We all love writers with imagination and the ability to create unreal worlds, but sometimes life concocts plots that even the most creative imagination can't surpass. Below is a list of the top 10 books based on real-life survival stories.
Into the Wild, Jon Krakauer
The real-life story of Christopher McCandless has become known to the world thanks to the skill of the famous writer, Jon Krakauer. This book is about a successful American man who feels weighed down by the values imposed by society. Although smart and wealthy with a brilliant future ahead of him, he decides he prefers the freedom and simplicity of life in the wild. He rejects his future career as a lawyer, turns down a new Cadillac and decides that money and documents are not necessary. His dream is to hitchhike to Alaska and to live alone in the wild, giving up all worldly goods. He assumes a new name, and begins his great journey to the wildest state in the US. During his travels, he meets people who have not wallowed in dependence of society.
In the Heart of the Sea, Nathaniel Philbrick
The author invents nothing in this shocking book and, relying strictly on the facts, investigates the tragedy of a shipwreck. The incitement to the writing of this story was a notebook of Thomas Nikerson, a ship boy from the ill-fated vessel. To learn the truth about the sinking of Essex, Philbrick involves a great number of experts from shipbuilders to nutritionists. He attempts to understand why those who survived did. Why among the rescued there were no black people, and how the crew of the whaleboat kept from resorting to cannibalism. Philbrick provides all of the data to the reader, and allows us to draw our own conclusions as to who was guilty of the tragedy of the Essex whaler.
Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage, Alfred Lansing
Endurance is a book about tremendous courage, heroism, resilience, power, and optimism. It tells of great people involved in an expedition under the leadership of Shackleton, who underwent enormous danger in the crossing of Antarctica through the South Pole. During this expedition, the ship "Endurance" is destroyed by ice and it seems that there is no chance of survival. The polar explorers spend 497 days adrift on the ice before they are able to land on the deserted Elephant Island. Shackleton, with five seamen, then sail to the South Georgia Island where they hope to meet the whalers. Finally, they manage to overcome more than 1100 kilometers on waters of the roughest regions of the world's oceans and to reach civilization. In several months, they are able to find a suitable vessel and return for their remaining companions.
Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors, Piers Paul Read
This excellent book tells the story of a plane crash in the Andes mountain range and the people who were forced to live in the most adverse aftermath, surviving by slowly eating their dead friends in order to avoid dying from starvation. Here, in the icy cold wild, among the corpses of their friends, a cruel and inhumane test of survival ensues for the surviving school students. For 72 gruelling days, the young people fought for their lives proving the capacity of the human being to adapt to any situation. In addition, it tells of belief in salvation, of hope and of love for your neighbour.
Touching the Void, Joe Simpson
This book by famous climber, Joe Simpson, tells one of the most incredible real-life story of mountaineering. The book describes the journey of Simpson and his friend Simon Yates into the Peruvian Andes in 1985. To pass this test, our heroes must overcome difficulties of both spirit and body. While climbing the remote and dangerous western slope of Siula Grande – a mountain with a height of 7000 meters – bad weather strikes. Simpson falls and breaks his leg. In a fight for a survival, the men are forced to make tough decisions minute by minute.
The Long Walk: The True Story of a Trek to Freedom, Slavomir Rawicz
This story of Polish military officer, Slavomir Rawicz, tells of how a small group of political prisoners escape a Soviet Gulag and cover the long distance home through deserts and mountains. Prisoner of war, and officer of the Polish army, Janusz Veshchek, is charged with espionage and sabotage against the USSR. He is sentenced to 20 years of imprisonment in Gulag camps. In Siberia, Janusz has a nervous breakdown caused by the inhumane conditions and decides to run away with several prisoners. They manage to organize a successful escape from the camp aided by a blizzard. The escaped prisoners venture through boundless and open spaces of Siberia, bypassing settlements and people and head for Lake Baikal which they finally reach after months of gruelling journey.
Man's Search for Meaning, Viktor E. Frankl
This autobiographical work tackles universal questions of what it is to be human: the meaning of life and death, love and suffering, freedom and responsibility, humanity and religion, etc. It is important to notice that author has come to these ideas during his imprisonment at Auschwitz concentration camp, world's notorious place of horror during the time of WW2. Much attention is given to the aspect of psychotherapy. This great book is capable of changing one's outlook on life, on the life of relatives, and on what is really important and valuable. Frankl writes that you can take away everything from a person, and the person will survive, but you cannot take away the freedom to choose one's reaction to circumstance.
Adrift: Seventy-six Days Lost at Sea, Steven Callahan
On the night of January 19, 1982, Steven Callahan set sail on a small yacht from the Canary Islands headed for the Caribbean Sea, the result is one of the greatest sea adventures of all time. Six days after embarking on his journey, his yacht sinks and Callahan must face the Atlantic on an inflatable raft with a diameter of a little more than one and a half meters. Drifting at the mercy of wind and waves, with only about a kilogram of food and four liters of fresh water, Callahan must survive against all odds. The author tells how he is the only person in the history of navigation to survive drifting on a raft on the ocean for more than two months. It is story of fear and despair, heroism and hope, a story of the wanderer who has ventured into gloomy chasms of the universe and the human soul, and came back to tell his tale.
Skeletons on the Zahara: A True Story of Survival, Dean King
Based on events that take place in 1815, the plot centres on a crew of an American vessel, which has run aground on the coast of the Western Sahara and is seized by a local tribe. Five men die from exhaustion, others are used as slaves and are sold to the tribesmen. Having fallen into hands of an Arab slave dealer, Captain James Riley convinces the slave merchant that he could receive far greater compensation if he sold the seamen to the mythical European consul, situated in a Moroccan port thousands of miles from their location. The dealer risks the journey that may be fatal for some members of the expedition. By some miracle, James' plan works and a trek along one of the most dangerous routes on Earth begins.
The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey, Candice Millard
This book is about the travels of Theodore Roosevelt and Colonel Candido Rondon as they navigate the last unexplored inflow of the Amazon River, aptly named "The River of Doubt". President Teddy Roosevelt regarded travel as a salutary measure against grief, melancholy and stress. Moreover, in his opinion, the more difficult the journey, the better it is for you. The voyage is undertaken after the end of his presidential term, and Roosevelt decides turn it into a scientific expedition, inviting – as the role of adviser and guide – the legendary Brazilian explorer, Colonel Candido Rondon. The few experts on the Amazon that existed at the time warn Roosevelt that the River of Doubt flows through the most impassable and dangerous sites of the jungle, but fearless Teddy refuses to back down and so the adventure begins.
Read the memoir of a survivor of World War II who later immigrated to America: Uncle Jeff's Story.