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

The Books I Picked & Why

Bird Box

By Josh Malerman

Book cover of Bird Box

Why 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.


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Cold Storage

By David Koepp

Book cover of Cold Storage

Why 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. 


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Devolution: A Firsthand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre

By Max Brooks

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

Why 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. 


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Winter's Bone

By Daniel Woodrell

Book cover of Winter's Bone

Why 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. 


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

By Jon Krakauer

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

Why 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.


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