Recommended Books for Your Survival Library

Posted by Kevin Estela on Jun 23rd 2022

“There are many correct ways; not one way.” I’ve heard this expression as a student in many courses and have used it myself as an instructor countless times. It is an excellent way to offer others multiple solutions to a problem without prescribing only one. I started thinking about this approach and how it can be applied to many aspects of wilderness survival study. There are many ways to start a fire, tie certain knots, treat water, etc. etc. I then started thinking about how this can be applied to sources of information as well. There is a primitive skills method, a bushcraft method, modern survival, military approach, and so on. The many ways instead of one way approach can also be extended to your library. Rather than focusing on particular titles, we can look at genres of books with certain criteria that must be covered. In this way, you are given the flexibility to find the book that works best for you in the same way you can choose any of the correct skills that accomplishes a task for us the most efficiently.

Wilderness Survival

When we think of survival, we most likely think of a wilderness setting. For this reason, a wilderness survival book that shows how to use resources from off the land is essential in your library. There are timeless classics that offer a broad overview. There are many more books in recent years (mine included for full-disclosure) that offer an updated approach utilizing modern equipment. Whatever book you pick up, make sure it covers the basic survival needs including shelter, fire, water, cordage, knife use, etc. A good wilderness survival book will blend both photos and text to help present the skills and information needed. Look at the author’s background when you pick up a wilderness survival book. Keep in mind some authors present spirituality and some are more secular. Some have military backgrounds and some are civilians. Some lean heavily on skills and others heavily on gear. Find the one that works for you and put it in your library.

Edible and Medicinal Plants

An extension of your wilderness survival book is a collection of at least 3 books on edible and medicinal plants. Follow my work long enough and you’ll see I always advocate for at least 3 reference books for positive plant identification and cross referencing. Make sure the books you pick up include one with photos, one with illustrations, and one with pen line drawings. This will help you identify plants with various images with one that may work better than others. Make sure at least one of these books covered not only identification but also how to prepare the plants. Bonus if it includes nutritional value and recipes.

Urban Survival

Not everyone lives in or near the wilderness and some city dwellers may need to learn some skills that aren’t found in many survival books meant for the forests and fields. Urban and suburban survival skills are a different animal. Look into books that offer methods of water procurement, securing the perimeter of your home/hardening your door, how to store food, makeshift urban sanitation, and emergency heating measures. Urban survival often conjures images of the zombie apocalypse but while hoards of teenagers on smartphones and the woke mob resemble the mindless masses, urban survival will more than likely resemble what we’ve already encountered with the pandemic lockdown of 2020-2021. One of the most used categories of books during the pandemic was basic home repair. Think about it, when something broke, you weren’t able to call a handyman to come and visit. Many home repairs were done by the homeowner him/herself. A good book on home repair fits in the category of urban survival. No disrespect to the urban survival schools that teach escape from illegal restraint but we’ve all experienced lockdown and not many of us ended up in handcuffs during covid. Those are still good skills to have but learn to keep the lights on, build what you need with hand tools, and improve your living condition.


Before nails and screws, there were knots. There are knots used for building structures, climbing, hauling and lowering gear, safety, and many more purposes. Some knots are just decorative and others are tied for entertainment. A good supplement on how to effectively use cordage can improve your survival skill set and it can also challenge you and pass the time. I personally practice knots in my car when stuck in deadlocked traffic. If you are like me, you use cordage for fishing, camping, securing equipment to your vehicle, and in so many odd projects. A good survival library should have a book on basic knots as well as how to utilize cordage to extract vehicles, emergency rappel, and more.

Medical Book with Proven Information

Even the best doctor will consult a medical reference book. Medicine is a practice afterall, not a perfection. I highly recommend you find a medical book that covers how to address medical needs when resources are slim. I’ve tried to avoid making specific references in this blog and without giving the name away of the best book, in my honest opinion, I’d suggest you look for a book that will help you where there is no doctor. If you can read between the lines, you’ll know exactly which book this is. Just like the plants books, you may want to get your hands on a few different supplements to cross reference the advice you are reading. Of course, nothing will replace a true recommendation from a physician but some medical practices are sound regardless of where you read or hear it.


A person without guidance is a rudderless ship. They are able to move but they can’t control which direction they are headed. One of the most overlooked books in any survival library is a book that provides purpose. Some of the oldest texts are those that belong to the world’s major religions. Other texts include philosophy books either from the ancients or modern philosophy disseminated from the warrior class, athletes, celebrities, etc. This type of book is important because it provides thoughts for a positive mental attitude. We must remember one of the greatest threats to our existence is the loss of meaning, purpose, and worth. A good book that resonates with your soul can remind you to push forward, endure, and grow during times of hardship. These books can also be passed around with members of your family and inner circle to develop a shared understanding of how to view the world.

Photo Reference/Entertainment/Magazines

If you have never heard the expression, “all work and no play…” you probably have been working too hard. At some point, you need to vent. You need to decompress and you need to smile. Books that offer an escape are great to help you see the world beyond your neighborhood or area. These books are not meant to give you false hope but rather distract you and provide you some time away from your scenario mentally if you can’t escape it physically. Fiction books are great as are past issues of magazines containing articles of entertainment and short-form instruction. Sometimes you just need a quick read of a short story, magazine article, or the flip of a few pages in a “coffee table” book to get you in a different mindset or stimulate your brain.

Of course, there are other categories of books you may want to include in your library but this list provided here should give you a good starting point. To build your library, you can add more books to each of these categories and work from broad approaches to more specific topics. You can also clip articles from magazines and assemble them by category in 3 ring binders with plastic sleeves. Your library is your own and it will become personalized with what you need it be. Remember, the grid may go down but a good library is survival low-tech knowledge waiting to be tapped into.