is a firsthand account of Steven Callahan’s seventy-six days adrift in his inflatable raft when his sailboat capsized just six days in.

I read this one over the summer and it was pretty interesting! It had some slow moments, but it’s definitely worth reading.

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

On January 17, 1913, alone and near starvation, Douglas Mawson, the leader of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition was hauling a sledge back to camp. Now, he’s plunged through a snow bridge and is dangling over an abyss by the sledge harness.

He hauled himself to the surface and crawled back to camp. Along the way, he realized the soles of his feet completely detached from the flesh beneath.

He staggered back into camp, entirely unrecognizable, on February 8.

When I Fell from the Sky: The True Story of One Woman’s Miraculous Survival

At seventeen years old, she got on a Christmas Eve flight to visit her father, but between Lima and Pucallpa they flew directly into a thunderstorm.

A lightning strike incinerated the plane and left Julianna strapped in her seat, falling two miles to Earth in the night. She spent eleven days walking and crawling through the jungle fighting for her life as the sole survivor of the crash.

Her only companions were maggots eating their way into her wounds. She went on to become a scientist, regularly returning to the terrain that tried to take her life.

I would really love to read this one. This story sounds incredible.

Miracle in the Andes: 72 Days on the Mountain and My Long Trek Home

At first, there was nothing but black and perfect silence. Nando was unconscious for three days after the plane his rugby team and their families were on crashed in the Andes.

Many were dead or dying and the rest were stranded on a glacier almost 12,000 feet above sea level with no supplies or way to call for help.

Nando knew he had to get home or die trying so he led an expedition through the snow-capped mountains, across forty-five miles of wilderness to find help.

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

Into Thin Air is probably the most well-known book about Everest.  This is John Krakauer’s telling of the 1996 Everest disaster where eight climbers died.  At the time it was the deadliest event, and season, on Mount Everest.

He provides a balanced perspective on the events that occurred on the mountain that deadly day.  Standing on the summit, he had no idea that a storm with such an impact was approaching.

This is one of those must-read survival stories and perfect for fans of Everest and mountaineering.

The Perfect Storm

It was the storm of the century with waves over 100 feet high formed by a combination of factors that deemed it the perfect storm.

This is the stories of the lives of people touched by the storm. This is non-fiction and it’s actually a movie, too!

I would like to read this one. I remember my mom watching the movie when I was little and she made me leave the room for one part of it because it was too scary, I guess.

Fatal Forecast: An Incredible True Tale of Disaster and Survival at Sea

On November 21, 1980, two small Massachusetts lobster boats set out for Georges Bank, a fishing area 130 miles off the coast of Cape Cod. The forecast was typical for a fall day.

The only weather buoy on Georges Bank was malfunctioning and the fishermen dependent on its forecasts weren’t made aware.

The boats were caught up in a vicious storm that wasn’t accurately located by the National Weather Service. The crews struggled to keep the boats afloat in the hurricane-force winds and soon, one is overturned and the other crew is now trapped inside.

I, of course, want to read all of these that I haven’t yet, but this one sounds wild and terrifying.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

If you’ve seen 127 Hours, you know this story. I watched that then read this and I won’t lie, I read half of the flashback chapters but skipped a lot of them because I just didn’t like him. I would have liked it more without those.

It started out as a normal hike into Blue John Canyon. Aron Ralston set out on his hike and soon found himself alone and in his element.

Now, eight miles from his truck, at 2:41 PM, in a deep and narrow slot canyon, he was climbing off a boulder wedged between the walls when it shifted and pinned his wrist between it and the canyon wall.

This was the start of six days trapped in the canyon facing death. And the worst part? He didn’t tell anyone his plans. He documents his days and says his goodbyes with the video camera he brought with him. Then, one morning, he solves his problem and commits an unimaginable act to save himself.

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

This is the story of two mountaineers conquering an unclimbed route in the Andes in 1985. They reached the summit, but mid-descent, a horrific accident forces one of the men to leave the other for dead to fight for his own survival.

This one would be interesting to read to see the pictures taken on the climb. I also just am intrigued by mountaineering book/accidents.

438 Days: An Extraordinary True Story of Survival at Sea

Salvador Alvarenga left the coast of Mexico for a two-day fishing trip.  That turned into the longest time spent adrift at sea by anyone in history – 438 days. 

A terrible storm killed his boat engine and dragged his boat out to sea where he drifted all the way to the Marshall Islands, 9,000 miles away.

For fourteen months, he was surrounded by sharks, learned to catch fish with what he had on board: empty plastic bottles he collected from the ocean, making fishhooks from his dismantled outboard motor,  and using fish vertebrae as a needle to stitch his clothes back together. 

He contemplated suicide multiple times but kept an alternate reality in his mind that carried him on until he was dumped onto the remote island thousands of miles away.

This one is wild and I would highly recommend it. 438 days is an unbelievable amount of time to be adrift. So good.

Red Sky in Mourning: A True Story of Love, Loss, and Survival at Sea

Tami and her fiance Richard have their whole lives ahead of themselves when they set sail from Tahiti to San Diego.

Less than two weeks into their voyage, though, they sail directly into one of the worst hurricanes recorded in history. Richard ties himself to the boat and sends Tami to safety below. Hours later, all is quiet and she’s awakened to find the boat in ruins and Richard nowhere in sight.

This is the miraculous story of her forty-one days alone with no mast or sails and little hope of rescue.

I haven’t read this one, but I did watch the movie based on it: Adrift, so I’d like to read it eventually.

Alive

This is the same plane crash from Miracle in the Andes but from a different perspective. I got this I think at Savers and still need to read it.

Skies were clear and spirits were high when the plane headed for Santiago took off from Mendoza. At 3:30 PM on Friday, October 13, 1972, the pilot reported their altitude at 15,000 feet, and one minute later, the Santiago control tower lost contact with the place.

A search for them lasted eight days but it was called off after heavy snowfall in the Andes. Ten weeks later, a Chilean peasant saw two haggard men and tossed them a pen and paper.

The note they threw back said, “I come from a plane that fell in the mountains.” The sixteen survivors fought for their lives camped in the fuselage in the freezing temperatures.

When they heard on a patched-together radio that the search was called off, they faced the worst decision: do they eat the flesh of their dead friends when their food runs out?

Island of the Lost: An Extraordinary Story of Survival at the Edge of the World

Here is another sailing survival story but in 1864. Captain Thomas Musgrave wrecked on a forbidding piece of land 285 miles south of New Zealand.

On the opposite side of the island, at the same time, another ship ran aground in a storm. The two crews face the same fate with twenty miles of treacherous and impassable cliffs between them.

One crew turns on itself and to cannibalism while the other bands together to build a cabin and find a way to escape.

I don’t usually like this-far-back historical survival/exploration stories but this one sounds really interesting. It was pieced together with historical records and survivor’s journals.

Ruthless River: Love and Survival by Raft on the Amazon’s Madre de Dios

Holly FitzGerald and her husband Fitz set out on a year-long honeymoon backpacking around the world.  Five months into their trip, they are in Peru on their way into the Amazon Rainforest when the little plane they are on crashes in a penal colony surrounded by jungle. 

They can either wait for a way out or take a raft down the Madre de Dios to get there a lot sooner.  They choose the raft and things go downhill quickly.

They assume they can get food from locals along the river, so they bring few supplies, but after a few days a storm throws them off course, stranding them for 27 days with no food in a flooded dead end of the river with no land to stand on until they realize the only way out is to swim. 

Jungle: A Harrowing True Story of Survival in the Amazon

Yossi Ghinsberg is traveling through Bolivia when he meets two other travelers and a guide.  What starts as the adventure of a lifetime as a trek to visit a tribe in the jungle quickly turns into a nightmare. 

The group separates on the trek out of the jungle: two hike out, two take a raft downriver to speed up the trip. All too soon the river gets too rough for the raft and it is destroyed. 

Yossi and his travel partner are separated and he is forced to survive alone without a map, knife, or survival training.  His feet begin to rot during constant raging storms, his sense of direction is lost, and he wonders, most of all if he’ll make it out alive.

Capsized: Jim Nalepka’s Epic 119 Day Survival Voyage Aboard the Rose-Noelle

I watched this movie years ago before I knew it was a book. I could go either way on reading this one, I’m sure it is interesting, though.

This is the story of the four-month struggle for survival of Jim Nalepka and his three crew members on their capsized catamaran, the Rose-Noelle.

A storm capsized them in the South Pacific, causing them to lose most of their gear. They huddled in a dank 20-inch-high hull compartment as wide as a double bed for shelter. They were soaked and freezing almost constantly.

They caught fish and collected rainwater for sustenance before the wind finally carried them to New Zealand’s Great barrier Island.

Have you read any of these books about survival stories? Which ones? Any others I should check out?

Author: Megan Johnson

I'm Megan, a Wisconsin native currently working my way around the US. You can probably find me reading on the beach, wandering through the desert, or hanging out in a cute little coffee shop.

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