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Tom Brown’s Field Guide to Wilderness Survival

I don’t know if it’s the fact that my family is Jewish or the fact that I was just a scared paranoid child, but while I was growing up, I would always make sure I had a good hiding place, in case the bad people came. Reading books like this takes that whole idea a step further -- what if you had to live off of just what nature gave you and what you could do on your own? My easy answer is “I would probably die” but Brown tries to make you think that wilderness survival is not only possible, it might actually be fun.

I first learned about Brown while reading David Rakoff’s Book Fraud. Rakoff goes to a survival camp that Brown runs and, while he has a tough time there, being a city kid and all, gains a fairly strong respect for Brown and all the stuff he knows. Brown grew up in and aorund the Pine Barrens of New Jersey and was taught a lot of his skills by a Native american man who was the father of a friend of his. They would take instructive trips out into the woods and Brown would get educated through doing, not be reading books [like this one]. He passes on a lot of these ideas in a very common sense way, explaining that while getting by in the wilderness may not always be fun and easy, it is possible if you keep some very basic things in mind. I’m sure if I were stuck in the forest alone, most of the things he teaches would not seem quite as easy as he portrays them to be, but just knowing enough to say “build the shelter first, then worry about food” might mean the difference between a good and a very bad time.