The best books about humans fighting for survival in dangerous situations

Who am I?

Elizabeth Flann is a history and literature major who worked for over twenty years in the publishing industry in England and Australia before moving into teaching literature, scriptwriting and editing to postgraduate students at Deakin University, Melbourne. She is a co-author of The Australian Editing Handbook and was awarded a PhD in 2001 for her thesis entitled Celluloid Dreaming: Cultural Myths and Landscape in Australian Film. Now retired, she is able to give full rein to her true love—writing fiction. Her first novel, Beware of Dogs, was awarded the Harper Collins Banjo Prize for a Fiction Manuscript. She now lives in a peaceful rural setting in Victoria, Australia, close to extended family and nature.


I wrote...

Beware of Dogs

By Elizabeth Flann,

Book cover of Beware of Dogs

What is my book about?

"Not much daylight left now," begins the field diary of Alix Verhoeven, whose acceptance of an offer to spend Easter on a remote island has turned into a terrifying ordeal. Hiding in a tiny cave, she carefully rations her diminishing supplies, while desperately trying to escape the men hunting her. By day disciplined and living by the strict rules necessary for survival, at night she finds herself haunted by questions about her life that she has never wanted to face. And time is running out.

Writing this book was very much influenced by the adventure books I have been reading since I was eight years old. It was equally as much based on the reading and research I've done about the ways humans manage to survive against the odds.

The books I picked & why

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Martin Rattler

By R.M. Ballantyne,

Book cover of Martin Rattler

Why this book?

I was a lonely child and when I discovered my uncle’s childhood adventure books at my grandmother’s house I found a world of excitement, adventure, and bravery that thrilled me to the marrow. Although all the active characters in these books were male, I managed to insert my imaginary self into the tales of shipwrecks, daredevil flights, and chases through Amazon jungles as the protagonists bravely and indefatigably fought for survival. Martin Rattler was the first of these books I read and it’s still a breathtaking read, with plenty of moments when your heart is in your mouth and you are almost too scared to read on. I recommend it as a true heart-stopper. 

You may be shocked by some of the racist and sexist attitudes in Martin Rattler. It was written in the colonialist and intolerant England of the times, and I find it heartening that no one could write such things and be published today. It also gives us an insight into times and attitudes of long ago that I for one find historically fascinating.

Martin Rattler

By R.M. Ballantyne,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Martin Rattler as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book was converted from its physical edition to the digital format by a community of volunteers. You may find it for free on the web. Purchase of the Kindle edition includes wireless delivery.


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

By Joe Simpson,

Book cover of Touching the Void: The True Story of One Man's Miraculous Survival

Why this book?

After years of vicarious adventure tales like The Coral Island and Treasure Island, as an adult I discovered a new source: true-life adventures. From the voyage of the raft Kon-Tiki to the epic trek by Robyn Davidson across Australia’s cruelest desert, my fascination with the human capacity for survival found a new revival. One of the most riveting books I’ve ever read in this genre is Touching the Void which, although non-fiction, is written in an extraordinarily poetic form by the two survivors, each of whom suffered terrible physical privations and even more terrible moral dilemmas while climbing in the snow-covered Peruvian mountains. That either of them survived is a miracle. That both of them did is a tribute to what humans can endure in order to survive.

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

By Joe Simpson,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Touching the Void as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Extensive reading is essential for improving fluency
and there is a real need in the ELT classroom for motivating, contemporary
graded material that will instantly appeal to students

Based on the internationally acclaimed book by Joe Simpson, Touching
the Void is the compelling true story of a mountaineering
expedition which goes dreadfully wrong.



LEVEL 3 - LEVEL 4

BOOK ONLY

Perfect also for native English speaking children who are struggling
with their reading

Full colour photos and film stills bring story
to life and aid comprehension

Fact File section explores the making of the film, climbing Everest
and other related…


Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

By Cheryl Strayed,

Book cover of Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

Why this book?

This time I began with the film. "A female adventurer against the wilderness," the blurb stated, and I thought: that’s for me!  I loved the film, then went on to read the book and loved that even more, although I was surprised to find that a lot of the adventures were in Strayed’s head, not dealing with rattlesnakes and falling rocks. It was a reminder that the two kinds of challenges go hand in hand and when I came to write my book these were the two elements – the interior and the exterior – I had to balance to make the story complete. So often a journey of survival is also a journey into your own psyche. This is a beautifully-written memoir/non-fiction book that keeps the balance perfectly.

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

By Cheryl Strayed,

Why should I read it?

14 authors picked Wild as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

#1 NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A powerful, blazingly honest memoir: the story of an eleven-hundred-mile solo hike that broke down a young woman reeling from catastrophe—and built her back up again.

At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the…


The Girl Who Lived

By Susan Berg,

Book cover of The Girl Who Lived

Why this book?

In another story that combined the two elements of memoir/non-fiction, Berg’s turmoil began because of the adventure. The sole survivor of a family tragedy, in which she performed heroically trying to seek help, she was stricken with survivor’s guilt as well as enormous personal loss. The first part of her story conveys the physical adventure of saving her own life. The second part conveys with devastating honesty the mental adventure of surviving all the self-torture and heart-rending loss that entailed. This book also manages to negotiate the line between fiction and non-fiction with delicacy and strength.

The Girl Who Lived

By Susan Berg,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Girl Who Lived as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Girl Who Lived is the true story of Susan Berg, the sole survivor of a boating accident that claimed the lives of her parents and brother, and what it took for her to love life again.At fifteen, Susan was on a boat trip with her parents and brother when their vessel began to sink. Desperate to find help, she swam ahead, struggling through darkness and rough sea. After nearly four hours, Susan, exhausted and barely able to walk, finally made it ashore. Her family did not.
Wracked by survivor guilt, Susan began to rebel against the world. Looking for…


Robinson Crusoe

By Daniel Defoe,

Book cover of Robinson Crusoe

Why this book?

This book was the granddaddy of the adventure genre. Writing in the 1700s, Defoe provided all the touch-points that have dominated the genre to the present day – desert island, castaway, man Friday, fear of man-eating beasts – almost all of which I have used in a book written in the 2020s (although my Alix did not find a man Friday). As possibly the first fictional story of human survival it created a template for all that followed. Each of the books I have mentioned, including my own, have to deal with endless problems from the mundane (what can I eat?) to the sublime (what am I here for?) and despite some occasional sermonising, Defoe showed us how to do it. I have just reread it for the fourth time, and yes, I skipped some passages, but nonetheless, it’s a rollicking good read.

You may be shocked by some of the attitudes to slavery and other ethnicities in Robinson Crusoe. It was written in the colonialist and racist England of the 1700s, and gives us an opportunity to experience the dawning of the travel and adventure genre in Western literature within a historical context.

Robinson Crusoe

By Daniel Defoe,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Robinson Crusoe as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Robinson Crusoe has a universal appeal, a story that goes right to the core of existence' Simon Armitage

Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe, regarded by many to be first novel in English, is also the original tale of a castaway struggling to survive on a remote desert island.

The sole survivor of a shipwreck, Robinson Crusoe is washed up on a desert island. In his journal he chronicles his daily battle to stay alive, as he conquers isolation, fashions shelter and clothes, enlists the help of a native islander who he names 'Friday', and fights off cannibals and mutineers. Written in…


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