BOOK REVIEW: The Disaster Diaries (by Sam Sheridan)

Disaster Diaries book cover

The study of emergency preparedness can be pretty bleak.

After all, you’ve got your natural disasters, your manmade disasters, your civil unrest, your economic instability…. Really, it’s enough to make a person throw in the towel and ignore the whole shebang.

Unless. Unless you’re a mixed martial arts fighter whose name is Sam Sheridan.

Sam is not one to roll over and play dead. Sam is not a guy to bury his head in the sand. Rather, when awakened to the potential disasters that face humanity, Sam is the sort of person who confronts the challenge head on. How? With education and training.

And that’s what it’s really all about at the end of the day, is it not? You can have all the stockpiled food and water you can possibly fit in your house. You can have miles of gauze rolls and crates of toilet paper. But those are all just supplies that can be depleted in an extended crisis. Or that can disappear in a flash if the storage locale is compromised through, say, an earthquake or fire.

But skills and knowledge? Those are with you to the end.

In his book The Disaster Diaries, Sam describes the journey of developing his skills arsenal in a rather clever way. To wit, he envisions his family in an ever-worsening apocalyptic scenario. As each chapter begins, he lays out the challenge (a monster quake in the middle of LA, zombie invasion, alien attack, evading cannibals, living off the land) and describes the predicament he finds himself in because he’s not equipped to handle that particular scenario. As the chapter unfolds, he describes his real-life pursuit of acquiring the skills necessary to defeat that particular chapter’s foe, and he wraps up each section by re-envisioning how he would attack the challenge laid out at the chapter’s onset…always with a triumphant outcome.

In all, Mr. Sheridan shares his journey as he acquires peak fitness (no small feat for an already-accomplished martial artist!), learns about food storage, becomes accomplished in various methods of self-defense (again, as a martial artist, you’d think he’d have this covered. You’d be wrong.), undertakes advanced field medical techniques (and learns how to cope with PTSD), and becomes adept at both stealing and defensively driving cars. As if that weren’t enough, he also learns to live off the land, becoming skilled in hunting, trapping, and knapping his own flint points. It’s pretty intense.

My chief complaint about the book? Although it’s chockful of useful tips, they’re buried in the narrative. This is not a new approach–indeed, sharing lessons via parable is as old as human history–but if you’re a person looking for a cookbook on “how to prepare,” it can be frustrating to lift the key information out of the flow of the story. An appendix listing key elements within each chapter’s focus would have been most useful.

On the whole, however, it is an entertaining and educational read that is likely to inspire you to prepare a wee bit beyond buying a case of canned soup. I know I, for one, wouldn’t want to come across Mr. Sheridan when he’s in a bad mood…but I’d love to have him on my side in case of calamity. He’s truly turned himself into the Swiss Army knife of survivalists. Using his book as a guide, you can, too.

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