Please recommend books about people trapped together
August 23, 2010 11:05 AM   Subscribe

I was relieved to hear that they found the Chilean miners alive, and amazed that they will be trapped for four months until rescue. It also reminded me that I like reading books about people who are isolated somewhere for a long time. (I hope this doesn't sound morbid.) I'm not so much interested in tragedy and death; I'm more interested in the psychology and group dynamics of people who are forced to live closely together. Space station? Submarine? Post-apocalyptic abandoned museum?

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett comes to mind, or Antarctica by Kim Stanley Robinson.

Any other suggestions?
posted by exceptinsects to Writing & Language (51 answers total) 61 users marked this as a favorite
The Worst Journey in the World (non-fiction). Nat Geo's #1 adventure book of all time.
posted by caek at 11:08 AM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors.
posted by ericb at 11:14 AM on August 23, 2010

How about a plane crash? This book is about surviving 72 days in the Andes mountains.
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 11:14 AM on August 23, 2010

Ericb and myself posted about the same event, different books.
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 11:15 AM on August 23, 2010

The explorer Ernest Shackelton took a team to the South Pole. They didn't quite make it and ended up having to eat their dogs. Poor pups!
posted by amanda at 11:19 AM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh, and it doesn't have to be non-fiction--in fact I'd probably prefer fiction.
(Somehow I feel exploitative reading about terrible things that happened to real people, but I'm totally fine with terrible things happening to fake people.)
posted by exceptinsects at 11:19 AM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Island of the Lost, by Joan Druett, is a wonderful, evocative, well-researched and thoroughly fascinating look at two groups of shipwrecked survivors on the Auckland Islands in the 1860s. It also gets into their differing approaches to survival and the results they enjoyed.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 11:22 AM on August 23, 2010

It's not a group of people (just one, actually) but a good read anyway - Adrift: Seventy-six Days Lost at Sea.
posted by contessa at 11:22 AM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Though it's technically "young adult" fiction, House of Stairs is definitely worth a read if you never read it in school. It freaked me out when I was in school, and I still think about it to this day.
posted by two lights above the sea at 11:24 AM on August 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

They're young adult novels but the Hatchet series may work. Each sequel involves the main character Brian returning to the woods escaping human contact again.
posted by mkb at 11:24 AM on August 23, 2010

You might like Deep Survival which looks into some tragedy types situations and looks at who survives and who doesn't. The companion website gives you a good idea of what the book is about. Some of it is the sort of "alone on a liferaft" sort of thing but other stuff looks much more into group dynamics.
posted by jessamyn at 11:24 AM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Cryptonomicon was a huge, sprawling book, with two extended, harrowing segments along the lines of what you're looking for. During World War II, Japanese engineer Goto Dengo survives a shipwreck and a subsequent encounter with cannibals, and later has to pull off a subterranean escape from a mine filled with looted Japanese gold.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:25 AM on August 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

Since you mentioned fiction, the early parts of Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars deal with a colony ship's crew selection and subsequent long trip to said planet.
posted by dorque at 11:27 AM on August 23, 2010

Also if you're looking for fiction then I'd go with The Terror by Dan Simmons.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 11:27 AM on August 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

Starfish by Peter Watts is a great novel. You can get it CC licensed from the link just there, or buy it in a proper bookshop. Set in the near future, in a small installation on the ocean floor.
posted by handee at 11:30 AM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

I read this book when I was younger and enjoyed it; Lord of the Flies wikipedia | amazon
posted by axismundi at 11:32 AM on August 23, 2010

The Wayward Bus by John Steinbeck is a classic. There are plenty of examples in sci-fi too; the Heechee series by Frederik Pohl is pretty good. Oh, and check out Thor Heyerdahl's Kon-Tiki--it's non-fiction, but nobody dies and the suffering is not too intense.
posted by AkzidenzGrotesk at 11:33 AM on August 23, 2010

The Sparrow and the sequel Children of God by Mary Doria Russell.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 11:36 AM on August 23, 2010 [3 favorites]

The Sparrow is exactly the kind of thing I'm looking for!
posted by exceptinsects at 11:38 AM on August 23, 2010

It's a bit dated, but I seem to remember enjoying Arthur C. Clarke's A Fall of Moondust, about a bunch of people trapped in a Lunar vehicle that has been trapped in a landslide of sorts.
posted by bondcliff at 11:42 AM on August 23, 2010

Andrea Barrett's Voyage of the Narwhal is a novel drawing heavily on accounts of polar explorers and speculating about the emotional and social stresses of that environment.
posted by janell at 11:43 AM on August 23, 2010

The last two thirds of The Passage are like this.
posted by something something at 11:46 AM on August 23, 2010

Blindness by Jose Saramago is a good fiction book about these dynamics.
posted by Killick at 11:47 AM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Bel Canto, Ann Patchett
posted by Elsie at 11:56 AM on August 23, 2010

The Stand (Stephen King) is sort of like this.
posted by lakeroon at 12:05 PM on August 23, 2010

mkb: "They're young adult novels but the Hatchet series may work. Each sequel involves the main character Brian returning to the woods escaping human contact again."

I was going to suggest those too.

Mary Roach just came out with a book about the science of humans living in space called Packing for Mars. All her other books are insanely interesting (and hilarious), so I feel comfortable recommending this book without having yet read it.
posted by radioamy at 12:06 PM on August 23, 2010

You might like The Descent.
posted by HopStopDon'tShop at 12:08 PM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Packing for Mars does cover long-term isolation (with bonus zero-gravity issues), including several of the studies that have been done by various space agencies.

It is also very funny, though there are parts that are Not Safe For Lunch.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:24 PM on August 23, 2010

Life of Pi is a good book about a young boy on a life raft at sea with a tiger. I was really skeptical of this book when I first read the back, but didn't mention my skepticism to Mrs. Quizicalcoatl who gave it to me for Christmas a number of years ago. It turned out to be a great read!

Also, I don't know if this is exactly what you're looking for, but one of the coolest post-apocalyptic type books I've read is A Canticle for Leibowitz.
posted by Quizicalcoatl at 12:49 PM on August 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh, yeah, also Stephen King's book Under the Dome is about a town in Maine (where else?) that suddenly finds itself contained under an impenetrable dome.
posted by Quizicalcoatl at 12:51 PM on August 23, 2010

I haven't read it since I was a teenager, but Tunnel in the Sky by Robert A. Heinlein would seem to fit the bill.

Also, the the novel Metropole by Ferenc Karinthy might be of interest. It was written in the 60s but only recently was it translated from Hungarian into English. It's the story of a linguist who's on his way to an international conference in Helsinki. He falls asleep on the plane and wakes up when it lands and disembarks thinking himself to be in Helsinki, except he's mistaken and only comes to realize it when he gets on the bus out of the airport. He catches on that he's not in the right place but he can't recognize the local language and can't find anyone who speaks any of the languages he speaks. The entire novel is about him trying to figure out where the hell he is and how to get out. So, isolation, but not of a group of people, but an amazing novel nonetheless.
posted by fso at 1:36 PM on August 23, 2010

The Hole by Guy Burt
posted by cosmic osmo at 1:42 PM on August 23, 2010

Stanislaw Lem's Solaris (better than the movies, even the Tarkovsky version!) The Amazon summary is a bad joke, don't let it deter you.

The Woman in the Dunes
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 2:02 PM on August 23, 2010

That link was old. The Bet
posted by foursentences at 2:41 PM on August 23, 2010

Was coming to suggest The Terror. A little bit of the supernatural mixed into an absolutely grueling tale that explores what might have happened to a British expedition lost searching for the NW passage. Fabulous book.
posted by purenitrous at 3:50 PM on August 23, 2010

I remember an AskMe a question sorta similar in the generalities, and different in the specifics. Posting it here in hopes that it helps your search. (And... some great suggestions so far.)
AskMe: Seeking stories of men and women who -- either by way of adventure or by circumstance -- succumbed to the elements after a protracted attempt at survival...
posted by jjjjjjjijjjjjjj at 4:07 PM on August 23, 2010

Lucifer's Hammer is just what you're looking for.
posted by neuron at 4:43 PM on August 23, 2010

David Brin's The Postman is a very good novel. Avoid the movie adaptation at all costs.
posted by neuron at 4:45 PM on August 23, 2010

Post-apocalyptic life aboard a Navy ship: The Last Ship, by William Brinkley
posted by jrchaplin at 4:52 PM on August 23, 2010

Alas, Babylon

It's old - had to read it a long long time ago in school, but I loved it and the reviews on Amazon indicate that it is still a popular read today. Apparently, it was re-released in 2005.
posted by ourroute at 8:37 PM on August 23, 2010

Not a full blown book, but The Castaways is a great New Yorker article about three Mexican fishermen who became lost at sea and drifted 5,000 miles over nine months.
posted by pennywhistle at 9:27 PM on August 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

If fiction is ok, Kobo Abe's The Woman in the Dunes comes to mind. You can try to ignore the simple and heavy symbolism if you like.
posted by ifjuly at 6:47 AM on August 24, 2010

No Exit, a play about hell by Jean-Paul Sartre. "L'enfer, c'est les autres."
posted by c lion at 11:41 AM on August 24, 2010

Michael Crighton's Sphere. Abandoned spacecraft, undersea.
posted by ersatz at 3:15 PM on August 24, 2010

I don't know if I'd recommend them exactly, but Michael Crichton has several of these. Sphere and Andromeda Strain are very very good fits for what you're looking for. If I remember right, both explicitly focus on the psychology of group dynamics. To a lesser extent, Jurassic Park has some of the same things going on. I liked them all when I read them, but that was back when I was a teenager and I don't know if I trust younger me's opinion.

Also seconding Lord of the Flies.
posted by kingjoeshmoe at 2:39 PM on August 27, 2010

i haven't read it, but Seal Intestine Raincoat fits the bill.
posted by gursky at 9:31 PM on August 28, 2010

Enemy Mine by Barry B. Longyear
posted by nerakatem at 2:02 AM on September 9, 2010

I'm a little late on this one, but I've got some more:

Room, by Emma Donoghue (Booker-prize shortlisted, no less!)

The Effects of Living Backwards, by Heidi Julavits

Or, if you don't mind pulpy, Flowers in the Attic.
posted by Ms. Informed at 2:00 PM on September 9, 2010

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