The best survival books based on true stories

If you’ve been wanting to read more about survival and outdoor adventure, then this list is for you! This is my list of incredible survival books based on true stories…

survival books based on true story

So, what is the best survival book? Hopefully this list of amazing survival books based on true stories will point you in the right direction.

There’s truly nothing better than spending an afternoon lost in a good book. Though everyone has a favourite genre, non-fiction outdoor and adventure survival books are some of the best out there. With descriptive segments that discuss dangerous chasms, wild animals, and amazing polar landscapes, it’s no surprise that these books continue to enchant readers long after their initial release dates. 

If you’re after a truly inspiring read, then why not get stuck into one of our suggestions on this list of the best non-fiction survival books based on true stories? With great settings and often triumphant endings that leave the reader rejoicing at adventurers conquering the wild against all odds, these books remain one of the best ways to lose yourself for a few hours.

However, it’s not just adventure books that we’ll cover here, but some great guides to the outdoors that will help you survive your next wilderness adventure. So, buckle in for a varied list that will leave you inspired to head out into the wild. 

survival books based on true stories

The Worst Journey In The World – Apsley Cherry Garrand

Considered one of the most amazing survival books based on true stories. It’s one of the best polar adventure stories every told, this book chronicles the experience of Apsley Cherry-Garrand as he heads to the South Pole with Robert Falcon Scott to collect penguin eggs.

With temperatures in the South Pole hitting 70 degrees below zero, it’s a harrowing read that details some of the world’s harshest conditions. Though the expedition ends in tragedy, the gripping tale is truly one of the best non-fiction adventure/survival books in the world. A brilliant survival books based on true stories to get stuck into.

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The Road I Ride: Sometimes It Takes Losing Everything to Find Yourself – Juliana Buhring

Next on my list of survival books based on true stories, it’s ‘The Road I Ride”. In 2012, Juliana Buhring became the fastest woman to cycle around the world. This book details her incredibly inspiring story, and it’s a tale that will keep you gripped until the very end. If you’re a cyclist, you’ll find yourself particularly enamoured by this book, and it may force you to rethink your current training efforts!

Absolutely one of the best non-fiction outdoor adventure books available, it’s a must-read.

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A Walk in the Woods- Bill Bryson

This book which details travel writer Bill Bryson’s once in a lifetime trip to the complete the Appalachian is a heart-warming read that covers the amazing Appalachian Trail, it’s a fantastic option for survival books based on true stories.

Shocking, funny, and a book that will stick with you for a long while, this book is certainly one to read if you enjoy a light-hearted adventure book.

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438 Days: An Extraordinary True Story of Survival at Sea

A true story set at sea, this is the survival story of two men lost on the coast of Mexico after a weekend fishing trip in the open Pacific. If you’re looking for survival books based on true stories, this ticks a lot of boxes.

After being ambushed by a horrific storm, the two became lost at sea, and the journey of survival after is incredible to hear. In fact, (spoilers!) 14 months later, on January 30, 2014, Alvarenga, washed ashore on a deserted island some seven thousand miles away.

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Kon Tiki

Next on my list of survival books based on true stories, is Kon Tiki. This incredible book, written by Thor Heyerdahl, is a true story of six friends who made it across the pacific ocean on a raft, for 101 days. During this time they covered an insane 4,439 miles.

This tale is unexpected, moving and astonishing.

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Skeletons on the Zahara

Skeletons on the Zahara chronicles the incredible true story of twelve American sailors who were shipwrecked off the coast of Africa in 1815. It’s a survival story with a bit of history – and the age of the this true tale definitely sets it apart from other’s on this list.

The sailors were captured by desert nomads, sold into slavery, and then endured a two-month journey through the Sahara desert. This book not only chronicles the scary experience these sailors had, but also the cultural differences and other challenges.

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Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why

This book, written by Laurence Gonzales is a best seller. This incredible collection of stories, is told by many different people. It is a mix of adventure narrative, survival science, and practical advice. It’s something that is powerful and educational and genuinely interesting and enthralling too. A unique option on this list of survival books based on true stories.

Because this book is a collection of different stories and advice, it’s incredibly easy to read and make your way through, making it a really enjoyable read.

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Annapurna – Maurice Herzog

Titled after the treacherous Himalayan mountain, Annapurna is a detailed documentation of Maurice Herzog and his climbing partner Louis Lachenal to scale this previously untouched mountain. Though the expedition was successful, this book is a harrowing insight into the trials and tribulations that accompany any serious mountaineering expedition.

As frostbite and snow blindness almost resulted in death for these two adventurers, it’s an exciting tale that will stick with the reader long after it’s put down for the final time.

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After the Wind: Tragedy on Everest: One Survivor’s Story

This book is a tragic true story about one of the worst tragedies in Mount Everest’s history. Near the top of Mount Everest, on 10 May 1996, eight climbers died, and one survived. This is a really interesting option for survival books based on true stories and set in one of the most dangerous and fascinating destination in the world.

In After the Wind, the author tells his account of the intense moments near the top, and the decisions he had to make to survive. These moments also revealed the love story that saved his life.

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Into Thin Air- Jon Krakauer

Arguably one of the most famous adventure books out there is Into Thin Air. Detailing the tragic 1996 expedition to Mount Everest that was doomed due to the leaders of the expedition and poor weather, it’s a read that is quite difficult to get through.

However, it’s an incredibly interesting account of the dangerous expedition that ultimately cost eight climbers their lives. With Jon Krakauer recounting the events that unfolded on that fateful trip to the world’s highest peak, it’s a reminder that such a great adventure should not be taken lightly.

Click on the book cover below to head to Amazon to purchase.

list of survival books based on true stories

Next up, I’ll discuss some of the best non-fiction survival books that will help you to make the most of your next outdoor adventure. These aren’t based on true stories, but they might helps you on your own adventures one day!


Cooking with Fire

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When we’re outdoors, we need to make sure that we’re fuelling ourselves properly. However, it’s sometimes difficult to create truly delicious food with limited equipment, and beginners may find themselves stuck with tinned tuna and crackers.

So, if you’re looking for something slightly more inspiring, then this outdoor survival book will help you learn everything you need to know about cooking outdoors. With numerous recipes that will help you to create practical and tasty outdoor meals, your explorative trip will quickly go from drab to fab in the food department. 

Backpacker’s Field Manual

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If you’re after a comprehensive guide that will help you live like a true backwoodsman, then this is the book for you. Written by Richard Curtis (the director of Princeton University’s Outdoor Recreation Program), this book provides all the necessary information that people need for enjoyable and safe hiking.

With sections on GPS use, stoves, and gear, it’s the perfect go-to guide for those looking to travel with the best of them.

Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide

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Written by long-distance hiker Andrew Skurka, this guide is one of the best for those that are looking for a comprehensive gear guide.

In this guide, you’ll learn about what you need to carry in your backpack, as well as personal recommendations for the tools that you’ll need for hiking. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro, this guide has plenty to offer.


Be Expert with Map and Compass

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Though you may think you have a handle on your phone’s GPS, you won’t always have signal when you’re out and about. So, being able to properly use maps and compasses is crucial for backpackers.

Be Expert with Map and Compass written by Bjorn Kjellstrom is a classic navigation guide that has stood the test of time. With everything from understanding map symbols to using compasses, it’s the perfect guide for mastering this ancient art.

Now that we’ve covered some great outdoor survival books, it’s time that we discussed some of the best outdoor adventure books out there. With some truly amazing stories on offer within these classic books, you’ll find yourself glued to the page until you’ve read the last chapter.

I hope this list of the best non-fiction outdoor / adventure survival books has been helpful and given you some inspiration for your reading list!

Though this list of non-fiction outdoor and adventure survival books is by no means exhaustive, it’s a great start for travellers that either need a reference guide for their own trip, or wish to be inspired by the journeys of others.  With so many amazing adventures taking place each year, it’s only a matter of time before another bestseller hits!

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