by Tony Nester, Survival Instructor
Many students on our courses ask about a reading list that covers the basic areas of study such as bushcraft, tracking, trapping, and the unique natural history of the Southwest. Below are a few titles we recommend & draw upon in our teaching. You should also check out our book series on survival.
Wherever possible, we have given you a link to Amazon.com to purchase the item.
Bushcraft by Mors Kochanski. This book was originally titled “Northern Bushcraft”, so if you’re looking for it used it could be under either title. This is the single best book on wilderness living skills and, after 19 years of use, the most referenced book on my shelf. It covers a lot of information pertaining to the boreal forests of Canada but the skills themselves and the applications are universal. The author really delves into great detail about the science behind survival.
In The Days of Victorio by Eve Ball and James Kaywaykla. Victorio was the most brilliant military strategist that the Apaches had and his guerilla warfare tactics are a must-read. One of the most instrumental figures in the American Southwest and a fascinating glimpse into Apache survival & evasion skills.
How to Survive on Land & Sea by Frank and John Craighead. Considered by many to be the first true survival manual out there, the Craigheads traveled the globe after WWII studying survival techniques with indigenous cultures to apply towards the training of our Armed Forces. They later went on to become pioneering grizzly bear biologists in Yellowstone.
Lightning Bird by Lyall Watson. Documents the incredible life of White Bushman Adrian Boshier who ventured into the African bush at age 16 with only a knife and a bag of salt. Great stories of learning from the land and survival by trial.
The Maneating Leopard of Rudraprayag by Jim Corbett. Bushcraft, tracking, jungle lore- all written by Jim Corbett who was raised in the Himalayas of India during the early 1900’s. He is known for his tracking skills and his books document the accounts of him pursuing the maneating tigers and leopards that plagued the rural villages. The book above is one of five and covers his 7 year pursuit of the leopard that killed over 400 people.
Guide To Wild Foods by Chris Nyerges. Survival News Service, 1991. An excellent baseline fieldguide that covers the basics of edible plants. Couple this with the Petersen Field Guide to Edible Plants and you will have a good foundation in wild plant uses.
Camp Life In The Woods and the Tricks of Trapping by W. Hamilton Gibson. Written in 1881 and still available on Amazon. The single best book on traps and snares from an experienced woodsman who lived it.
Caribou Hunter, Song of a Vanished Innu Life by Serge Bouchard. Greystone Books, 2004. Astounding firsthand account of a traditional subsistence life in Canada that was intact until 1970. Great details on the day-to-day requirements of living off the land and hardships associated with it.
Tactical Tracking Operations by David Scott-Donelan. Excellent manual on the art and science of mantracking. Doneland is one of the foremost experts on the subject in the world and much sought out by LE and military. Along those lines, check out Tracking: A Blueprint for Learning How by retired border patrol tracker Jack Kearney.
Tracking and the Art of Seeing by Paul Rezendes. Probably the best book on animal tracking to start with. This is the one I use the most.
Snow Walker’s Companion by Garrett and Alexandra Conover. The best text out there on traditional winter skills and how to camp and survive in the cold. Great Trail recipes for cold weather too.
Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon by Michael Gighlieri & Tom Myers. The definitive survival book on the Grand Canyon by friend Tom Myers who was a physician at the Canyon for 10 years and has seen it all with regards to backcountry injuries.
Zuni, Selected Writings of Frank Hamilton Cushing. 1979. University of Nebraska Press. This outstanding book is a great introduction to the Zuni culture and lifeways as documented firsthand by Cushing who lived with the Zuni for years as one of them during the 1880’s. Highly recommended to students in our longer courses.
The Truth About Geronimo by Britton Davis. Firsthand account by Lt. Davis who was involved in the Geronimo Campaign in Arizona during the 1880s.
Where There Is No Doctor by the Hesperian Foundation. An excellent self-care manual for remote medicine and backcountry first-aid.
Movies depicting accurate skills (*highly recommended):
Into The Wild
The Snow Walker*
The Fast Runner
The Naked Prey
Quest for Fire
Geronimo: An American Legend
Alone in the Wilderness (PBS documentary)*