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Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why

3.93  ·  Rating details ·  9,747 ratings  ·  1,075 reviews
Laurence Gonzales’s bestselling Deep Survival has helped save lives from the deepest wildernesses, just as it has improved readers’ everyday lives. Its mix of adventure narrative, survival science, and practical advice has inspired everyone from business leaders to military officers, educators, and psychiatric professionals on how to take control of stress, learn to assess ...more
Paperback, 336 pages
Published January 10th 2017 by W. W. Norton Company (first published December 1st 1998)
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John Behle Jonathan--it's a case of one finds out more, receives something new, gains new wisdom each reading. Now try the audio CD version. Narrator Stefan Rudn…moreJonathan--it's a case of one finds out more, receives something new, gains new wisdom each reading. Now try the audio CD version. Narrator Stefan Rudnicki's artful reading will bring out other aspects, more head nodding realization, of Laurence Gonzales's wordsmithing. (less)

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Average rating 3.93  · 
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 ·  9,747 ratings  ·  1,075 reviews

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Dec 16, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
It's not often I give only one star, particularly to a book with as much potential as this one had. In the end, however, the flaws of this book far overshadowed it's positives. As I obviously didn't like the book, I'll keep this review negative and explain why.

1.In general, I dislike books where the author is not the focus of the story, but then tries too hard to insert him/herself. Gonzales references many excellent survival stories (including his own father's) but keeps coming back to himself.
Nov 05, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Long before I reached page 256 (just about the end of the book) I knew Laurence Gonzales was not a person I would want to hang with. So when he wrote on page 256,"My daughters tell me I have the job every thirteen-year-old boy wants. My ex-wives tell me that I never grew up," I was hardly surprised.

His obsession with adventurers who survive against great odds and his desire to find explanations as to why some survive and others do not rang hollow for me. Every time he reached a conclusion that
Aug 31, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sometimes I just like to shake it up as far as reading goes. Having been a family coordinator for 35 years , I'm a pretty good leader and fairly prepared person. I carry the usual Grandma kit, with tissues, fruit juice, crackers, and band aids. When I travel (especially abroad) I take along almost every possibility of what we might need. But I am not a big risk taker. I'm the only one in my family NOT scuba diving certified, exploring the deep is not for me, I've tipped a sailboat over and that ...more
Diana Pauksta
i read about this book in national geographic adventure magazine. they had a three-page spread about gonzales, his story, and the impetus for this book. it seemed fascinating, the 'theory' behind survival and why certain people beat the odds and survive a harrowing situation, while others give up and die after only one day. the book was rather disappointing...there really is no 'theory' behind survival. gonzales is not a great writer, and he doesn't make any kind of argument. basically, there ar ...more
Jan 04, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: survival
I expected a lot more from this book. He promised to explain why given the same survival scenario, one person would live and one would die, not always the ones you'd expect. What you get instead is some pseudo-scientific explanations, inadequately cited, a lot of uninteresting anecdotes about his search for the survivor experience, interspersed with some genuinely interesting survival stories.
One thing that really bothered me was his use of scuba divers to illustrate people in jeopardy doing il
Feb 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I gave this book to my husband for Christmas. He never read it and yesterday I picked it up and started reading. Fascinating! The author's father survived being shot down in a plane in WWII, falling without a parachute, nearly being shot by a German farmer (the gun jammed), being treated without anaesthetic in the POW camp where he received just enough food to keep him alive, barely. Yet he did survive and he came home and had a successful career as a scientist and fathered 9 sons.
His son was fa
Dec 10, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: dudes in DKE
Larry half-digested a bunch of philosophy and psych 101 books, put on a muscle tee and aviator sunglasses, and squeezed out this turd of a book.
He strings together quotes from smarter men, says irritating things like, "boss feeling", and talks about how brave he is flying stupid airplanes, and riding stupid motorcycles with Lyle Lovett.

I was so excited about reading DEEP SURVIVAL because it was supposed to analyze some of my favorite survival stories. I guess I could have anticipated its awfuln
May 27, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Meh. Laurence Gonzales writes about a lot of interesting topics here, and he's obviously an intelligent and well-read guy, but...meh. He gets caught up in his own prose and in the heaviness of the topics he's writing about, and often loses sight of clarity and simple explanations. In spite of its short length, this book is kind of a shaggy mess, which says to me that Gonzales is a magazine writer who's out of his depth in the book format. He also frequently tackles topics he clearly has a limite ...more
Jan 05, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Let me start by saying thanks, Mom, this book got me through a stupifyingly tedious day of jury duty, so for that I'm grateful.

Unfortunately, aside from helping pass the time, this book didn't really do much for me. I had a hard time separating the ill advised bravado of the author from anything that may have been good advice. The guy is writing about survival from his own background of constantly (and purposefully) risking his life in some misguided effort to prove that he himself is a survivor
Books Ring Mah Bell
Apr 27, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: lovers of adventure
Shelves: sports
A fascinating story of what makes 2 people go into the same situation, one lives, one dies.

The author has an interest in survival as his father was gunned down in the war. His father survived when others perished. Gonzales became an adrenaline junkie, also flying planes, racing motorcyles and mountain climbing.

He covers it all, from wilderness misadventures people get themselves into (rafting, sailing, climbing and hiking) to disasters beyond our control (plane crashes, and 9/11).

During his tal
Katherine Addison
Jul 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a fascinating book about how accidents happen, why people get lost, and how and why some people survive and others don't. Gonzales is also working through some massive daddy issues about his larger-than-life WWII veteran father, who survived being shot down by the Germans and went on to be a biomedical Ph.D. researcher, issues which have driven him, the son, to do all sorts of crazy things in search of the "cool" his father possesses. ("Cool" in the jazz sense of "be cool," although it a ...more
Feb 28, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people interested in survival
Recommended to Paige by: dad
I'd say it was like 3-3.5 stars, but I rounded up because I'm nice. dad really recommended this book to me. I can see why it'd be the sort of thing he'd like: I was rolling my eyes constantly (more in the beginning than at the end, but maybe that's just because I got used to it). That's not to say I'm not glad that I read it--I am really glad that I did, because it was entertaining and he did share a lot of good information. I wrote down all the titles of the books he references, hoping t
Feb 27, 2009 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Gonzales looks at cases of plane crashes, lost hikers, and that sort of thing to try to figure out what makes the survivors special. I have a healthy curiosity about this subject but found this book pretty useless. It's a lot of haphazard speculation and Gonzales never really reaches any sort of unifying theory about the subject. All I really learned from this book is that fighter pilots are even more bad-ass than I had assumed.
Ying Ying
May 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
I was very surprised that this book would be a 'spiritual' book. The author ascribes the survival process to a positive mental attitude and a zen mentality, where you accept whichever dire circumstances you are in and take whatever actions you can to move forward. It is about remaining calm and taking responsibility for yourself. It is also about going beyond oneself to survive and live for someone else.
The appendix, which is probably the most valuable portion of the book, contains distilled le
May 26, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Well if I am ever in a survival situation...I'm dead!

Thought book was interesting but had it not been a required reading for school I would not have read it.
Jan 17, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a very intriguing read that I really enjoyed. The title pretty much describes it, it's about survival and the author asks the question, why do some people survive certain situations while others succumb to death? He asks, if two people, of the same phyical health, same training are put into a life and death situation, what is it that will allow one of the two to survive while the other dies? The author searches for these answers by studying many cases of human survival and he shares the ...more
Gonzales writes with style about bad situations--people falling off mountains, getting lost in the wilderness, breaking limbs in the middle of nowhere, stuck on sinking boats...your basic worst nightmare. He understands why people get into these situations, both in the sense that he lives a thrill-seeking life himself and in the sense that he's spent time reading up on the human brain and mind.

At times some of his theories about why we do dumb or risky things (like run snowmobiles up mountains
Mar 17, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I guess I should start writing comments, eh? I liked this book, even though he harps on some of the same points over and over. But in doing so keeps giving examples, a few of which resonated with me. The stories of survival (and sometimes of not surviving) are great, using both amazingly heroic tales of freak chance to illustrate a point (survival at sea, etc), to someone getting lost while going for a hike. And it all applies.

This guy is obviously all about his father (who has an amazing story
Stephen Kiernan
May 29, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Three rafting groups go floating down a western river whose level and speed keeps rising. One group survives and the other two drown. Six men are climbing a high snowy peak, when one of them loses his grip. Four die and two live to tell the tale.

This book plumbs the mysteries of why certain people survive disasters and others do not. It's full of compelling situations and baffling circumstances -- including the plane of the author's father being shot down at 27,000 feet, and his father not havi
Feb 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm a big fan of 'true survival in the wilderness' tales, and having done my share of stupid and life-threatening things in the outdoors, I really enjoyed this examination of the 'theory' of accidents and what goes on in the brain in life-or-death situations and what separates the survivor from the statistic. Gonzales sprinkles the book with true stories of the lucky and the luckless (he readily admits that luck or its absence is not to be discounted in assessing (non-)survival, some of which ar ...more
Feb 04, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: All my outdoor friends
Recommended to Daniel by: My mother
Anyone who participates in risky endevors such as Rock Climbing, mountaineering, backpaking, wilderness travel, rafting, or any other activiy should read this book. It is very anaylitical and details the human brain. The first part of the book is why accidents happen and how they happen. The second part details how some people survive against increadible odds while others die in less trying circumstances. There are many stories of survival and each one is disected and illistrates what is takes t ...more
Perrin Pring
Portions of this book were great. A really in depth look at what makes up a survivor's mind set. Then there were parts which were a little flowery and phallocentric (you didn't think those two words could be used in the same sentence did you?) which is why some of the book is a little hard to stomach. The first 4 chapters weren't really worth the time, but the fifth chapter, the Sand Pile Effect, was eye opening. If you are interested in high risk endeavors, or SAR, this book is worth the read, ...more
Josh Rogers
Sep 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book crescendos in the end and becomes one of the most eloquent pieces of philosophy I have read in quite some time. It reframes life as an act of survival. The author paints a character in his father that is such a vivid example of the Stoic hero it reminds me of Cato the Younger. Phenomenal read.
Dec 08, 2009 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Sort of a literary, thinking man's Jackass (the former television show / movie).
Charles J
Nov 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read Laurence Gonzales’ “Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, And Why” as a counterpoint to Amanda Ripley’s “The Unthinkable.” Both are survivor books, very different in their approach, but with significant conclusions in common. Gonzales focuses more on accidents: unexpected twists that challenge people in stressful situations they chose to put themselves in, primarily wilderness and sporting recreational activities. Gonzales focuses little on true disasters, where our daily lives are suddenly ...more
Feb 28, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very interesting. I didn't particularly care for the narrator (who was not the author, I found out only at the end of the audiobook), but I did find the anecdotes fascinating. I always enjoy these survival stories and used to love the show "I Shouldn't Be Alive". I won't say I learned a great deal; yes, a lot of who survives is luck, but of course some is mental and physical preparedness, grit, and grace under pressure. Also important: Paying attention to current weather/ environmental condition ...more
Nov 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Do NOT read this book before or on a plane ride. Do NOT read this book while doing anything remotely outdoors. Do NOT read this book before a boat ride.

Author has amazing writing ability...for exactly half of all chapters. The stories he tells are moving and compelling. Then he tries to bring in the facts and doesn’t always succeed in pulling them all together.

I think the author makes some good points but still this is probably a gross oversimplification of one subset of people who have had th
Dave Knaus
Aug 30, 2018 rated it really liked it
I picked this book up at Powell's in Portland, where it was featured prominently in the 'local interest' section. Why it was there was clear after a few chapters, when the author tells the story of a disaster on Mount Hood during which three mountain climbers were killed in an accident. That was just one of many tales interwoven with descriptions of accidents and the physiology and psychology of survival.

This book was captivating. Ironically, it has inspired me to be even more adventurous! Not
Jan 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
I thought this was generally pretty interesting, in particular the parts about complexity theory. A cool way to think about the world. The chosen stories were also nicely varied, and I liked that this was a personal story for the author. I was a little disappointed that a lot of the stories were classic survival stories; Steve Callahan's story is pretty well tread at this point. I didn't think it quite came together cohesively, but it's a least at a reasonable length so it didn't feel too much l ...more
Alyssa Gunn
I liked the stories of when adventure goes wrong and the connections to how the brain works and why we think certain ways when we’re under stress or in survival mode. I didn’t really like the mans writing style sometimes his sentence structures were annoying, some stuff he said was surface level / repetitive, and his organization / wrapping it all up wasn’t quite there. I like the idea of the book and think there was some interesting info but I wish someone else had written it and done a better ...more
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Play Book Tag: Deep Survival - Laurence Gonzales - 3 stars 1 10 Jul 27, 2018 07:36AM  
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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. His essays are collected in the book House of Pain.

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As dedicated readers already know, some of the best and most innovative stories on the shelves come from the constantly evolving realm of young ...
28 likes · 10 comments
“Survival is the celebration of choosing life over death. We know we're going to die. We all die. But survival is saying: perhaps not today. In that sense, survivors don't defeat death, they come to terms with it.” 38 likes
“The word 'experienced' often refers to someone who's gotten away with doing the wrong thing more frequently than you have.” 31 likes
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