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Epic Survival: Extreme Adventure, Stone Age Wisdom, and Lessons in Living From a Modern Hunter-Gatherer

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Matt Graham, star of the Discovery Channel’s Dual Survival and Dude, You’re Screwed, details the physical, mental, and emotional joys and harrowing struggles of his life as a modern-day hunter-gatherer. Early on in his life, Matt craved a return to nature. When he became an adult, he set aside his comfortable urban life and lived entirely off the land to learn from the smal Matt Graham, star of the Discovery Channel’s Dual Survival and Dude, You’re Screwed, details the physical, mental, and emotional joys and harrowing struggles of his life as a modern-day hunter-gatherer. Early on in his life, Matt craved a return to nature. When he became an adult, he set aside his comfortable urban life and lived entirely off the land to learn from the smallest and grandest of all things. In this riveting narrative that brings together epic adventure and spiritual quest, he shows us what extraordinary things the human body is capable of when pushed to its limits. In Epic Survival, written with Josh Young, coauthor of five New York Times bestsellers, Matt relays captivating stories from his life to show just how terrifying—and gratifying—living off the grid can be. He learns the secrets of the Tarahumara Indians that helped him run the 1,600-mile Pacific Crest Trail in just fifty-eight days and endure temperature swings of 100 degrees. He takes us with him as he treks into the wilderness to live alone for half a year, armed with nothing but a loincloth, a pair of sandals, a stone knife, and chia seeds. He recounts near-death experiences of hiking alone through the snowdrifts at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, and tells us about the time he entered a three-day Arabian horse race on foot—and finished third. Above all, Epic Survival is a book about growing closer to the land that nurtures us. No matter how far our modern society takes us from the wilderness, the call remains. Whether you’re an armchair survivalist or have taken the plunge yourself, Matt’s story is both inspiration and invigoration, teaching even the most urbane among us important and breathtaking lessons.


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Matt Graham, star of the Discovery Channel’s Dual Survival and Dude, You’re Screwed, details the physical, mental, and emotional joys and harrowing struggles of his life as a modern-day hunter-gatherer. Early on in his life, Matt craved a return to nature. When he became an adult, he set aside his comfortable urban life and lived entirely off the land to learn from the smal Matt Graham, star of the Discovery Channel’s Dual Survival and Dude, You’re Screwed, details the physical, mental, and emotional joys and harrowing struggles of his life as a modern-day hunter-gatherer. Early on in his life, Matt craved a return to nature. When he became an adult, he set aside his comfortable urban life and lived entirely off the land to learn from the smallest and grandest of all things. In this riveting narrative that brings together epic adventure and spiritual quest, he shows us what extraordinary things the human body is capable of when pushed to its limits. In Epic Survival, written with Josh Young, coauthor of five New York Times bestsellers, Matt relays captivating stories from his life to show just how terrifying—and gratifying—living off the grid can be. He learns the secrets of the Tarahumara Indians that helped him run the 1,600-mile Pacific Crest Trail in just fifty-eight days and endure temperature swings of 100 degrees. He takes us with him as he treks into the wilderness to live alone for half a year, armed with nothing but a loincloth, a pair of sandals, a stone knife, and chia seeds. He recounts near-death experiences of hiking alone through the snowdrifts at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, and tells us about the time he entered a three-day Arabian horse race on foot—and finished third. Above all, Epic Survival is a book about growing closer to the land that nurtures us. No matter how far our modern society takes us from the wilderness, the call remains. Whether you’re an armchair survivalist or have taken the plunge yourself, Matt’s story is both inspiration and invigoration, teaching even the most urbane among us important and breathtaking lessons.

30 review for Epic Survival: Extreme Adventure, Stone Age Wisdom, and Lessons in Living From a Modern Hunter-Gatherer

  1. 4 out of 5

    Daniel Cornwall

    This book had promising moments. Anybody who likes adventure running or hiking (or enjoys reading about it) will find some bits interesting and enjoyable. The last two chapters of the book are great because in them the author really seems willing to meet people where they are. They aren't bad/failed people just because they don't have his awareness of the land. I'm giving the book two stars for several reasons but mainly because from what I read in this book, Mr. Graham is the most judgy non-jud This book had promising moments. Anybody who likes adventure running or hiking (or enjoys reading about it) will find some bits interesting and enjoyable. The last two chapters of the book are great because in them the author really seems willing to meet people where they are. They aren't bad/failed people just because they don't have his awareness of the land. I'm giving the book two stars for several reasons but mainly because from what I read in this book, Mr. Graham is the most judgy non-judgmental person I've ever read about. Few of his insights or achievements can be stated without some knock on less dedicated or enlightened souls. This would not be QUITE as bad if these statements were not paired with insistence that he was in no way judging their limited, unseeing, unserious planet destroying lives. Nope, not him. This got VERY grating VERY quickly. In my view he also has a near Trumpian belief in his personal spiritual/fitness greatness. These statements are usually backed up by doctors, unnamed shamans, etc. In one chapter he states that his energy channels are fully developed, as his "knowing center." He's also disdainful of any research or book-learning that goes against his subjective experience. For example, despite decades of sleep and dream research that shows we only dream in REM sleep, Mr. Graham "knows" that he can dream all night in deep sleep -- where the best dreams are -- because he can precisely note when he falls asleep. Generally speaking self-reporting of anything has been shown to be error ridden when objective measurements of the same activity can be done. Another thing that makes me give this book two stars is that for all of his talk of the greatness of Native Americans and his respect for them, he is constantly trespassing on Indian land. As far as I can tell, he never asks tribal authorities permission to cross their land. In fact, on one of his journeys he states that he took some salt in an area where only tribal members were allowed to collect salt. But he felt it was ok because he felt much more connected to the ancient Indians who roamed the area in centuries past than his modern Euro-American kin. That's a decision for the tribal authorities who have jurisdiction over their lands. If he's not respecting tribal sovereignty, his "respect" for Native Americans is hollow. The last thing that makes me give this book a low grade is that I believe many people who follow Mr. Graham's advice will hurt themselves or possibly die. I do want to say that Mr. Graham makes it clear that people should not follow any book - not even his own. But I think some will and if they decide to go the trial and error route that Mr. Graham did, the lack of proper clothing and equipment will do them great harm. And Mr. Graham's constant refrain of (paraphrased) -"I'm not judging, but going out in a loin cloth and as little as possible is the real true way to live in the wild" is going to get people hurt. There was one more thing that I was going to mention as a negative factor that I changed my mind on is Mr. Graham's belief in the miraculous power of the land. He is absolutely convinced that if you love and respect the land, it will take care of you. He backs this up with many stories of how he almost died, but found water, food or shelter at the last moment. He talks about "The Land" as a power behind the universe. At first I classed this as more superstition that would get some people killed. But then I did a mental "search and replace" for "The Land" and substituted "God." At that point I realized that he made no claims for the "The Land" that I hadn't seen attributed to "God" in churches and other religious congregations. Love and trust the Lord and He will take care of you. "The Land" is simply Mr. Graham's God and I can't specially condemn that faith (even if a bit blind) any more than any other. Despite all the flaws I see in this book, Mr. Graham did inspire me to get out into nature more. I will do my best not to be deterred by rain, snow (within reason) and other suboptimal conditions. I have a lot of lovely places to walk in and I'm going to commit to spending at least a little time outside each day.

  2. 4 out of 5

    D.J.

    I enjoyed this book mostly because of what the author had to say in relation to everyone's responsibility for caring for the environment - much of what I was taught by my hippie parents - but I felt the book could have offered so much more than just these messages. What disappointed me about this book was that there was very little shard in the way of actual survival techniques and I would have found this very interesting to read about. Also, the book seemed to jump all over the place, and I fel I enjoyed this book mostly because of what the author had to say in relation to everyone's responsibility for caring for the environment - much of what I was taught by my hippie parents - but I felt the book could have offered so much more than just these messages. What disappointed me about this book was that there was very little shard in the way of actual survival techniques and I would have found this very interesting to read about. Also, the book seemed to jump all over the place, and I felt let down that there was no mention of the author arriving at the gathering of like minded thrivers which was where I thought he had changed his destination to once his quest became a solitary one when his friend decided to go home one week into their journey. I feel this would have linked to the beginning and provided closure.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Matt

    Rambling/sprawling memoir from a survivalist and now TV personality. Not very well written, but some of the content was interesting.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jean Dupenloup

    I call bullshit on Matt Graham. While he is assuredly an accomplished survivalist, too many of the tales outlined in this book are just too far fetched to believe. Not as in “wow, that’s unbelievable,” more as in “wow, who actually believes this crap?” Most ridiculous of all is his story of slitting a rabbit’s throat by throwing a sharp rock as it ran away, having never before attempted it. Come on. I can buy a lot, but do I buy Mr. Graham’s rock-sniping skills? Nah. Hard pass.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Elpel

    Running and Starving as Skills, Faith as a Tool Matt Graham rewrote the book on survival priorities. Instead of prioritizing shelter, warmth, water, and food, Graham demonstrates that running is the most essential survival skill, greatly complimented by not needing food. I’d often wondered about that before. Indigenous peoples were extremely physically fit, often able to run 50 or 100 miles or more in a stretch without exhausting themselves in the process. Being able to cover vast distances quick Running and Starving as Skills, Faith as a Tool Matt Graham rewrote the book on survival priorities. Instead of prioritizing shelter, warmth, water, and food, Graham demonstrates that running is the most essential survival skill, greatly complimented by not needing food. I’d often wondered about that before. Indigenous peoples were extremely physically fit, often able to run 50 or 100 miles or more in a stretch without exhausting themselves in the process. Being able to cover vast distances quickly would allow access to potentially better resources for shelter, fire, water, and food than to merely hunker down and work with what is available, especially in the arid West, where resources are highly variable across the landscape. Moreover, by running far and eating little, Graham describes training the digestive system to utilize food more efficiently to survive on 500 calories per day through intense physical activity. In other words, the key skills for survival are extreme running and being satisfied with little or no food when there isn’t any at hand. Graham happens to be a pretty good hunter, and like thousands of generations of pretty good hunters before him, there are many lean days between the fat ones. While running and comfortably starving are Graham’s core skills, faith is perhaps his preferred tool. Have faith that nature will provide, and miracles do happen. I concur based on personal experiences, although my own survival escapades are rather tame compared to Graham’s. Graham’s book might be more accurately titled “The Zen of Survival,” as it is a deeply spiritual approach to finding sustenance in nature. Graham’s stories may sound far-fetched to readers coming from a different worldview, though his accounts are largely consistent with a Zen perspective of reality. Other survival books focus on physical needs, which is to functionally emphasize the lowest chakra, while Graham claims to operate on a higher level, and was apparently gifted that ability early in life. Most of us have to work hard throughout our lives to achieve a similar enlightenment. While Graham may be humble in person, his claiming to operate on a higher level inherently sounds like ego-tripping on a lower plane about his own greatness. This paradox leaves Graham awkwardly attempting to claim humility throughout the book, further conflating the issue. There are also a few notable factual errors in the book, and surprisingly poor writing quality considering that Graham collaborated with five-time best-selling author Josh Young. Epic Survival was nothing like I expected, and I enjoyed it all the more for it’s unconventional approach to survival and connecting with nature. Reviewed by Thomas J. Elpel, author of Participating in Nature: Wilderness Survival and Primitive Living Skills.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy

    Not a whole lot of new information for me, since I’ve hunted and gathered a bunch of this same material from various other sources before (low-carbing/paleo, barefoot running, etc). I did learn that this guy is pretty bad-ass and has a genuine connection to the land. I don’t think any true hunter-gatherers lived on their own as much as Graham did or does. Since early humans depended on each other for survival they were very social. Of course there is a lot to be said for periods of solitude (for Not a whole lot of new information for me, since I’ve hunted and gathered a bunch of this same material from various other sources before (low-carbing/paleo, barefoot running, etc). I did learn that this guy is pretty bad-ass and has a genuine connection to the land. I don’t think any true hunter-gatherers lived on their own as much as Graham did or does. Since early humans depended on each other for survival they were very social. Of course there is a lot to be said for periods of solitude (for example, the four-day vision quest), but I don’t think frequent solitude is generally reflective of a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. Here is what Graham considered “essential” for one of his extended period of living in the wilderness: - knife - a few clay pots - wool blanket - sandals made from tires - wool socks - nylon shorts - a wool shirt Potent Quotables: I found that when I talked about being alone, most people could only conceptualize that as sitting on their couch watching TV and eating food. That has nothing to do with being alone. Even reading a book is not being alone because you inhabit someone else's illusionary world. But being alone in the wilderness is something else entirely. There is no escape; you must be immersed and present with everything that is going on around you. Being back in society I saw that people had created the ability to escape from the moment in different ways. While that makes life easier for that moment, because it allows people to check out of reality, it also destroys our ability to be patient and present.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Canuck Mom of Three

    This was an interesting recounting of Graham's experiences as he pushes his body to the limits and tries to live, sometimes more & sometimes less, like hunter gatherers of the Stone age. It was okay, but the scope of the book was too narrow, and I feel it didn't live up to it's promise. I didn't learn much about the wisdom and practices of contemporary or ancient communities of hunter gatherers, only about the lessons and practices of Graham. Graham is solo for most of his adventures. I gather t This was an interesting recounting of Graham's experiences as he pushes his body to the limits and tries to live, sometimes more & sometimes less, like hunter gatherers of the Stone age. It was okay, but the scope of the book was too narrow, and I feel it didn't live up to it's promise. I didn't learn much about the wisdom and practices of contemporary or ancient communities of hunter gatherers, only about the lessons and practices of Graham. Graham is solo for most of his adventures. I gather that he can be difficult to get along with, and prefers to be alone in nature. It strikes me that this is surely not the usual hunter gatherer lifestyle, since people have always lived and hunted in groups, tribes and communities. I missed learning about this very important communal aspect of ancient societies. Without it, this book is a very incomplete picture of real Stone age hunters.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Bruce

    Matt Graham provides an outline for what can be done with the human body at peak performance. Matt's willingness to push his body to extremes and to use the body and mind at it's intended use is inspiring and motivating. At times, Matt's experiences or thoughts may seem pretentious or full of hubris, but to disregard the efforts of a person who has gone further than most, some confidence would be expected. The only reason I gave this review 3-stars is because I wanted him to dive deeper into the Matt Graham provides an outline for what can be done with the human body at peak performance. Matt's willingness to push his body to extremes and to use the body and mind at it's intended use is inspiring and motivating. At times, Matt's experiences or thoughts may seem pretentious or full of hubris, but to disregard the efforts of a person who has gone further than most, some confidence would be expected. The only reason I gave this review 3-stars is because I wanted him to dive deeper into the stories of what got him there. Matt leaves a lot on the table by not sharing a more in depth retelling of the more interesting stories that he alludes to and provides snippets about. Overall, I will attempt to be more conscience about my relationship with the land and what the human body can endure.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Schuyler Wallace

    Matt Graham is awesome in his field and he’s written a book about it. “Epic Survival” is his personal tribute to himself that really only makes me feel more comfortable in my cozy chair, watching the Oregon rain through my window, as a fire warms my old bones. Sorry, Matt, but our evolution has brought me the point of not having to go through your trials in the wild. I really like the outdoors and the challenges found there. I’m sure Graham is an expert and well thought of in the survivalist worl Matt Graham is awesome in his field and he’s written a book about it. “Epic Survival” is his personal tribute to himself that really only makes me feel more comfortable in my cozy chair, watching the Oregon rain through my window, as a fire warms my old bones. Sorry, Matt, but our evolution has brought me the point of not having to go through your trials in the wild. I really like the outdoors and the challenges found there. I’m sure Graham is an expert and well thought of in the survivalist world but his tribute to it is not well written and too full of contradictions and self- flagellation to be of interest to me.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ietrio

    Masochistic sexual kinks come in many forms. This is one of them. Role playing as a "cave man", just like any caveman - mobile phones, GPS, roads, fast cars, ambulance systems, 911, instant soup and light fleece from an exotic beast living in the Middle East called oil. Whatever makes him happy after a long week filming. I just don't care about it. Masochistic sexual kinks come in many forms. This is one of them. Role playing as a "cave man", just like any caveman - mobile phones, GPS, roads, fast cars, ambulance systems, 911, instant soup and light fleece from an exotic beast living in the Middle East called oil. Whatever makes him happy after a long week filming. I just don't care about it.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Steve Bera

    This is a different read for me. He talks of ultra hikes and runs in the west. Having hiked many of these areas I found the material interesting, including how to live off the land. May not be a book for everyone. Well written and kept my attention until just before the end when he talked about ancient weapons such as bow and arrow. Probably not making any bows in my future.

  12. 4 out of 5

    J D

    Genuinely interesting read, meanders and almost drifts to spiritual but actual treads the line of being one with earth really well. It genuinely makes you want to try the experiences and see what real world means.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Rob

    An adventurous read. An adventurous read.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Sheila

    Interesting book about a man living off the land, how he did it, and how you can do it. I enjoyed it when he was explaining things but at times his ego got in the way and turned me off.

  15. 5 out of 5

    El Guapo

    Good book, I'd normally rate this a 3star rating but Matt is a good guy who deserves a higher ratign for these life tales. Good book, I'd normally rate this a 3star rating but Matt is a good guy who deserves a higher ratign for these life tales.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Samantha Sifers

    Great book Great book Great book, really enjoyed the whole book all the way thru. Not much survival info though. But great stories

  17. 4 out of 5

    (UC) knarf 655321

    Another hero of mine, who lives life on his terms, and relies on his survival skills to live.

  18. 5 out of 5

    David

    As noted by some of the other reviews, it's more an assortment of tales of his adventures in primitive living than practical instruction, but for me that was ok. I skimmed over the didactic bits that were included; being a soft suburban late-middle-years guy, I'm unlikely to start hand-crafting my own bow for taking down small game for dinner, and I'll sooner walk to the train station on my way to work than embark on a six-month solo living-off-the-land-in-Winter quest. I'm definitely allying wit As noted by some of the other reviews, it's more an assortment of tales of his adventures in primitive living than practical instruction, but for me that was ok. I skimmed over the didactic bits that were included; being a soft suburban late-middle-years guy, I'm unlikely to start hand-crafting my own bow for taking down small game for dinner, and I'll sooner walk to the train station on my way to work than embark on a six-month solo living-off-the-land-in-Winter quest. I'm definitely allying with this guy if we're both on Survivor at the same time -- he'd be terrific at getting a shelter built but then mess up the social game. Acknowledges toward the end that he can't really deal with personal relationships. Not a great writer, and one somewhat annoying tic is his constant drawing of obvious contrasts with "most people" followed by a disclaimer that you shouldn't take it the wrong way, approximately like...... I made my own sandals for a 100-mile hike in the snow while wearing shorts and used a boomerang to kill some rabbits so I'd have protein to consume; most people would have brought their own processed food and driven a car, thereby degrading themselves and the environment, but I do not mean to come across as sanctimonious.......

  19. 4 out of 5

    Katarina

    I found the title misleading and I hadn't heard of Matt Graham before I read this book. I still enjoyed the book, but it was more a biography of Matt Graham, rather than a how-to or lessons. I found it very interesting, even though I'm the furthest thing from a modern hunter-gatherer that you can imagine. And even if you are trying to imagine it, add another couple hundred miles and that's maybe where I am. Basically, anyone can find this book interesting and learn about what it's like to walk for I found the title misleading and I hadn't heard of Matt Graham before I read this book. I still enjoyed the book, but it was more a biography of Matt Graham, rather than a how-to or lessons. I found it very interesting, even though I'm the furthest thing from a modern hunter-gatherer that you can imagine. And even if you are trying to imagine it, add another couple hundred miles and that's maybe where I am. Basically, anyone can find this book interesting and learn about what it's like to walk for hundreds of miles and sleep on a rock ledge in winter while wearing shorts and hand made sandals. Hats off to Matt. I was very impressed with him. it's nothing I could or would ever do, but my point was even the biggest couch potato can enjoy this book.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Stacy

    When I saw that Matt Graham wrote a book, I knew I needed to read it. I first "met" him on "Dude, You're Screwed," which was this crazy show about guys with wildly different approaches to survival and a bit of a fun side. I didn't expect this to be a how-to book that was going to lead me off-grid into homemade sandals or a full autobigoraphy, but I think I was looking for a little more substance. I think he has made some choices that are unusual for a man of his age and birthplace and I like tha When I saw that Matt Graham wrote a book, I knew I needed to read it. I first "met" him on "Dude, You're Screwed," which was this crazy show about guys with wildly different approaches to survival and a bit of a fun side. I didn't expect this to be a how-to book that was going to lead me off-grid into homemade sandals or a full autobigoraphy, but I think I was looking for a little more substance. I think he has made some choices that are unusual for a man of his age and birthplace and I like that he shared how he came to those decisions. The anecdotes were too similar, however, and the book felt repetitive.

  21. 5 out of 5

    nikkia neil

    Thanks Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books and netgalley for arc. My husband and I watch Dual Survival together every week, and the show has been changed for the better since Matt replaced Cody. Even Joe is a little more bearable now. It was cool to be able to talk about the book and know a little more insight to tell my old man. Matt is a awesome dude.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Rachel DiCamillo

    I liked this book. It was a quick easy book to read but I think it would only appeal to someone interested in primitive lifestyles and curious about what the body is capable of, which I am. I know my husband would have been bored to death because he isn't interested in a natural primitive lifestyle. I liked this book. It was a quick easy book to read but I think it would only appeal to someone interested in primitive lifestyles and curious about what the body is capable of, which I am. I know my husband would have been bored to death because he isn't interested in a natural primitive lifestyle.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn Thomas

    Amazing. After you have read this book all you will want to do is run barefoot and eat chia seeds.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Fresno Bob

    offered more mindset than skills

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kim Hampton

    I won a copy of this book in a Goodreads giveaway. I really enjoyed it, although parts were kind of a slow read.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Barbara Carder

    Matt Graham is a unique person in this world. He sees far . . . . . http://seesfar.blogspot.com Matt Graham is a unique person in this world. He sees far . . . . . http://seesfar.blogspot.com

  27. 5 out of 5

    Allison

  28. 5 out of 5

    Sara Bosley

  29. 5 out of 5

    Robert

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jim

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