Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why by Laurence Gonzales

Survival is a hot topic these days. Just turn on the Discovery Channel and you will see a variety of shows describing people who have made it out of seemingly impossible situations. It’s a simple fact-people are fascinated by stories of survival. One man that has spent a lifetime studying this very phenomenon is author Laurence Gonzales.

The interest this author has in survival stories is rooted deep in the experiences his father had. As a pilot in WWII, his father was shot down over Germany, fell from the plane without a parachute, and was then taken prisoner. He was the only one of his squad to survive. It’s easy to see why an experience such as that could inspire an author to dig deeper into the question of how and why some people survive extreme situations.

In his book Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why, Gonzales explores why some people manage to remain completely cool in a crisis, while others with similar backgrounds and personality traits panic or freeze completely. By drawing on multiple disciplines such as psychology, physiology, and spirituality, Gonzales attempts to explain what allows some individuals to survive even the most extreme of circumstances. He also draws parallels between Roman military tactics, chaos theory and genetic memory to explain what makes a survivor.

His book is fast-paced, riveting and original. A self-professed adrenaline junkie, Gonzales interviewed dozens of like-minded individuals for this. He seeks to explain why people choose to place themselves in dangerous situations, over and over again. In addition, he delves quite deeply into the neuroscience of survival in an attempt to explain why similar individuals react so differently to the same situation. He makes an effort to point out that remaining calm is often the key to mastering any situation, no matter how dangerous or extreme. It was interesting to read about how our brains, bodies, and relationships all work together to either help us survive or to put us in harm’s way.

The conclusions he draws at first seem too simple; be alert and careful and you will survive. But in reading the book, you learn that it is not quite so simple. There are numerous neurological and emotional factors that contribute to an individual’s ability to survive. While this book does not set out to instruct readers in specific survival skills, it will definitely provide them with an idea of the wisdom needed to survive anything.