Book suggestions that involve fighting a bear
November 14, 2020 11:30 AM   Subscribe

My dad loves The Revenant and other books about revenge and survival. What should he read next?

I want to buy my dad a book or two for an upcoming birthday. He's obsessed with the movie and book The Revenant. He also likes reading about Ernest Shackleton and other explorers. So basically, books that are tied to some guy in the past who overcame great odds to survive. Awesome women survivors also acceptable! Bonus points if there's the theme of revenge. Any suggestions?

He's in his 70s so no tiny print, please. Also it should be easy to follow. Just a fun quick exciting read about someone kicking ass!
posted by silverstatue to Media & Arts (19 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
My dad loved these books too, though a lot of times the people in them were not victorious (Crowhurst come to mind) Your dad might enjoy a reprint of The Worst Journey in the World which is like Shackleton only worse (and a little gory to be honest). Deep Survival is not quite this kind of book but it is a look at who survives really tough stuff and why. Unbroken is a good survival at sea story with bonus WWII content which I always think of as "good for dads" Hero Found is about a similar survival story in Vietnam.
posted by jessamyn at 11:48 AM on November 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household (but since it's from 1939, he may already have read it).
posted by Rash at 12:02 PM on November 14, 2020 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Bearskin by James McLaughlin is a beary good thriller
posted by Morpeth at 12:09 PM on November 14, 2020

Old Yeller wikipedia
Though Travis initially loathes the "rascal" and at first tries to get rid of it, the dog (a yellow cur), eventually proves his worth, saving the family on several occasions, rescuing Arliss from a bear, Travis from a bunch of wild hogs, and Mama and their friend Lisbeth from a loafer wolf. Travis grows to love Old Yeller, and they become great friends.
Though written as a children's book it's one hell of a story of the bond of animals and family. It's really rich.

Cool Hand Luke Wikipedia
Everyone knows and knows of the movie, which is correct, and well, and good. No one knows about the novel and that is a damned shame. It's a fantastic read, really well-written characters, one hell of a story. I have to read it maybe every five years. Sorry -- no bears. You won't miss them.

In the Zone
Epic Survival Stories from the Mountaineering World
While saving the world from Y2K I spent six months in San Antonio, a good place to sleep and stuff. In a used book store I found an entire section devoted to the kind of books you seek, and bought a fistful of them. The mountaineering epics absolutely grabbed hold of me, over the years I've read many of them. This book is comprised of three outlandishly great survival stories; Colby Coombs has the chops and the guts to climb off an Alaska mountain with a broken body, an iron will. An amazing story, written very well.

But truly, many of these mountaineering stories are just amazing, outlandishly courageous people, outlandishly capable people.
Colby Coooms duckduckgo search -- I'd never looked Coombs up before, this story appears to be all over the net
posted by dancestoblue at 12:25 PM on November 14, 2020 [3 favorites]

In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Voyage of the USS Jeannette is an absolutely wild (but entirely true) tale about a polar expedition that went horribly wrong, though people survived, so if Shackleton appeals, this might too. I could not put it down!
posted by pangolin party at 1:18 PM on November 14, 2020

Bear Attacks: Their Causes and Avoidance is a great (if you don’t mind brutal bear attack reports) read. My copy had a blurb on the dust jacket from a woman who said it was essential in helping her survive her own personal bear attack.
posted by velebita at 1:23 PM on November 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

The Terror imediately came to mind as it involves Shackleton-like climate and fighting a bear-monster, but there are two caveats: it's mainly about facing great odds and not surviving, and there is an introduced supernatural element, so it may not be his cup of tea (you'll know best).
posted by Vortisaur at 1:51 PM on November 14, 2020 [3 favorites]

No Picnic on Mount Kenya by Felice Benuzzi

> An Italian prisoner of war in equatorial East Africa recounts his escape from a British POW camp so that he might climb the 17,000-foot peak of Mount Kenya.

It's not really a prison-break story. Sure, they need to invent their own equipment from bits and pieces scrounged from inside the POW camp, and they need to stage a prison break, but the goal isn't escaping, the goal is climbing a mountain.
posted by are-coral-made at 3:17 PM on November 14, 2020

Here's one: The Twenty-Ninth Day

This is about surviving a grizzly bear attack. I have not read it, nor do I plan to but it seems to have some of what you're looking for.

Here's one I did read and greatly enjoyed. It's an anthology of 4 books, quite well-written, about surviving some epic climbs, by two British mountaineers: The Boardman Tasker Omnibus
posted by Kangaroo at 4:28 PM on November 14, 2020

Came here to recommend Worst Journey In The World. Also Touching the Void by Joe Simpson.

But given what you say about his age and looking for something quick and light and fun, I feel like the correct answer is actually The Martian.
posted by caek at 5:04 PM on November 14, 2020 [5 favorites]

If you think he’d enjoy fiction, check out C. J. Box, especially his Joe Pickett series and the standalone “Blue Heaven”, Craig Johnson’s ”Longmire” series, and the mysteries of Jane Harper. All deal with survival in hostile envoronments (the US rural West for the first two, the Australian outback for Harper) and all have themes of revenge.
posted by epj at 6:30 PM on November 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

I'd recommend "Fatal Passage: The True Story of John Rae, the Arctic Hero Time Forgot" - John Rae was a relatively little known Arctic explorer with an amazing track record.

Also "Ship of Gold in the Deep Blue Sea" - an amazing tale of disaster at sea followed by a remarkable salvage operation.

Finally - since you particular mention fighting bears - I'm reminded of Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. Lots of polar activities as well as un-foolable fighting bears.
posted by rongorongo at 11:22 PM on November 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

Two real-life remarkable adventure/survival stories I can recommend:

We Die Alone: A WWII Epic of Escape and Endurance

Ultimate High: My Everest Odyssey

I'll second Touching the Void.
posted by EKStickland at 11:40 PM on November 14, 2020

Not about triumph over the elements, but a fun, quick read with ass-kicking is Badass, a collection of short reports on historical figures, described in a crude, over-the-top style for comic effect.
posted by lakeroon at 6:34 AM on November 15, 2020

Response by poster: Good stuff, everyone! Keep it coming! He's already read The Terror and Unbroken, but I will check out the rest of the suggestions. He loves WW2 stuff (typical dad) so one of those will likely be my purchase.
posted by silverstatue at 7:26 AM on November 15, 2020

Barkskins, by Annie Proulx, an historical fiction novel about the history of the timber industry in North American might interest him. It follows the story of two young Frenchmen who arrive in Canada in the late 17th century. It follows their lineage over 300 years, and all kinds of action packed, brutal, jaw dropping survival happens! The two end up following very different paths that take them all over the world. It's so interesting and brings you up to modern times.
posted by starfish at 12:33 PM on November 15, 2020

I really loved Island of the Blue Foxes by Stephen Brown, a true story of the Bering expedition to Alaska(ish). It's wild and horrifying, and incredibly interesting. I've read many of the books above, and this book is another great entry into the genre.
posted by just_ducky at 9:43 PM on November 15, 2020

He loves WW2 stuff (typical dad)
In that case, I am going to add The Cooler by George Markstein - it tells a lightly fictional account of the (actual) location in Scotland to which agents who knew "too much" were sent. The location served as the inspiration for The Prisoner (which Markstein co-created).

And also Operation Mincemeat by Ben Macintyre - for similar reasons.
posted by rongorongo at 2:34 AM on November 16, 2020

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