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Best Survival Books – Prepper Books You Need to Survive

There are a lot of resources out there when it comes to survival and preparedness, but where do you start? We've curated some of our favorites and provided a short summary of each one. Let's take a look.
survival books

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Recent events have proven most people aren’t prepared for disruptions to the normal routine of our everyday lives. When certain services are available, whether it be food, medical, etc., people start to panic. Most folks don’t have the skills to perform basic tasks.

Having non-digital resources and reference materials can prove to be invaluable. However, I don’t feel that having “one” good book on this subject matter is enough. There are too many topics and when one book tries to cover all of them, the content is typically very general.

This is no fault of the authors, there’s just no way to cram that much information into one book. It would take volumes to cover all of that subject matter.

So, I’ve decided to list out my favorite survival, prepping, emergency preparedness books into one collection. Let me back up a little, while most of the are my personal favorites, a few are recommendations from trusted friends and colleagues. I decided to add those in as well, based on their word alone. While I did review the books they recommended, I have not spent large amounts of time in them.

I’ve decided to break these books down by category to make it a little easier to break things up based on the subject matter.

Medical Survival Books

This topic is one where having practical knowledge is key, but remembering everything is out of the question. You need to know how to address emergency situations as they occur, but for the events that offer you more time, it’s nice to have a reference to take a look at.

Where There is No Doctor by David Werner

This book is extremely popular, and I’m embarrassed to say I didn’t own it until recently. It is well laid out and very easy to follow and understand.

It includes information on home cures, how to build a medicine kit, how to examine a sick person, first aid, nutrition, infection, how to diagnose treat and prevent common disease and injuries, and much, much more.

It’s 446 pages of pure gold. It is built primarily around “what to do” in third-world countries when you find yourself in a scenario where there is no medical infrastructure.

It’s a must-have at home and abroad!

Where There is No Dentist by Murray Dickson

Riding the coattails of ‘Where There is No Doctor’, Where There is No Dentist picks up and keeps the ball moving.

If you want to know how to take care of teeth and how to treat dental problems, this is the resource. It will teach you all about teeth and gums before getting into the specifics of treatments.

It goes into detail about diagnosing, treating common problems, scaling teeth, injecting inside the mouth, cement fillings, and pulling teeth. Like its companion book above, it will also tell you what you need to build your dental kit.

It’s a great addition to any medical library.

The Survival Medicine Handbook by Joseph and Amy Alton

The Survival Medicine Handbook is a robust, 670-page resource build around treating injury and illness in disasters. The premise is what to do when help is not on the way.

If you had no access to hospitals or doctors, what would you do? That’s what they address in this book. It’s a very comprehensive approach to cleanliness, preparedness, assessments, infections, radiation sickness, bites, diabetes, heart disease, pregnancy, medication and more.

If you are interested in disaster medicine, add this to your library.

Guide and Handbook to Tactical Casualty Care by Rafael Navarro

The Guide and Handbook to Tactical Casualty Care is small, short, and to the point. Don’t think of it as the all-inclusive authority on tactical casualty care. Think of it as a more general, refresher type of publication.

This would be a great book to add in addition to TCCC training or other similar guidelines/training classes. Never rely on written text alone when it comes to life or death. Seek out adequate training and use books like this one as a refresher.

This book is particularly geared towards law enforcement, which I was in at the time I purchased it. However, it has applications across all walks of life.

It covers things such as knowing the difference in life-threatening and non-life threatening injuries, when and how to treat each, how to assemble a “gunshot” kit and more.

Bushcraft & Wilderness Survival Books

The books will give you a lot of information to pull from. The good thing is these are skills you can practice during everyday life. They are fun to do and you can make a family event out of it. Like the others, they are valuable to have as reference material as well.

Bushcraft 101 by Dave Canterbury

Bushcraft 101 will give you pretty much all you need to survive in the wild. If you are new to bushcraft, or maybe even at an intermediate/advanced level, you can benefit from this book.

It will open your eyes and help you change perspectives in terms of what you see as useful out in the wild. Canterbury builds a lot of this book around his 5 C’s: cutting tools, covering elements, combustion devices, containers, and cordage.

He really does a good job of breaking up the content in a logical, system-based way and hits on subject matter like gear, packs, tools, terrain, wild game, edibles, medicinal plants, and more. All that is in addition to the 5 C’s mentioned above.

Survival Hacks by Creek Stewart

If you are looking for out of the box survival hacks related to survival, Survival Hacks should make the list. Creek not only provides this valuable information in a well laid out format but also backs it up by providing relevant background information.

This book could also be listed in the urban survival section listed below because he does offer a variety of hacks for urban environments. If you are observant enough and don’t mind being resourceful, there are “things” we can use all-around use. The author does a good job of highlighting common items that can be used in survival situations.

Survive! Ultimate Edition by Les Stroud

Survive! Ultimate Edition is a very thorough guide on a variety of environments, climates, terrains, and situations. The added stories in combination with high production value (quality pics, etc.), make this a great choice.

It covers, many field-tested tips and techniques covering all the basics like fire, water, and shelter, but it is much more than that. It covers in detail, food (plants, animals, creatures), signaling, various survival skill sets, and more.

Military Survival Books

A couple of these are “military” in nature and others are written by former military members. Either way, they are at home in this section. Some of the legit military manuals and handbooks are a little dated but still provide some valuable information. Plus, they are typically cheaper and can easily be added to your collection.

FM 21-76 U.S. Army Survival Manual by D.O.D.

The FM 21-76 may be a little outdated in some regards, but there are still nuggets of information in there. It’s cheap, easy to follow, and has quite a few helpful illustrations gracing the pages.

It’s a really good resource for folks new to the subject matter, those looking for the basics, or maybe younger children. It covers a lot of different situations, climates, and environments, in general detail. A little updating wouldn’t hurt, but for the price, it’s worth the purchase.

U.S. Air Force Survival Handbook by U.S. Air Force

The U.S. Air Force Survival Handbook is actually a pretty well-written book. I actually like it better than the FM 21-76. It contains a lot of helpful illustrations build around most of the need-to-know survival skills.

As with most government publications, some things are a bit out of date. The G is a little slow sometimes in staying with current times. However, that doesn’t mean this book is not useful. It covers topics such as survival conditions, the psychology of survival, survival medicine, personal protection, shelter, fire-craft, equipment, and more.

Hawke’s Green Beret Survival Manual by Mykel Hawke

Hawke’s Green Beret Survival Manual receives high marks from a lot of users. Written by a Green Beret, this book has a way of touching on some of the less popular topics or beliefs. Mykel writes this book from his perspective and you can see where his long military career comes into play.

The skills in this book are very practical in application and presentation. Things like if the sun rises in the East and sets in the West, just point your right shoulder to the sunrise and your nose will be pointing North. It seems basic, but a lot of people don’t understand these basic tenets of survival.

This one is a good buy for sure.

SAS Survival Handbook by John Wiseman

The SAS Survival Handbook is highly popular for good reason. If you want to know basic survival skills, camp considerations, food, water, first aid, self-defense, disasters, urban survival, terrorism, and more.

This book is very broad in terms of the topics it covers, it can almost be too much if you want something to go very deep on one particular aspect of survival. However, if you want something to cover a lot of things in pretty good detail, this book is definitely the choice.

Food-based Survival Books

This category of books is mandatory to have in your collection. Especially when it comes to edible plants. So many things look the same and making the wrong choice can kill you. The same goes for food preservation. There’s a wrong way to do things and the results can be devastating. Definitely look at adding these to your reference material.

Extreme Food: What to Eat When Your Life Depends on It by Bear Grylls

Extreme Food: What to Eat When Your Life Depends on It is written by Bear Grylls who has eaten some pretty nasty things. Just what he has eaten on TV alone is pretty impressive. Despite how some people feel about him personally, there’s no doubt he has experience in these areas.

The information is presented in a great format. It would be nice to see a few more pictures, but that’s about my only complaint. Bear covers all types of things to eat, how to acquire it, prep it, how to eat it, etc. It also covers a lot of things you should not eat as well. It does a thorough job of doing both.

Nature’s Garden by Samuel Thayer

Nature’s Garden in their own words is a guide to identifying, harvesting and preparing edible wild plants. The book covers wild foods in North America and goes into detail on 41 of the most common.

It has great detail and photos of all aspects of the plants it references. Not all parts of each plant can be eaten, this guide will tell you what’s what. I don’t know how anyone could remember all the information regarding wild edibles. It’s impossible. For me, the best resource is to have printed reference material to go to when I need to make sure I’m right.

Edible Wild Plants: A North American Field Guide by Thomas Elias

Edible Wild Plants is a North American field guide documenting over 200 natural foods found in North America. To me, this book is a good companion Nature’s Garden mentioned above. Each has a different presentation style and it’s good to have multiple resources.

This book includes high quality, detailed photos to help you specifically identify the plants you are referencing. You won’t get every plant at each stage of each life-cycle, but I don’t know of any survival book that does that. It will help you identify what to eat, how to eat it, and how to identify poisonous plants that look very similar.

52 Unique Techniques for Stocking Food for Preppers

Food storage is something that can be pretty intimidating for most folks. As we have seen from recent events, most are not prepared to go a week in regards to food. That is a scary thought. If you want to start stocking your pantry or if you want to refine your skills, 52 Unique Techniques for Stocking Food is a great addition to your library.

This book goes into detail about bulk food storage, oven canning, dehydrating, potting meat, smoking bacon, kombucha, fruits, vegetables, and on, and on. There is really a lot of material covered in this book related to food preparation, storage, and cooking.

Simply Canning by Sharon Peterson

Simply Canning is my absolute favorite canning book. If you are into preserving various types of food, this book is a must. I literally reference it all the time. Matter of fact, I will be pulling it out later today because I’m going to be pressure canning some vegetables.

If you can or if you plan on canning, this book is a must-have. One of the biggest things to keep in mind with canning is safety. This book covers safety in detail as well as a bunch of recipes for fruit, sweets, jams, jelly, tomatoes, pickles, vegetables, meats and more. It also covers how much to can, how to store it, and how to keep records.

This one is mandatory!

Urban Survival Books

A lot of folks live in cities and are surrounded by people and stuff. This creates unique challenges of its own. It’s nice to have some guidance specifically related to those scenarios. These books will get you going and come at it from a direction targeting urban environments.

Urban Emergency Survival Plan by Jim Cobb

There are are a lot of resources out there advising you how to bug out when things get bad. Urban Emergency Survival Plan one that will tell what to do when bunkering down in the city. Look at that amount of folks that live in cities….that’s a lot of people who need to know what to do.

How do you prepare when you are in the concrete jungle? Can you grow food and are you familiar with urban gardening? What about raising animals within the confines of the city? This book covers those as well as get home bags, escaping various situations, food storage, security, first aid, shelter, and more. It’s definitely worth a look.

When the Grid Goes Down by Tony Nester

Do you want to be more self-sufficient in terms of your home and life? If so, you need to check out When the Grid Goes Down. This book is to the point and sufficiently covers a lot of topics related to self-reliance and independence from the system.

It goes into great detail about how to make your home self-reliant, storing and purifying water, essential food to stock, off-grid medicine, security, sanitation, hygiene and more. The author has a great approach and presentation style and it really offers practical advice for normal, everyday folks.

Surviving an Urban Disaster by Richard Duarte

Surviving and Urban Disaster is a guidebook in planning, preparing, and having the skills to mitigate the consequences of a disaster. It has an easy to follow format that makes navigating the pages simple. Keep in mind, this book is pretty short and to the point.

There’s a lot of good pictures to give you a visual of what to do in a quick-hit format. It covers the basics of survival with general coverage of each section. One of the strong points of this book is the helpful lists it provides. Things like listing what food to stock along with nutritional value make this book very handy to have for beginners.

Surviving Doomsday by Richard Duarte

Surviving Doomsday is another book by Richard Duarte. Again, if you are new or want to improve basic self-reliance, this book is worth a look. It is oriented towards urban survival, making it valuable for folks leaving in the city.

The author does a good job describing water, food, first aid, security, self-defense, hygiene, sanitation, physical fitness, tools, and more. Again, it is not a deep-dive into every detail of urban survival, but it does provide a solid framework for those just getting into the subject matter.

Home Defense

In all your preparation, have you taken home defense and security into consideration? If not, these are a few of the books you need to take a look at. There’s much more to this topic outside of buying a bunch of guns and ammo. If you don’t know where to start, pick up a few of these resources.

Prepper’s Home Defense by Jim Cobb

Prepper’s Home Defense is chocked full of realistic advice that most folks can find applicable to their situations. Security issues are important and Cobb makes the subject matter easy to digest and relevant to your current preparedness level.

There is a difference in having certain security in place during “normal” times and having to ramp things up when certain incidents or events pop up. This book covers security planning, physical defense, weapons, dogs, communication, and more.

Complacency kills! So does having a bad plan and strategy. Make sure your ducks are in a row when if and when it comes time.

Protecting Your Homestead by Grant Cunningham

If you live outside the confines of the urban jungle, specifically places like apartments, etc., you have certain things you need to take into consideration when it comes to protecting your property. As your acreage grows, so does some of the complications of protecting it.

Protecting Your Homestead is written for folks who have little to no experience with firearms and how to safely use them. Grant expands on this subject matter and helps build a basic foundation.

This book covers safety, perimeter defense, legal considerations, rifle options, accessories, ammo, handling, zeroing, shootings positions, movement, training, and more. It’s a great option for newbies or those with basic knowledge.

AR-15 Skills & Drills by Tiger McKee

The AR-15 is a popular choice for personal security and home defense. In fact, it may be the most popular rifle platform in circulation in the U.S. The problem is most people buy the gun, buy some ammo, and call it good. This is a horrible strategy. Outside of proper hands-on instruction, you should have some reference material.

AR-15 Skills & Drills covers topics like safety, parts, and operation, slings, ready positions, carry modes, stance, manipulations, marksmanship, zeroing, training, moving, firing positions, using cover, lowlight, and more.

Gunsmithing the AR-15 by Patrick Sweeney

If you have an AR-15 for protection or self-defense you need to be able to count on it when it matters most. It has to run and run reliably. Having a reference manual to help you out in this area can be very beneficial. Especially, if you only mess with it every once in a while.

Gunsmithing the AR-15 goes into great detail on how the AR-15 works, the upper receiver, lower receiver, disassembly, calibers, slings, optics, malfunction clearances, tools, and more. It is definitely a detailed resource that will give you the confidence you need to keep things running the way they need to be.

Skill Set Survival Books

This section primarily includes books that focus on particular skill sets. Some you may have a mastery of and some you may not. Some of these things are not skills you practice on a regular basis. When this happens there tend to be things we forget. These references ensure you will have what you need when you need it.

The Emergency Survival Manual: 294 Life-Saving Skills by Joseph Pred

The Emergency Survival Manual is full of tips and advice for all types of scenarios. The premise of this book is that being prepared is the best defense. What do you do when emergency services can not or do not arrive. Can you handle things on your own?

It covers subject matter such as protection against a virus or pandemic, using everyday items, self-defense, off-grid considerations, and more. The sections are short, to the point, and easy to digest. It’s a solid choice for all types of natural and manmade disasters.

Practical Lock Picking by Deviant Ollam

Practical Lock Picking is a little more on the expensive side but worth every penny. I feel that lock picking is a skill everyone should have a basic grasp of. This instructional manual will walk you through a lot of aspects you need to understand as a foundation to lock picking.

It covers standard lockpicking, as well as quick entry techniques like shimming, bumping, and bypassing. The photos make learning and understanding various techniques very easy to grasp.

If you haven’t waded into this skill set yet, give it a try. I actually use my picks on a semi-frequent basis (all for legal purposes…easy folks), which is quite surprising.

Just in Case: How to be Self-Sufficient when the Unexpected Happens by Kathy Harrison

Just in Case offers a solid, non-tinfoil hat, approach to being prepared for just in case scenarios. It covers personal preparedness, home systems, comm, pets, vehicles, evacuation, power loss, fire, disasters, pandemic, terrorism, and more.

This is a great book, but I wish the author would have gone into more detail on certain sections like natural disasters. However, that’s just me nitpicking. It would be multiple volumes if that was the case.

With that being said, I think it does a great job of covering topics at a beginner to intermediate level.

Woodworking Basics by Peter Korn

Woodworking Basics is an awesome book for those wanting to expand their DIY knowledge base. It covers safety, machinery, how to properly use hand tools, wood, joinery, milling, mortise and tenon, dovetails, building benches and tables, and more. This book, along with getting your hands dirty, will definitely help you progress and gain confidence in woodworking.

Wilderness Navigation by Bob Burns

Wilderness Navigation is a solid option to get you going in how to use a map and compass in the wilderness. This is a skill a lot of people dismiss in the age of smartphones. What happens when your phone dies or you have zero service? Most people are screwed.

This book gives you a solid foundation on navigation and backs up the acquired skills with quizzes, practice problems, and “skills checks”. It covers compass basics, orientation with a map and compass, navigation with a map and compass, maps, geomagnetism, altimeters, GPS, route finding, and more.

Primitive Technology by John Plant

Primitive Technology is a cool book that includes all kinds of information related to primitive skills. Subject matter like basic and advanced tool kits, heat, hunting, clothing, textiles, shelter, and pyro-technology to name a few. These are good skills to have and they are actually pretty fun to practice. Kids tend to really like a lot of these as well.

How to Open Locks with Improvised Tools by Hans Conkel

We already provided you with one reference on standard lock picking with standard tools. What about opening “things” using improvised methods? Have you ever lost or forgot your keys and been locked out? What if you could have gotten in without destroying a door or window?

How to Open Lock Picks with Improvised Tools will teach you how to open doorknobs, car doors, deadbolts, padlocks, and more. Learn how to exploit weaknesses in various types of locking mechanisms. It goes into great detail on bypassing locks and teaches you how to use scrounged materials to improvise the tools you need. It’s a good book to add to your collection.

Be Expert With Map and Compass by Bjorn Hjellstrom

We’ve mentioned navigation already, but it’s an important skill set to master. This is the book I started with years ago. Be Expert With Map and Compass covers how a map and compass are practical in everyday life, in the outdoors, for the family, and more.

You will learn how to read maps, travel by map and compass, orienteering, and everything in between. It has plenty of survival applications, but normal everyday life as well.

Combat Tracking Guide by John D. Hurth

Combat Tracking Guide is recognized as an authority on tracking in combat situations. For those with no experience, or with basic to intermediate experience, this book is a must. It will teach you visual tracking, gait, tracks, interpretation, tactics, counter-tracking, booby traps and more. This book is an awesome resource and should be mandatory for your library.

General Survival and Prepping Books

This category is kind of a catch-all, but it is home to some great books. If you are looking for general resources that cover a wide variety of topics and scenarios, these are some good options to consider.

Prepping 101: 40 Steps You Can Take to Be Prepared by Kathy Harrison

Prepping 101 provides easy to follow steps to get you and your family in a good place in regards to preparedness. The material is easy to understand and follow and includes great photography to help with the learning process.

It will walk you through creating a preparedness binder, calculating needs, water storage, food storage, first aid, tool kits, batteries, vehicles, home preparedness, financial preparedness, kids, pets, and more.

Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag by Creek Stewart

When it comes to bug out bags, most folks grab a bunch of crap and throw into a backpack or duffel bag. There is no strategy, no method, and no thought put into it. If you are serious about building a functional BOB but have no idea where to start, this book is for you.

Build the Perfect Bug Out Bag will teach you about how to choose a pack, hydration, food, clothing, shelter, fire, first aid, hygiene, tools, lighting, comm, protection, organization, maintenance, and much more. It’s a great resource to get you started in this area of preparedness.

How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It by James Wesley Rawles

This book is extremely thorough and details a broad spectrum of topics. It can be a little overwhelming to some. However, my opinion is you evaluate your life and implement portions of this book as you see fit and are able. It is not focused on urban survival, it is centered on being away from these major population centers.

How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It covers a list of priorities, survival retreats, water, food storage, fuel, home power, gardens, livestock, medical, comm, security, firearms, vehicles, bartering, and more. Everyone should have a copy of this book.

Locusts on the Horizon by Plan B. Writer’s Alliance

Locusts on the Horizon is a mountain of information…over 1,000 pages. It looks at the historical of preparedness related to significant events throughout mankind. It will prompt you to start using critical thinking when it comes to economics and their effect on society.

It covers a broad swath of survival situations in a logical and well laid out format. An economic depression is not out of the question and most are ignorant of that fact. This fact is often overlooked in most survival books.

If there’s a void in your preparedness plan when it comes to finances and the economy, you may want to pick this book up. Even if you are comfortable with where you sit, you should still get this book for the historical information alone.

When Disaster Strikes by Matthew Stein

When Disaster Strikes takes a more focused approach on preparedness and response to particular disasters. It covers general preparation, emergency medicine, survival skills, and tools. It also narrows down on fire, earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, winter storms, EMP’s, and nuclear disaster. It’s a good resource in terms of disaster specific material.

Prepper’s Long-Term Survival Guide by Jim Cobb

Most folks plan and prepare for short or intermediate length events. Prepper’s Long Term Survival Guide covers learning from history, water, starvation diets, medicine, staying clean, warm, and cool, tools, security, boredom, and bartering.

It’s probably geared towards those newer to prepping, but the information is valuable all the same. Even if you have some experience, I bet you will pick up a nugget or two of information.

Foxfire Series by Elliot Wigginton and Students

The Foxfire Series (12 books) is chocked full of information covering a broad spectrum of topics. The content is pulled from The Foxfire Magazine which highlighted the life and heritage of the folks living in Southern Appalachia.

The author, along with his high school students, collected and published this information documenting the way folks lived and survived in the Appalachian Mountains. It’s a great historical resource and the survival-related content is almost limitless.

For example, volume one includes information on butchering a hog, log cabin building, mountain crafts, and food, planting by the signs, dutch oven cooking, preserving fruit, churning butter, and moonshining, to list a few. This is just one volume.

If anything you will enjoy these from the historical significance. I like reading them for the basic (but lost) knowledge they outline as well as the history lessons.

Conclusion

If you have stuck with me until the end, well done. You deserve a medal. However, I hope you have found something here you can benefit from. Printed resources and reference material is invaluable.

You should be training, reading, learning, and growing, in a manner that makes you a well-rounded individual. Preparedness doesn’t mean you are in a hole in the ground waiting for something bad to happen. It means you have used what’s available to gain a level of confidence that allows you to live life to the fullest.

If you have some favorites that didn’t make the list, be sure to share them below. I’m always looking for something new.

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