Surprisingly, there aren’t as many great survival books as I thought. Boys especially like a good adventure packed with thrills, suspense, and survival curveballs. These books are the best I’ve read and are guaranteed to appeal to all adventure enthusiasts, both boys and girls.
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen (series)
Brian is a teenager flying in a 4-person prop plane when the pilot has a heart attack. Brian successfully ditches the plane in the Canadian wilderness and for the remainder of the story fights to stay alive. He must defend against predators and find/catch food for two months. All this he does with the help of his only tool—a hatchet.
Peak by Roland Smith (series)
Peak loves to climb. When he gets caught climbing a skyscraper in New York, the judge agrees to let him off if he leaves the states with his dad, a famous extreme mountain climber. He takes Peak to Mt. Everest where he is leading an expedition to the summit. The book successfully describes the preparation, treachery and time it takes to acclimate in order to arrive at Everest’s summit.
Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen (series)
Cole is a juvenile delinquent who is the worst kid you can imagine. Instead of going to a juvenile jail, he is accepted into the Indian Circle Justice program. Cole thinks it’s a joke and goes along with it. The program exchanges a year of living alone on a remote Alaskan island for jail time. Though he sabotages his first attempt, he goes back a second time and finds the good he has within himself.
Wilder Boys by Brandon Wallace (series)
Jake and Taylor decide to search for their dad in the Wyoming wilderness after their mother is beaten to the point of unconsciousness by her abusive boyfriend. They travel across country in a train car, with a motherly truck driver, and in the luggage compartment of a bus. Once in the wilderness, they successfully employ all kinds of survival skills and find their dad using the mysterious clues he wrote to his mother over the years.
Terror at Bottle Creek by Watt Key
Cort lives with his dad on a houseboat just down the hill from his best friend Liza. When a deadly hurricane hits Alabama, the adults get stuck on the other side of a flooded bridge. As bad luck would have it, Liza and Cort have to go on a rescue mission to save Liza’s younger sister. When they trudge through the flood to get to higher ground, they end up sharing a tree with deadly snakes and trapped by a raging boar below.
Scar Island by Dan Gemeinhart
When Jonathan arrives at the Alcatraz-like reformatory facility for boys, he quickly realizes that he may as well be in Hell. The Admiral rules with an iron fist. When all the adults get electrocuted in a freak lightning storm, the boys decide to hunker down and deceive the delivery boat driver into believing everything is normal. What follows is a Lord of the Flies type scenario where the boy who takes charge isn’t much better than the admiral.
The Trail by Meika Hashimoto
12-year-old Toby is on his own hiking the Appalachian Trail to complete the last item on his summer list. Everything that can go wrong does, but one good thing is his new companion, a scraggly dog he names Moose. He overnights at shelters, encounters large animals, runs low on food, nearly gets kidnapped, loses his dog, and meets many interesting people along the way.
Small as an Elephant by Jennifer Richard Jacobson
Jack wakes up in a Maine campground to find that his mother has abandoned him. He sets out with his sleeping bag and a little money to make the long trip back to Boston. At every turn he must make decisions about where he will get food and where he’ll eat. But his priority is making sure no one realizes he’s on his own, so he won’t be taken from his mother who suffers from a mental illness.
Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare
12-year-old Matt is left in charge of the new homestead while his father visits his mother and sister. He doesn’t have much in the way of survival skills, so when the rifle is stolen he has no way to get meat. Then he meets an Indian boy named Attean. Although Attean’s English is basic, the boys are able to communicate and barter their skills. Matt teaches Attean how to read English, and Attean teaches Matt how to make a bow and trap.