Encyclopedic survey of survival situations from the 16th century to the present. Leslie, a ""freelance researcher,"" loves his craft, judging by this massive (586 pp.) production, which groans under the weight of scores of survival tales mined from a mountain of books, magazines, and newspapers. Mostly the tales thrill or horrify: desert wanderings, grizzly bear attacks, cannibalism on a drifting lifeboat. Lurid stuff, much refined by Leslie's elegant, intelligent narration, and by the quaintness of the earlier stories. How about two men stranded on a desert island (1540, Pacific Ocean), who run screaming from one another, each believing the other to be the Devil? Nearly all of the older accounts involve the sea; in the 20th century, air disasters take precedence--plane crashes in desert, ocean, mountain. The last 150 pages or so decay into a rapid-fire catalog of such events, and the reader's eyes glaze over. ""There is no end to such stories as these,"" writes Leslie, who seems to have no idea of what to do with his accumulated trove. He musters some remarks about fortitude and perseverance, and a great deal of empathy for his subjects, but there's no cohesive perspective here, no authorial scaffolding to organize his research--just a stylish, mind-numbing pile of mind-boggling tales. Invaluable as a reference tool, but lacking the philosophical glue to bind together as a definitive study.