Monday, March 16, 2009

The Survivors Club by Ben Sherwood

In The Survivors Club, author Ben Sherwood sets out to determine what makes people survivors. Why does one person survive a tragedy while another can't handle it and ends up broken or even dead? He interviews survivors in many categories as well as the prominent scientists in various professional circles. The result is an interesting, fact-filled book that outlines the common characteristics of survivors and what the average person can do to improve their survivability quotient. Sooner or later, everyone faces some life test, and preparation for this kind of test is key.

Each chapter starts with a true story of a person who survived an accident or situation that could result in severe injury or death. There were stories of airplane crash survivors, those who were left to survive in water, victims of car crashes, accidents of accidental shootings or falls and those who have had serious illnesses such as cancer or heart disease. The stories of crime victims and prisoner of war captives are given. After each story, the chapter talks about the scientific research relevant to the situation. It then ends with survival tips for that category.

In addition to these stories, research and tips, there is another interesting feature of the book. Readers can go online to and get a code to take a test that will rate their survival skills. The test results tell you what type of survivor you are and the three main strengths that you can draw on in a survivor situation. I was not surprised to find out that my survivor type was a fighter, as are 15% of the population. Having survived some fairly horrific family events, the thing that always got me through was a determination to get to the other side of the tragedy. Other survivors types include the Connector (28%), the Realist (24%), the Thinker (21%) and the Believer (12%). There are twelve survivor strengths. They are adaptability, resilence, purpose, tenacity, faith, hope, love, empathy, intelligence, ingenuity, flow and instinct. Again, unsurprisedly, my top three were resilience, purpse and tenacity. I've always said that the greatest gift I was given was an optimistic nature and this is indeed a powerful tool in the survivor's toolkit.

I enjoyed this book quite a lot. The research was interesting and allayed fears, as facts often do. For example, I'm a horrible flyer, as I have no control in that situation. It helps to know the statistics of what percentage of flights are successful, and more importantly, the high number of survivors when a plane should crash. Sherwood has provided an exhaustive survey of this topic, and provided food for thought on many topics. This book is highly recommended for nonfiction readers and anyone interested in increasing their odds of surviving life's hits.

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