The best books about surviving man, nature, and our own demons

Who am I?

When I was nine, I was chased by a dog in the woods. It was barking and drooling and seemed intent on attacking me. For all I know, that dog was somebody’s pet, but I was terrified. It took me years to get over a fear of dogs, and even longer to get over a fear of the woods. I suppose that’s why I’ve always gone back to the wilderness as a setting for my novels; I love stories that tap into my strongest emotions. I’m also a physician, and I like exploring what makes us vulnerable—and resilient. 

I wrote...

Vanishing Edge

By Claire Kells,

Book cover of Vanishing Edge

What is my book about?

After a misadventure in the Australian outback that ended in her husband’s disappearance, ex-FBI agent Felicity Harland is trying to get back on her feet as a detective for the Investigative Services Branch of the National Parks Service.

In her first case, an abandoned campsite turns up on an alpine lake in the redwood forests of California. As Felicity tackles the mystery of what happened, she teams up with park ranger Ferdinand Huxley, a former Navy SEAL who brings some useful skills—and a welcome sense of humor—to the wilderness. Together, they work to uncover the circumstances behind the abandoned campsite while battling the forces of time, nature, and some shady characters with secrets of their own.

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The books I picked & why

Bird Box

By Josh Malerman,

Book cover of Bird Box

Why did I love this book?

I love stories about ordinary people who suddenly find themselves in life-threatening peril, and Bird Box is definitely that. I was completely captivated by this book—it’s crisply plotted, well-written, and uniquely terrifying. But it also resonated with me on a deep emotional level, as the main character puts aside her own fears to save her two children. This is a story about self-preservation, but it’s also one about selflessness in its purest form.

By Josh Malerman,

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked Bird Box as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Josh Malerman's debut novel Bird Box is a terrifying, Hitchcockesque psychological horror that is sure to stay with you long after reading.

Malorie raises the children the only way she can: indoors.

The house is quiet. The doors are locked, the curtains are closed, mattresses are nailed over the windows.

They are out there. She might let them in.

The children sleep in the bedroom across the hall.

Soon she will have to wake them. Soon she will have to blindfold them.

Today they must leave the house. Today they will risk everything.

Cold Storage

By David Koepp,

Book cover of Cold Storage

Why did I love this book?

I will admit I came to this book for the author. David Koepp is a renowned screenwriter whose credits include Jurassic Park and Mission: Impossible, among many others. Screenwriters have to work within the confines of a 120-page format, so it’s no wonder that this novel moves at a lightning pace. I love that it features a deadly fungal organism that could end humanity, but the story is really about the three people desperately trying to contain it. 

By David Koepp,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

'Gruesome, terrifying, pulse-pounding' Stephen King

Shortlisted for the CWA Steel Dagger Award for Best Thriller of the Year

'Frightening' Mail on Sunday

When Pentagon bioterror operative Roberto Diaz was sent to investigate a suspected biochemical attack, he found something far worse: a highly mutative organism capable of extinction-level destruction.

Now, after decades of festering in a forgotten sub-basement, the specimen has found its way out and is on a lethal feeding frenzy. And only Diaz knows how to stop it.

He races across the country to help two unwitting security guards - one an ex-con, the other a single mother.…

Book cover of Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre

Why did I love this book?

Devolution is the follow-up to the author’s World War Z, which I also enjoyed. It features an interesting format, told in a series of letters, that tells the story of a Bigfoot-like monster that threatens a bunch of Silicon Valley-types in the Pacific Northwest after a volcanic eruption. It’s gruesome, fun, and entertainingly critical of people who think they can handle living off the grid. I enjoyed watching them get their comeuppance in this riveting wilderness survival story. 

By Max Brooks,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?


As the ash and chaos from Mount Rainier's eruption swirled and finally settled, the story of the Greenloop massacre has passed unnoticed, unexamined . . . until now.

But the journals of resident Kate Holland, recovered from the town's bloody wreckage, capture a tale too harrowing - and too earth-shattering in its implications - to be forgotten.

In these pages, Max Brooks brings Kate's extraordinary account to light for the first time, faithfully reproducing her words alongside his own extensive investigations into…

Winter's Bone

By Daniel Woodrell,

Book cover of Winter's Bone

Why did I love this book?

This short, beautifully written novel features a sixteen-year-old girl who goes off into the Ozark wilderness to find her father. The obstacles she faces are unique and compelling, and the stakes are high despite the “quiet” nature of this story. The main character, Ree, is a strong young woman who comes of age in the most trying of circumstances, but she does it with grace and maturity. 

By Daniel Woodrell,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked Winter's Bone as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This is a fiercely original tale of love, heartbreak and resilience in the lonely wastes of the American Midwest. The last time Ree saw her father, he didn't bring food or money but promised he'd be back soon with a paper sack of cash and a truckload of delights. Since he left, she's had to look after her mother - sedated and losing her looks - and her two younger brothers. Ree hopes the boys won't turn out like the others in the Ozark mountains - hard and mean before they've learnt to shave. One cold winter's day, Ree discovers…

Book cover of Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster

Why did I love this book?

I remember reading an I-Can-Read book about Mt. Everest as a little girl, and since then, I’ve always wondered about the people who choose to climb the highest peak in the world. Personally, I would never go near Everest (I hate being cold, for one thing), but Krakauer dives deep into the psyche of the men and women who set out on this ill-fated expedition, some of whom did not survive. He also gives a riveting, first-hand account of what it was like to climb Mt. Everest—the euphoria of getting to the summit, followed quickly by the terror and despair of what happened next.

By Jon Krakauer,

Why should I read it?

13 authors picked Into Thin Air as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

#1 NATIONAL BESTSELLER • The epic account of the storm on the summit of Mt. Everest that claimed five lives and left countless more—including Krakauer's—in guilt-ridden disarray. 

"A harrowing tale of the perils of high-altitude climbing, a story of bad luck and worse judgment and of heartbreaking heroism." —PEOPLE

A bank of clouds was assembling on the not-so-distant horizon, but journalist-mountaineer Jon Krakauer, standing on the summit of Mt. Everest, saw nothing that "suggested that a murderous storm was bearing down." He was wrong. 

By writing Into Thin Air, Krakauer may have hoped to exorcise some of his own demons…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in survival, the Ozarks, and dystopian?

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