True Tales of Survival

shelved under Sea Stories

Maybe it's a boy thing, but I'm a sucker for a great tale of survivial. Having read each and every book on the list below, I guarantee there's not a clunker in the bunch.


102 Minutes: The Untold Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers

by Kevin Flynn, Jim Dwyer

As someone who's made his home in New York for the last 9 years — and literally watched the first of the Twin Towers fall — reading about 9/11 can be extremely difficult. This title — a literal minute-by-minute account from the moment the first plane struck to the moment the 2nd tower fell — strikes me as the perfect balance of dispassionate, inspiring and honest.


Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage

by Alfred Lansing

Ernest Shackleton is one of those people you see in those silvery, cracking photos from the turn of the last century who looks like he hung out with Jules Verne and Mark Twain. He also looks like a man who does NOT like to fail. Needless to say, his trying to survive a few winters in Antarctica makes for a good read.


In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex

by Nathaniel Philbrick

I had absolutely no idea that "Moby-Dick" was based on a real whale. And I REALLY had no idea that the whale was so malevolent as to sink a whaling ship by ramming it repeatedly with its head. Seriously.


Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster

by Jon Krakauer

If you're at all a fan of the genre, it's hard to imagine that you haven't read this one yet but I included it on the off chance you haven't gotten to it yet. A word of warning? Don't start this one unless you've got a 4 or 5 hour window open in front of you. You won't set it down until you're done.


The Raft

by Robert Trumbull

This books been out of print for a long time — maybe even 50 years. But there are enough used copies floating around (oops, sorry for bad pun) that Amazon always has one available for a few bucks. Do yourself a favor and pick one up for your next trip to the beach.


Sufferings in Africa

by James Riley

Recommended by Flashlight Worthy fan Chris Kubica, this book looks fascinating. Taking place in the 1800's, it recounts the enslavement of some white sailors by North Africans. Beyond that, all I'll write is this quote from Chris, the fellow who recommended the book: "A guy tries to eat his own arm to stay alive, and stops only when a fellow slave ties his arm out of reach." When it comes to survival stories, you can't really beat that.



by Piers Paul Read

Amber Smith from Syracuse, NY says:

Newsweek calls this book "a classic in the literature of survival," and I agree. The incident upon which the book is based — a plane crash into the remote, snow-peaked Andes — happened Oct. 12, 1972. The plane carried 45 people, including a team of young rugby players. Only 16 made it off the mountain alive, after a 10-week ordeal that included cannibalism. Knowing that, you may fear you'll be too queasy to read, but the author handles this respectfully, just the way it was handled in the aftermath of the crash. You can't read this without asking yourself what would you do, in the same situation?

This book also appears on Books for Those with an Adventurous Spirit


Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

by Laura Hillenbrand

Finally, a book I read a bit after creating this list that really, might be the very best book on the list. From the author of Seabiscuit, this is a story in 3 parts, 2 of which are each in their own right a soul-wrenching tale of survival: First, an extended period lost at sea after being shot down during W.W. II. Then, what must have felt like several lifetimes of imprisonment in a Japanese P.O.W. camp. If you have any interest in this genre, get the book now. I expect you'll read the entire thing in under 72 hours.