The best survival books are those which give you concise and useful information when you need it most.

While it is ideal to have a thorough understanding of every survival topic before a disaster event occurs, having reading material on-hand is a great way to bridge knowledge gaps.

In this article, we will look at the best survival books to add to your personal collection and ideally your emergency kits.

A Book Is Not a Substitute for Ability and Skill

Reading is not a substitution for well-honed survival skills.

The stress of a sudden survival scenario can make a relatively easy task such as starting a fire, very difficult. Especially for an individual who is attempting it for the first time.

The best-prepared individual is one who has already achieved a level of proficiency in the necessary skills and is only supplementing this by having the best backup survival books on-hand.

Practice the skills that you need before finding yourself in a situation where you really need them.

The Best Wilderness and Urban Survival Books

#1 – Survive!: Essential Skills and Tactics to Get You Out of Anywhere – Alive by Les Stroud

Les Stroud is a world-renowned survivalist who starred in the TV program “Survivorman”.

In this program, he goes to hostile environments, sets up his own cameras, and survives… alone. If anyone can put his money where his mouth is, it is Mr. Stroud.

Having lived and survived through some of the harshest environments known to man, you can rest assured knowing that what is written in this book is true.

The practical expertise offered in this book is almost unparalleled, and you are sure to learn a lot from it. It is my number one best survival book.

#2 – Ragnar’s Urban Survival: A Hard-Times Guide to Staying Alive in the City by Ragnar Benson

Ragnar Benson was a very prolific author within the survivalist community.

Not much is publically known about the author, but he is widely considered to be an expert on a multitude of survivalist related subjects.

Some of Ragnar’s works are controversial due to their subject matters (such as man-trapping and making improvised weapons), but nonetheless extremely interesting topics.

This particular urban survival book focuses on survival within the confines of a city and goes over points such as finding fresh water and food, self-defense, and other considerations such as evading hostile actors.

Pick this up if you live in an urban environment.

Other books to check out by this author that relate to survival are Ragnar’s Ten Best Traps: And A Few Others That Are Damn Good Too, and Live Off the Land in the City and Country.

#3 – Primitive Wilderness Living & Survival Skills: Naked into the Wilderness by John and Geri McPherson

Primitive skills are what helped our ancestors survive for hundreds of thousands of years.

Knowing how to use the environment to an advantage, and being in tune with nature are invaluable skills that everyone survivalist should be prepared to rely on.

This wilderness survival book describes these primitive skills and helps develop a foundation for their use. I am particularly fond of primitive skills simply because you do not need tools to carry them out; you use the environment to make the tools and build from there.

Much like playing a game of Minecraft and punching a tree to get wood to start your adventure, there is a lot of utility and satisfaction with being able to survive with nothing more than bare hands.

#4 – Bushcraft 101: A Field Guide to the Art of Wilderness Survival by David Canterbury

Much like Ragnar Benson, David Canterbury is an icon within the prepper and survivalist communities.

This general wilderness survival guide is surely a useful addition to any library and deserves a spot in every emergency kit due to its broad scope.

Similar to the content primitive skills book, Canterbury focuses on utilizing materials that are easily acquirable to create shelters, gather and cook food, protect yourself from the elements, and to maximize survival.

#5 – SAS Survival Handbook: The Ultimate Guide to Surviving Anywhere by John Wiseman

This is a broad-scoped survival book by a former SAS commando.

It covers a wide range of topics from avoiding being put in a survival situation in the first place, to rescue operations and codes. As a manual and reference material, this is one of the best reads you can have. It just had to make our list of the best survival books.

One of the most useful aspects of writing within this handbook is learning how to move across dangerous areas safely and just as importantly, without being seen.

Unlike the other books on this list, it also contains a potentially useful segment on how to survive in the open sea.

That reason alone might make this book valuable for someone who is on open water as part of their work.

#6 – Wilderness Survival by Gregory J. Davenport

The best aspect of Wilderness Survival is that it is easy to read, and well organized.

The illustrations for making shelters and traps are clear and easy to follow.

This is one of the most user-friendly survival guides out there, and this deservedly should be placed in camping or emergency kits.

#7 – U.S. Army Field Manual 21-76 by Department of Army

As a veteran, I have come to appreciate some of the publications that the sister services have published.

The main advantage of FM 21-76 and all other Department of the Army publications is that they are written in direct and easy to understand (simple) English.

While the specific manual linked here dates back to the 1950’s, the skills and knowledge contained within are timeless. From purifying water to identifying venomous snakes, this booklet is going to have instructions for just about every scenario that you can imagine.

Consider picking up other field manual publications, such as the field manual on map reading and land navigation, or The Ranger Handbook.

Final Thoughts

In addition to having at least one general survivalist book, it is also crucial to have reading material that is specific to your locale.

Prepping advice that is geared towards a northern climate is not going to benefit you if you live in the desert!

At the very least be sure to have a roadmap for your area, and a reference list of local edible plants.

Are any critical books missing from this list of the best survival books? Let us know in the comments below, and please leave an explanation as to why!