Emergency by Neil Strauss Book Review

Emergency Neil Strauss Book Review

Few Words:

After reading the book I left with a lot of things to think about. Mainly, can the system protect us in an emergency situation? Neil’s research skills have proven once again. The reason I’m giving it 4 stars is probably because I can’t imagine that there is a skill you can learn that will help you survive doomsday. You either do, or you don’t. The whole survival topic is something far from my personality. I know enough to survive on my own in the wild, but I can’t really understand people who are building bunkers in their own basement. Nevertheless, the book is a really good read and I will definitely recommend it to everyone.

emergency-neil-strauss-reviewTitle: Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Life
Author:  Neil Strauss
Year:  Published: 10/03/2009
Length: 432 pages
Genre: Nonfiction, Adventure, Survival
Get a copy: 1) Search in local bookstores to support small business 2) Amazon
Short Description: If we imagine for a moment that the worst happens in your country – riot, an act of terrorism, natural disaster – would you say that you are prepared, or at least know how to act in order to survive? Probably not, right? You can learn to be self-sufficient and survive without the system. You simply need the right training. Emergency by Neil Strauss will give you more than enough reasons to start educating yourself on survivalism and ways to actually live longer in this crazy world.



Neil Strauss leads us on a breathtaking journey into the heart of darkness while struggling to escape from the system. This is a story about a world full of dangers – and how to survive in it.

After the last few years of violence and terror, of ethnic and religious hatred, of tsunamis and hurricanes–and now of world financial meltdown–Strauss, like most of his generation, came to the sobering realization that, even in America, anything can happen. But rather than watch helplessly, he decided to do something about it. And so he spent three years traveling through a country that’s lost its sense of safety, equipping himself with the tools necessary to save himself and his loved ones from an uncertain future.


My Opinion

I was quite surprised to see one of my favorite authors publishing a survival book. Mainly, because the topic is quite different from his usual subject – hitting girls, social psychology, and the most recent one about how to maintain a strong relationship. With the last one, I am referring to The Truth.

In general, Emergency is a book about a guy who realizes that the only thing standing between life and death when the shit hits the fan are his survival instincts. Which Neil, in the beginning of the story, and pretty much every other male born after 1950, does not possess. We all exchanged these skills for other, much more productive activities – working with computers, reselling goods, watching television, creating a social media profile. The hero of the story, the author himself, is struggling to find the most optimal way for surviving in our modern world, where everybody is dependent on electricity, water supplies, grocery stores, and wi-fi.

Neal’s overall idea is to make you think a little more about what would you do in a critical situation. Convince us, that the system won’t be able to protect all of us, and we, on our own, should be able to protect ourselves and learn how to survive in difficult times.

Even though that the book is NOT, a how-to book about surviving in the wilderness, it will still give you a lot of things to think about, ideas to implement in your life, and definitely reasons to start learning how an individual can survive when he is completely alone in nature with nothing but a knife.

It’s a really good read and I am sure that everybody who’s interested in survivalism, social dynamics, and masterful storytelling, will adore.


Key Takeaways:

Notes, thoughts, and essential takeaways that I want to remember from the book. My main goal is to leave you with curated content, to which you can easily return to in the future for reference, that’s holding (spoil free) insights of the book, but mainly actionable steps, that can be used in our real lives, today:


Do you need to know how to survive?

With an average income, you can have pretty much everything you need in order to survive in this world – food, water, shelter, plus extra benefits, like electricity and wifi. Besides these three: food, water, and shelter, everything else is a caprice. You don’t necessarily need anything else to survive.

Skills like fighting against wild animals retreated to leave room for skills that will bring you more money. Quite normal, considering the fact that the chances of you being attacked by a wild animal are close to 1% – or let say around that number. In contrast, the chances of you going bankrupt are probably more than 50%: you can lose your job, get hit by a car and become disabled, divorce and get left with nothing, lose your house from a hurricane, other strange events leaving you with nothing. However, money, in our current world, surpassed the meaning of survival. It’s more of a social status thing. The more you have, the better you look in the eyes of others.

My answer to the question above is composed of two parts:

Firstly, yes, it’s good to know some basic survival skills – like using a knife, cooking, building a shelter, starting a fire without a lighter, hunting animals, navigate by the stars, learning more about the nature around. You will probably never use such skills, but you can at least teach your kids. In addition, such techniques will surely influence the way you think in a positive way. Helping you solve problems which at first seemed impossible to solve.

Secondly, our prime focus should be directed to learning how to handle things that are much more likely to occur in our current lives – know how to defend yourself, how to change a tire, maintain a diet, become more agile by exercising regularly, keeping your mind sharp, finding different ways to earn money.

Above all, the main skills you need to develop is your attitude towards, well, everything. More than any other skill, your attitude determines how successful you are in any given situation. In life, we’ll surely meet many challenges. Your attitude will help you avoid panic, make you stop, plan in your head the best possible course of action, then execute.


Do You Believe in The System?

States, governments, laws, police, firefighters, polyclinics, schools. All this was built by us, the people, to have some sort of order, in this otherwise unsettled world. What will happen though, if tomorrow we don’t have power and water supply? If a hurricane hit you your neighborhood? Do you believe that someone from the fire department will come and save you?

In general, all these institutions are doing their job: heal people, arrest people, extinguish fires, provide electricity, build roads and airports. Still, their main focus shifted from helping humanity towards helping themselves, first. Or I believe it did, it was probably always about them. That’s why history is full of stories about people who were madly pursuing the highest position in the kingdom.

I lost my faith in the system a long time ago. When I saw, and still see, disabled people who are living in miserable conditions; people who die because they have nothing to eat; people who live on the street; people with a college degree but without jobs. And what we have on the other side? Governments paying billions of dollars for building weapons. I don’t get it, I thought we agreed to keep the peace on this planet?

The best way you can protect yourself from all kinds of disasters is by counting only on your own skills and resources. To do so, you have to be as independent as possible. Have at least two income streams, a place where you can retreat if something happens to your own place, a way to survive without electricity, water, and wifi. Ok, I am not sure how you can handle the last one. The point is, that you should definitely become less dependent on other things, people, and organizations.


You do not define your own safety

Despite what I mentioned above, unfortunately, you never can be 100% sure, that you will be safe at all times.

There is a drunk driver in pretty much every highway, a burglar in every city,  an employee standing in front of the red button in each nuclear weapon country, a vicious neighbor in every apartment building, and you meet at least one insane person in every bar, restaurant, plane, airport, bus, or elevator, you’ve ever visited.

The question is, how can you protect yourself from all these things trying to kill you?

You can’t. At least not from everything. Getting hit by a car is certainly not something you will get as a text message early in the morning. The least you can do is be prepared at all times. Wear your safety belt, look around when you cross the street, these kinds of things.

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Benjamin Franklin

The next question should be, what you should prepare for?

Starting with looking around when you cross the street, moving through the physical limitations we all have as humans and ending with not getting into an unfavorable situation. We can’t cover everything even if we wish. At the end, you will still lose. Nature doesn’t give a damn about your personal life. The only thing you can expect from life is to win a few battles in a war that you will eventually lose.


Learn How to Handle Your Fears

Fears prompt us to hide, to run, to remain seated in our comfort zone. Even worse, they are the main reason we don’t actually try stuff. We don’t cross the street so we can chit chat with a sexy girl that grabbed our attention because we fear being rejected. We don’t start a new business because we fear that we won’t succeed. Some of us don’t even get inside an elevator because they fear that the worst thing will happen inside.

In general, the thing we fear most is, the unknown.

We don’t know what will happen when we walk to the girl across the street and we immediately start imagining the worse possible scenarios: she will spill her coffee on your shirt, say nothing and walk away, or the horror, laugh at you and walk away. Such thoughts block our mind and our actions, interrupt the blood circulation to the brain, leading us to a state where we don’t know how to act, and act like 6 years old. We all felt that tension in certain situations. Like a large ball of fur is stuck inside our throat, slowly moving to our stomach, where it anchors. When we’re in love we call that magical feeling: butterflies in your stomach, but when we’re afraid, we call it anxiety.

The solution?

Learn to let loose. Your muscles, mind, consciousness. When you end up in a situation where fear starts to take over, think beyond the problem you’re facing. Tell your mind to focus on the solution or other alternatives that are actually pleasant. For example, the girl you saw walking across the street might be actually looking for someone to talk to. Yes, she won’t tell you that in the beginning, but thinking that girls don’t want to meet other man is just wrong. Even if she do cut you off, why should this bother you? At least you tried. Next time you can use a different opening line. Also, it’s a great story which you can later tell your friends.

If you fear something, do it. Do it regardless the feeling inside your stomach. Soon, this fear will vanish, leaving you with another feeling, the satisfying feeling of accomplishment.


How To Live Longer

The book has a lot of short comics stories revealing different survival skills. The best is probably the last, where the author reveals several steps that will help you live longer:

  • Sleep between 6 and 7 hours per night – Some researchers state that sleeping at least 8 hours per day is necessary for a healthy life. Others, state that your body only needs around 6 or 7 hours. I don’t know what is true, but I am currently trying to sleep no more than 7 hours per day. For now, it feels good and I also have more time during the day.
  • Don’t smoke – Something that doesn’t need commenting. Smoking slowly kills you.
  • Get a pet – Pets are cute. I had a cat when I was a little boy. Now, I don’t think a want a pet. Mostly, because you get so attached to it than when that day comes, the day your pet dies, you’re feeling like a trainwreck. Still, it surely is something that will bring you positive emotions.
  • Follow a diet according to your own body – Diet doesn’t mean starvation. It means eating enough food to keep your body going for the day. Since we’re all different, we should tailor our diet according to our own indicators – cholesterol, testosterone, and etc.
  • Communicate with your friends and family more often – At the end of the day, our friends and family are all we got. Seeing them more often will surely make you feel better.
  • Have an active sex life – The absence of sexual contact leads to that sluggish, groggy feeling, that leads to less vitality. Sex can help boost your spirits through mood-elevating endorphins. Tell that to your wife.
  • Be an optimist – Give more importance to the good things, nice things, instead of the bad ones. Read: How to Build Positive Mindset [Case Study].
  • Avoid stress – Stress and anxiety are probably even worse than smoking cigarettes. Avoid them at all costs.
  • Set a goal for your life – Finding meaning is essential. It will give you confidence and a sense of immortality. I wrote a whole (short) book on the subject – Short Book About Meaning.
  • Exercise daily – We eat and sleep daily, right? Well, why shouldn’t we also train daily? Walking to your car and to the fridge is not enough to burn all the calories you’ve eaten throughout the day.
  • Surround yourself with people who execute the things above – If the people you communicate with are negative, it’s really hard for you to be an optimist. Filter your friendships and leave the ones that make you a better person.


Favourite Quote:

Gilgamesh, where are you hurrying to? You will never find that life for which you are looking. When the gods created man they allotted to him death, but life they retained in their own keeping. As for you, Gilgamesh, fill your belly with good things; day and night, night and day, dance and be merry, feast and rejoice. Let your clothes be fresh, bathe yourself in water, cherish the little child that holds your hand, and make your wife happy in your embrace; for this too is the lot of man.” Anonymous


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