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Adult Book Lists: Survival Nonfiction: Real Stories of Humans That Survived Natural Disasters, Kidnapping, Captivity, Airplane Crashes, War, Exile, and Genocide

[Printable book list]

James Campbell / 917.9804 CAMPBELL
Braving It: a Father, a Daughter, and an Unforgettable Journey into the Alaskan Wild
James Campbell was invited to spend the summer building a cabin in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge, home to only a few people, is a harsh place, isolated from most, if not all modern conveniences. Campbell hesitated to ask his daughter along for the summer, but once they arrived he was thrilled by her embrace of the environment. They returned twice more, and on their third, most ambitious visit their relationship was tested backpacking through the Alaskan Brooks Range out toward the Arctic Ocean.

Sarah Marquis / 919..04 MARQUIS
Wild by Nature: From Siberia to Australia, Three Years Alone in the Wilderness on Foot
One woman. Alone. A ten-thousand mile hike. From Asia to Australia, Sarah Marquis recounts her global trek, surviving the Mafia, drug dealers, thieves on horseback, sub-zero temperatures, killer wildlife, illness, and dehydration. This book tells an incredible story of her adventure as a woman in the most wild and isolated places on Earth, and the extent of human ingenuity, persistence, and resilience.

Shane Bauer / 365.4509231 BAUER
A Sliver of Light: Three Americans Imprisoned in Iran
In 2009, Shane Bauer, Joshua Fattal, and Sarah Shourd became the first Americans since the 1979 revolution to be held in Tehran's Evin Prison. The trio unintentionally broke this streak when they crossed into Iran and were captured by border patrol. Accused of spying and imprisoned, they underwent psychological torment and solitary confinement, and forged unlikely alliances with prisoners and guards alike.

Laurence Gonzales / 363.12465 GONZALES
Flight 232: a Story of Disaster and Survival
On July 19, 1989, American Airlines Flight 232 slammed onto the runway and burst into flames. Rescuers were hesitant at first, pretty sure no one could have survived that impact or the intense flames. Slowly, however, people emerged from the ruins. Out of 296 passengers and crew, 184 survived. Laurence Gonzales reconstructs the journey of pilots flying with no controls and the flight attendants who remained calm despite the promise of certain death. Through interviews with survivors, Gonzales takes readers into the minds of passengers as they pray and bargain with God, plotting out strategies for survival.

Cate Lineberry / 940.547573 LINEBERR
The Secret Rescue: an Untold Story of American Nurses and Medics Behind Nazi Lines
In November 1943, Army Air Forces flight nurses and medics crash landed in Nazi territory after enduring a flight through a violent storm on their way to Italy. The crash was just the beginning of a months-long fight for suvival. Once they emerged, the crew realized they had landed in Albania, a poverty-stricken country rife with danger. Armed with only one gun, they met villagers in the rugged mountains who risked everything to help them evade Nazi capture.

Claire Hoffman / B HOFFMAN
Greetings from Utopia Park: Surviving my Transcendent Childhood
Following the sudden departure of her alcoholic father, Claire Hoffman's mother, Liz, announced that the family was moving to heaven, Iowa, to live in Maharishi's national headquarters for Heaven on Earth. At first, the secluded utopia offered warmth and support, and the family felt secure, calm, and connected to the world through meditation and the promise of Enlightenment. But, once Claire and her sister matured, their skepticism eventually led them to drugs and deliquency. After a move to California and a stint in journalism and academia, Hoffman returned to Iowa to recapture the magic of her childhood.

Dawn Anahid MacKeen / 956.520154 MACKEEN
The Hundred-Year Walk: an Armenian Odyssey
Award-winning investigative journalist, Dawn Anahid MacKeen recounts the harrowing journey of her grandfather, Stepan Miskjian, to escape the mass deportation of Armenians into internment camps during World War I. The text alternates between Stepan's saga and Dawn's experience after her family discovers his long-lost journals, which captured his experiences during WWI. Dawn becomes inspired to retrace his steps through Turkey and present-day Syria, a landscape still rife with tension.

Aram Haykaz / 956.620154 HAYGAZ
Four Years in the Mountains of Kurdistan: an Armenian Boy's Memoir of Survival: 1915-1919
This is a rare account of a tragic chapter in world history. After a month-long attack on his family and fellow townspeople, Aram Haigaz and his mother were forced to march toward the Syrian desert without food, water, or shelter. It was 1915 and Christian Armenians in Turkey were being killed en masse. Aram's mother convinced him to convert to Islam to ensure his survival, and he spent four years living as a Muslim servant and shepherd among Kurdish tribes before escaping to the United States in 1921.

Sungju Lee / B LEE
Every Falling Star: the True Story of How I Survived and Escaped North Korea
At just twelve years old, Sungju Lee was forced to a life on the streets in North Korea. In his memoir, Sungju recounts the separation from his parents, the isolation and alienation he felt, how he created a new family of "brothers," the hunger he endured, and the fear of imprisonment and execution that haunted him daily.

Sophie Hayes / 306.362092 HAYES
Trafficked: My Story of Surviving, Escaping, and Transcending Abduction into Prostitution
On the final day of their trip to Italy with her boyfriend, Sophie Hayes learned she would not be returning home. After enduring a physical beating by her boyfriend, Sophie was threatened with the death of her younger brothers if she didn't cooperate with her boyfriend and help pay off his debts. For the six months that followed, Sophie was forced into prostitution in a country where she didn't speak the language, enduring the violent moods of her boyfriend and the threat of death by any of her customers.

Regina Calcaterra / 362.733 CALCATER
Etched in Sand: a True Story of Five Siblings Who Survived an Unspeakable Childhood on Long Island
Regina Calcaterra learned to endure and overcome frequent change and instability. Growing up in a series of foster homes and intermittent homelessness, all in the shadow of the Hamptons, Regina and her four siblings struggled to stay together. Despite a rough and unstable upbringing, Regina continued to move forward, eventually finding her place in the world of public service.

Orlando Figes / 365.45092 FIGES
Just Send Me Word: a True Story of Love and Survival in the Gulag
First a Soviet prisoner of war in a Nazi concentration camp, then a deportee in the Arctic Gulag, Lev Mishchenko had given up hope of seeing his sweetheart, Sveta, ever again. But, in 1946, he received a letter from her, and over the next eight years, the lovers exchanged more than 1,500 letters that were smuggled in and out of the camp by workers and officials. This correspondence provides an unmediated and uncensored, real-time record of life in Stalin's Gulag.

Carolyn Jessop / 289.3092 JESSOP
At eighteen, Carolyn Jessop became the fourth wife of a fifty-year-old man and gave birth to eight children over the span of fifteen years. Carolyn had been born into the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (FLDS), a radical offshoot of the Mormon Church. Her every choice and move was dictated by her husband. Miserable for years, Carolyn knew that if she were caught trying to escape, her children would be taken away from her. However, in 2003, she managed the unthinkable and escaped with all eight of her children - something no woman in the country had ever been able to do. But, her escape was only the beginning of her journey.

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