The theme of survival has been used in stories for thousands of years. There is something deeply compelling about stories where someone is trapped out in the wild, so it is not surprising when they became popular themes in novels. Here are arguably the ten best survival novels ever written in terms of their story, compelling characters, and what you can learn from the novel itself that you can use in the wild.
1. Alas, Babylon: This details the struggle of a small town in Florida which was cut off from the rest of the world during a nuclear war. The novel itself makes for compelling reading and details the many ways the people learned to survive.
2. Dark Advent: Another post-apocalyptic story about life on Earth after a plague wipes out most of the population. Similar in setup to Stephen King’s novel, “The Stand”, this work focuses far more on the details of how the survivors live off the land.
3. The Hunger Games: A highly popular novel series set in a dystopian future where a girl is forced to participate in a survival game with the last person alive being declared the winner. Good, compelling reading with some interesting tidbits of survival knowledge along the way.
4. Island of the Blue Dolphins: Based on the true story of Juana Maria, a Native American who was left alone on the island of San Nicolas for 18 years during the 19th century. It is a popular children’s novel and was later adapted into a movie.
5. Lights Out: The life of Mark “Karate Man” Turner who must survive when the lights go out in the world. He manages to unite friends and family as civilization around them falls apart. It is compelling reading and offers insight into basic, daily survival.
6. No Blade of Grass: Another classic novel written by John Christopher that documents the world running out of food with a group of survivors making their way to London.
7. Life as We Knew It: When an asteroid knocks the moon out of Earth’s orbit, it changes forever the climate which causes several catastrophes. While written more for teenagers, the book itself offers many tips on survival which make it quite useful as well as a good read.
8. Out of the Ashes: Set in the US after the ravages of a nuclear war, a man who sets out in search of his family is instead recruited into a resistance force. Excellent tension is generated from the need to learn basic survival skills while fighting a formidable foe.
9. Patriots: Surviving the Coming Collapse: What makes this work special is that it often reads like a non-fiction book that is packed with great survival information. While this might not make it compelling in terms of the story, it does make it highly valuable for those interested in survival skills.
10. World Made by Hand: A story set in an agrarian village where vital products like peak oil play a strong role in determining the survival of the townspeople. Set amid a dystopian future with nuclear terrorism lurking around the corner, this is a fascinating book about survival.