Book Review: The Survivors Club by Ben Sherwood


Rating: 4 / 5

In The Survivors Club, Ben Sherwood interviews and profiles dozens of survivors to discover how they made it through various ordeals and situations, from plane crashes to mountain lion attacks to car crashes, and many more.  Sherwood lays out how to be better prepared for adverse events, and why people don’t survive when they should.  Two reasons are because of the Incredulity Response and Brainlock.  With the Incredulity Response, someone cannot believe that the events are actually unfolding; with Brainlock, the person is too shocked to think straight.  These responses are apparent in the profiled Baltic Sea ferry sinking, as well as the deadly London King’s Cross fire, which killed 31 people.  In the latter incident, even though fire and smoke could be seen above ground, commuters still descended below because their brains did not register that there was fire.

Sherwood also outlines ways people can be more prepared for a catastrophic event.  The one part that resonated with me is safety on airplanes.  Admittedly, I am probably the first person to sleep on the plane, oftentimes I fall asleep in my seat before all passengers are on, and have been known to snooze straight through to landing.  As someone who has flown hundreds of times, I also don’t bother with the safety brochure in the seat-back pocket and only carelessly glance up to see where the exit row is.  Basically? I’ve been doing it all wrong, and if the plane I’m on ever crashes, I will be one of the most ill-prepared people on board.  The most useful piece of information from this section is to know the number of rows away you are from the exit.  Knowing the actual number and not that there is an exit ‘somewhere up there’ is important because when a plane crashes, the fuselage can quickly fill with smoke and fire, rendering sight near impossible.  However, if you know where the exit row is, you can use your hands to count seats to an exit.  It is common sense, but something I’ve seriously never thought about.

The Survivors Club also touches on how important having the right attitude, support system and faith are to surviving.  This book is incredibly interesting and filled with useful information.  What made The Survivors Club immensely readable is the fact that it is not all scientific and not all ‘success stories’; rather it is a nice mix of both which gives practical application to useful tips.  At the end there is a link where the reader can answer a series of question and find out what kind of survivor he is.  It’s a painless process, and at the end the results are that I am a “Thinker” and my top three survival tools are adaptability, ingenuity, and ability.  Research has shown that the chances of survival increase if people lead with their greatest strengths.

The Survivors Club is practical and fascinating.  This is a relevant book for everyone, unless you’ve been through military survival training, then you probably know all that this book has to offer. But it has made me look at situations in a different light, and while I might still fall asleep on a plane, I’ll be sure to know where exits are located and listen to the flight attendant’s safety announcement.

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