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Will to Live: Dispatches from the Edge of Survival Paperback – February 1, 2011

4.5 out of 5 stars 48 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

The creator of TV�s Survivorman looks at some real-life survival situations and offers his perspective on them. Some will be familiar to many: the 1972 Andes crash of an airplane carrying a Uruguayan rugby team (chronicled in the book and movie, Alive); Chris McCandless� solo hike into the Alaskan wilderness (subject of the book and movie, Into the Wild). Others less familiar are no less fascinating, such as the plight of the Karluk, a ship that, during the 1913 Canadian Arctic Expedition, was trapped several months in an ice pack. Stroud approaches the stories practically: here�s what these people did, here�s what they should have done, here�s what you should think about doing if you�re ever in a similar situation. He offers intelligent tips�if you�re traveling somewhere remote, tell people where you�re going, take a well-stocked survival kit, and keep a cool head if you get lost�and he does an excellent job of putting readers into the situations he�s discussing, making us feel the cold or the panic or the sheer desperation. --David Pitt

From the Back Cover

In a survival situation, a wrong decision could spell the difference between life and death.

No one knows this better than Les Stroud, who has survived everywhere from the sun-scorched sands of the Kalahari to the snake-infested jungles of the Amazon. In Will to Live, Les examines many incredible true life survival stories—explaining what happened and why, and offering valuable perspectives on what went right, what went wrong, and what could have been done differently. The tales in Will to Live include:

Chris McCandless—the subject of the book and movie Into the Wild.Yossi Ghinsberg—who survived alone in the Amazon for twenty-one days.

Douglas Mawson—the Antarctic "superman" who survived three hellish months at the bottom of the planet.

Nando Parrado—who was trapped for two months high in the Andes after a plane crash killed his friends and family.

Plus . . . stories from Les's own experiences, along with practical sidebars with tips on how to escape quicksand, butcher a moose, cross a snow-covered crevasse, and more.

Provocative and entertaining, Will to Live is a compilation of history's most intriguing survival stories from one of the world's foremost experts.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 228 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Original edition (February 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062026577
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062026576
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #357,824 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By C. Saj on February 4, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was a a big fan of Les Stroud's Survivorman and Beyond Survival. His way of conveying survival instincts and tactics always appealed to me more than other survivalists in the field and TV.

This book is not just about Les Stroud's survival tactics (though they are sprinkled throughout the book), it mostly showcases and critiques other instances of amazing survival stories. Les offers his analysis and compares it to his own experiences. From the infamous Old Christian Rugby Team plane crash high in the Andes to Yossi Ghinsberg who miraculously survived alone in the Amazon for many days, and several other stories.

Some of the chapters are about his own experiences (some shown on Survivorman). My personal favorite was his trip to the Amazon with the Waorani. The chapter explained much of the background to that Survivorman episode, including his frantic chase with a Jaguar! Some nice full color photos are shown in the middle of Les in various locations when shooting Survivorman.

One of the coolest features in the book are Les's lists of survival necessities for certain situations and lessons to keep you out of harms way. From learning how to survive in quick sand to avoiding snow blindness, and supply lists, I can actually hear Les's voice explaining his thoughts for each of these.

If you are a die hard fan of Les Stroud or just an adventurist or survivalist I highly recommend this book. I read it practically in one night, and plan to re-read it in the next few weeks. There is so much to each story of survival not just about making it out alive, but the strength of the human spirt in hard times.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I found this book to be interesting, but if you're looking for a lot of personal anecdotes from Les Stroud you may be disappointed.

In this book, Les examines several real life survival stories. He explains how the people in question got into the situation, what decisions they made an why, and then examines what they did right and what they did wrong. It is very interesting to see how he evaluates them, and more importantly how these stories compare to each other.

This is not a how-to guide on survival like some of his other books though.
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By Jackmack on January 9, 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
will to live by survival expert Les Stroud is a collection of different survival stories from all over the world. Interspersed throughout each story is a analysis of the survival strategies displayed and how it worked or could have been done better. These stories are a testament to the human spirit and a demonstration of what one will resort to in order to survive. From survival in the amazon to survival in the Andes mountains where survivors are forced to eat dead humans in order to survive.
Stressed throughout besides being prepared and organized is the necessity of someone in a group to become the leader to develop a strategy to endure and survive. The ability to improvise, what the author refers to as Macgyverism is paramount in a survival situation ."There are times when you have to sacrifice one object to make it into another , more effective one."(pg.282). This is shown throughout Will to Live. If you enjoy survival stories and are looking for advice on how to handle dire straits then you will enjoy this collection of stories. Recommended.
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Why I read this book?

I've been a fan of Les Stroud's Survivorman and Beyond Survival television shows. There are lots of twists on the televised survival story. Stroud's is that he goes it relatively alone. He is his own camera crew and, aside from the rescue crew a radio call away, he's only go himself to count on unless it comes to life of death. Despite his penchant for being dramatic, I really enjoy his survival knowledge. I've had a couple of his books Survive and The Will to Live on my Amazon wishlist for some time now.

My one sentence summary:

More often than not, the only thing that determines whether a person makes it out of a survival situation is luck and their will to survive.


I'll admit that I am a survival junky so I love reading about the real life survival stories Les Stroud recounts in The Will to Live. The chapters interweave some well-known and perhaps less well-known survival stories with both positive (they lived) and negative (they died) outcomes along with his own experiences before and after he became Survivorman. Stroud also throws in his opinion as a survivalist about what other survivors (or not) could have down with the resources at hand or how he would have wanted to handle the situation.


Stroud's writing is much like his narration on his TV shows. He likes to be dramatic. Of course when you are reading about life and death survival stories there is no shortage of drama. At times it felt like Stroud was playing arm chair survivalist, except that his credentials make his input more akin to expert opinion.

Final Verdict:

High recommend for anyone who is interested in quick rundowns on some amazing stories of survival. If you like Survivorman, you'll love reading about the behind the scenes of Stroud's TV programs and the tidbits of his personal life that are thrown in.
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Format: Paperback
Les Stroud's Will to Live: Dispatches from the Edge of Survival is a gem of a book or, rather, two gems in one: On the one hand, it is an anthology of some of the best-known modern survival stories from around the globe; on the other, it is a professional evaluation of these tales by one of the foremost survival experts living today.

Stroud opens with Yossi Ghinsberg, who was abandoned by an incompetent tour guide in the dense Amazonian jungle in 1981. He then moves onto one of the better known catastrophes, Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571, wherein members of a soccer team were forced to resort to cannibalism after crash-landing in the Andes in 1972. Next is the story of Dougal Robertson, a Scottish sailor lost at sea for over a month. This is followed by Christopher McCandless' legendary foray into the Alaskan bush before the author turns his attention to James Stolpa's lesser-known, but nonetheless daunting, 50-mile trek through a blizzard. Rounding out the collection is Douglas Mawson, who cheated death after being stranded in the Antarctic for three months in 1912.

The book's greatest strength is that Stroud, a natural-born teacher and storyteller, is honest in his appraisal (and comparison) of the various plights being discussed: In so doing, his underlying theme--that the greatest survival tool is the will to live--is brought to the forefront of each and every assessment. Part adventure anthology, part instruction manual, part homage to the human spirit, Will to Live is a rewarding and enjoyable read and, in the end, not unlike listening to Nabakov lecture on Kafka or Patton critique Rommel.

--Michael Gurnow, author of
...Read more ›
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