The best books on survivalism

2 authors have picked their favorite books about survivalism and why they recommend each book.

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Fever

By Deon Meyer, K.L. Seefers (translator),

Book cover of Fever

South African author Deon Meyer is, in my opinion, the best crime writer in the world. Most of his books are detective stories set in Cape Town, but Fever was a radical departure for him. As an author, I know how important it is for me to keep myself engaged and interested in my writing and not become stale. Deon shook up his readership with this tale of a fictional pandemic (written before Covid 19) and its impact on South Africa. Brilliant and scary and top marks to Deon for leaping out of his comfort zone.


Who am I?

I'm an Australian who fell in love with Africa in my 30s. I've now written 20 thrillers set in Africa and several non-fiction biographies. My wife and I have travelled extensively on the continent and now spend at least half our lives in Africa, and the remainder in Australia. I'm passionate about Africa's people, wildlife, and fragile natural environment. While my books focus on some of the continent's problems – especially the illegal trade in wildlife – I'm a sucker for a happy ending and find no shortage of positive, inspirational people on my travels who serve as the inspiration for the good guys and girls in my stories. 


I wrote...

Blood Trail

By Tony Park,

Book cover of Blood Trail

What is my book about?

Evil is at play in a South African game reserve. A rhino poacher vanishes into thin air, defying logic, and baffling ace tracker Mia Greenaway. Meanwhile, Captain Sannie van Rensburg is investigating the disappearance of two young girls who locals fear have been abducted for use in sinister traditional medicine practices.

But poachers are also employing witchcraft, paying healers for potions they believe will make them invisible. When a tourist goes missing, Mia and Sannie must work together to confront their own demons - which challenges everything they believe in - while following a bloody trail that seems to vanish at every turn.

How to Survive Everything

By Ewan Morrison,

Book cover of How to Survive Everything

I’m full of admiration for this book. Morrison is a fifty-something bloke, but this narrative is told in the first person by a teenage girl, Haley, and the voice is totally perfect: opinionated, funny, sulky, naïve. The novel’s full of dark humour, and a real page-turner. Haley is kidnapped by her father to join a group of apocalyptic pandemic survivalists. Are they barking mad or the only people clear-sighted enough to see the danger the world is in from Virus X? You’ll veer from one viewpoint to the other throughout. You’ll also learn how to use a crossbow and what to put in your survival pack. (Warning: I could only read the bit about amputation through my fingers.) 


Who am I?

Proud to drop the F-bomb—I’m an unrepentant feminist. I grew up during the heady days of the Sixties and Seventies when books played a major part in raising our consciousness. I’m remembering the wonderful Virago Press championing women’s voices, and writers such as Marilyn French, Angela Carter, Maya Angelou, and Maxine Hong Kingston. I’m not keen on books where women are helpless victims or ciphers while men get to do all the exciting stuff. And since real life can be quite grim enough (I was a journalist for over thirty years and remain a news junkie), I’m increasingly attracted by writing that includes a dollop of humour. 


I wrote...

Miss Blaine's Prefect and the Vampire Menace

By Olga Wojtas,

Book cover of Miss Blaine's Prefect and the Vampire Menace

What is my book about?

Fifty-something librarian Shona is a proud former pupil of the Marcia Blaine School for Girls, but has a deep loathing for Muriel Spark’s novel, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, which she thinks gives her alma mater a bad name. 

Impeccably educated and an accomplished martial artist, linguist, and musician, Shona is personally selected by Marcia Blaine herself to travel back in time for an important mission in fin-de-siècle France. But Shona finds this mission very confusing. Why have so many people been torn to death by wild animals, what are Maman and the mayor up to, and is the reclusive aristocrat in the isolated castle really suffering from toothache?

Educated

By Tara Westover,

Book cover of Educated: A Memoir

Tara Westover grew up in a survivalist family where her parents were suspicious of the outside world. She didn’t attend school until she was seventeen. Learning algebra and other subjects on her own, she did well on her college entrance exams and was accepted into Brigham Young University. She went on to attend Harvard and Cambridge Universities. Westover tries to hold together family ties while some relatives constantly planted doubts in her mind. As she succeeded academically, they tried to pull her back into their world at every turn. This story gives us all hope. Her grit inspires us to move forward to reach our dreams. 


Who am I?

I was born in South Korea and moved to The United States when I was three years old. I grew up in Detroit where I was often the only yellow face in school. The trauma of trying to fit in played a significant role in my adult life. I have thought about writing a memoir for years. Several family members asked me not to name them. I decided to tell my truth through brief snapshots of a feeling or event. This way, I could show my journey from my perspective as I learned to walk between two opposing cultures. Observations Through Yellow Glasses: A Memoir Through Poems is the result.


I wrote...

Observations Through Yellow Glasses: A Memoir Through Poems

By Yong Takahashi,

Book cover of Observations Through Yellow Glasses: A Memoir Through Poems

What is my book about?

Yong Takahashi moved to The United States with her parents when she was three years old. She grew up in a traditional household where her Korean and American worlds pulled her in opposite directions. Shortlisted for The Sexton Prize for Poetry, Observations Through Yellow Glasses invites you to follow her journey as she learns life’s bitter lessons, longs for love, and attempts to heal the wounds she collects along the way.

Our Endless Numbered Days

By Claire Fuller,

Book cover of Our Endless Numbered Days

Peggy is eight years old when her survivalist father takes her from her London home and moves her into a remote cabin in the woods and tells her the outside world has been destroyed. They can’t go back. 

If you know anything about my novels, it’s that I absolutely love writing adult fiction from the perspective of young adults. People often ask me why I don’t write YA if I enjoy that age for narrators: it’s because I love coming-of-age stories and the emotional spectrum of children learning to understand the nuances of adult life.  

This book nailed it for me: Mental illness, nature, and relationships to the natural world, a young narrator. I’ve read it twice and it broke my heart both times.


Who am I?

The title of this post is a little misleading – when I say dysfunctional, I mean trauma has left these characters emotionally unavailable despite their love for one another, and searching for answers. When I was eleven, my grandfather was diagnosed with lung cancer on Thanksgiving and passed away in early February. In those eight weeks, my family unraveled. Relationships changed. Others disappeared. It was my first real loss. It was final and far-reaching. I believe this is why I write adult fiction in young voices about trauma. Emotional family journeys of love, loss, healing, forging ahead in unimaginable circumstances, are powerful reminders of why “survival is insufficient” and the brilliance of the human spirit.


I wrote...

A Frenzy of Sparks

By Kristin Fields,

Book cover of A Frenzy of Sparks

What is my book about?

It’s 1965, and thirteen-year-old Gia, along with her older brother and cousins, are desperate to escape their sleepy, tree-lined neighborhood where nothing ever happens. The only thing Gia would miss is the surrounding marsh, where she feels at home among sea birds and salt water.

But when one of Gia’s cousins brings drugs into their neighborhood, it sets off a chain of events that quickly turn dangerous. Everyone will be caught in the ripples, and some may be swept away entirely. Gia is determined to keep herself and her family afloat while the world is turned upside down around her. Can she find a way to hold on to the life she was so eager to leave behind, or will she have to watch it all disappear beneath the marsh forever?

Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse

By Ryan Chamberlin,

Book cover of Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse: First Aid Kit Building and Mini Med School for Preppers

When the dead roam, this book will function as a med-school, first responder, and training physician all rolled into one. That's a good thing, for medical professionals will be at ground zero for the zombie apocalypse. And most won't survive the first few days of the dead, as preserving life will seem more paramount than preserving death. And by the time staff figure out that both are equally important, it will be too late. Nevertheless, those who survive the apocalypse's initial stages will eventually need medical care. Even a minor wound could prove deadly if poorly cleaned. I found the information and practical advice in the book fascinating and potentially helpful under dire circumstances.


Who am I?

Like many of my generation, my formal introduction to the zombie genre started with George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead. Stories of the zombie apocalypse, and the arterial sprays, dismemberments, and eviscerations that accompanied it, have fascinated me ever since. But, I'm also a psychology professor. Although I was initially captivated by the carnage of the undead, I quickly found that the mindsets of the survivors were equally fascinating. More than anything, I love seeing how fictional worlds represent real-world psychological concepts.


I wrote...

Parenting in the Zombie Apocalypse: The Psychology of Raising Children in a Time of Horror

By Steven J. Kirsh,

Book cover of Parenting in the Zombie Apocalypse: The Psychology of Raising Children in a Time of Horror

What is my book about?

Parenting is difficult under the best of circumstances—but extremely daunting when humanity faces cataclysmic annihilation. When the dead rise, hardship, violence, and the ever-present threat of flesh-eating zombies will adversely affect parents and children alike. Depending on their age, children will have little chance of surviving a single encounter with the undead, let alone the unending peril of the Zombie Apocalypse. The key to their survival—and thus the survival of the species—will be the caregiving they receive.

Drawing on psychological theory and real-world research on developmental status, grief, trauma, mental illness, and child-rearing in stressful environments, this book critically examines factors influencing parenting, and the likely outcomes of different caregiving techniques in the hypothetical landscape of the living dead.

Rogue Male

By Geoffrey Household,

Book cover of Rogue Male

Imagine a lone man, who single-handedly attempts to kill Adolf Hitler, who then gets caught and tortured by the Gestapo, then manages to escape back to England. By itself, the book could stop there, as this would be sufficient for any adventure novel. However, Household continues the story. The hero, once back in England, discovers that the Nazis are on his tail, and have sworn to kill him: he turns into a rogue male, which is an expression to describe a runaway, marauding elephant bull. Ironically, the spy on the hero’s heels is a big game hunter, and the two enter into a cat and mouse play, finally forcing the hero to go (literally!) underground. Without a doubt, a prime adventure story, intertwined with important political messaging.


Who am I?

Clemens P. Suter is an author of adventure novels. His books deal with people that overcome impossible, life-changing situations. These are entertaining adventure books, with dystopian, post-apocalyptic, and Scifi elements.


I wrote...

Rebound

By Clemens P. Suter,

Book cover of Rebound

What is my book about?

Together with his three dogs, Alan, the adventurer travels the lonely roads of Armageddon. A deadly pandemic has caused a societal collapse after billions have died. He is soon joined by Imani, a young woman, and a victim of gang violence. Together they set out to discover the truth about the cause of the catastrophe. During their travels from San Francisco to the European Alps, they soon discover a danger that could wipe out the final remnants of humanity. In a world ruled by anarchy, with the last humans fighting for control, Alan’s and Imani’s chances of success or even survival look bleak. Can they save humankind from ultimate disaster?

Until the End of the World

By Sarah Lyons Fleming,

Book cover of Until the End of the World

Sarah Lyons Fleming has an almost supernatural ability to create human tension amongst powerfully real characters. In her four book series she creates a tremendous amount of terror and melancholy amongst her troupe of friends as they travel through unending hordes of the dead. Sarah’s series crosses seasons and years, bringing in the effects of weather, and the environment, and expands the terror of the monsters into a blood-soaked boomerang that Keeps. Coming. Back.


Who am I?

Chris Philbrook spent almost two decades figuring out he didn’t want to use his business degree for business, and his psychology degree for mental health. Instead, he started writing books about zombies, several of which went on to hit bestseller status, and life has been far better as a result. He has authored over 25 books now, spanning multiple genres.


I wrote...

Dark Recollections: Adrian's Undead Diary Book One

By Chris Philbrook,

Book cover of Dark Recollections: Adrian's Undead Diary Book One

What is my book about?

Dark Recollections follows a middle-aged man named Adrian Ring. Adrian wakes up to the sound of a shotgun going off just outside his condo, and things don’t get better as the day goes on. People have started dying, but they aren’t staying that way, and Adrian soon finds himself desperately fighting for survival, and figuring out what the future could possibly hold in a world overrun by pure evil.

Radicalized

By Cory Doctorow,

Book cover of Radicalized: Four Tales of Our Present Moment

What shall we do, when at last the intricate oppressions, we have built for ourselves are pushed plainly into view? Cory Doctorow’s collection of novellas bills itself not fictions of tomorrow, but stories of our present moment. Immigration, police brutality, tech monopoly, online radicalization, all bubble sharply and brilliantly to the surface here, in a world that, frankly, doesn’t seem that far from ours. What will you do, when your toaster tells you that the bread you bought is not a compatible product? Cory Doctorow might tell you. You might not like the answer very much. Either way, with stellar writing and keen insight, Radicalized is the best kind of political fiction, unapologetic, and empathic.


Who am I?

Hi! My name is Ben Berman Ghan, and I’m the author of the short story collection What We See in the Smoke and the novella Visitation Seeds. I’ve spent pretty much every day of my life since 2015 thinking about short fiction, writing it, or editing it. In many ways, the traditions and strengths of the genre of SF are owed to the short fiction writers and the magazines that have published them over the years — magazines that I keep on reading to this day. There is something electric to me about the short story, the concentrated fervor of an SF writer having to concentrate all that imagination and emotion into something tight and sharp. 


I wrote...

What We See in the Smoke

By Ben Berman Ghan,

Book cover of What We See in the Smoke

What is my book about?

What We See in the Smoke twists the genres of realism and science fiction to tell the future history of Toronto, a story that stretches from this millennium to the next.

A musician is caught in an endless time loop unable to reach those he loves, two broke and desperate men plan a heist of a cannibal auction, a detective with sinister proclivities hunts for a criminal who is stealing dreams, and a college student searches for his brother in the hours before a nuclear war. All of these and more lead to a world where only rich cyborgs or the homeless remain, where teleportation has made crime impossible, and where city-sized spaceships are maintained by strange creatures while planet Earth itself is left behind.

Prep For Doom

By ER Arroyo, Laura Albins, Amy Bartelloni, Brea Behn, Casey L. Bond, TK Carter, Kate Corcino, Harlow C. Fallon, Kelsey D. Garmendia, Caroline A. Gill, DelSheree Gladden, John Gregory Hancock, Casey Hays, Kate L. Mary, Jon Messenger, Monica Enderle Pierce, Cameo Renae, Hilary Thompson, Yvonne Ventresca, Megan White

Book cover of Prep For Doom

This collection of short stories by twenty different authors explores how a fictional deadly disease affects a range of people, from scientists to government officials to everyday teens. (My contribution is chapter 13, “Escape to Orange Blossom.”) What I especially enjoyed about this anthology is the way that the characters from one story might appear in another. Using a single incident to drive the plot, the collaborative nature sets this collection apart.


Who am I?

I'm the author of short stories and novels including my young adult debut, Pandemic, which continues to be a timely read about surviving a widespread deadly virus. After the H1N1 pandemic of 2009 (commonly called Swine Flu), I was fascinated with the idea of a global illness that could be much, much worse. I researched historical diseases, interviewed public health officials, and the idea for my novel was born. Written and published before COVID-19, some of the details are eerily predictive of coronavirus. Pandemic won SCBWI’s Crystal Kite Award the year after its publication, and a June 2022 reissue of the original novel includes updated resources and backmatter.


I wrote...

Pandemic

By Yvonne Ventresca,

Book cover of Pandemic

What is my book about?

Only a few people know what caused Lilianna Snyder's sudden change from a model student to a withdrawn pessimist who worries about all kinds of disasters. After her parents are called away on business, Lil’s town is hit by what soon becomes a widespread fatal illness. With her worst fears realized, Lil must find a way to survive not only the outbreak and its real-life consequences, but her own personal demons.

Rules of Conflict

By Jack Hunt,

Book cover of Rules of Conflict: A Post-Apocalyptic EMP Survival Thriller

This book is relevant today. Our country is going through the turmoil of distress caused by the breakdown of civil order and the looming scarcity of basic necessities like energy, food, and water. The scenario here is about the intersection of several groups of people and how well they prepared for surviving the first several days of a catastrophic event. There is good survival preparation information embedded in the text that can be augmented by the many real survivalist organizations. In crafting the story, the author does the same thing I do…layering useful, real-world information into the fictional narrative. Another real-world question is considered here. If there were no police, National Guard, FEMA, or aid groups, what would you be able to do for you and your family? The message in this book leaves us hopeful. 


Who am I?

I write in the speculative fiction genre where an overwhelming event, seemingly beyond the control of the main characters, underpins what happens to those characters. Exploring scenarios about how society would change as a result of cyber controlled multiple personality overlays, for example, is a great opportunity for considered thought. I believe that a mind without a question is dead. As a writer, I imbue my characters with this philosophy and then set them free to navigate the vast plane of destiny for themselves.


I wrote...

INVERSION 1: Looking Through Mirrors

By Michael Krozer,

Book cover of INVERSION 1: Looking Through Mirrors

What is my book about?

INVERSION is a contemporary, action oriented speculative science fiction/military saga that explores the creation of a new society and the courageous woman at its center.

Awakening from a coma as vulnerable as a baby gasping its first breath, Angela’s survival in a dangerous world relies on how well she handles the hard choices that come quickly. Suddenly faced with two perilous options, one will take her back to a life she feared. The other will thrust her into a future molded by her will to shape it. To survive, weakness and fear must be shed and replaced with courage, tenacity, and strength. But what if she was never meant to survive?  Nefarious forces beyond her understanding are closing steadily around her.

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