Abandoned souls and the last taboo. Good readin'!
December 29, 2007 5:45 PM   Subscribe

Dan Simmons' amazing book, The Terror, has me now longing for more survival/failure to survive stories. What can you recommend?

I saw the threads about books to aid in survival, but I'm looking for books about people surviving great difficulty or threat, or perhaps not surviving, and having to resort to cannibalism and other extremes near the end of their ordeal. Fiction or non-fiction.

I have read these, enjoyed them, and want more like them:

Alive (the story of the Andes survivors)
Into The Wild
Life of Pi
In The Heart of the Sea
The Wreck of the Medusa
Ordeal by Hunger (story of the Donner Party)
The Road
posted by TochterAusElysium to Media & Arts (29 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite

If you liked Alive, you might want to read Nando Parrado's Miracle in the Andes.

Robert Edric's The Broken Lands, like The Terror, is a historical novel about the Franklin expedition.

Richard Rhodes' The Ungodly is a historical novel about the Donner party; Stanford UP recently reprinted it.
posted by thomas j wise at 6:10 PM on December 29, 2007

Well, Endurance is a truly extraordinary (true) tale. You might be disappointed that it's not as grim as the ones you posted, though :).
posted by madmethods at 6:16 PM on December 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

The Worst Journey in the World by Appsley Cherry-Garrard.
posted by not that girl at 6:23 PM on December 29, 2007

The Stand, by Stephen King

The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 6:46 PM on December 29, 2007

Into Thin Air is a pretty intense book about survival (and failure to survive) on Everest in the year I believe still holds the records for most deaths:

Into Thin Air is a riveting first-hand account of a catastrophic expedition up Mount Everest. In March 1996, Outside magazine sent veteran journalist and seasoned climber Jon Krakauer on an expedition led by celebrated Everest guide Rob Hall. Despite the expertise of Hall and the other leaders, by the end of summit day eight people were dead.

You can get it on US Amazon, I just can't be arsed to look.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:02 PM on December 29, 2007

In middle school we read Deathwatch (or maybe it was read to us?). It has what I think you're looking for. short plot synopsis:Young guy is a hunting guide in the Desert who witnesses a murder. Witness has to avoid murderer and make it (some big # of) miles to town on foot. I remember it being pretty good.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 7:30 PM on December 29, 2007

This was written by a friend of mine, but it's still a really good book on that topic: The Rope Eaters.
posted by LairBob at 7:31 PM on December 29, 2007

Ilium by Dan Simmons. A significant part of the story is about a flabby skirt chaser stuck on a space station with a monster similar to the monster from The Terror.
posted by jstruan at 7:53 PM on December 29, 2007

Touching the Void, by Joe Simpson.
posted by bondcliff at 8:00 PM on December 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

Bear attacks! There are literally dozens of books chronicling bear attacks on Amazon, so there are many more than those listed below. Most of these books are made of a dozen or more accounts of bear attacks, with some victims surviving and others perishing. The most vivid story I can recall was about a female ranger whose arm was torn off and eaten by a bear. The grizzly then urinated on her and then buried her intending to mark her and come back later for a meal. And she still crawled to safety! With only one arm! In the wilderness!

Killer Bears

Bear Attacks of the Century
Alaska Bear Tales
posted by Alison at 8:01 PM on December 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

The Ruins by Scott Smith
posted by jessenoonan at 8:16 PM on December 29, 2007

Lost Moon- about the Apollo 13 mission By James Lovell
posted by Gungho at 8:39 PM on December 29, 2007

The Perfect Storm would cover the failure to survive part.
posted by Gungho at 8:40 PM on December 29, 2007

Seconding Endurance.. It's what popped into my head when I read the question. In my opinion it is an amazing story.
posted by jockc at 8:59 PM on December 29, 2007

Flight of the Phoenix by Elleston Trevor
posted by rentalkarma at 9:08 PM on December 29, 2007

Seconding Ilium. In my experience, you really can't go wrong with more Dan Simmons.
posted by JaredSeth at 9:14 PM on December 29, 2007

Thirding Endurance. Not just an amazing story. The greatest survival story ever, and all true.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 10:35 PM on December 29, 2007

I second Into Thin Air. A great read. The Perfect Storm is good as well, but not as gripping as Into Thin Air.

Not to derail, but I read The Terror too and would like to compare thoughts. While I liked the book it simply didn't compare to Simmon's earlier work in the Hyperion or Illium series.

I am down with some the 'it never gets explained' bits, but was Simmons actively trying to reject the traditional notions of closure and comeuppance?
posted by Argyle at 10:49 PM on December 29, 2007

Oh, I forgot King Rat by James Clavell. The story of POWs in WWII in Singapore.
posted by Argyle at 10:56 PM on December 29, 2007

Fourthing Endurance. Absolutely amazing.
posted by happyturtle at 12:53 AM on December 30, 2007

You might find Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies and Why interesting. I haven't read it, just bought it for someone for Christmas. Lots of stories and analysis of survival. If nothing else, would probably direct you to other survival accounts.
posted by paduasoy at 4:56 AM on December 30, 2007

i read "deep survival" and thought it was a really good read.

somewhat related, "inviting disaster" is more on the engineering side, but it's also a good read about how things break and why people are dumb about it.
posted by rmd1023 at 7:12 AM on December 30, 2007

I heartily second Into Thin Air and The Rope Eater. Both are absolutely gripping, and The Rope Eater has this wonderful, weird style hearkening back to Melville, etc. I loved A Perfect Storm, but I agree that it is not quite a survival story in the sense that you're seeking.
posted by tigerbelly at 8:49 AM on December 30, 2007

I thank you all!! My LibraryThing "want" list has grown a lot; I'll be enjoying many of these books soon!
posted by TochterAusElysium at 9:44 AM on December 30, 2007

Outside magazine has interesting survival stories on occasion. This best-of collection might be a good place to start (but I haven't read it). See also National Geographic Adventure.

"I am down with some the 'it never gets explained' bits, but was Simmons actively trying to reject the traditional notions of closure and comeuppance?"

I thought the book just fell apart, personally.
posted by liet at 11:35 AM on December 30, 2007

Kiley, Deborah Scaling. Albatross: The True Story of a Woman’s Survival at Sea. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1994.

Leslie, Edward E. Desperate journeys, abandoned souls : true stories of castaways and other survivors. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1988.

Oh, and Mrs. Chippy... mustn't forget Mrs. Chippy... (bursts into tears)
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:33 PM on December 30, 2007

Mrs. Chippy...yep, I read that book too. *sobs*
Thanks a lot. I thought I was over that. :(
posted by TochterAusElysium at 8:33 PM on December 30, 2007

Skeletons on the Zahara, by Dean King, which I just finished. The story on a twelve-man American trading crew who were shipwrecked on the shores on the Western Sahara in 1815. It has it all - murder, starvation, slavery, sunburn and endless thirst.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 5:20 PM on January 1, 2008

« Older How do I find authors the same age as me?   |   What do quantum physicists mean when they say... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.