The Disaster Diaries
How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Apocalypse
By Sam Sheridan
(Penguin Press HC, The, Hardcover, 9781594205279, 384pp.)
Publication Date: January 24, 2013
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Sam Sheridan has traveled the world as an amateur boxer and mixed martial arts fighter; he has worked as an EMT, a wilderness firefighter, a sailor, a cowboy at the largest ranch in Montana, and in construction under brutal conditions at the South Pole. If he isn't ready for the Apocalypse and the fractured world that will likely ensue, we are all in a lot of trouble.
Despite an arsenal of skills that puts many to shame, when Sam became a father he was beset with nightmares about being unable to protect his son. With disaster images from movies, books, and the nightly news filling his head, he was slowly being driven to distraction. If a rogue wave hit his beach community, would he be able to get out? If the power grid went down and he was forced outside the city limits, could he survive in the wilderness? And let's not even talk about plagues, zombie hoards, and attacking aliens. Unable to quiet his mind, Sam decides to face his fears head-on and gain as many skills as possible.
The problem is each doomsday situation requires something unique. Trying to navigate the clogged highway out of town? Head to the best stunt driving school in the country. Need to protect your family, but out of ammunition? Learn how to handle a knife. Is your kid hurt or showing signs of mental strain? Better brush upon emergency medicine and the psychological effects of trauma. From training with an Olympic weight lifter to a down and dirty apprenticeship in stealing cars with an ex-gang member, from a gun course in the hundred-degree heat of Alabama to agonizing lessons in arctic wilderness survival, Sam leaves no stone unturned. Will it be enough if a meteor rocks the earth? Who's to say? But as Sam points out, it would be a damn shame to survive the initial impact only to die a few days later because you don’t know how to build a fire.
A rollicking narrative with each chapter framed by a hypothetical catastrophic scenario, The Disaster Diaries is irresistible armchair adventure reading for everyone curious about what it might take to survive a cataclysmic event and those who just want to watch someone else struggling to find out.
Sam Sheridan joined the U.S. Merchant Marines after high school and then attended Harvard College, graduating in 1998. He is an amateur boxer, MMA fighter, and a student of Muay Thai and Jiujitsu. Sheridan has worked in construction at the South Pole Station in Antarctica, as a cowboy and farmhand on the largest ranch in Montana, a Wildland Firefighter in Washington State and New Mexico, a professional sailor, and a Wilderness EMT. He has written for Newsweek and Men's Journal, and is the author of two books, A Fighter’s Heart: One Man’s Journey through the World of Fighting and The Fighter’s Mind: Inside the Mental Game.
"The Disaster Diaries is a fascinating book… Reading how Sheridan progresses through his own training further reminds me just how much our civilization hangs by a thread and just what would be expected of me to protect my own family."
"Though it's a work of nonfiction, The Disaster Diaries explores every catastrophic disaster, from floods and earthquakes to sci-fi scenarios like zombie infections and escaping giant alien monsters, and asks experts around the world exactly what preparations are needed. Sheridan uncovers survival skills (first aid, hunting in the wilderness, firing a gun) as well as some craftier tricks (hot-wiring a car, constructing an igloo). But The Disaster Diaries isn't instructional. The apocalypse schemes serve as a lens that allows Sheridan to explore the limits of the human body and psyche and how physical and mental strength are inexplicably linked... at least when the apocalypse does arrive, I can take comfort that Sam Sheridan will survive, to continue the existence of the human race and smartly researched nonfiction books."
"Sheridan understands exactly what he is doing. He is giving readers a fantasy ride… And clearly, he enjoys the ride himself, savoring every moment, both physically and intellectually… Postapocalyptic heroism, in the hands of Sam Sheridan, is just plain fun."
—San Francisco Chronicle
"Sheridan ain't no slacker… [He] is a writer first, second and third. Despite being a man willing to learn the intricacies of bodybuilding and accept his role in protecting his family, it's Sheridan's voice that sets his book apart from the usual survival fluff… can appeal to the Everyman and the intellectual all at once."
"Sheridan is a charming storyteller, and his prose is both thoughtful and playful... An upbeat and entertaining survival guide for the end of the world."
—Kirkus (starred review)
"Although this would make a great title for a postapocalyptic novel, Sheridan's book is actually a nonfiction guide to preparing yourself for natural disasters and other catastrophes. The author, a Harvard grad who's been an EMT, a merchant marine, and a boxer—among many other adventurous endeavors—takes us step by step through the process, beginning with the fundamentals: getting physically fit and learning how to handle stress. From there we move, in logical sequence, to more intricate tasks: preparing an emergency disaster kit, learning to protect ourselves in the event of violent encounters (hand-to-hand combat training; learning how to fire a gun), acquiring basic medical skills, planning a strategy to get out of the disaster area, and so on. But this is no mere guide to surviving disaster; it's also the author's personal account of learning to prepare for catastrophe. Sheridan doesn't merely recommend; he shows by example, describing his own experiences while taking the Wilderness EMT program. A clever and very useful guide to getting ready to face the unknown."
"With a funky sense of humor blended with straight-faced common sense, [Sheridan] not only addresses the long-term psychological trauma of disaster but adds the importance of learning basic first-aid techniques, firearms training, knife skills, hunting and living in the wild, and expertise behind the wheel for a real world escape and survival. As a quirky survivalist primer, Sheridan's work spells out how to stay alive when the world goes topsy-turvy."
"Sam Sheridan seems to have a tough time sleeping—and we are all the better for it. He has taken his recurring nightmares about a zombie apocalypse in L.A.—rendered in grippingly real, heart-pounding scenes of narrow escape throughout—and turned them into inspiration for a real-life end-of-the-world practical survival guide, as he seeks out expert instruction in knife fighting, gun battle, hot-wiring a car, making an igloo, caring for the sick in a world without hospitals. The Disaster Diaries is the book you want in your basement with the batteries and water, a must-have if the world outside ever starts to look like The Road."
—Kevin Conley, author of Stud: Adventures in Breeding and Full Burn: On the Set, at the Bar, Behind the Wheel, and Over the Edge with Hollywood Stuntmen
"Framed by far-out fictional vignettes like zombie infestation and alien invasions, The Disaster Diaries traces a real-world escape path, exploring survival skills from stunt driving a car out of harm's way to dealing with long-term psychological trauma. Sheridan's matter-of-fact tone is informational and gripping, and he never descends into a paranoid, 'us or them' tone. Ultimately, learning to live through an apocalypse is about learning to be a human being; it takes an appetite for knowledge, the ability to cooperate, and most of all, adaptability. Anyone who thinks humankind is getting soft should read this book—no matter what happens, it's clear that some of us will survive."
—Daniel Wilson, New York Times bestselling author of Amped, Robopocalypse, and How to Survive a Robot Uprising