Book Review: Extreme Food by Bear Grylls

Extreme Food by Bear GryllsExtreme Food: What it is about

William Morrow (publisher) says: “In the tradition of the million-copy-bestseller SAS Survival Guide, former SAS paratrooper Bear Grylls—the world’s most famous survival expert—teaches the necessary skills for eating in the wild.

“There’s no getting away from it; I’ve eaten some pretty extreme things in my time—live tarantulas, raw goat testicles, elephant dung, you name it. In a situation when your life depends on it, you need to put your prejudices aside to keep your stomach filled and your strength up.

Whether it’s mastering the art of foraging and cooking up a tasty feast around the campfire or learning about the more extreme end of wild food (ever tried a scorpion kebab?), there’s a lot to learn when it comes to dinner time in the wild. Extreme Food will teach you all the necessary skills and techniques to get your teeth into meals you might never have thought of as food in the first place—and, crucially, how to recognize plants and animals that might end up doing you more harm than good.

In today’s world, we rarely need to venture beyond the local supermarket and we turn our noses up at the thought of snacking on bugs and grubs. But out in the wild, Mother Nature has provided us with a plentiful supply of nutritious—if not always delicious—food for the taking. And when needs must, we just have to know where to look.

Some of it might take you out of your comfort zone. Some of it might turn your stomach. But it’s saved my life more than once. And one day, it might save yours . . .”—BEAR GRYLLS”

Extreme Food: What I thought

I didn’t read this book, but my son (16) did. He’s isn’t at all the outdoorsy type and doesn’t voluntarily take a walk in the woods. Neither is he much of a reader. But he loved this book!

Over the course of a week or so, he read this book, regularly telling me about his newest findings. “Look at this fish trap! This is how it works!”, “Do you know that this plant is edible?”, “Look how you can make a fire with just X and Y!” And so it went on. He found all the different ways to catch and cook animals very intriguing. It didn’t make him go outdoors and try some of these examples for himself. But the book gave him a whole new way to look at nature. And that is great.

The book starts with the basics: nutrition, how to make fires, how to purify water. Then wild plants and mushrooms are discussed, which you can eat and what you can do with them. Fishing is discussed to some detail: how to make your hooks and rod, the best ways to try and catch fish, and a section about how to cook them. After a short section about edibles from the sea, the book moves on to bigger game: how to stalk and catch larger animals, how to make snares, how to cook and preserve your kill.The books ends with a section on insects and amphibians.

Both for people who never go out in the wild and those who do, this book will give you lots of new ideas about what can be done with nature’s supplies. Even if you never intend to use the knowledge in practice, it’s fun to learn something new, and you’ll never look at nature in the same way again.

Rating: 5 (out of 5)

Number of pages: 272

First published: 2014

I got this book: from the publisher for an honest review

Genre: non-fiction, survival


Sukkwan Island by David Vann

Sukkwan Island by David VannThis book is a novella taken from a collection called Legend of a Suicide. To celebrate the upcoming release of a new book by this author, Caribou Island, this novella is distributed for free as an e-book (see below for details on how you can download it yourself). Sukkwan Island recently won France’s prestigious Prix Medicis award for best foreign novel.

Sukkwan Island: What it is about

Roy, a 13-year old boy and his father, Jim, arrive on a small island in Alaska to spend a year away from society. Jim, twice divorced, has bought a shack on Sukkwan island, Roy has brought a year’s worth of schoolbooks, and the plan is to survive mainly form what nature brings. A plane will come by every few months with essentials.

Roy doesn’t really know his father very well and is sceptical about their chances in the wilderness. He also doesn’t look forward to having his father as his only company for the next months. After several unfortunate happenings, he starts to doubt the survival skills of his father. He would really rather go back to the outside world.

A dramatic event changes the whole atmosphere of the book and the struggle for survival really begins.

Sukkwan Island: What I thought

The book gives a great sense of the location that Roy and Jim are in. The isolation of the cabin and the omnipresence of nature (trees, animals, weather conditions) are very well described.

The writing style and the interaction of father and son reminded me of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. Desolation and desperation are present in both books but unlike the father and son in The Road, Roy and Jim know there is a society out there that they could return to when the plane (that dropped them there) comes back with new supplies.

The dramatic event that happens after some time fitted well in the story but still came very unexpectedly and I needed some time to process it. But meanwhile, the story continued relentlessly. At that point, I took a break from reading (I couldn’t read the book in one sitting because of this), as it became too much.

Overall,  thought this was a great book. The sense of nature was so strong and and I loved this. The book was very good in depicting human nature: strong people can be weak in some situations (and vice versa) and people’s behaviour cannot always be rationalised. This became especially clear towards the end of the book when other people wanted the full story about the events while at the Sukkwan Island.

Definitely a must for anyone who can appreciate good literary fiction.

Rating: 4.5/5

I got this book: as an e-book, downloaded from the Kobo site for free.

I read this in: English, the original language

Number of pages: 110 pages in Adobe Digital Editions

First published: 2010

Genre: literary fiction

Extra: Also check out my review of Caribou Island by David Vann

Reading suggestions: The Alaskan wilderness was also very present in two other books that I read not so long ago: Raven Stole the Moon by Garth Stein and Into the Wild by John Krakauer.

Sukkwan Island: Download details

You can download this book for free until January 25th from the following:




It is also available in the iBookstore for Apple products, and is available for the Nook.

I got my copy from the Kobo website, where I downloaded an ePub file that I was able to read on my Adobe Digital Editions application on my laptop.

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