Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why

Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why

3.9 66
by Laurence Gonzales

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In Deep Survival, Laurence Gonzales pulls readers to the boundary region between life and death, where they peer into the hearts, minds, and souls of those who have survived seemingly impossible situations and those who have given in to death. Through careful dissection of case studies, he illuminates the essence of the true survivor - the internal battles that are…  See more details below


In Deep Survival, Laurence Gonzales pulls readers to the boundary region between life and death, where they peer into the hearts, minds, and souls of those who have survived seemingly impossible situations and those who have given in to death. Through careful dissection of case studies, he illuminates the essence of the true survivor - the internal battles that are waged between fear and hope, reason and emotion, despair and correct action.

He shows how all survivors go through the same psychological transformation and make the same spiritual journey, and he explains the mysterious events and surprising outcomes that occur when humans are pushed into a territory that, until now, only survivors could comprehend.

This narrative is the first book to describe the science of survival, revealing through new psychological and neurological research the workings of the brain that motivate our actions. Unconscious responses to everything from events in daily life to dire emergencies are driven by primal regions of the brain: those that support the survival of the species, but not always the individual.

Applying the science of chaos theory and self-organizing systems, Gonzales shows how accidents are not random acts of God but highly organized outcomes of complex systems, repeated with inevitable frequency. You can't stop them from happening, but this book can help prevent them from happening to you.

Deep Survival is not going to teach you how to build a fire or find water, but you will be far better prepared to survive any challenge you face. The principles Gonzales uncovers are universal, applying not only to survival in the wild but also to survival in relationships, in the death ofa loved one, in running a business during uncertain times, even in war.

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Editorial Reviews

Sebastian Junger
“Gonzales's writing is effortless and compelling, and his research is first-rate. I can't imagine a better book on the topic.”
Jed Williamson
“Deep Survival provides a new lens for looking at survival, risk taking, and life itself. Gonzales takes the reader on a rollercoaster ride that ends with rules of survival we can all stand to learn. Equally important, he answers the question: what is the value of taking risks. I love this book.”
David Roberts
“Remarkable, unique, and compulsively readable, Deep Survival is three books in one: a compendium of vivid tales of disasters and near misses in the wilderness; a probing analysis of what the latest neuroscience and psychology can tell us about 'who lives and who dies'; and, finally, a moving memoir about Gonzales's father, whose own miraculous survival after a plane crash behind German lines in World War II launched the author on his lifelong quest into the mystery of risk and adventure.”
Jerry Kobalenko
“A gripping and thoughtful investigation of the greatest adventure of all—survival. Through riveting tales of disaster and endurance, Gonzales explores the icy mental clarity that characterizes survivors.”
Jeff Randall
“Should be required reading for anyone venturing off the beaten path.”
Publishers Weekly
When confronted with a life-threatening situation, 90% of people freeze or panic, says Gonzales in this exploration of what makes the remaining 10% stay cool, focused and alive. Gonzales (The Hero's Apprentice; The Still Point), who has covered survival stories for National Geographic Explorer, Outside and Men's Journal, uncovers the biological and psychological reasons people risk their lives and why some are better at it than others. In the first part of the book, the author talks to dozens of thrill-seekers-mountain climbers, sailors, jet pilots-and they all say the same thing: danger is a great rush. "Fear can be fun," Gonzales writes. "It can make you feel more alive, because it is an integral part of saving your own life." Pinpointing why and how those 10% survive is another story. "They are the ones who can perceive their situation clearly; they can plan and take correct action," Gonzales explains. Survivors, whether they're jet pilots landing on the deck of an aircraft carrier or boatbuilders adrift on a raft in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, share certain traits: training, experience, stoicism and a capacity for their logical neocortex (the brain's thinking part) to override the primitive amygdala portion of their brains. Although there's no surefire way to become a survivor, Gonzales does share some rules for adventure gleaned from the survivors themselves: stay calm, be decisive and don't give up. Remembering these rules when crisis strikes may be tough, but Gonzales's vivid descriptions of life in the balance will stay with readers. (Oct.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Subtitled Who Lives, Who Dies and Why, Deep Survival is a series of true adventure stories where only some of the protagonists make it through. The link between the stories is Gonzales' analysis of the survival strategies—or deadly lack thereof. Originally prompted, at least in part, by curiosity about his own father's survival of a plane crash in WW II, Gonzales easily carries the reader along with a variety of tales. From experienced hiker Ken Killip's terrifying experience of being lost in the high peaks of the Rocky Mountains to 17-year-old Juliane Koepcke's lone survival of a plane crash in the Peruvian jungle, Gonzales offers well-told tales of lessons learned. Who survives is often surprising; "It's not who you would predictasometimes the one who survives is an inexperienced female hiker, while the experienced hunter gives up and dies in one nighta" (p.170). Gonzales analyses the stages of being lost (the first step is denial) and also the rules to survival (the first one is "be here now" or "perceive and believe"—a type of super-awareness of your situation). Gonzales also visits two survival schools where he learns that they teach not only the practical side of survival such as shelter and making a fire, but the psychological and even spiritual side. Being "aware of the moment" means not only thinking of how likely you are to be hit by lightening and how to avoid it, but realizing your own sense of self in a potential deadly environment. Such added insights make the book also appropriate for surviving the challenges of everyday life—loss and stress are not unique to the jungle or the mountaintop. Gonzales is an editor for National Geographic Adventuremagazine and has written numerous other articles for journals. (Editor's note: some adult language.) KLIATT Codes: SA—Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2005, Norton, 318p. bibliog. index., Ages 15 to adult.
—Katherine Gillen
Kirkus Reviews
Humans have a way of courting accidents. What separates survivors from victims is preparation and spirit—but also sheer dumb luck. "To survive," writes novelist/journalist Gonzales (One Zero Charlie, 1993, etc.), "you must first be annealed in the fires of peril." Well, yes: and peril, though sometimes in the eye of the beholder, is a constant companion of many folks, whether they court it or not—one reason, Gonzales observes, that inner-city kids tend to do better in outdoor survival training than do suburbanites, who have far less experience with predators. Thrill-seekers who put themselves in harm’s way for the sake of the adrenaline rush may have all the right gear and even a little know-how, but most of them are just ordinary Joes who, "when put under stress, are unable to think clearly or solve simple problems. They get rattled. They panic. They freeze." Cataloguing, often by way of personal anecdote, the dazzling array of possibilities by which gnarly outdoor experiences can become annihilating ones—a body surfer hits the wrong tide and gets dashed against the rocks, a snowmobiler gets chewed up in an avalanche, a hang glider augers into a mountain or a parachutist into the waiting earth—Gonzales ponders just what traits, and just what training, can increase such an ordinary person’s odds of survival in tight situations, short of simply staying home. (But even then, he reckons, we get snuffed. Given that one person dies in this country every minute in a transportation accident, the death of only a dozen-odd climbers every year makes mountaineering seem a safe bet by comparison.) This work, oddly delightful for all its gruesome moments, closes with a compendiumof tips for staying alive in the wild, among them the necessity of staying calm when danger rises, waiting for the fear to pass, planning what to do next, and believing that the odds are with you against all evidence to the contrary. A superb, entertaining addition to a nature buff’s library—or for anyone not tucked safely away in a bunker. Agent: Gail Hochman/Brandt & Hochman
Jacki Golike
“Professional rescuers will love this book. It goes to the heart of the instincts that drive us to risk our own lives to save others.”
Daryl Miller
“Deep Survival is by far the best book on the many insights into epic survival stories I have ever read.”
Bill McKibben
“A fascinating look into why we are who we are.”
Charles Perrow
“A feast of excitement and wonder. Makes complexity and chaos come alive, girdled by neurological processes, drenched with fantastic accounts of danger and death. You will see the world differently.”
Robert Sapolsky
“Great stories of disaster and survival... combined with revealing science about the physiology and psychology of how we deal with crisis.... Accurate, accessible, up-to-date and insightful.”
Peter Stark
“Laurence Gonzales has masterfully woven together personal survival stories with the study of human perception to reach rock-bottom truths about how to live with risk.”
Joseph LeDoux
“Gonzalez takes us on a fascinating, fast-paced, and exciting adventure into survival. His captivating stories, many from personal experience, will keep you turning the pages, stopping only to imagine how you, and your brain, would react when faced with a survival experience.”

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Product Details

Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.60(h) x 1.00(d)

Meet the Author

Laurence Gonzales is the author of Surviving Survival and the bestseller Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why. He has won two National Magazine Awards and is a fellow of the Santa Fe Institute. His essays are collected in the book House of Pain. He lives in Evanston, Illinois.

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