Monday, November 12, 2012

Stories of survival in tough circumstances


Six years ago I read the book "Life of Pi" on the recommendation of my wife's cousin.  It turned out to be a pretty good read.  With the movie coming out on the 21st, I'd recommend picking it up.  I can't say that I'm eager to see the movie, but it's always good to read the book before too many of the advertisements hit or people start talking about it.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life_of_Pi

The book got me on a "stranded at sea" or "survival in extreme circumstances" reading kick.  If you're into that kind of thing here's a list of titles I'd recommend.

"Endurance"
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endurance:_Shackleton%27s_Incredible_Voyage
If you haven't heard of the story of Shackleton and crossing the south pole, this book will keep you on edge the whole way through.  There is another book on the topic called "South" that is not as well written (in my opinion) as "Endurance" is.  This is an epic story that makes the little daily trials of life seem silly in comparison.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernest_Shackleton

"In the Heart of the Sea"
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_the_Heart_of_the_Sea:_The_Tragedy_of_the_Whaleship_Essex
I read this book just after I read "Endurance" by Alfred Lansig.  Shackleton and his crew were so competent that it made me feel sorry for this crew which seemed to have poor leadership.  The book has good reviews and it deserves them. The discussions of their plights while adrift were engrossing.

"Moby Dick"
The book isn't as much about the survival topic as the other books.  The details of whale hunting were fun to read.  It's a literary classic and if you had to read it while in school I'd still pick it up again if you have the time.  Expect to take a few weeks to get through it, and get the digital version because the paper version is heavy.  The sea adventure ends on a chapter that is more written as poetry than action which I thought was disappointing.

"Into the Wild"
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Into_the_Wild_%28book%29
I originally read this back in 2003, but I re-read it during this kick.  There was a movie which came out in 2007.  The book is still worth reading even if you did see the movie because of how well it documents other "lost in the wild" tales while telling McCandless's story. 

Just last year I read "Unbroken" which after reading I'd put into this group of books as well.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unbroken:_A_World_War_II_Story_of_Survival,_Resilience,_and_Redemption
Another Amazing WW2 story.  Follow Zamperini as he competes in the Olympics in Germany before WW2 breaks out and he undergoes flight training in the southern pacific.  The real meat of the book is when his plane malfunctions and he ends up as a Japanese POW for the remainder of the war.

Speaking of WW2 survival books... "With the Old Breed"
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/With_the_Old_Breed
I'm glad I read this book way after I got done with my combat tours.  I thought we had it rough, but WW2 Marines in the Pacific had it way tougher.  War was hell in the truest sense of the word in this book.  Follow Eugene Sledge who turned the scribbles he wrote in the margin's of his bible during the pacific campaign into an amazing book.  I later found out that "The Pacific" miniseries used this as one of their reference memoirs so I watched it.  It wasn't nearly as emotionally stirring as the book.