Review – “Deep Survival : Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why”

Updated: Jul 6, 2019


“Deep Survival” attempts to explain survival in challenging situations. Why do some people survive in situations where others do not?

The use of real life examples of survival stories makes “Deep Survival” a compelling read. Laurence Gonzales presents scientific and pseudo-scientific explanations for these survival stories. These explanations range from psychology to physiology to systems behaviour to chaos theory.

Laurence Gonzales’s father was a World War 2 bomber pilot shot down in Germany. He then spent the rest of the time in a PoW camp. He survived where others did not. We can see this influence in the book and how it has inspired the author. A lot of other real life situations and survivors are also described, besides this story.


The best way to describe this book is Reader’s Digest on steroids meets pop-sci. The book has two sections – the first section is about how accidents happen & the second is about survival. The chapters in the book usually start off by describing one or two dire situations. Then there is a description of what the people in those situations did. Finally, there is the reasoning out of why those situations arose along with the thought processes and the emotions involved. Survivors give their added insight on what they did that enabled them to survive. The last chapter summarizes the book.

Laurence Gonzales cautions us by pointing out that there is no list for survival. The best way to survive is to observe and adapt and be very lucky.


“Deep Survival” is good. “Deep Survival” would have become great had Laurence Gonzales tied up all the various explanations to come up with a “grand unified theory” of survival. Instead, at the end the book becomes a collection of stories and facts. This is not bad since the stories are inspirational and worth reading by themselves.

I would recommend reading “Deep Survival” since there is a good analysis and explanation of the survivor mentality.



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