This book explores the psychology of survival. It is not a scientific study of survival, it's not a how-to manual, but an analysis of specific true survival stories. Most of the book is in narrative form, reflections on the author's first hand accounts of survival and retellings of other first hand accounts. The goal of this book is not so much to outline a survival method, but to explore and cultivate the survivor mind.
I was very disappointed in this book. The stories of survival are great but he never tells one complete story, instead interspersing his own ideas and/or beliefs as to why things happen the way they do. I actually read to about page 200 before it got interesting and I kept waiting for the book to take a turn for the better. It got better but not by much.
An riveting examination of why some people are survivors and others are victims. The author's examples of extreme situations that people have survived (or not) were well researched and presented in interesting detail. I found myself compelled to finish this with a drive that is usually reserved for the best fiction.
As a self-proclaimed couch potato, I was somewhat surprised by how much I actually enjoyed this book. It is well-written, interesting, educational, and facinating. The author does not give pat answers or trite suggestions, but instead investigates the psyche, attitude, and mind of survivors. Anyone interested in extreme outdoor activities, and anyone interested in the brain and the mind, should read this book.
I can understand why some people would have problems completing this book (such as my mother who gave up quickly). The beginning of the book spends a lot of time discussing the mechanisms of the human mind and is very scientific. Personally, I just skipped over those paragraphs until the author got back on track with the interesting points that would lead someone unscientific like me to be reading this book.
He covers many unknown,well known and personal survival stories. The book begins and ends telling the story of his father who was a WWII fighter pilot that was shot down and held as a prisoner of war in Germany. There are many references to those who did and did not survive the World Trade Center collapses. Some of the other incidents covered are; river rafting accidents, mountain climbing incidents, an avalanche, a skiier who goes off trail and becomes lost, hikers lost in the woods (including the author), a Peruvian airline crash and survival at sea.
The book gets more interesting when the author gets passed the brain chemistry of survival and delves into the emotions of the people who survive. The book gives you a good foundation of what you would require mentally to survive a catastrophic event.
This book tries to be a cross between a scientific analysis of survival and stories of disasters, but succeeds at neither. Parts were written for publication elsewhere and it shows -- repetitive use of the same phrases ("spicy juniper smell" every time there's a mountain nearby), constant references to "Tao Te Ching" and a very disjointed rhythm with no real flow. The writing is choppy and lacking in scientific support, with accident accounts frequently interrupted by the author pontificating on some spiritual observation. The author name-drops frequently, and takes great pains to be sure we know he's done all sorts of cool, manly stuff, none of which teaches us much about surviving accidents. This is best illustrated in the index, where the longest listing is not of references to hypothermia or risk management, but for the personal exploits of the author. Skip this pointless, ego-puffing narrative and read Amanda Ripley's "The Unthinkable" to actually learn something about survival. Not recommended.
I heard about this book in a computer seminar a few years ago. I kept the scrap of paper and put it on my wish list after I joined Paperbackswap. I did enjoy the book although it wasn't quite what I expected. It essentially boils down to 12 principles of survival which could be handy one day. I will say that after reading this book that mountain climbing is not in my future. I don't like heights anyway (smile).
Kara (karalimes) reviewed Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why on
I loved this book! It's not a collection of exciting survival stories (if that's what you're after), but rather the author briefly relates several survival stories and (the point of the book) analyzes them for clues as to why some people survive life-threatening situations and some do not. The first chapter was very dry, a little dull, and went over my head; thereafter, however, I couldn't put the book down.
From the stories he relates, Gonzales distills principles which may seem obvious, but obviously are not, since some of the people in his stories don't survive. One I remember is "don't be so committed to a goal or plan that you won't adjust it even if circumstances change," i.e. if you planned to leave at 4 AM and hike to the summit of a mountain, but get held up and don't start until 9 AM and halfway up storm clouds start rolling in, don't insist on hiking all the way to the summit, even in unsafe conditions, because *that was your plan.*
To me, one great, unexpected thing about the book was that the principles he explicates are useful in everyday life, too, not just in imminently life-threatening conditions. For example, I'd been hung up on not achieving a particular goal and not moving forward with life because of it, but this book prompted me to finally open my eyes and say, "OK, that was my plan, but circumstances changed and it's time to update/adjust my plan and move on."