I have studied the science and art of wilderness survival and "Primitive living" skills for the last thirty years as a hobby,vocation and life style. In that time I have amassed several books on the subject. Not being much of an armchair adventurer, I prefer to practice my hobby hands on but reading these books has taught me much and given me the chance to put into practice the techniques used by others.
I spend alot of my "spare" time tying Trout flies but my quiet time is most often spent reading. The subject of choice is almost always something having to do with the outdoors.
Wilderness survival can be a fascinating subject, it can also be repetitious and gets stale. There is only so much the average person will read and even less will be put into practice.
I don't think anyone really learns it all and like anything else some authors are better writers then others and therefore better teachers. Like any teacher we might have liked in high school or professor in collage, some just know how to convey an idea better. So it's not that any of these books are "really" better then others, it's just a matter of writing style.
At last counting, I think I own close to one hundred books on the subject of survival. I am not counting those I liked enough to buy more then one copy of either, this is an honest count.
I have learned something from each of them, but there are those that were so special and touched my soul in ways that have changed my life. I have put the lessons I've learned from these books to the ultimate test in the bush and found that they were just as the author described.
A real page turner......I can give you lists if books (and will) that are worth reading and deserve study and practise however, there is a short list of MUST read books that I believe any wilderness trekker is compelled to have in his/her library.
Without hesitation I can attest to the quality of those books written by Alan Fry and Paul H. Risk. These two men give full measure on the subject in two distinctly different styles. In my opinion no survival library would be complete without the books Outdoor Safety and Survival (Risk) and Wilderness Survival Handbook (Fry) if you don't already own these books stop right now and leave the COSS blog page, Google them up and buy them........just do it...you'll thank me.
As a very good second string is anything by John and Geri McPherson and J. Wayne Fears These names are familiar to the survival community but if you don't own their books by now you're just not serious enough yet.
On the third shelf and again no disrespect intended it's just a matter of preference in writing style, you should read Barry Davies and Raymond Mears our English cousins tend to be fanatical about the subject and have strong opinions about how one should survive with style. This brings us to the time honored writings of Bradford Angier a bit dated but valuable. And who could forget the lessons of Larry Dean Olsen.
You may notice I left out "he who must not be named!" The Tracking guru from New Jersey. I have read all the books he has ever written and must say..........he just doesn't do it for me.
I can appreciate the whole American Indian thing but, like the contributions of Bear Grylls, I can smell a commercial enterprise when the wind is just right. It's just not what my spirit is looking for. (Hey Bear, whats with all the running?)
I'm 50 years old now and have schlepped through the thickest bush of the largest piece of wilderness in the Continental United States (The Adirondacks) and even after more then a month in the bush have never found it necessary to wring out a turd for a drink, do a back flip from the top of a waterfall or teach Tommy Lee Jones how to kill a man in old Indian fashion. Sorry, I'd rather eat berries then Bullshit.
Now from survival to Backpacking: two books we should never be without are Walking Softly in the Wilderness (John Hart) and one of my very favorite books The Camper's Companion (Rick Greenspan & Hal Kahn) just great reading in an informative yet fun style. ....more please guys.
Study any and all U.S. and foreign military survival manuals (some are better then others) but believe it or not most are vague and need instructors to fully convey what a better author can teach.
Last but not least on the must read list is The Boy Scout Handbook it is almost like a bible to me. It teaches much more then how to live in harmony in the wilderness, it teaches how to live a better life. Lessons worth learning by everyone.
Whatever you read/study put it to practical use. Try it in your back yard or local woods and get familiar with the techniques before needing them in the deep bush. remember it's good to learn from your mistakes (if you survive them) but it's better to learn from the mistakes of others.
These few books contain those lessons.