Book Review: Beyond Survivorman by Les Stroud

One of the incredible photos featured in Beyond Survivorman. Here, author Les Stroud is seen with a group of Singalese fishermen. Photo © Laura Bombier, used with permission.

In July, I released a Q&A with Survivorman – Les Stroud. While working on that post, I learned that he had published a book called Beyond Survivorman. Out of curiosity, I ordered a copy for myself.

Overview

The cover of Beyond Survivorman. Image courtesy of Laura Bombier.

Beyond Survivorman is the behind-the-scenes story of Stroud’s excellent series Beyond Survival. It details his quest to spend time with indigenous peoples around the world and learn how they survived: physically, spiritually, and culturally.

But Beyond Survivorman is more than a simple travelogue. It is an intensely personal account of Stroud’s attempt to reconnect with the Earth, and of the constant battle between his natural skepticism and his desire to have an authentic, meaningful experience.

In addition, Beyond Survivorman  features the incredible photography of Stroud’s long-time friend and crew member: Laura Bombier. This is one of the most distinctive aspects of the book.

Review

The first thing that struck me about Beyond Survivorman was its beauty; this is one of the most gorgeous books I have ever seen.

Laura Bombier’s breathtaking photos adorn almost every page of Beyond Survivorman. Even when then they do not, the text sits atop cream-colored pages that feature an artistic fade pattern. There is not a single dull page in this book.

Bombier’s photography makes Beyond Survivorman a joy to read. This picture was taken during Stroud’s time with the Zulu people of South Africa. Photo © Laura Bombier, used with permission.

In addition to being visually stunning, Beyond Survivorman is also well-written. Stroud excels at getting his point across in a succinct, understandable manner. For someone who has spent the past 3+ years in academia, Stroud’s writing was a welcomed relief.

Not only is Bombier’s photography extraordinary, but so is Stroud’s writing. Photo © Laura Bombier, used with permission.

Then there is the actual substance of the book. As I mentioned above, Beyond Survivorman is not a typical behind-the-scenes story. While Stroud was embarking on a physical journey to film Beyond Survival, he was also undergoing a spiritual transformation. He brings readers along on this voyage, allowing them to experience his hopes, revelations, and frustrations.

Another crucial feature of Beyond Survivorman  is that it is never sensationalistic. When Stroud participates in a ritual and nothing happens, he says so. When he has doubts about certain practices, he makes them clear. This lack of hype gives Stroud great credibility, and makes the eye-opening experience that he finally does have more believable.

Lastly, Beyond Survivorman is a book from which I drew personal lessons. Stroud’s talk of intentions, for example, served as an important wake-up call. It helped me realize that I was becoming too selfish, and too frustrated over not getting what I thought I deserved. Beyond Survivorman reminded me that what matters is to go into an activity with the desire to benefit others – not to earn a reward.

Final Thoughts

Beyond Survivorman is an excellently-written book. Stroud recounts his journey using words that are engaging, understandable, personal, and relatable. But Beyond Survivorman is more than just a book: it is a work of art. Bombier’s photographs and the layout of the text make for an intensely beautiful final product.

A portrait of a Hewa child from Papua New Guinea. The “Grave Digging” chapter of Beyond Survivorman contains wonderful information about an often misunderstood practice. Photo © Laura Bombier, used with permission.

I strongly recommend that you follow this link to order your own copy of Beyond Survivorman. Even if all you do is look at it, you will have made a sound investment.

But please, make sure to read it!

6 Thoughts

  1. I gotta say I was caught of guard by that book cover… I have so many questions now🤔
    btw is that wooden thingy a casket of some kind or is it just someones remains randomly laying about in the woods or…

    “Beyond Survivorman reminded me that what matters is to go into an activity with the desire to benefit others – not to earn a reward” now that’s very true. Doing things for the sole purpose of getting recognition isn’t always a healthy way of going about life.

    From what I have seen of some of those rituals on discovery channel and natgeo, they can be very weird and quite disturbing especially ones to do with dead people 😖 very creepy.
    oh crap i’m getting visuals in my mind.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, you need to read the book to figure out what the cover’s all about!

      Actually, it’s a photo taken from Stroud’s time in Papua New Guinea with the Hewa people. While there, he took part in a grave digging ceremony that, while it may sound macabre, was actually very respectful. But that’s all I’m gonna say, you have to read the book to discover the rest!

      Funny enough, I was just reading a long report about values yesterday. Apparently the most successful artists are the ones who create just because they enjoy it, and not because they’re consciously trying to become wealthy. So, it seems that in some cases keeping one’s intentions pure can have its own rewards.

      Haha, none of the rituals in Beyond Survivorman were disturbing. They were different than what many of us are used to, but Stroud does a good job of explaining the reasoning behind them. That helps to make them seem a lot less creepy.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I got plenty of books to read rn but I’ll be adding it to my cart.

        I feel like today, too many artists are in the game for the money especially in music and not for the love of the art.. just slap on profanity to a beat & you’ve got a hit song… it’s literally the craze these days.

        😅 now that’s a relief, something that doesn’t involve peaking through the fingers every now and then

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Haha, I’ve got plenty of books to read too!

          There are wayyyy too many artists in the game for the wrong reason right now. People like Machine Gun Kelly can’t even be bothered to write their own songs: they just parrot other people’s words in an attempt to get famous. Don’t get me wrong, I love profanity to a beat, but it has to be creative and meaningful profanity. Artists like Eminem can swear all they want as far as I’m concerned, because the emotions they’re communicating are real and based on their own history – rather than that of a ghost writer’s.

          There’s no need to peak through your fingers when reading Beyond Survivorman! Again, this book is not about hype: Stroud’s goal was never to shock people. The beautiful photographs also help!

          Liked by 1 person

          1. MGK oh man I literally have no words for him

            YASS omg I love Eminem I’ve definitely rapped to his songs & I still do 🙊
            well as long as the music has content then I’m cool with it…

            I think I only listen to like 2 or three rappers these days, my tolerance is worn out.

            Yay I’m so looking forward to not peaking through my fingers anymore 😁
            & there’s photography too 😊

            Like

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