SAS Survival Handbook by John Wiseman.

A 2019 Reading Challenge Book Review!

John “Lofty” Wiseman originally published the SAS Survival Handbook in 1986. Since then its popularity has skyrocketed with revisions and new additions coming out in 2009 and 2014. Subsequent additions have seen additions and corrections to the material of the book.

The Author’s Background. 

The author John Wiseman is a 26 year “professional soldier” as  he states in the beginning of the book. This alone gives him a lot of experience in the field of survival. Wiseman has a lot of accolades to his name other than the length of time he served in the military. He was the youngest to pass British SAS selection. He went as far to help select candidates for the selection later on in his career. 

General Information. 

The SAS Survival Handbook has been one of the best survival manuals of the last several decades. He speaks to actual survival. Not the TV personality brand of survival that has plagued TV and the internet for years now. Survival means preparing for what is going to happen and for what might happen. Real world survival is not about walking into the woods with a knife and making everything you need. 

The first sections of his book talk about being prepared. He goes into what you should be planning for and what you should be preparing for. You should be looking for things like are your clothes appropriate for the season and the activity you are planning to do. Do you have enough food for the duration of your trip? These and many more items Wiseman covers in the book. 

In addition to the items you should pack in your survival kit the SAS Survival Handbook covers things that can be made or collected from your environment. Wiseman has several entire sections on plants, trees, and animals. 

The sections he put in on animals are detailed. He begins with tracking and signs and even goes to the extent of including butchering and harvesting them. Other things that are tied with this topic are the sections on trapping and what sort of traps will catch which animals. He goes into the extent of naming what animals live in which environments. You can easily locate which animals should be located in your general area. 

Shelter and Environment. 

This is a section of the book that most authors leave out. If they include it in their book it is to a much lesser extent than Wiseman included in The SAS Survival Handbook. Wiseman starts out with each different environment you could find yourself in. Places like colder locations or the arctic are included in great detail. Wiseman details what to do to keep you alive and what you should not do. 

One thing that I liked in this book was he highlights things of varying degrees of importance. Mostly as a visual aide. This important information catches the eye and is less likely to be forgotten. When you are in a  stressful situation your abilities to comprehend information might be limited. With the author putting the most important information right out in front of you this gives you a better chance to remember it. 

One thing likely to draw your attention is the pictures and diagrams he added into these sections. Shelter systems he give you a description on how to build them but he also give pictures and diagrams to make the text easier to follow. In the sections on plants Wiseman includes picture so that you are not relying on a description alone. Animals and tracks are the same portrayed the same way. 

From the perspective of a reader. 

If you are a reader and are looking for a book to keep you entertained then you will need to keep looking. There is nothing in this book that hints at fluff or a story. Many times and locations in this book are closer to being a textbook rather than anything entertaining. 

From the perspective of a writer. 

As a writer you have to take a lot of things into account when you are looking at someone’s work. What was the purpose of the book? Did the writer accomplish that purpose? Was there a better way to accomplish that goal? 

These are the first questions that I ask myself. Wiseman’s basic purpose was to prepare the reader for what can befall them when they are out in the woods. He accomplishes that goal exactly. I have always thought these types of books could use a little less textbook structure and a little more real world knowledge. Making a connection with the reader via the use of situations that the writer has actually lived through will always help your reader remember what you are trying to say to them. 

Final Thoughts. 

While this book is on the top ten survival manuals on many people’s lists there are always things lacking. I think even Wiseman realized this and that was the reason for revisions and additions that happened to this book over the years. There will never be one survival manual to rule them out. What happens is you can pack a lot of information into a small package and that is what Wiseman has accomplished in The SAS Survival Handbook. 

There is the basic Information! You decide the outcome! 

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