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MAY 21, 2012
Who Survives?

It seems like a fresh disaster shows up in the news every day. Increasingly sophisticated ways to communicate through photos, videos, eyewitness accounts bring even remote corners of the world to our attention in an immediate and vivid way. We hear about tornadoes, tsunamis, fires, earthquakes, sinking ships, and we wonder: how would we react in those situations? Would we be among the survivors? How can we better our odds? Here are some books that take a look at the psychology of survival.

The Survivors Club: The Secrets and Science That Could Save Your Life by Ben Sherwood.
A fascinating look at the qualities that help people survive in extreme situations, be it ejected out of a plane, lost in the woods, or stricken by cancer. The role of faith in so many survivors’ lives is explored, as is the will to live, the science of luck, and ways to increase your own chances of survival. Sherwood interviews many survivors, visits ERs, survival schools and research labs in his quest to determine what it takes to survive. The author creates profiles of five different types of survivors, and offers a test that can be used to determine your own “Survivor IQ.”

The Unthinkable : Who Survives When Disaster Strikes by Amanda Ripley.
A compelling look at instinct and disaster response, Unthinkable explores the psychology of fear and how it can save or destroy us. Using interviews with survivors of hotel fires, hostage situations, plane crashes and, 9/11, Ripley takes readers through the three stages of reaction to calamity: disbelief, deliberation and action. Situations that went well are dissected to come up with useful tactics for individuals and groups.

102 Minutes : The Unforgettable Story of the Fight to Survive Inside the Twin Towers by Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn. 
102 Minutes offers a case study to one of the biggest US disasters in modern history. The focus here is not on the events leading to the collapse of the World Trade Buildings, but on the immediate after effects. It reconstructs what happened in the span of time between when the first plane hit and when the last tower fell, looking at how many people survived through their efforts and others. 102 Minutes also examines the reasons—communications breakdowns, building code exemptions, etc.—that caused the deaths of hundreds that might have survived the disaster.

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