Stranded? Three Books To Save Your Life If you're stranded somewhere dangerous and remote, and you're not sure how you're going to survive — maybe you should read a book. Author Jake Halpern suggests three that will get you out of any tough spot.
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Stranded? Three Books To Save Your Life

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Stranded? Three Books To Save Your Life

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Stranded? Three Books To Save Your Life

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Three Books is our series in which writers recommend three books on one theme. Today, Jake Halpern sends us his selections, and they just might save your life.

Mr. JAKE HALPERN (Writer): Just after getting married, my wife and I had a seaplane drop us off deep in the backcountry of New Zealand. With an emergency locator beacon in hand and a week's worth of provisions in our packs, we set out on our honeymoon. We soon reached a hut with a few cots, a potbelly stove, a bag of macaroni and a note that read: Fishermen were here. Left some food, enjoy.

My wife and I unpacked our bags and then stepped out for a stroll. Upon our return, we discovered a family of New Zealanders devouring our provisions. Apparently, they read the fisherman's notes, saw our unpacked food supplies, thought this was the fishermen's food and had themselves a feast. What are we going to do, asked my wife, as she looked around at our dwindling food supply.

Now, I wish I could tell you that this was my MacGyver moment, that I made a fishing net out of dangling tree moss and fed us for a week. But I had no reply to this question. It was humiliating. And we barely ate for the next week. After surviving this ordeal, I discovered a wonderfully delicious genre of literature that will appeal to men and know-it-alls of all varieties: survival books.

First, let me suggest "The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook" by Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht. It offers advice on how to escape from quicksand, land a plane or survive if, say, well, your parachute fails to open. The language is pithy. So pithy you could probably finish reading the chapter on quicksand while still sinking in the sand. Then you could simply maneuver onto your back, spread out your arms and legs and float toward safety - or so says the book.

For more nuanced advice, I suggest "When All Hell Breaks Loose" by Cody Lundin. Lundin explains how to treat wounds, purify water and, of course, how to cook mice and rats over a campfire. There is even a detailed section that discusses what to do when a loved one passes away because, as Lundin puts it, you may be required to cowboy up and dispose of the body yourself.

If you're truly serious about surviving, pick up a copy of "SAS Survival Handbook" by John Wiseman, who is a veteran of Britain's legendary Special Air Service. This is an encyclopedic work with detailed drawings of medicinal plants, poisonous snakes and easily buildable arctic shelters. True survival, the reader soon realizes, depends upon such mind-numbingly boring tasks as tying complicated knots or knowing the difference between cumulous clouds and nimbostratus clouds.

What really matters, however, is the next time that I'm in a crisis, and my wife beseeches me for my opinion, at long last, I'll have something to say, thanks to these three books. Now, that's peace of mind.

SIEGEL: Jake Halpern is the author of the new novel "Dormia" about a young boy who has more than a few brushes with death. Halpern's three books are "The Complete Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook" by Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht, "When All Hell Breaks Loose" by Cody Lundin and the "SAS Survival Handbook" by John Wiseman.

You'll find more recommendations for summer reading, and you can always tell us what books you cannot survive without, all at the book section of our new Web site, npr.org.

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